When Everything Good Is Bad for You


When my allergist asked me, “Do you have a family history of glaucoma,” I had to laugh.

No, my eyes are fine. Nor has anyone in my family had eye troubles. Still, I could guess what this was all about—and I was right.

I walk around most days feeling like someone shoved a pair of tube socks up my nostrils. Thus the necessity of nasal steroids to provide me some semblance of nasal clarity. Otherwise, I breathe through my mouth and look like a slack-jawed yokel. (Which I very well might be, come to think of it. Maybe all slack-jawed yokels simply suffer from chronic rhinitis.)

But my Dad worked in the pharmaceutical business, so I have this built-in mental resistance to doctors who load up their patients with this drug and that. Plus, it sure seems to me that the drugs we used in the past cost less and did a better job than these newfangled sugar pills with boatloads of side effects and contraindications. So when the doctor told me they’re finding that nasal sterioid may give you a nasty case of glaucoma, the headshaking began.

Going that prescription route a few years ago may have been a good idea, but now it’s a good idea gone wrong. I can see the lawsuits now. Back to the sinus irrigation, I guess.

Reach a certain age and you get well acquainted with the cycles of what’s good and what’s bad. And the subsequent flip-flops. And the lawsuits. You start thinking that maybe the old wives who told their tales weren’t off in the first place.

My Mom used to believe that dark chocolate was good for you, and now it seems she was right. Eggs, once a dietary pariah, are hot again. Doctors now say that people who regularly jog or run ruin their bodies over time. Vitamins may actually shorten your lifespan, since they oust the place of their more healthy, natural counterparts found in food.

Oy vey, what’s a guy to think?

I’ve heard a lot of advice in my life. Churches dispense more advice than they dispense tasteless wafers for communion. The Godblogdom teems with spiritual advice. Can’t visit a blog and not get some life-altering tidbit offered by this semi-pro guru or that. And yes, the irony that I may be guilty of that sin hasn’t escaped yours truly.

It seems to me, though, that much of the last couple generations’ supposedly good advice, the new wisdom of the ages, doesn’t work in the long run. All truth may not indeed be God’s truth.

I remember just beforeI got married, Christian advisor after Christian advisor told me that to be a good Christian husband, to have the kind of marriage that would withstand any trial, I needed to tell my wife everything. Don’t hold anything back. Be totally open with her and be blessed for it.

I shared that with a group of Christian men recently and they laughed themselves silly. “You fool,” they howled, “you actually fell for that?”

Stupid me. Seemed like good, godly advice at the time. Now I know better.

Looking back, I’ve received a tractor trailer full of supposedly sage Christian wisdom that time has ultimately revealed as the playing pieces in Cow Bingo. That's one massive heap of smoking bovine excrementI could probably even go through my library of classic Christian books, open any one at random, and find some piece of bogus advice.

But enough about me or my past tendencies toward naifdom.

What about you? What seemingly innocuous piece of supposedly Christian advice have you received in years past that amounted to so much manure? I’ve got to believe there’s not a person reading this who hasn’t seen time annihilate at least one sacred cow. Many of those vaunted “truths” start with “If you just….”

Care to share? The comment section awaits.

29 thoughts on “When Everything Good Is Bad for You

  1. I am the youngest in my family. And you all know what that means: Passive Agressive. I don’t resist, I merely go limp, and the more suggestions come my way, the more rigid and unbending my limpness…So, I tend to ignore advise. It’s worked wonders!

  2. Dave

    Hey Dan,

    Good thoughts my brother. I guess that If I really wanted to, I could come up with a lot of examples of not so good advice, But for now, I’ll just share what comes to immediately to mind.

    I have found that a large part of the church today has become very event oriented. In my church now, there seems to be a very strong focus in para-church and special event activities and the attitude towards them always seems to be like they are essential to ones spiritual growth.

    A part of this attraction is the fact that a lot of Christians have really started to depend on more of an experiential faith that involves more dramatic and emotional speakers.

    But I also find that as the Church continues to focus more on encouraging and motivating it’s members and less on sound doctrine, sin and repentance, there exists a void of Biblical truth. Christians need to hear the gospel and Biblical truth. It is manna for our souls and if we don’t get it at our local assemblies, then we will seek it elsewhere.

    So where am I going with this….?

    I guess, what I’m getting a little tired of is hearing, “have you read this book?” or “are you going to this event?” We are getting ready to have a Franklyn Graham festival here where I live next week and everyone keeps asking me if I’m going and they look cross eyed at me when I say “no I’m not.”

    Whether it’s Promise Keepers, or some live telecast, or a spiritual renewal weekend, or VBS or a bible study or a small or growth group or A Purpose Driven Life, or an Eldridge book, or Beth Moore or WHAT EVER! it always has to be something besides just the normal Sunday assembly that promises greater Spirituality.

    So I guess my answer to this question is that I am always bombarded by fellow church members with questions of “if am going to this or that?” or “have I read this or that?” and how by doing these things or reading these books will make me into a better Christian.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there are many events and books at ARE edifying and are great ways for the Holy Spirit to grow us into more of a likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m not bashing anyone here.

    I’m just simply pointing out that, I don’t believe that it is essential for anyone’s spirituality to have to constantly be involved in events outside of normal Sunday service and or having to read a ton of books outside of the Bible.

    I believe that each persons faith is pretty subjective and that God grows individuals and or sanctifies them in due time and we shouldn’t get into the habit of trying to force sanctification upon people. Leave that up to the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, there are books that I suggest to others and events and programs that I would recommend to be edifying. But I don’t present it in a way that leaves others believing that these are essential to their Christian growth. I don’t say, “Oh you simply must see” or “you have to read this book!”

    Anyway, there’s some of my bad advice. 🙂

    In His grace.


    • Laura Williams

      Oh, I know what you mean. There’s a plethora of such events at my church, too. We seem to do everything in large groups. What I would love to see is more one on one fellowship, or smaller groups.

    • Amy

      But I also find that as the Church continues to focus more on encouraging and motivating it’s members and less on sound doctrine

      Yes, so true! We need to expository preaching of the Word of God… if we’re ganna persevere.I have found this to be a growing frustration.

  3. Terri

    Having been a Christian just three years, I have noticed that more “mature” Christians tend to assume that new Christians will reach a point where their faith and child-like wonder at the AWEsomeness of God will be deflated or become “trite,” etc. Hearing friends say “Oh, just wait…” or “You see it that way now…,” etc., has been a huge lesson to me in walking alongside new Christians. Why would anyone want to presage a diminishment of wonder at what God does when he gives someone new life??? I never want to be a “mature” believer if it includes such a jaded “edification.”

    It has also seemed bad advice to be lectured about being a “baby” Christian. I have to agree with Leoanrd Ravenhill:

    “Spiritual wisdom does not come with years; neither does maturity. The key to both is obedience. Whatsoever He saith unto YOU, do it.”


    • Terri,

      Hey, if you’re quoting Ravenhill, you’re getting a good start on your spiritual meat!

      Your walk with Christ over the years does go through myriad changes. “Youthful” enthusiasm does temper some, but it’s replaced by wisdom, and that’s not a bad exchange. You go from being the frontline soldier to being the general, and that’s a good thing, too. Also, your foundation gets built down to a rock hard base, also good.

      So yes, it does change. But it’s good change. It’s like the changes in a marriage over time. You may not be jumping each other’s bones every chance you get, like before the kids came along, but you know how to meet each other’s needs in more profound ways. Your knowledge of each other also better develop. And you notice the little things the hormones obscured in those heady days.

      Sounds like I’m giving advice, doesn’t it?

  4. I identify with David Riggins. I do not follow most advice, even advice I think might work. If I were following advice, then I would have fifteen-minute or more devotional quiet times with prayer, Scripture reading, perhaps a song sung quietly, followed or accompanied by walking for thirty minutes in the park, contemplating the Creator of the creatures around me. This would be followed by a healthy breakfast (or maybe I should eat breakfast before my morning walk?), which can be harder to define in circles of faith than what a devotional time should be.

    After that, I would leave for work, where I need to find creative ways to evangelize, encourage, and exhort coworkers and customers. I am the head, not the tail, so I need to look for the open doors God puts in front of me to lead me to upper management. Lunch break would be more health food, concocted according to body chemical balances to give me energy for the rest of my shift, and brown-bagged so I can be a good steward of God’s resources. My spare time during breaks would be devoted to prayer, Scripture readings, and evangelism.

    I would arrive home after work to enjoy a healthy dinner. Then I would eschew television and other godless entertainments for fellowship at church, more prayer, more Scripture reading, and more evangelism. I would need a proper amount of sleep on a special mattress pitched at me by fellow believers, who bought the advertising.

    This is the average day of what I think the average believer thinks should be an average workday should be. Of course, since I am single, note that this does not include any mention of wife or children. Note, too, the only time for friends would be at church unless friends came over to my house or I went over their houses for meals. (Does that not sound Biblical? What good advice!) Wait. I think I missed part of it. I need an accountability partner…preferably, I think, one who comes with me on my morning walks. Wow…this good advice bit is hard to coordinate.

    • Michael,

      Enjoy the free time you have now as a single. I cannot believe how much my life changed once I got married and had kids, even my spiritual life. You set time aside for your spiritual life only to have a bazillion little fire drills intrude. You settle down for some Bible reading and your child comes downstairs and promptly pukes all over the living room carpet. Goodbye quiet time!

      I noted your “I am the head, not the tail” comment and must assume you’re in a Pentecostal church. I’d never heard that phrase before I started going to the Pentecostal church I attend now. There, I hear it constantly.

      Actually, I find your ideal Christian day quite nostalgic. Sounds like me twenty years ago.

  5. Diane Roberts

    This might sound sacreligious, but the worst advice I’ve had, and it was from a whole horde of Christians and churches, was—–
    “trust the Lord.” The problem with that statement is it is rarely defined. Therefore, it sounds rather passive. Then I learned that it is actually active BUT not in our own thinking. You have to have the mind of the Lord to trust God. You also need faith.

    So, if I hear one more person tell me to just “trust da lawd,” I think I am going to bean them….LOL.

    • Diane,

      Along those lines, Diane, I think the single dumbest thing I repeatedly hear from other Christians is “Let go and let God.” Usually, this is in response to me saying that I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do. It’s as if I need to just stop and let God take both my cars to get an oil change, teach my homeschool lessons for the day, shop for groceries, cook the meals, work my writing job, meet with clients, reallocate our investments, pay all the bills, go to the bank, take out the trash, mow the grass, chop up a couple trees, get the lawnmower fixed, meet with the forester from the local OSU extension office, get my nephew a graduation present, plan for my anniversary, find a babysitter, send condolences to grieving friends, take my son to a birthday party (and buy the gift and card), register him for swim classes, take him to soccer practice and the game later, and on and on and on. Man, if I just let go, God will do all those things for me! Hey, where do I sign up for that special “God, Your Concierge” service?

      Dumbest. Advice. Ever.

      • Applied to the situations you listed, I agree, that’s the dumbest advice ever given. But applied to worry and anxiety over the future, or to situations outside of our control, it’s the wisest advice that could be had. It’s all in where you shoot your arrows.

  6. Anna

    More Dumb Advice: Have you tried giving up cow milk and other dairy products? Those are mucous producing (yummy), along with orange juice. My dad did it for a few weeks and noticed a great deal of improvement in his breathing. Then, true to his Midwestern childhood, he went back to two glasses a day. Why? “Because its good for me!” Sigh…

    • Anna,

      You know, scientists say that people who consume the right kinds of dairy products (yogurt, some kinds of cheeses) lower their risk for diabetes considerably and also resist getting fatter as they age.

      So there you go! Battling advice. 😉

      My problem is that I’m just ridiculously allergic to certain kinds of molds. Even with allergy shots today, it doesn’t seem to help. After taking shots for more than ten years as a child, most of my symptoms went away. Twenty years later, when we moved to California, everything came back—with a vengeance. We’ve since moved back to Ohio, and my allergies are as bad as they’ve ever been. In fact, they’re more systemic. Rather than having a runny nose and watery eyes, I get drained physically. Very different reaction than before when it was more a “hayfever” allergy.

  7. Wow Dan! What bad “christian” advise have I gotten? Here may be the worst:

    An elder in my church once advised me that the reason my sales were down was because my wife was not having enough sex with me. Can you, for a moment, imagine dropping that on your wife? Praise God I no longer go to that church.

    Here are some others:
    Don’t go to bible college or seminary because “God will raise you up.” (This may be true but it would be better to be raised with some knowledge of scripture)

    Don’t ever let your baby drink formula, they will never take breast milk after that. And real christian parents breast feed at least 18 months.

    One word: homeschool

    If you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, give what you have in the offering and God will pay the bills.

    I could go on. The valuable thing that I learned through lots of bad advise is this, faith is not the absence of logic. It is, perhaps, the presence of an assurance in the face of logic. Aside from that assurance you only have assumption. And assumption don’t pay the bills!

    • Carl,

      Shhhh! Don’t you know the “Honey, my business will get better if we have more sex” line is all us self-employed guys have! You knock that in a public forum and we’ll all be reduced to begging!

      The funny thing is that the rest of the advice you’ve listed I’ve heard from people in my own life.

      The one about giving money to get more money is the one that most strikes me.

      Two years ago, I asked readers to answer a few questions about their economic and employment health. I got a ton of responses. One of the questions was to this point of giving money to get a greater return. In a shocking (at least to me) set of responses, almost every single commenter said that this had NOT worked for them in their own lives.

      I believe God rewards those who give and He does so amply. However, I don’t think it is as money for money. Those rewards my be the simple knowledge that you helped someone.Or it may be that you give and God prospers your business. I don’t think it has to be the direct correlation that so many expect. Setting that misguided expectation just causes doubt in people.

      Thanks for writing.

  8. From an evangelical organization promising to give the world a “new” approach to “life”: If you are a good enough employee, you’ll only have to apply for your first job; thereafter, you’ll have job offers coming out your ears.

    I unconsciously hung onto this idea long after I ditched a lot of other religious idiocy, and it nearly drove me to insanity as we were trying to claw our way through our last years of school in the economic wasteland that is western Oklahoma. When I finally verbalized it to my far more realistic husband, he disabused me of my guilt-infused notion.

    In retrospect, I guess I wanted it to be true–who doesn’t look for an alternative to completing endless job applications and mailing countless resumes? The realization didn’t help me find work more easily, but at least I didn’t feel like more of a failure each time I called on a Help Wanted ad.

  9. Marie

    This isn’t really advice, but it seem like a very damaging thing to say…

    I once attended a church where the pastor periodically would tell the congregation that “if you had never led a person to Christ you should question whether you were saved or not!”

    Or, maybe it is advice. “If you want to be saved, lead someone to Christ!”

  10. BOB

    Bad suggestions? More like commandments if you listen to “Israel’s ” teachers.

    –Yea, the seed money deal. ( never ever read the contexts and additional meanings and circumstances, and never watch and explain follow-up.)

    –Utterly pamper and serve the wife.
    Sacrifice myself, yes. Weaken myself…..better know what you’re doing and know the limits.

    –Know your talents and use them. Fine, but if someone else wants to play your drums?

    After all that crap, now you know why Jesus will say to our grumbling, ” Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?”

    In summary, we crave specifics without thinking but let red flags go up when SPECIFIC advice on matters is given when the bible isn’t specific.

  11. I’m usually pretty good at recognizing foolishness when I see it, but when I fall, it seems like I fall hard. People often tell me they think I am very discerning or have the gift of discernment. I usually just thank them and say that God has given me extraordinary grace to counter my extraordinary foolishness. Then I reflect on my forays into Gothardism, KJVOism, etc.

    I completely get the “tell your wife everything” point. And I won’t tell my wife you scoffed at it.

  12. I remember while working at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, MO, being told frequently that I should be in church, essentially, every time the doors were open.


    I’ve been given suggestions on the best time for devotions (early morning, natch, maybe because God gets a little tired in the evening and wants to spend quality time with Jesus and Mary?), to not go to Bible college (and, later, seminary) because education “kills the Spirit” (as if God could be so easily vanquished!), and to generate children early and often (not bad advice, really, but, really must I?).

    And let’s not even deal with the legion of urban myths floated my way by well-meaning believers. I’ve had my file of Procter & Gamble boycots, gas boycots, needles at McDonald’s PlayLands, hitchhiking angels, and prayers by Jabez.

    :: sigh ::

    We’re so gullible sometimes.


  13. Pat Nolan

    Rich — are you kin to Bil Tatum, who used to be an editor with the Springfield paper?

    If so, I hope he is well. Please give him my best — I learned a lot interning with him.

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