I’ve been surprised to see how my being pregnant has brought out different sides of people. Mainly very strong opinions from people I’m close to (and not so close to). There’s something about being pregnant that seems to draw advice right out of people, whether I ask for it or not.
Some advice I’ve been incredibly grateful for. Like when I was encouraged to look into a certain test they give to the baby. After looking into it further, I realized it was definitely not a test I was comfortable with. I probably would’ve gone forward with it if someone hadn’t advised me to research it.
I’ve also received some less than credible advice on exercising while pregnant from people who don’t regularly exercise themselves. The list of instruction ranging from less than helpful to simply terrible is a list far longer than the helpful advice.
This season of abundant advice has actually caused me to look at my own irresistible desire to give advice. Admittedly, I do this far more than I would like to. I’ve become far more cautious about when I give advice, how I give it, and who I give it to.
I’ve wrestled with how not to be one of those people who offer advice and instruction flippantly. Maybe I should just shy away from giving instruction and advice altogether? Does a way to give instruction well exist?
The bible actually gives us a pretty great guideline for how to instruct others. This is one of those passages that I’ve read time and time again. And yet this time it smacked me right in the face.
Here are three ways you and I can gauge whether or not we’re giving good advice or instruction.
1. Your instruction should come from a pure heart.
“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
In this passage, Paul is charging Timothy to instruct certain men who are teaching strange doctrine to the congregation. This is a pretty big issue and something Paul combatted a lot throughout his letters. A misrepresentation of the gospel was running rampant. People were teaching false doctrine.
So this is how Paul urged Timothy to approach these men: with love from a pure heart. The desire behind Timothy’s instruction to these men needed to be a genuine and pure love.
Sometimes our advice to other people can be as harmless as how to exercise when pregnant. But other times our instruction has a far greater impact. When we begin to give correction on weightier issues like politics, sin patterns in someone’s life, or character choices, this is when we need to first ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say coming from a place of love from a pure heart?”
Oftentimes, we just open our mouth and words come out. That’s a great way to get people not to listen, even if what you have to say is important and true.
Your advice, instruction, or correction should always be weighed against whether or not it is coming from a true place of love in your heart. If it’s not, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Even if what you have to say is true, if it’s not coming from a place of genuine love, then don’t say it.
2. Your instruction should be honest.
“But the goal of our instruction is…a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
Our guidance and instruction shouldn’t be contaminated by our own agenda. What we say to people needs to be void of our own desires and self-interest. It should be pure. We shouldn’t instruct people simply because we want them to live the life we live and act the way we act.
I’ve seen this most prevalent when it comes to Christians talking to non-Christians. We have a hard time understanding why they don’t see what we see and why they don’t simply take what we say and apply it.
It’s not that simple. And it wasn’t that simple for us.
We can’t put the cart before the horse. People don’t act like followers of Jesus apart from a pure and genuine faith in Jesus. It took the working of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the truth. We didn’t come to Christ out of our own efforts to apply the instruction and guidance of others.
In fact, later on in 1 Timothy, Paul describes the religious leaders who tried sharing the law as people who had fruitless conversations. Why didn’t their conversations make a difference? They were sharing truth, after all.
It’s because they strayed away from honesty and pure faith. It’s essential for us to advise others in things that we believe and trust to the point of carrying them out in our lives. Our faith should be pure and true. And our instruction should stem out of that.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to serious matters of hearts turning to Jesus, I don’t ever want those conversations to be meaningless or fruitless.
Of course, moral guidance and counsel need to be given. But the way you say it and who you say it to are just as important as what you are saying.
It’s so important to search your heart and see where your words are coming from. Are they coming from a place of self-gain or counterfeit faith? If they are, then you’re not truly loving that person and the truth you need to speak should not be said. At least not at this time.
3. Your instruction should be given with discernment.
“Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” (Proverbs 17:28)
It doesn’t take the wisest person to know it might be more favorable to remain silent. The use of discernment when giving advice or instruction is incredibly important. I think there are more times than not, when discernment would show us it’s wise to stay silent rather than speak.
Even if our heart is in the right place and our advice is true, discernment might tell us to remain silent. Sometimes you just have to learn how to read the room.
This isn’t to say that you remain silent out of fear. But you might choose to remain silent because you know the time just isn’t right. We want our words to bear fruit in the life of the other person, not death.
When offering advice or instruction, you should read the room and discern whether or not what you are about to say is necessary. We can say a lot of words that aren’t wrong, but they aren’t always helpful. We should learn to practice discernment before speaking.
I’ve learned that discernment in my own life looks a lot less spiritually magical and a lot more like stopping to listen. When you listen to the persons words, body language, and state of mind, it becomes a whole lot easier to discern whether or not you should speak.
God does intervene and give supernatural discernment but it doesn’t always work that way. Often God has already supplied you with the basic tools of discernment. You just have to use them.
Advice seems unavoidable, whether you are on the receiving or delivering end. We all know how it is to receive unsolicited advice, and often it’s terrible. But most of us are not merely victims. We are the culprits of the very same thing. It’s important to care about giving helpful advice, because it’s a sign of maturity. But we should also care to give helpful advice for the sake of the gospel.
If people can trust what we say in the little areas of life, then they are more likely to pay attention when it comes to sharing the truth of Jesus.
May we become people who aim to engage in fruitful conversations.