"A friend loves at all times"1.
I remember years ago how a friend said that some people are "cursed with the affliction to give advice." I had no idea what he meant. Sure sounded strange to me. Now I understand. He was talking about unsolicited advice; that is, giving advice where it is neither asked for nor wanted.
According to Webster's Dictionary, people "offering unwanted advice or services" are officious. I think that word is close to "obnoxious." Such advice can be thinly veiled criticism.
I'm not talking about going to a lawyer, an accountant, a car mechanic, or whatever when we need 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 do, or how we should or shouldn't feel. They are in fact putting us down in that they are assuming that they know our needs and understand our situation better than we do ourselves.
Even when some people want advice about a personal issue, it is more effective not to give it to them, but help them come up with their own options and solutions.
A good counselor doesn't tell people what they should or shouldn't do. He helps them see 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, to give me their presence, and accept me as I am, and let me know that they careónot try to fix meóor someone who will weep with me when I weep. Such friends may be rare but they are worth their weight in gold.
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."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be a true friend and to be there for those who are hurting, not to give them advice or try to fix them or resolve their problems, but to listen to them, accept their feelings, give them my presence, love them, and be as Jesus to them. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Proverbs 17:17 (NIV).