A True Friend
"A friend loves at all times."1
Years ago a friend was talking to me about some people being "cursed with the affliction to give advice." At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. Sure sounded strange to me. Now I understand.
According to Webster's Dictionary, people "offering ... unwanted advice" are officious. They can also be obnoxious. Such advice can be and often is a thinly veiled criticism.
I'm not talking about going to a lawyer or an accountant or a car mechanic or whatever where we need and are asking for professional advice. What I'm talking about is when we share our struggles and feelings with a friend and they have a compulsion to tell us what we should or shouldn't be doing, or to "fix" us. They are in fact putting us down in that they are assuming that they know our needs better than we know them ourselves.
Even when some people want us to tell them what to do, it is a much greater help not to tell them what we think they should do, but to help THEM decide what are their options and solutions. This is what a good counselor does. He helps clients see what their options are and decide for themselves what they need to do.
What I want from a friend when I am feeling in the pits is someone to listen to me with their heart, give me their presence, and accept me as I am—and let me know they care—without giving any kind of advice or trying to fix me.
These friends can be rare. Even rarer is the friend who knows how to weep with those who weep.
In his book, Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen wrote, "When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
May God help us all to be this kind of a friend.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me an understanding, caring, and compassionate heart and help me to learn how to listen to my friends' pain, to accept them as they are, to communicate to them that I truly care—without having a compulsion to give unsolicited advice or try to fix them. To my friends in need please help me to be a friend indeed. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Proverbs 17:17 (NIV).