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What if I Give Them Wrong Advice?


My friends always come to me for advice. What if I give them bad advice?

Steve Answers:

Everybody needs advice (or counseling) at various times. But most people don't go to official counselors. The person they're most likely to go to is a friend who's a good listener. It sounds like you're a good listener!

Hurting people don't turn to wise or witty people as much as they turn to someone they trust-usually a friend. In fact, most trained counselors will first establish a relationship with people they're counseling in order to gain their trust.

Some schools and churches set up "peer counseling" programs for junior high or senior high students. "Can peers be good counselors?" people ask. They can if the teen counselors learn skills that make them better listeners. When individuals become good listeners, others automatically come to them for unofficial counseling.

When I use good listening skills on a regular basis, people come to me for advice. When I cut people off, speak about my interests instead of theirs, or get distracted easily when they're talking to me, guess what? They quit coming!

The last part of Proverbs 18:24 reads "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It's comforting to know that God wants to be our closest friend, even more intimate and trustworthy than a loyal brother. You can trust God, and you can go to Him for advice.

You also asked, "What if I give bad advice?" That will happen. Or maybe your advice is good, but not necessarily for that person or for that time. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't give advice, though. I'm just warning you that not everything you say will be perfect.

The Bible speaks of Jesus being a "Wonderful Counselor" who is also a "Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). When Jesus left His disciples to return to heaven, He promised that "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26).

Tough situations drive people to prayer. And it's appropriate for you to pray with your friend for guidance, with an openness to follow God's leading. Tough situations also provide additional motivation for Bible study-to discover God's counsel in similar types of situations.

Recently I was counseling somebody in between speaking sessions at a camp meeting. In spite of using good listening skills and giving the best advice I could come up with, I knew I wasn't getting through. The young person finally blurted out, "It's OK, Pastor Steve. I know you're really trying, but what you're saying just doesn't work."

I appreciated the honesty, yet I felt disappointed that I didn't have the perfect recipe for the troubled teen.

Here's my final advice: Be a good listener. And when you give your perspective on things, make it clear that this is simply your perspective. What people do with your advice is their business and their responsibility, not yours. And that needs to be clear to both of you!

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