7 Questions To Ask BEFORE Giving Advice

I often think about what it would be like to grow up being the younger brother of Jesus. Talk about sibling rivalry! How could you EVER pin the “who put the donkey dung in sister’s bed?” on your brother? But after siblings grow up and mature they look back and see the threads of good, smart, gifted traits of their brother or sister. At some point siblings should be able to reflect back and see things more holistically. You know, James did NOT believe his brother, Jesus, was the messiah until after Jesus’ death and resurrection – right?

I believe that James writes not only from his own experiences but also from the authority of having known Jesus his entire life, from James’ earliest memories.

When I read in James, I don’t just see the power of an Apostle, I see the culmination of life experienced through his half-brother, Jesus, as well. What other author can write from that perspective?

James gives us this amazing process, filter or checklist when it comes to looking for (and I believe giving) wisdom.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:17-18 NIV

Before giving wisdom it’s a good idea to sift through motives before moving to action. This is the kind of wisdom that is sought. Wisdom that is pure and thoughtful. This is what people are looking for when they need wisdom or advice.

Below is a great checklist I can go through BEFORE opening my mouth and espousing a flow of circular suggestions filled with trite tid-bits or cute colloquialisms.

When I’m asked for advice and consideration on a matter, am I willing to mentally walk through this little soul-check to see if I am just blowing wind or truly being helpful?

A friend asks, “Hey, can I get your thoughts on something?”

  1. Is my motivation pure and not filled with self-interest or self-gain?
  2. Am I willing to seek peace, resolution and restoration not trying to conquer, control or win a pithy-point to make me look better?
  3. Can I put myself under authority of another or be willing to yield my own rights?
  4. Can I imagine their pain or remember the experience of being broken, desperate or alone and apply a healthy amount of mercy as I think through the situation with them?
  5. Am I able to see an outcome that will produce beautiful, delicious, flavorful fruit for all involved?
  6. Will I focus on being neutral, impartial; to be moved by compassion but not be swayed by reactive emotions? And can I consider all sides or seek the other half of the story if possible?
  7. Will I remember to be real, authentic and human only bringing honest experiences to the discussion not quick, trite, social media driven platitudes?

Most often, people do not want advice as they want someone to listen. They want someone to hear there thought processes, help organize those thoughts for them and then repeat back what you really hear them saying or asking. However, if someone truly wants input, this checklist helps me center on them, not me.

So, from a nine on the enneagram, take my advice on James’ advice on wisdom.