“Have you ever noticed that when someone tells you something for your own good, it’s for their own good?” Zig Ziglar
Unsolicited advice is the hallmark of a controlling and addictive personality. In his book A Hunger For Healing, J. Keith Miller discusses this truth at length in light of his own struggles with alcoholism. Miller notes that when he was active in his addiction he frequently gave unsolicited advice to control people around him. Of course he didn’t see things that way before recovery; Miller says that he was just, “trying to help people.” What Keith didn’t realize before recovery was this his attempts to ‘help people’ were actually his way of playing God in the lives of others. Family and friends did not behave the way Miller thought they should, and he felt it was his duty to help people see where they had gone wrong and ‘straighten them out’.
My weekend graduation festivities were marred by a friend who felt the need to give me some unsolicited advice. My wife believes the enemy may have been at work trying to spoil God’s revelation and commissioning. I don’t know if I am prepared to go that far, but I will acknowledge that my friend’s comments hurt me. What hurt wasn’t necessarily his accusation that I am a selfish person; I have acknowledged my selfishness as part of my Step 4 and 5 work. I believe God is at work in my life every day peeling back my layers of denial to help me see my character defects, like selfishness, more clearly.
No, what hurt was the way my friend offered up his ‘advice’ with no invitation. It felt more like judgment than friendly advice.
I see four teaching points growing out of this situation. First, I must discuss this situation with my friend. It would be no more correct for me to harbor feelings of resentment than it was for him to offer unsolicited advice.
Second, all of us need to consider our own controlling behaviors and the urges we feel to offer unsolicited advice. The next time you feel the urge to ‘help a friend’ ask yourself why you think they need to hear your advice. Are you trying to replace the Holy Spirit as the One who convicts others of sin? Are you eager to be used by the Spirit in that way? Why?
Third, it is important to remember that the way we offer advice, solicited or unsolicited, is instrumental in how that advice is received. Just because we are ‘right’ in our assessment does not absolve us of couching advice in a way that heals rather than harms.
Fourth and finally, we should be discerning with regard to offered advice. I have a tendency to accept as gospel truth anything a friend offers as advice; in this case I allowed myself to feel terrible because a friend confronted me with my selfishness. I agree that I am selfish, and I pray that God continues to work on my heart to heal me of this character defect. But rather than allow this person to dump on me and try to control me, I should have accepted his advice at arm’s length and analyzed it before fully accepting it. I should have asked myself, “Why is he giving me this advice? What’s going on in his life that he feels the need to offer this up to me? Could this advice be meant for him rather than for me? Is it even true, and if so, to what degree?”
As you go about your life today be conscious of your efforts to control others through unsolicited advice, and be wary of others who do the same to you.