The Single Most Important Way to Avoid Bad Advice

Learning from people who have experienced the same challenges you have is awesomely wise. It’s one of the most productive and efficient ways to grow, not to mention avoiding pain and heartache. That’s certainly true if the advice is good. But how do you know you’re not getting bad advice?

I’ve received plenty of both good and bad advice over the years. I remember one occasion when I purchased a car based on some bad advice from a friend. Seven months and numerous problems later I was relieved when I sold that car and only lost a few thousand dollars. Bad advice can get you in trouble in a hurry – and not just financial trouble!

Seeking wise advice is Biblical: “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14) But not just any counsel will do; it must be godly. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)

SO, how do you know whether this person or this counsel is wise, godly, and appropriate for you? There’s another Biblical principle that speaks to this, and here it is: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20)

In the realm of watching out for bad advice, here’s what that looks like:

Look at the life of the person offering you advice. What outcomes have their mindset or actions resulted in? Is that the outcome you desire?

A radio commercial in southeast Texas proclaims, “Never trust a skinny cook!” The idea is that if the cook is around their food all day and doesn’t enjoy eating it, why would you want to?

I could think of several healthier slogans! And you can learn a lot about what NOT to do from other people’s mistakes. But as far as knowing what to do, beware of following advice from these people:

  • Financial advice from someone who’s broke
  • Relationship advice from someone who’s miserably married, or repeatedly divorced
  • Dietary advice from someone who’s fat, OR from someone who looks anorexic
  • Business advice from someone who’s an hourly employee
  • Parenting advice from someone who’s kids are estranged
  • Spiritual advice from someone who’s bitter, controlling, and angry

If you need help, or want to know what to do, look for someone who’s faced challenges in the general area you are facing, and who has overcome them.

  • Need to learn how to have a positive attitude? Study someone who’s always positive. What do they talk about? What do they feed their mind with? What do they think about?
  • Need to improve your marriage? Find a couple who’s been married longer than you, and ask questions. How did they overcome problems? How did they invest in their marriage?
  • Need to overcome an addiction? Get around people who have been living free from addiction longer than you. Find out how they did it.
  • Need to grow spiritually? Spend time with people who are as or more committed to Jesus than you are. How do they spend their time, energy, and resources? How do they incorporate their faith into their everyday life?

Look at the fruit in the life of the person you’re asking for advice. Is that the life you want? Great! Study them, learn from them, and put their advice into practice.

Isn’t that what “making disciples” is really all about anyway? “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

And by the way, this principle should make those of us who offer advice examine ourselves with humility. You don’t have to be perfect to offer advice. But you should have incorporated your own advice into your life, and be able to demonstrate the results.

Your Turn: Who have you taken advice from? How did that turn out? Was it a good person to accept advice from? Leave a comment below. 

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