In the past two years, while going through a difficult season of life, I have received my fair share of unsolicited advice. While I would love to tell you that I took it all in stride, the reality is the impact of unsolicited opinions has had a fairly negative impact on my psyche. I have come to believe that advice given in this manner, without the proper permission from the receiver, can be one of the greatest hindrances to healing. You might have really good points. I am sure you are super smart. But if you don’t have relational capital with me, if I didn’t ask you to pontificate on the meaning of my existence, please just chill the **** out.
What I’ve needed more than anything is presence. I needed someone to be there with me. At times I just wanted to know I’m loved. Advice, given at the wrong time by the wrong person, even with the greatest of intentions, can do more harm than good. In fact, it can end up pushing someone towards the wrong direction. In my case, it once drove me to eat an entire cheeseburger pizza. If that isn’t the bottom of the barrel, I don’t know what is.
Instead of coming in to save the day with answers as a leader, a friend, a sister, maybe we should just allow people to work things out for themselves. Maybe the best thing we could do for someone is just sit with them, just listen without saying a word. Maybe they don’t feel like talking at all. That should be ok because at the end of the day,
The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.
Deep down, we all know that words themselves will never cure our deepest wounds. But words have power. They can easily put us in a tailspin if we aren’t careful. Sticks and stones might break our bones, but words, without the respect of presence, have the ability to hurt us more than we can bear at times.
I am sure you have amazing opinions, but next time, maybe just give the gift of self. Oh, and also read this insightful blog post that inspired me to write this article — The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice.
Photo by Casey Florig via Flikr. Photo used under CC BY 2.o.Comments
Great piece Jason. Really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for taking the time to write it & share with us.
Thanks for sharing this.
I might actually be more self-serving than I even realized. As an Enneagram 9, I avoid or work to resolve conflict. I’m wondering if when I give advice to someone (especially unsolicited), am I working to help them or am I really just perpetuating my natural preference toward harmony in my own life?
Thanks again for a very thoughtful post.
Thanks, Jason. This is great.