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The curse of the intelligent man

July 27, 2010 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

I have been cursed with a weakness that has at times wreaked havoc on my life. In fact, it’s a double curse, and I’ve been spending a lot of time recently trying to overcome this terrible flaw of mine. Worse than any addiction or disability, it threatens everything I put my efforts into. Just what is my Achilles’ heel, you ask?

I am an intelligent man.

I am one of those men who always got A’s in my classes throughout high school and college. I could fall out of bed and write a ten page paper. I could study the night before and ace an exam.

And, to make things worse, I am a man. A self-reliant, figure it out myself, thanks for your input but I’ll be okay on my own, I don’t need to ask for directions, I’ll find it myself, red-blooded man.

Like I said, I am doubly cursed.

Some of you, either because you are also an intelligent man or are married to an intelligent man, understand where I’m coming from, get why this is a double curse. My brain has a default mode that tells me “you can figure it out yourself.” This mode has kept me from seeking out help, looking for advisers, despite being surrounded by some of the most Godly, wise people for most of my adult life. During my time in seminary, I was chosen to be the research advisor for Haddon Robinson, named in a recent poll as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world and author of Biblical Preaching, used in many seminaries. Before I came to NewLife, I worked for Brian Doyle, founder and director of Iron Sharpens Iron, a men’s ministry that puts on men’s conferences around the country. And since I’ve lived in this area most of my life, I know plenty more pastors, professors, and Godly men and women.

Yet somehow, despite being around all of these incredible men and women of God, I did not sit at their feet, gleaning every bit of wisdom that I could from them. I listened to the self-reliant lie in my head that told me again and again “you’re an intelligent man – you can figure it out yourself.” In the process, I missed incredible opportunities to prepare myself for the challenges that would eventually come.

Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, writes “A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change.” And, in another place, he writes, “Humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and fear, otherwise the story will never happen.”

Miller’s words have proved to be true in my life. As my comfort and stability are disrupted more and more, I am finally understanding on a heart level the importance of Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I am understanding how essential it is to have mentors, advisers, counselors, and to not settle for just anyone but to seek out the best. I can not go back and do things differently, unfortunately, but I can resolve to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. I am finally recognizing that being an intelligent man may help me get an A on a test, but it can often be more of a hindrance in the real world, where having the humility to seek out help is better than a foolish self-reliance.

What about you? Who is mentoring you? Who are you going to for counsel and advice? Or are you like me, falling into the trap of thinking you can figure it all out on your own?

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