Have you ever met people who think it’s their business to know your business? They may not even know you very well, but when you answer any one of the following questions with an honest, “I don’t know yet,” they will be quick to offer unwanted advice.
- Are you going to college? Why or why NOT?
- What are you going to major in? You don’t KNOW?
- Why don’t you have a job like other people your age?
- When are you EVER going to get married?
These questions are usually followed with, “You should…” or, “When I was your age…”
Chris Guillebeau, one of my favorite motivational authors, calls these people “gatekeepers.” I like his ironic definition:
Gatekeeper. n. 1. A person or group with a vested interest in limiting the choices of other people. 2. An obstacle that must be overcome to achieve unconventional success (The Art of Non-Conformity).
The apostle James may have known a few of these people. In the book that bears his name, he wrote, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV).
Quick to listen
If you’ve asked someone about his future before, you’re not automatically a gatekeeper. In fact, being quick to listen to others is a great attribute to have. Don’t rush to offer advice based on your own experience, but be attentive to listen.
Tip: If you know you’re talking to a gatekeeper, the best advice I can give you is not to say much – which limits the fuel to their fire.
Slow to speak
We’re all guilty of speaking before thinking, but if we can develop the habit of restraining our tongues, we will save others and ourselves a lot of pain.
Typically, we don’t regret the things we don’t say. We regret the words we can never take back.
Slow to become angry
Gatekeepers do a good job getting under our skin. If possible, avoid them altogether. If you can’t, take their words with a grain of salt. Becoming angry only makes them think that they’re right, which of course, they’re not.
God made each of us unique. Your story isn’t my story, and mine isn’t yours. Life is full of decisions, and sometimes, there’s no clear right and wrong. Going to this school instead of that school isn’t a matter of good versus evil, but you know it will change your life forever.
Scripture provides principles (such as avoiding debt and having a good work ethic) but doesn’t spell out your choice of a major or a job.
The best advice is to walk closely with God every day, talk with your parents and mentors, search the Scripture to make sure your decision isn’t violating God’s revealed will, and then make the best decision based on the information you have.
Oh, and beware the gatekeepers. They only contribute doubt and worry.
Forget them, and focus on finding God’s unique will for your life.