A mildly interesting article in last week’s Wall Street Journal entitled “Want My Advice? Um, Not Really?” which touches tangentially on one of our favorite topics: the danger of telling people what to do. Or in theological terms, the Law being powerless to produce what it commands, or worse, producing the opposite, all the way down the line. Because the author seems strangely convinced that in past generations children dutifully sought their elders’ advice and followed it (really?!), he attempt to couch the current “advice-crisis” as a technological one. He also oddly conflates advice and expertise, knowledge and wisdom. BUT the insight that advice, solicited or not, always carries with it a kernel of judgment is important. That the advice game tends to be more about the adviser than the advisee etc. Shades of what Christians call “speaking the truth in love”? You be the, um, judge (ht VH):

Older people have always offered advice to younger people, with words of wisdom culled from their memories of youth. And, of course, in every era, young people have found advice from elders to be outdated and ineffectual. These days, however, given how fast the world is changing, there’s been a clear widening of the advice gap.

It’s rooted in a devaluation of accumulated wisdom, a leveling of the relationships between old and young. On many fronts, people from Generation Y—now ages 16 to 32— assume their peers know best. They doubt those of us who are older can truly understand their needs and concerns.

In this season of intergenerational advice-giving, as parents drop their kids off at college and recent grads start their first jobs, it’s helpful to rethink the efficacy of our words to live by. The stats should give us pause.

Young people used to have to boost up their courage and go to parents, teachers or doctors to discuss things that were hard to talk about, says Josh Radman, an 18-year-old student at the University of Southern California. Now, if they fear they have, say, a sexually transmitted disease, they can go online to easily find useful information and nonjudgmental peer advice.

P.S. Wasn’t it Emily Dickinson who once wrote, “The etiquette of admonition is questionable” (Letter 502)?