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E-mail can have unexpected bite

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

If you're like me, you probably enjoy handing out advice, both solicited and unsolicited. After all, those of us who have vast life experiences owe it to those with less experience to share our wisdom.

Don't you agree?

Sometimes I'm asked for advice on that which I have no real knowledge. That doesn't stop me. I just bluff it and advise based on how I would handle it if it happened to me. Or how I think I would handle it. Trust me, I can talk a mighty good game.

A dear friend of more than 25 years called me one day. He was deeply troubled. He had just discovered that a trusted employee, who had worked for him for 15 years and had become a part of his family (they even snow skied together), had been stealing from him for years. He was preparing to confront him the next day with the evidence he had.

"I need you to pray for me," he said. "My heart is broken over this betrayal. Also, I want to handle it in the best way possible."

We talked for a while and I advised as best I could. I can't imagine how devastating that would be to have someone steal from you, though I have been betrayed in other ways. The next afternoon, I called to check on him and he told me how things had gone. Now, here enters my big advice.

"I know it's hard but you can't let this keep you from trusting people in the future. There will be a tendency to pull back and be skeptical when others enter your life. Be wise but don't become callous. Move on." To prove my point further, I quoted three verses of scriptures.

"You're exactly right," he replied. "Thank you for that."

The very next week, as fate would have it, I had the opportunity to try my own advice on for size. Aw, the true test of solid advice is if you would take it yourself. Penelope Ann, for instance, refuses to take her own advice.

"I'd never do what I tell other people to do," she claims. "I'm smarter than that!"

On the other hand, I'm not dumb enough to violate friendships by not giving the best possible advice.

I had been doing a little bit of business with a couple of guys who had contacted me for guidance on a writing project. One I knew little about but the other was clearly a man of integrity and sound reputation. I liked them so, even though I did not have the time, I agreed to help. I'll spare you all the details because it's one of those stories where once you start telling it, you can't find a stopping place. Suffice it to say, I trusted and liked them both. One morning, the man about whom I knew little thought he was sending an e-mail to the well-respected man. Instead, he sent it to me.

It was about me. It was ugly and unkind, completely 180 degrees from the kind of relationship I thought we had. My mouth dropped. I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. My feelings, though, weren't hurt. I thought it was more reflective of who he was than who I am. And, the funny thing is that I saw it as a blessing. I learned something important before I did further business with him, which I was about to do. That, of course, all ended with a quick push of the "send" button.

Did I take my advice? The part about trusting again and moving on? About not becoming callous but being wise?

Yes, I did. I took that piece of my own advice just as soon as I gave him a piece of my mind.

Contact columnist Ronda Rich at southswomen@bellsouth.net.