You may have heard that free advice is worth what it costs. It’s often true, but two things make a big difference in it’s value. The first, obviously, is the quality of the advice. It is the second that I want to focus on. I might rewrite the saying, “unsolicited free advice is worth what it costs.” Remember this the next time you’re tempted to offer some up. It may be good advice, but if the recipient is not prepared to receive it you have not only wasted your breath but may also have destroyed any opportunity you might have had to offer it in the future.
I don’t know why this is so hard for some people to grasp. All that is required is to put yourself in the position of the one being advised. Yes, we’ve all had times when we wish we had listened. Often it was things our parents said. What about the other times? What about those times when someone who doesn’t know you at all or has no real knowledge of your life decides they have the solution to all that troubles you. People facing disability get this a lot. Everyone from the con artist to the well-meaning but misguided friend or relative thinks they’ve got what we need. Add church folk to this mix and it tastes really bad.
So, I’m ranting a little. I’m pointing right at you, if you are one of those people who think you have the answer to everyone else’s problems. You don’t. If you really want to make a difference, just be a friend. If you really do have advice that is needed, the opportunity will come in time, and you will have established a relationship on the strength of which your words may be received. Or, you may learn that you didn’t really understand at all.
Now I’ll point at myself. I’m guilty of the same thing. I’ve learned that I rarely if ever have the answers, unless the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal them to me. If I’ve ever been of use in the advice department, it was when I realized that I had nothing to offer and let Him guide my words. I find that my own life provides illustrations of just about anything I might want to say, so when I do feel compelled to advise, I often do so indirectly by sharing my experiences. In most cases this means confessing to failure in the area under discussion and sharing what I learned from that failure. This is a non-threatening approach that hopefully doesn’t reek of unmerited arrogance.
Speaking of being humbled, I don’t’ think I have enough readers to get a discussion going, but I’ll ask anyway and see what comes back. What’s the worst or most ridiculous free advice you ever got? What was the best? Who gave it to you?