When was the last time you had taken advice from someone?
I know I don’t take advice too well 😅 There is apparently psychology behind it, known as reactance theory – whenever a person tells us what to do and how to do it, we respond with defensive defiance because we want to maximize our personal freedom and decision-making1.
Therefore, it was heartening to see that Moses took the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro, so well. This happened after the Israelites’ first battle (Exodus 17) and Jethro who had heard all that God had done for the Israelites, decided to pay a visit to Moses. Moses gave Jethro an honest account of their journey and Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness that God did for the Israelites (Exodus 18:9).
The next day, Jethro saw that Moses was a one-man show, doing all the work. People had to queue from morning to evening to ask Moses for his advice, and wait for him to judge how things should be done according to God’s laws. Jethro was forthright in his advice:
17Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.Exodus 18:17-18 (NIV)
Jethro advised Moses to delegate the simpler cases to judge to capable men, while Moses to focus on being their representative before God, to teach and to model how the people were to live. Moses accepted the advice readily and Exodus 18 ended with him sending off Jethro after the visit.
The ‘Who’ before ‘What’
- Relationship first
No matter how good the advice, it is of no use if it falls on deaf ears. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, modeled for us that relationship counts, before dishing out advice. Here’s what Jethro did:
- He welcomed Moses (a stranger then) into his home when Moses ran away from Egypt (Exodus 2)
- He respected Moses – he informed Moses of his visit (Exodus 18:7)
- He asked how Moses had been since leaving home and listened (Exodus 18:7-8)
- He rejoiced when he heard of God’s goodness in Moses’ journey (Exodus 18:9)
- When he saw the long queue the next morning, he sought to first understand from Moses before giving his advice
Understanding the challenge is important; an interview with Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Advice Trap on Fast Company suggested to start a new default habit of asking a question and staying curious for 60 seconds, before giving advice2.
It is also clear that the relationship between Moses and his father-in-law was on solid ground, one of respect and amicability.
Listen and discern
Jethro asked Moses to listen to his counsel (Exodus 18:19) and to discern if it was in line with God’s command. This is a demonstration of how not to force advice down someone’s throat!
If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”Exodus 18:23 (NIV)
When I read Exodus 18, I worry if I am giving unwarranted advice from writing devotionals, especially as I am looking to the bible for how to live a better life. Do share with me how I can improve in the comments, advice much appreciated! ❤
Giving & Receiving Advice
Exodus 18 Journaling Prompt
Do you have a habit of giving advice whenever your friend shares a problem?
Are you resisting advice before thinking through if it has merits?
God, you know I have been giving advice and help me to zip my mouth. Help me to first listen and truly care before giving advice. If there is advice from someone, or from the bible that I have been resisting because of pride, help me to listen.
Books on Advice
There aren’t so many books on how to give advice, so I’ve included some coaching books.
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
1 Thomas G. Plante Ph.D., ABPP. “Giving People Advice Rarely Works, This Does” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/do-the-right-thing/201407/giving-people-advice-rarely-works-does. Accessed 25 Jan 2021.
2 Vozza, Stephanies. “3 reasons why people don’t take your advice” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/90451784/3-reasons-why-people-dont-take-your-advice. Accessed 25 Jan 2021