A Biblical 5-Step Process for Giving Advice

Woman with out stretched arms refusing advice

At the beginning of last year I resolved to curb my nasty habit of offering unsolicited advice.

Unfortunately, I’ve got decades of experience giving unwanted advice, so it wasn’t easy to wean myself off.

If you have a problem, I have a solution. It’s how my brain works. 

I know people often call men “fixers”, but don’t let the stereotype fool you. Some women (ahem…me) are born fixers also.

The quandary with my advice-giving addiction is that it often has a negative impact on my relationships.

Why?

Because no one likes a serial-advice-giver.

A need is not always an invitation.
A problem doesn’t always have a solution.
A friend isn’t always looking to be fixed.

Just because I have advice to offer a person, or insight into their situation, that does not mean that I should offer it.

Luke 6:31 says, “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”

Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. - Luke 6:31Click To Tweet

This verse sets a wonderful standard for us, as Christians. It reminds us how important it is to respect and serve in the same way we want to be respected and served.

When someone offers me unsolicited advice, it makes me feel broken, devalued, and (oftentimes) downright cranky.

Who do they think they are? What makes them think they know how to solve all my problems?

And my tendency to over-advise my friends likely makes them feel the same way.

OUCH!

Resolving to break your unsolicited advice-giving habit this year? This article is a great place to start!Click To Tweet

Woman amazed by unsolicited advice

As a reformed “serial-advice-giver” who wants nothing more than to help others succeed at life, I have had to take some extreme measures to break my habit of unsolicited advising.

Although my road to recovery has been fraught with slip-ups and apologies, I have come a long way in the past twelve months.

Somewhere in the midst of all the tongue-biting, subject changing, and praying for strength I developed a simple 5-step system for advice giving.

And it has been a total relationship saver for me!

People want to let you into the broken places of their lives, but they need to know they can trust you first.Click To Tweet

These protective measures transformed me from a clanging gong (1 Cor 13:1) to a person sought out by others for wise counsel (Prov 12:15).

I have learned to patiently wait for people to invite me into their pain.

Then, and only then, am I free to cautiously proceed through the five-step advice giving process.

A Biblical 5-Step Process for Giving Advice

A Biblical 5-Step Process for Giving Advice

This process is set up to protect both the advice-giver and the advice-receiver, and to open the door for God to restore and redeem the brokenhearted.

This biblical process to opens the door for God to restore and redeem the brokenhearted.Click To Tweet

Step 1: Listen

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5 NIV

Good listening skills are essential if you want to build successful and vibrant relationships.

Through active listening and thoughtful question asking, you will be able to to accurately assess a person.

You are not only gathering information but beginning to stir their heart with your questions and guiding the conversation toward step two.

By giving your friend an opportunity to talk about what is important to them, you are building trust and increasing your understanding of their unique perspective.

Step 2: Discern

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. Proverbs 17:28 NIV

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ utilized questions to reprove, to teach, to involve and to determine the quality of people’s faith.

He also used them to guide thought and to awaken people morally.

In fact, He asked more than 297 questions during his public ministry.

Asking thoughtful questions will help you to discern what your friend is looking for.

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:28 Click To Tweet

Do they just need to vent or are they specifically seeking your counsel?

Most of my conversations end on this step because I have made a personal commitment not to proceed further unless people specifically ask for my advice.

I would encourage you to do the same, as people are rarely receptive to unsolicited advice (I know this from experience).

Step 3: Advise

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38 NIV

I will never forget the instruction of well-known counselor and interventionist, Jeff VanVonderen.

He encourages advice-givers to say only the “shortest truest thing.”

It is imperative that we limit our advice to the particular aspect of the individual’s life that they are seeking help in.

The more time and energy you have invested into this relationship, the more tempting it will be to get overly-enthusiastic in your advice giving.

The key to successful advice-giving is to only give one small piece of advice and immediately evaluate how they respond before giving more.

A Biblical 5 Step Process For Giving Advice

Step 4: Evaluate

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Matthew 7:1 NIV

Although you’ve built the bridge of relationship to carry the weight of the truth, you still must navigate that bridge one small step at a time.

One small truth at a time.

Then evaluate how your friend responds.

Do they crack the door open a bit more by asking a follow-up question? Or do they toss it back in your face and withdraw behind the safety of a locked door?

Do they quickly apply the truth, or do they fail to change?

This is the most valuable step of the advice-giving process because it will be the foundation upon which you build all future conversations.

This is also the point where I often refer my hurting friends to a trained Biblical Counselor, either because I don’t know how to help or they are not following my advice.

Step 5: Release

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 NIV

Once you have faithfully walked through the first four steps of the advice-giving process, it is time to release the results of the conversation into the hands of your loving Savior.

No matter how much you care for your friends, it is not your job to fix their problems.

No matter how much you care for your friends, it is not your job to fix their problems.Click To Tweet

You’ve given your advice, now it’s time to trust that the Lord is at work in the midst of their pain.

This step is absolutely crucial because it protects you from drowning in other people’s problems.

Conclusion

One of the most challenging aspects of the Christian faith, for me, has been learning how to effectively counsel others without becoming consumed by their problems.

I am slowly learning to curb my desire to help everyone by reminding myself it is not my place to help everyone.

This five-step process has been a fantastic guide for me, equipping me to be effective in my ministry without over-extending myself.

I hope it will do the same for you.

This five-step process has equipped me to be effective in ministry without over-extending myself.Click To Tweet

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Bible Study partner, Sarah Koontz

Sarah Koontz

About Sarah Koontz

  Sarah Koontz invites Christians of all ages to explore the beauty of God’s design. She is a passionate storyteller who enjoys using illustrations to communicate deep spiritual truths. Sarah lives on 13-acres in South Dakota with her husband, two daughters and a rowdy flock of 30 chickens. She revels in their simple, uncluttered life. Follow Sarah on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Read Sarah's full Bio Here.

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