It is so easy to miss our own failures when we are considering the failures of others. As a young man and sadly even into middle age, I was all too eager to help others as I watched them make, what in my mind, were poor decisions, bringing heartache on themselves and on those who loved them. I would have grown more quickly into Christ-likeness if I had given more attention to my own problems and less to those around me.
However, there were times when others actually did ask for my help. By the grace of God, here are some things that I have learned over the past twenty-five years.
- Giving unsolicited advice is always viewed as criticism by the receiver.
- Sometimes when people say they are asking for advice they simply want you to know what they are going to do. It is good to ask them if they want to know what you think about their decision or do they just want to inform you of their decision.
- Often the best thing you can do when others ask if they can talk with you about a problem or a decision is to just say “How can I help you” or “what do you want from me?”
- If you are a man responding to a man who is asking what you think about what he told you, a good question could be “do you want me to tell you like a man or like a boy”?
- Give advice sparingly and with no assumption that what you recommend will be done.
It is a rare gift to be given the opportunity to speak into the life of another. If you do receive that gift treat the donor with honor and respect.