Two Cents on Giving Advice

Writer Author  Hilarey Johnson
Christian Article : Inspirational  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer I cut my hair impulsively. I change my handbags impulsively. Life altering decisions: those I make deliberately.

During my second pregnancy I was faced with the usual conglomeration of optional tests. At that time an ultra sound was still optional. I read an article from someone who did not find out the sex of her baby. Next, I listened to arguments from people who did. My husband and I discussed our options. When I felt informed enough to make the choice, I did. We would not find out the sex.

Then I made sure everyone knew why.

I would tell anyone who would listen why I thought my decisions were the best route. If you wondered whether you should marry younger or older, I had something to say. If you wanted to know if you should start a family sooner or later, whether you should eat white or wheat bread or even how long you should bake the loaf – well, I had an opinion. I knew everyone who was making a decision wanted to hear all their options, didn’t they?

Of course there was that time I asked a woman if she had found out the sex of her baby. Before she answered, someone else nearby replied with the intensity of a champion debater.

“If you want to find out the sex of your baby – I fully support you in that decision! You have to do what is best for you regardless of what others have chosen for their families!” Her eyes seemed to narrow on me as she finished.

Did my reputation precede me? I was sure I hadn’t told these two women my opinion on finding out the sex of a baby before it was born…yet.

I felt chastised, embarrassed and suddenly unqualified to tell anyone my opinion. I was right where God wanted me. God wanted to heal my hurt, redeem my self-confidence and give me words from Him, words that were actually worthy to be offered as advice. Before that day every piece of advice I gave was basically in effort to make everyone else live their life like I was living mine. It was in someway to validate my personal choices.

There was a nagging awkwardness for a phase. I thought people must be talking about what a “know-it-all” I was. This sensation brought me to prayer every time. I started asking God to help me keep my mouth shut. Sometimes while someone was talking it was all I could do to just pray for the ability to listen quietly.
After I practiced listening awhile, I noticed God began to bring people to me. Women or young girls who had a problem they wanted to discuss seemed to come out of nowhere. Having the ability to listen seemed to be far more helpful. Then the day came when a young girl wanted to know what to do about her decision. She was asking me for advice! You mean I don’t have to cram my opinion down your throat?

The word instruction is found many times in the book of Proverbs. God tells us that wisdom, achieved through godly instruction is a desirable thing. God gave me the desire to offer advice, but first He needed to show me how He wanted me to give it. Here are a few things that I have learned to consider when I feel the urge to offer my counsel:

Wait till you’re asked.

People are not receptive to unwanted meddling. Plain and simple, wait until someone requests your view. If you try to push your opinion on someone don’t be surprised if they remind you to remove the plank in your own eye that is mentioned in Matthew 7:3. Once and a while, however, you will need to present your advice, but you need to be perceptive of when it is necessary and when you are trying to conform someone to your desires. If your friend will not give up that 10 year old tube of orange lipstick because she thinks she looks great, maybe you should mind your own business. However, if you heard a report on the news last night that orange dye no.457 causes cancer; then you have a significant reason to approach her.

You had the opportunity to make your decision, let your girlfriend make her own.

Proverbs 20:18 says to prepare plans by consultation and make wars by wise guidance. If your friend is asking your judgment, maybe she is wisely seeking counsel. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to make sure she heeds your instruction. It is up to her to choose for herself. God is capable and responsible for the outcome. If someone wants to know why I teach my kids at home, I am happy to tell them. However, I won’t insist that they home school as well. I certainly don’t plan on showing up at their house and helping every morning for the next 12 years. Let her make the decision because she is the one who has to carry it through.

Make sure you remove all motives from your advice.

Proverbs 3:3-5 speaks of the lips of an adulteress. They drip honey, her speech is smoother than oil, but her feet go down to death. Imagine if you have had a crush on your best friend’s boyfriend for two years and one day she comes to you because they are having difficulty. You are not the one to counsel her. Always remain aware of what you stand to gain or lose when you are offering guidance to friends or even grown children. Remove your motives so you are not responsible for leading someone away from the direction God wants them to pursue. Anything that comes between a person and their relationship with God is adultery. Let it be words God is prompting you to utter.

Your advice must be filled with God’s word.

You don’t need to be a dynamic speaker to be used by God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces through both soul and spirit, through joints and marrow. God’s word is quite proficient in convicting hearts to follow the correct path. Our own words more often hinder and confuse matters. If what you have to say contradicts God’s word in any way, don’t say it! If you are ever in a position to offer advice and the only thing that comes to your mind is an applicable verse, you should be thrilled. Nothing is more encouraging, satisfying or appropriate than God’s word.

God doesn’t have the same plan for everyone.

A woman from our church once tried to encourage me to allow God to choose the size of my family. This meant not using birth control. While it is wise to seek God’s will in every decision, I was offended by how adamantly she insisted. I also thought less of her opinion every time she offered it. I lived in an apartment and my husband was a police officer. She lived on several acres and her husband was a lawyer. It didn’t make as much sense for me to have twelve kids as it did for her.

He doesn’t give everyone the same number of kids and he doesn’t say they should all be raised identically. It is not His will for everyone to be married at the same age, or even married at all. John 14:26 speaks of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, “He will teach you all things.” Each believer has the same Holy Spirit, but not the same map for their life. When I felt God wanted me to stay at home with my children, it didn’t mean I needed to make sure that all my friends stayed home with their children. I had to learn that if it was His will for someone, He knew how to tell them. I had to be willing to tell someone why I chose it, but not insist that my obedience to His will for my life proved my Christianity or fulfilled my Christian duty. That kind of thinking adds a condition for salvation. I had to remember that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life.

If it is a word from the Lord, move.

I remember once watching my friend’s mannerisms while she spoke to a man in our fellowship. I suddenly knew something was not right. I also knew that I was supposed to tell her she should not allow herself to feel anything special toward him. It was like my heart was battling with my head. It would appear so obvious to me but then I would second guess. “I’ll feel so foolish if I am wrong, I mean after all, she’s married.” Back and forth I wavered until finally I could no longer ignore what James 5:19 and 20 tells us. “If someone has strayed from the truth and one turns him back, the one who turned him back has saved his soul from death and “will cover a multitude of sins.”

That makes offering advice an awesome responsibility especially if you have discernment on a particular issue. The key to doing it correctly, however, is in the warning Galatians 6:1 gives to us about restoring that person gently. I came to her unsure of myself, humbled and embarrassed, not judgmental. She acknowledged that it was true and that God was also telling her no. She thanked me.

Wise counsel is important for serious and spiritual matters. When God has given you sensitivity in a situation, ask Him for the opportunity to present it to the person. When it is a matter of opinion (like the best method for potty-training) wait for your advice to be requested.

Presently I take a new stance on the choice to reveal the sex of your unborn child. It just happens to also be the most valuable guidance I ever received from my mother: “Honey, trust your instincts.”

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