Something that is obvious, but worthy of consideration is the predicament of the Unsolicited Advice Giver. The truth is, we do NOT need to listen to, nor value all advice which comes our way!
God has not called others to live our life, nor uniquely prepared them to do so. Now don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that we should throw all advice to the wind. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us that plans often fail because of lack of counselors. Instead, I am suggesting that, we should know how to identify “Advice Givers” who have “won the right to be heard”.
Simply put, Advice Givers, worthy of our ear should do more than just “tell us a thing or two.” For sanity’s sake, we need to know how to identify Advice Giver who has something beneficial to say. Here are a few guidelines that come to mind when I think of such a person.
Advice Givers should:
…have a relationship with us, know us and be part of our lives.
…genuinely care about us….and show their care in more ways than merely sharing their opinion.
…earn our respect by the way they live their lives.
…possess Godly character.
…give advice which is in line with Scripture.
…understand that advice by definition, is not a command.
…encourage us to pray and seek God regarding the advice they are giving.
I am the first to admit that I have plenty of opinions. And for certain throughout my life, I have given advice in moments when I should have held my tongue. But God has been teaching me where, when and to whom my opinions should be shared. God has also strongly impressed upon me to not usurp the Holy Spirit’s role as man’s counselor. My advice, is a matter of opinion and NOT law for others. HENCE, advice should be given and come with the understanding that God has incorporated free will into the fabric of our lives. It is a basic principle which He follows when dealing with mankind, because if this, we should follow suit. (Bearing this in mind, we are each responsible to God for making decisions which honor Him.)
Unfortunately, many Advice Givers which I have encountered hold little to none of the above listed qualities. If my experience is the norm then it begs the question, “How will we respond when someone freely shares unwanted advice?”
Perhaps the most important element in responding to the opinions of Unwanted Advice Giver is to formulate a plan and have it in place before said person heads our way. Deciding in advance how to respond will make responses more gracious and palatable. Without a predetermined plan, it is likely that we will either not respond well or the opposite, allow ourselves to be overrun.
Elements which may be considered when formulating a plan…
1) Simply do not make yourself available to Unsolicited Advice Giver. It is not necessary to be available to every person who thinks they need to tell us a thing or two.
2) If they manage to catch us off guard, (& they most likely will) be prepared to respond with gentleness and respect.
3) All interactions with such persons should be direct! (NOT rude… direct). Ambiguity on our part, conveys the message that they are not overstepping their bounds. Instead of closing the door on their intrusions, this just adds fuel to the fire, encouraging them to impose unwanted opinions again (& possibly more frequently) in the future.
During a time several years ago when I had experienced a particularly difficult encounter with Aggressive Unsolicited Advice Giver. A good friend suggested the following response. It has helped me, to graciously exit subsequent encounters.
“Thank you for your opinion, I’ll pray about that.”
At first I wasn’t convinced that this response was direct enough. In fact the response is pretty non-confrontational, & after much assult, I was READY for confrontation. But after putting this simple phrase into practice, I have found that it highlights several essential facts and does it in a very nonthreatening way.
1) Unsoilted Advice Giver’s advice is infact a matter of their opinion.
2) I will seek God as to the validity of their opinion in my situation.
3) God’s opinion is more important to me than their opinion.
4) Jesus Christ’s death bought me direct communication with God. I am His and I trust Him to speak directly to me on important matters.
Just incase this simple reply is ineffective, I have formulated a backup response. “Thank you for your concern, but I already have a circle of wise counselors in my life from whom I consult in difficult matters.” (I don’t just say this, I actually do surround myself with Godly people who have won the right to speak into my life!)
An important element in self protection, especially from Unsolicited Advice Giver, relates to not making yourself available to them. This is also referred to as setting life boundaries. Boundaries are ment to protect us and keep us healthy. It is essential that we learn how to place them in our daily lives. Living without boundaries gives others free reign to trample us any time they see fit. This can make life difficult, & at best frustrating! Setting boundaries is not something that comes easily for most of us. In fact, at first, it can be quite a challenge, but with a little instruction and practice, boundaries can be set with ease. And after putting them in place we find that encounters with Unsolicited Advice Giver become fewer and farther between.
(For more thoughts on setting boundaries consider reading Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend’s book aptly entitled “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life”)