The Giving of Advice


It’s been awhile since I’ve been asked for important advice. For a short time in my life, it felt like all I was doing was helping other people make decisions, helping them empathize with someone with whom they were in conflict, helping figure out what they believe… Nowadays, it’s rare that anyone asks me anything beyond book recommendations, which is both nice and not. It’s nice to relax, but I sometimes miss that feeling that someone values my opinion enough to ask for it.

Well, I got an email from a student just a bit ago that knocked me on my ass, because a brilliant girl (previous student) is making those all-important college decisions. In fact, she thought she’d already made the decision, but is getting cold feet about moving away and colleging elsewhere.

Anxiety.

Doubt.

What other people think.

What if…

Those are all parts of what this student wrote to me, and I felt the huge honor and weight of giving her advice. Advice-asking and giving is a time-honored tradition that deserves and requires humility and respect from everyone involved.

Also, over the years I’ve learned that the best advice doesn’t answer the question, “What should I do?” Rather, it seeks to help the asker think and find her own answer.

Advice askers often need help thinking about which variables matter in the situation, how the variables interact with each other, etc… because choices aren’t so much right or wrong most of the time, but rather good, better, worse, etc… Making choices isn’t about doing what we’re “supposed” to do or about avoiding the “wrong” choice. They’re about becoming the person we want to be.

In a sermon I heard a year or two ago, the pastor (I can’t remember which one) said that God is far less concerned with what you do than He is with who you are becoming. I thought that was brilliant, and it’s something I think I’m going to try to remember as I work with students this year. My job isn’t about the moment. It’s about the person and who she is becoming.

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