Read: Proverbs 9
“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:7-8)
Some people in this world have an irresistible urge to give unsolicited advice. Sometimes the advice is good and helpful to the person on the receiving end of it, but usually it falls into the it’s-none-of-you-business category. If you are one of those who just can’t seem to keep your opinion to yourself, Solomon has some great advice here in Proverbs 9,
“If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins. So don’t waste your time on a scoffer; all you’ll get for your pains is abuse. But if you correct those who care about life, that’s different—they’ll love you for it! Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it; tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.” (Proverbs 9:7-9, The Message)
In other words, when it comes to dispensing advice, proceed with caution. Don’t rush to counsel or admonish people when you haven’t been invited into their lives. The truth is, there are some people who are neither ready to receive your input nor willing to follow your suggestions. Your recommendations and challenges to them, even though well intentioned, will fall on deaf ears, or worse, be seen as intrusive.
The counsel my father often gave to me paralleled Solomon’s, “Son, don’t go sticking your nose into others people’s business.” That turned out to be pretty good advice. When I’ve heeded that bit of wisdom, I’ve never regretted it. When I’ve ignored it and pushed my way into business that was not my own, I’ve regretted it as a foolish and unnecessarily painful act.
So what is Solomon proposing—that we just sit back and let people mess up their lives without saying a word? Doesn’t love demand that we sometimes confront, even when we know it won’t be well received? What is God’s wisdom for us in this matter?
The Bible does teach us that we need to be ready to speak truth into the lives of people God has caused to cross our paths. We have been called to encourage, exhort, challenge, admonish, rebuke, instruct and hold people accountable for their actions. That is the assignment we are sometimes given, and if we want to have the best shot at speaking difficult truth to those who need to hear what we have to say, consider the following checklist for difficult conversations:
- Know your target
- Be careful with your timing
- Pay attention to your limits
- Check your own motives
- Speak out of authentic love
If any one of those indicator lights is blinking red, pull up! If it’s all systems go, then bring that difficult conversation in for—hopefully—a smooth landing. One more thing: Good luck!
“The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.” ~Hannah Whitall Smith
Winning At Life:
Think back to a time when someone spoke a difficult and necessary word into your life. Take a moment to write them a note of thanks—it was probably pretty hard on them, too.