“…warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” —I Thessalonians 5:14
One of my greatest challenges in relationships with others, whether it is my husband, friends, or colleagues, is offering advice without being pushy. I was recently talking with a friend who was sharing the same struggle in her relationship with her daughter in college. She felt her daughter didn’t choose the right field of study for her bachelor’s degree. This mother articulated that she pushed back so hard on her daughter’s decision that there is now a serious strain in their relationship. I’m sure we can all relate to these types of relationship battles. These struggles to offer advice are particularly frustrating for me when I feel that I learned from my own mistakes that someone is making a wrong decision.
In one of my encounters in giving advice, it was suggested that I offer advice with an “open hand”. For some reason that image stuck with me. In my pride I clinch to my advice and don’t release it freely. I hold tightly to “my” truth. So now when I offer advice or even offer to do a favor for someone, I mentally picture my open hands offering it freely without being pushy. I have found there is much freedom and peace as I’m accepting this approach.
I also have some friends that are more timid in their offering of advice. (Sometimes I wish I knew what that felt like.) I’ve heard them say that they don’t feel they should involve themselves in giving advice at all. The words in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 depict the struggles of these extremes well. These verses are clear in that we should warn, encourage and help others, but do it with patience. We need to recognize that when we give advice to someone that it is ultimately their journey to discover and grow and not our journey. As I’ve begun to do better in this practice, I’ve discovered that it also easier to be heard by others as I wait patiently for them with open hands and open arms.
Dr. Beth Ackerman is the Associate Dean, School of Education, at Liberty University. Learn more about Liberty University here.
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