I've been reading 2 Chronicles lately. I know a lot of people find the Old Testament boring, but I'm not one of them. Once I understood the basic outline of the story and began to see the connections to the New Testament, the Old Testament became a joy to read. It is also full of lessons for life.
Look at what happened to Solomon's son, for instance. Rehoboam inherited a significant kingdom following the death of his father. All the tribes of Israel were under his rule. It didn't take long for the young king to falter though:
And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Come to me again in three days.” So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be kind to this people and please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants for ever.” But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put upon us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us’; thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’” ~ 2 Chr 10:3-11
When the old men who had helped his father didn't provide an answer that satisfied his ego, Rehoboam went to his younger friends. Following their advice led to the permanent split between the ten northern tribes of Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Let's let that sink in for a moment.
This isn't to say the advice of our peers isn't valuable, but when we ignore the tested advice of those we know to be wise, we are asking for trouble. It is so easy to fall in line with our peers and to do as they do or as they say. We call this "peer pressure" to kids, but we are not immune as adults. We can also find this in a much larger setting; namely whatever the current societal trend of the day is for the world compared to centuries of wisdom from the church and/or especially what we know from God. How often do we see things as old fashioned or out of touch, just because they are old and no longer seem to meet our fancy? As much as we hate to admit it, there is often wisdom in age.
This isn't the only time a king takes bad counsel. In Chapter 24, Joash the king does fine so long as a faithful priest is there to help him.
Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem; his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba. And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. ~ 2 Chr 24:1-2
He does quite well "all the days of Jehoiada," collecting the proper taxes and rebuilding the temple. But what happens when the priest dies?
Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king hearkened to them. And they forsook the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD; these testified against them, but they would not give heed. ~ 2 Chr 24:17-19
That's a pretty epic change to go from building up the temple and the proper worship of God to outright idolatry, all on account of some suck ups. The prophets from God even warned them, but to no avail. The desire for the riches and praises of this world proved too much.
Perhaps it is easy to dismiss these stories as a bunch of idiots that lived way before us, thus falling into the same trap of ignoring the old just because it is old. These aren't stories from long ago that have no parallel in our lives. This kind of thing happens all the time and is an ever-present danger to those who would seek the Lord now. Egos still exist. We still crave the praises of others.
So what are we to do to avoid this same path? I'd say start with prayer, though of course I find myself lacking in that area daily. We are also blessed with an abundance of wisdom if we're Catholic as the Church already has all those silly "rules" and pieces of wisdom we like to dismiss so casually if we don't understand them. They're pretty safe to follow even if we can't explain them fully (though do make sure it is a general guideline and not something wacky one theologian came up with). And we should take the time to find out why Christians have done something a particular way or believed something for 2000 years instead of throwing it into the trash as soon as MTV tells us it is wrong. There's no need to reinvent the wheel here. Know your values, why you have them, and how to apply them in everyday decisions. Identify the people in your life who give good advice and those who don't. Rely on God.