Excerpt from The Joy of Spiritual Living, pp. 77–80, by Frank Rose and Bob Maginel
Spend the next twenty-four hours observing your impulse to give advice, directly or indirectly. After that first day of self-observation, stop giving advice for a whole week.
- Keep in mind that you are doing this task for the sake of your own spiritual growth, and not to deprive other people of your wisdom.
- If for some reason you feel you must give advice, do so only from a higher place in yourself.
- Notice that others will survive without your input or direction.
- Recognize that advice-giving takes you out of the spiritual growth mode of seeking guidance from your Higher Power.
- Understand that advice-giving shows a lack of respect and can hurt interpersonal relationships.
- Understand that advice-giving can be detrimental in that it devalues the other person’s ability to exercise his or her own insight and will.
Frank’s Thoughts about Task 6
There is something inside us that loves to help. But when the ego gets involved, this desire to help is almost a disease.
Giving advice comes from a suspect part of us. When we are in the advice-giving mode, we get out of the spiritual growth mode. Maybe it is just that we would like a little relief from our problems. We don’t have to think about our own problems if we think about someone else’s problems.
Maybe you have had the experience of someone telling you what to do. I find that annoying. For one thing, it puts me down! They are the expert, I am the fool. I am subject to the bounty of their great wisdom.
A friend of mine used to say advice is the easiest thing in the world to give as long as you don’t have to live with the consequences. Have you ever given or received advice that turned out to be really disastrous?
Once, when someone asked me for advice and I was foolish enough to give it, I offered my wonderful suggestion and this person said, “I already tried that.” I asked how it worked out and they said, “It was terrible, the worst thing I ever did!” So I had just told this person to do something that (a) they had already tried, and (b) had already proven to be a mistake.
As the advice receiver, I think of when I was driving from city to city in England, before they had superhighways. I got frustrated with the twisty, turning roads. One time I wanted to pass the car I was following but could never see far enough ahead to pass. Finally the driver ahead signaled me to pass. Despite my frustration, something told me not to follow that advice. Seconds later an oncoming car sped by! I would have been dead!
The Bible has some wonderful stories about advice-giving. When the prosperous King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam inherited an unstable kingdom. People from the northern tribes came and said, “We have been laboring under these terrible taxes and difficult conditions. Can you ease up a little bit?” So he went and asked his counsel for advice. He was told they were right and he should ease up.
He disliked that advice so he consulted another advisor, who told him, “Oh these people, if you give them an inch they will take a mile. Be tough on them.” So he was tough on them and they rebelled. The country split in half and never got back together again, all because of bad advice.
Like Solomon’s son, we tend to select the advice we want to follow. We rarely give up the power of decision to someone else.
There are several fundamental problems with the advice game. First, when someone opens up to you and you shift into advice-giving mode, at that point you have stopped listening. In your mind, you have already solved their problem and are just waiting for a space in the conversation where you can give your advice.
The second problem is that advice-giving shows a lack of respect for the other person. It is telling them that they do not know how to run their life but you do.
The third problem is that people in the habit of seeking and taking advice get into an unhealthy spiritual state, because they are not using their own freedom and reason.
One of the things I loved about my upbringing was that there were so many kids in our family that Mom and Pa hardly ever told us what to do. They hardly ever knew what we were doing. The message I got was, “You are smart. Figure it out.”
So we each use our own brain and best judgment. The assumption of Task 6 is that people will be able to survive without you giving them advice for a week.
TOOLS FOR TASK 6
- Explore the two sides of advice: giving and receiving. Recall a time when you gave advice to someone else. How did the receiver of your advice react? Look to see where that advice came from in your mind. Did your advice come from that loving part of yourself that wanted to be helpful, or was it driven by your ego to prove your own importance, knowledge, or control? Now reflect on times when you were given advice. How did you feel as the receiver? Was the advice coming from the love and charity of the giver?
- Recall the results of your advice. Was your advice helpful? Was it followed? Did it affect your relationship with that person? Did it help or hinder their personal development?
- Did you consult your Higher Power before giving advice? We have something inside us that loves to help. Perhaps the love to help comes from our Higher Power. Or perhaps it comes from a need to prove our superiority or sense of worth. Consider the source of your own advice before offering it. Are there other methods of helping—such as being a good listener?