Giving Advice

I make it a point to seek advice in areas where I need expertise and in situations where I’m new and don’t know the people involved in a situation.

I’ve been an investor for some time and probably know a lot more than your average Joe. But I also know that I’m not an expert. I don’t have hours to spend studying the market, so I have a financial advisor. When I’ve sold real estate, I’ve relied upon my attorney to write contracts.

As a Christian, I’m mindful that God instructs us to get advice. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” But one of my pet peeves is people, who many times don’t even have any knowledge of an area or my particular situation, give me unsolicited advice.

Several years ago, after acquiring a lot of antiques and furniture, and having farm property with a house and various outbuildings filled with most anything you could imagine, I got an auctioneer to do a tag sale so that I could thin down some of these possessions I didn’t need.

I had two different women, both Christians, but not related, giving me unsolicited advice. My farm was in Virginia, and my wife and I resided in Ohio. Their advice: take the possessions to Ohio to sell them there. Well to do so would have required about three tractor trailers. Plus, where in Ohio would I store these possessions until they are sold. Also, I knew that certain items would sell better in Virginia, where the population was higher.

These women did not know each other. I would consider each of them to be good, committed Christians. But they knew nothing of the situation. They were not business people. Their advice was like nonsense. Needless to say, I would have lost a lot of money in transportation and storage.

I’ve seen it with church members who have given advice. They present it by saying, “Why don’t you…?” Many times, there may be confidential manners they are unaware of, or at least I don’t feel the liberty of telling them why the proposal is not a good course of action.

Years ago, when I was a young college student, a minister of education said to me, “Why don’t you ask (he named a particular girl who was new to our church) out on a date?” The truth: I had already asked her, and she said “no.” I felt insecure enough as it was and didn’t really want to tell him that she had turned me down for a date.

I’ve also had complete strangers give me advice. I was in Sam’s Club a few years back. Driving there, I remembered something that I wanted to pick up. It wasn’t on my list. After getting everything on my list, I was looking around the over-the-counter medications for what I thought I might need. I could not remember what I wanted. I thought by looking that if I saw it I would remember what I needed. A lady, a complete stranger, walked up to me and told me, “If you can’t find something you should ask.”

Now I know that women think that men never ask directions (I usually do). But just imagine the conversation.

Me: “Excuse me, could you help me find something?”

Clerk: “Certainly sir, what are you looking for?”

Me: “Well, I don’t know. While driving here I thought of something I needed, but now I can’t remember what it is.”

Clerk thinking, “Maybe I better call security.”

I even have a family relationship that was severed because of constant instruction on what I should do and how I should live my life. I’m sure I could have done some things better in my life, but I don’t consider myself a failure by any stretch.

Maybe it makes some people feel important to dish out advice on everything. I’ve seen some Christians who believe they have a gift of counseling, which, to them, means that they give instructions about everything, whether they are asked or not.

Seek godly wisdom when you need it. If someone asks you for advice, and you actually have some knowledge or expertise, ask enough questions so that the advice is helpful. If it’s not your area of expertise, just say so. But I would be very careful in advising people who don’t request your help. You may only appear foolish.

Ashton C. Smith, Copyright © January 13, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.


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