A Case Against Generous Advising

Deborah Sybil   |   August 9, 2023 

Very recently, I was put through a session on ‘right parenting’.

This ‘session’ was by a senior family friend who looked down on the ways of ‘modern parenting’ as she called it. She disagreed with how parents did it these days! In her time, there was more discipline and children were not given choices. She then went on to talk about the many instances where she controlled her children at home and in public. She wanted me to do the same with my children.

I had gone to her to enquire about a tutor for my son, who had difficulty learning Hindi at school. Instead of answering my query, she ignored my concern and continued advising me on how I should raise my boys. Her intentions were noble, but this was not helpful to me. I was beginning to panic that I had got it all wrong. I could not relate to the circumstances she was describing nor to the methods she was asking me to adopt. My kids were different, times had changed, and so had the needs of children in this generation.

Eventually, I calmed myself and got through the session all the time thinking that I was getting a taste of my own medicine. For a long time, I believed personal example was the best form of advice. Anyone sharing their problems with me would get a dose of my ‘very appropriate’ personal life experiences. I would start off with -

  • Something similar happened to me some years ago.......
  • I was in the exact same situation last year.........
  • Oh, my boss is just like yours.......
  • Let me tell you what I did when that happened to me.....
  • You know what you should do.........

I truly believed that my experiences would help the other person. I presumed that what I did in a particular circumstance or how I responded to a particular person could (and should) be emulated by anyone in such a situation. I thought I was doing the best thing possible—giving them practical advice from my rich experience as compared to abstract irrelevant ideas. It was only during the above incident that I realised how inappropriate my experiences must sound to my friends.

Women share their problems with others not for advice but for a sense of personal relief. My role when others shared was to listen, not to advice and definitely not to preach through my ‘vast experiences’. Here are a few things that you can do when someone shares their problems with you –

1. Listen. People talk to be heard. When someone shares with you, just lend a listening ear. We would want that too when we share with others. How annoying it would be to be interjected with, ‘You know what you should do....’, ‘I can tell you exactly what needs to be done....’ etc. Just listen. Often the other person does not need a solution. When someone begins to verbalise their fear/ worry, one of the following two things happens – either the fear/worry begins to seem meaningless or a solution begins to appear in that person’s mind. Give them time for that clarity to crystalise.

2. Refrain from giving advice. The other person knows their circumstance the best. Allow them to work out their solutions. Encourage them to clear their thoughts if at all you want to help. Advise only if you think that their solution is sinful.

3. Do not quote your personal experience unless specifically asked for (and this I say from my personal experience!). Not every situation is the same or similar. Not every person is the same/ similar. God created each of us different and it is probably true that each of us would react differently in any given situation. Do not try to force your story into their lives however appropriate it may sound to you.

May the Lord help us discern the appropriate ways of being helpful to friends around us!



Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The following two tabs change content below.

Deborah Sybil

Deborah loves reading, enjoys cooking and is ready with book/restaurant suggestions for all who ask. She likes travelling and interacting with almost anyone she meets. Nothing interests her as much as the riches of God's word and His work in the present times. She is a professor of Oral Surgery by vocation and lives in Delhi with her husband, Augustine and two adorable sons, Caleb and Bryan.

Latest posts by Deborah Sybil (see all)

One comment on “A Case Against Generous Advising”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

From Our Archives

© 2024 IndiAanya. All rights reserved. Designed by NWD.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram