Are you familiar with the phrase, “Genetic fallacy?” I wasn’t, so when I came across it, I had to look it up. It’s a misconception of information that is either dismissed or validated based solely on the source it came from rather than the content. In other words, someone gives you information and you discount it or give it credibility based on the source rather than the actual merits of the information.
So for example, if I came in here today and said, “This morning I saw a report on CNN…” some of you as soon as I said CNN would shut it down before anything else came out of my mouth. But if I got up here and said, “I saw a report on Fox News” others would totally be ready to tune in for what I was about to say. Before I even got to the information, you already either dismissed or validated the information because of the source.
It’s easy to discount information based on the source rather than the merits of the information. But advice in particular, should be judged on its merit of the advice, not on its source. If not, you just might become your own worst enemy.
Today we are wrapping the series, “How Not to Be Your Own Worst Enemy.” We’ve all been our own worst enemy, and in many cases, we can laugh about that season or that time in our life where we were our own worst enemy. But it’s not always funny, is it? In fact, some of us have done it up big, maybe you blew up a marriage, blew up a career, your health or financial stability. Yet when we see other people doing it, we think, “I would never do that. I would never let that happen to me.” Yet, we all have the potential to become our own worst enemy if we’re not careful.
As I said previously, a single bad decision is always the first step toward becoming your own worst enemy. Every habit begins with the first time. Every pattern begins with a first line. Every journey begins with a first step.
So in this series, we’re talking about three preventive habits that you can start doing today to prevent yourself from ever becoming your own worst enemy.
Now, you might be wondering why in the world we’re talking about this in church? This sounds more like a TED Talk, or something you would hear in a business seminar or a counseling session. Well, the reason we’re talking about this in church is because this whole idea of not becoming your own worst enemy is not just about you. Because when you become your own worst enemy, when you blow up your finances or marriage or whatever, you’re not the only person it hurts and impacts. The shrapnel from your bad decisions impact the people closest to you, the people that love you, even the people in your future.
A quick review: Preventive Habit #1: Pay attention to the tension.
When considering an option, invitation, or decision, ask yourself, “Is there a tension that deserves my attention?” If something about the decision dings your conscience, it doesn’t seem wrong to anyone else but it bothers you, let it bother you. And don’t start selling yourself. We rarely have to sell ourselves on a good idea.
Preventive Habit #2: Pay attention to your narratives.
Pay attention to how you frame your reactions, responses, feelings. Pay attention to what you say to yourself. Our internal narratives can be helpful, but they can also set us up to become our own worst enemy. If you missed last week, I would highly recommend you watch it on our website or our YouTube channel. It’s a topic you don’t hear much about, but it’s so foundational to living life in a positive way, especially as Christ followers.
Today, Preventive Habit #3: Pay attention to the voices of wisdom around you.
Now most people who become their own worst enemy, and I would argue all people, were warned. If you think back hard enough, you know you were. Someone in your life said, “I don’t know about her. I don’t know about him. I’m not so sure about that job. I’m not so sure about that investment.” Someone tried to warn you. Someone felt the tension we ignored. They were not distracted by our internal narratives, the things we tell ourselves. They connected dots that we didn’t and said something. But because of your internal narrative or because you already made up your mind, you didn’t listen.
For some reason, even though we know paying attention to the voices of wisdom around us is an extraordinarily, important habit, this is a difficult one for us to do.
Today, I want to read to you a story that comes out of the Old Testament that I’m hoping will soften your resistance to this habit. It’s found in 1 Kings and revolves around Israel’s fourth king. The order of kings: King Saul, King David, and then David’s son, King Solomon, who is considered the wisest man who ever lived. And the assumption was that after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam (ruh·how·buh·uhm) would then take the throne of Israel. Now, to fully understand the story, there’s one more character I have to introduce you to. His name is Jeroboam. Who is Jeroboam? I’m so glad you asked. I’ll set the scene.
By this season in King Solomon’s life, he was building so many buildings and monuments that he had over 150,000 stonecutters and transporters working on many massive building projects. That was just about the entire male available population in that area. And it wasn’t paid labor as much as it felt like forced labor.
Jeroboam was well liked, respected, popular, a hard worker, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force. This would have been a huge influential position in the kingdom. So, one day Jeroboam is leaving the city of Jerusalem and something very odd happens.
Ahijah the prophet (a prophet is someone who God gave messages to for the people) met him on the way. It was just the two of them out there, and as the prophet walked up to Jeroboam, he takes off his new coat. Saying nothing, he rips it into twelve pieces. Then he hands ten of the pieces to Jeroboam and says,
1 Kings 11:31
31 “This is what the Lord God says to you, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands and I’m going to give you ten of the tribes.”
As you may remember, Israel was made up of twelve tribes. He says that King Solomon is going to lose ten of them and Jeroboam is going to be king of those ten tribes. Why? Well by this time in history, King Solomon had become a pagan king. I say he was a pagan king because the definition of a pagan is one who worships multiple gods and that’s exactly what King Solomon was doing. He had many, many, many wives from all over and he took on worshiping all the gods of his wives.
In fact, many of these new constructions were temples and places of worship for all these gods, which was absolutely against what God had told Israel to do. So by this time, he has abandoned his faith and consequently, King Solomon is treating his subjects like all the pagan kings treated their subjects, like slaves.
So, the prophet says God is fed up and when King Solomon dies, the kingdom will be divided. Jeroboam, will get 10 of the tribes, and only for the sake of David, and the promise God made to him, God would leave two of the twelve tribes for Solomon’s dynasty.
Now apparently, Jeroboam told at least one person about the prophecy made over him, and somewhere down the line, word got back to King Solomon. And Solomon did what the ancient kings did when they realized that their dynasty was threatened. He tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt and stayed there until Solomon’s death.
Now, this is where the story gets really interesting and where we’ll jump in. Solomon dies and the assumption is that Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son, is going to take his father’s place without any challengers.
When Jeroboam heard that King Solomon is dead, he thought finally, I can go home and starts to make his way back. So when the people of Israel hear that Jeroboam is on his way, then send for him. They sent for Jeroboam because he was still an outstanding leader and had so much of the people’s respect, and they had an idea.
1 Kings 12:3-8
3 He and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
Your father, like other kings, treated us like slaves. But now we want you to do something different. If you do, we will serve you willingly. But you’ve got to stop with all the nonstop construction. You’ve got to stop with all the taxes. You got to stop from taking all the men out of our cities and sending them off to these foreign places to cut stone and drag them back to build these monuments.
Well, at this point, Rehoboam makes two really good decisions. The first one is this:
5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
He says let me think about it. This is a good idea. And then, King Rehoboam made another good decision.
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime.
These guys are older, wiser, they’ve been around awhile, they had advised Solomon, so they had perspective. So these were good men to go to for advice.
6 “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
You want to be a king of a united kingdom? Then put their interest ahead of your own. That was very wise counsel and very good leadership instruction. These guys knew.
But Rehoboam (ruh·how·buh·uhm) thought, what we might be tempted to think, “What do a bunch of old men know? They don’t understand.” And he discounted their good advice because of where that advice came from. This was what he needed to hear. This was the way to get what he wanted, but it was not what he wanted to do.
There are very likely people in and around you right now that have the advice you need to get you where you want to be, and you may be discounting their advice because of who they are. May you think, “They haven’t walked in your footsteps. They’ve never been where you are.” You could have a thousand reasons to discount their advice.
Now obviously, there’s advice we should all discount. That’s where we do a full circle and pay attention to the tension. But as for the positive advice, that you know is positive, whose advice are you currently ignoring? And then here’s what makes this question powerful. What is that internal narrative you’re using to reinforce your resistance to their advice?
Because when you pay attention to that narrative, it is going to be another indicator as to whether or not you are resisting good advice or bad advice. And if there’s something in you that says, “What could they possibly know?” Then you need to hit pause because you may be about to become your own worst enemy.
There’s a time to be cautious about bad advice, but what I’m saying here today, is be careful that you don’t discount good information or more in particular, you don’t discount powerful, important advice because of the source of the advice.
For Rehoboam, he wanted a united kingdom, but he didn’t want to listen. So you know what he did? He did what we do. He found some folks who would tell him what he wanted to hear.
1 Kings 12:8–13, 16
8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
Surround yourself with people who will tell you what you want to hear, and you can be sure you will become your own worst enemy. It’s very simple. In fact, let’s add a layer, surround yourself with people who need you and work for you and will only tell you what you want to hear, then you will surely end up where you don’t want to be.
That’s why we all have to be proactive to bring people of good influence into our space and then give them opportunity to influence us. As life goes on and as you become more successful, you will naturally be surrounded by people who need you or want something from you. And in this case, Rehoboam chose to listen to the men who needed him and wanted something from him, who had no more life experience or insight than he did.
9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’ ”
In that culture, it was a sign of health and wealth to be large because most lived on the verge of starvation. However, Solomon was a big guy. So Rehoboam would be saying to them, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. You think my father’s waist was big? My little finger is bigger than my father’s waist.”
A scorpion was a type of whip made of metal and bone that was used to punish criminals. Rehoboam’s message would be: my father treated you like slaves, but I’ll treat you like criminals.
12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam. 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given to him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men….
At the moment he rejected the elder’s advice and announced what he was about to do, his fate was sealed, and so was the nation’s. A series of unwise decisions would lead to a catastrophic decision that would impact tens of thousands of people.
The people of Israel showed up with a prepared statement, ready if the king declined their offer, which was a well-known quote that a rebel back in David’s time had said when he rebelled against David.
16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!”
With this old script, they remind the king that this isn’t just a handful of people. This is an entire nation. Talking to David’s relative, they say, “We’ll go to the tents, and you can build your own cities and palaces. We no longer recognize your right to rule. You’re not going to be our king.” That was the strength of this message.
Rehoboam apparently doesn’t believe the people will rebel, and he makes another terrible decision. He sent out to the people the man who was now in charge of forced labor to put them back to work. But the author says, “all of Israel stoned him to death.” Meaning all of Israel was putting their foot down and staying with what they said.
It’s as if they were saying, “You had an opportunity to rule a united kingdom for as long as you lived, but it had to be all about you and you wouldn’t listen to the wise counsel because what do a bunch of old men know?”
The author says, so Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. Ten tribes of Israel in rebellion to the house of David, and the kingdom never came back together. And when a kingdom is divided, it is weakened and when it is weakened, it becomes vulnerable, and when it becomes vulnerable, it becomes invadable….just like me, just like you when we refuse to pay attention to the voices of wisdom around us.
You’ve heard this before, and you’ve likely given this advice to others, but I’m throwing it back at you. Find someone who has nothing to gain and nothing to lose by telling you the truth. Simply ask them, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” You don’t have to sell yourself on this idea. You know this is the right approach.
The question is, why don’t we ask or why won’t we ask? I’ll give you three reasons. For one, in many instances, we already know what they’re going to say. And if you already know what someone’s going to say, then you already know what to do. So just do it. If you’re hesitant on doing it, then ask even if you know what they will say to get the affirmation and accountability to do what you know needs to be done.
Another reason is sometimes we just don’t think it’s anyone’s business. It may not be any of their business, but you may need to invited them into your business, and here’s why. Private decisions have public consequences. Most private decisions don’t stay private, do they?
Many years ago, when I had a issue in my life where I needed to invite someone in. I remember being so embarrassed to talk about what was going on. Then one day, it dawned on me, “Trish, this is an itty, bitty monster. Yet it could grow up to be a big old monster that could literally devour your whole life, and if it becomes a big monster that devours your whole life, everyone’s going to know about it anyways. So let someone in who cares about you to deal with it while it’s still small.”
Yes, it was embarrassing. And no, it wasn’t anyone else’s business, but wise people make it someone else’s business for the sake of their future, but more importantly, for the sake of the future of the people they love.
Another reason we don’t ask the question, “What would you do?” is because of our ego. Success is intoxicating and look, just to burst your bubble, success doesn’t mean you’re smart. In fact, success can make us more careless and clueless.
Here’s the thing, someone else can see what you can’t see. Someone is connecting dots you’re not connecting and is not distracted by your internal narratives. So pay attention to the voices of wisdom around you because wise voices set you up for wise choices.
Every single person that’s blown up their life, every single person that’s become their own worst enemy, that final decision, that one moment in time they wish they could go back and undo started by a series of unwise decisions. And when we surround ourselves and listen to the voices of wisdom, we make better decisions, we live with fewer regrets, and we avoid becoming our own worst enemy.
The challenge for you and me today is to look in the mirror and ask ourselves the question, have we fallen into this rut of discounting advice because of the source rather than recognizing the merit of the advice?
Remember, this series is not just for your sake. This is as much about the people around you. On the night that Jesus was arrested, He gave us our new covenant marching orders. He reduced all His teachings down to one simple imperative. He said, “You are, as my follower, to love as I have loved you.”
We, as Jesus followers, cannot love as God through Christ has loved if you blow up your life over selfish, unwise decisions because you’re not the only one that suffers from those decisions.
So I hope you will take these three preventive habits seriously:
1 Pay attention to the tension
2 Pay attention to your narratives
3 Pay attention to the voices of wisdom around you