4 Tips for Giving Great Advice

First a disclaimer, I only feel prepared to write this blog post because I have been the recipient of good advice – not because I am good at giving it. Here is a recent text exchange between me (the needy one) and a friend in London.*

 ME: Please pray for me today. Charles has a paper submission that is long overdue and is affecting everything. It feels like a mini PhD all over again. Struggling to find grace to show when I just want it done and am annoyed that is taking so long. Can you please pray? Rebuke me too if needed. E xxxxxx

FRIEND: Praying for you now. Been there. Am with you in the hardness of it and sending you a big hug. One word come to mind (only because I know how forgetful I am in moments like these!!): REMEMBER. Remember who God is. He is merciful so you don’t have to be resentful. He is wise so you don’t have to worry. He is strong so you don’t have to be self-sufficient. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love so you don’t have to hold a grudge. He cares for you so you don’t have to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. He is your joy so don’t lose strength for today. Remember He is God and we are not. Praying for Charles too, that he “gitterdun” real soon! Love you friend! Xx

FRIEND: How’s your day? Your heart? Was just thinking (and didn’t say earlier) that I was grateful you asked for prayer and made me realise my own need to do so more . . . ask for prayer!! Thanks for being humble. Always ask. And I’ll be better at doing the same because I need them too! Hugs to all. Cx

ME: You are such a great friend. I needed all those reminders today. No change in status but by God’s grace and the help of a good friend ;), my attitude is better. Very grateful. E xxxxx

Here is why this advice was godly and good advice:

1.  Respond with empathy

I am there with you. The first thing my friend did was show compassion. She says “I am with you in the hardness.” She doesn’t try to fix it. John Tinnin recently showed this great clip by Brené Brown about what it means to be empathic.

Good advice starts with no advice. It is just the active step forward, saying I’ll be here with you. My friend didn’t try to put a silver lining on it. Instead, she said you are down in a pit, I’ll get down in that pit with you. Because of her emphatic first couple of lines, I felt her presence across an ocean.

2. Remember who God is

Good advice doesn’t try to immediately fix. Instead it points to God and all he has done for you. Now, in this case, my friend knew I wanted this. I had even given her permission to ‘rebuke’ me if she thought I was out of line. And in some ways, she does very gentle rebuke me. She says, hey let me help take your eyes off yourself, (and your husband and what he hasn’t done), and transfer your eyes to God. Let me remind you of who He is and all He has done for you. In this case, remembering what God had done for me released me from resentment towards Charles, released me from the anxiety of trying to fix, released me from the temptation of self-sufficiency, released me from holding a grudge. She gently spoke gospel truth to me by pointing me towards God.

3. Recognize you are not the solution

A good advice giver recognizes they’re not the solution – nor is their advice. They can acknowledge this by offering prayer. If I was face to face with this friend (rather than over text) I know she would have offered this in person, but even over text I know she was faithfully praying for me. This small act of offering prayer (and actually following through) deflects away from the advice giver and acknowledges we need Jesus’s help in solving any real problem or heart issue.

4. Recall and follow-up

A good advice giver stays engaged. I had been vulnerable by sharing and asking for prayer, and my friend responded to this vulnerability respectfully by affirming my need and by simply checking in. This simple follow-up text shows me that she cares. Furthermore, it leads me to think I’ll be vulnerable with her again because she had time for me.

I thought about titling this post “4 Tips for Giving Godly Advice” instead of “4 Tips for Giving Great Advice,” but I was afraid that you wouldn’t read it if I did. Why is that? I think we sometimes are tempted to roll our eyes and think godly advice is to just trust God. Okay, now trust a little more. Still hard? Keep trusting. There is some truth in this perspective, but hopefully these four practical tips and the example of this in action will help us all strive for something a bit more concrete.

* I asked my friend’s permission to share the following text exchange, and she humbly agreed.

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