Stan was struggling. On the surface he appeared to be doing just fine. He would arrive at work each morning at 8: 30, a
half hour early. He often stayed late. He was making some
progress on a major project. He was busy and engaged,
putting his education to work. He was even developing
friendships in the workplace.
Stan was working hard, learning new things, getting a
solid start to his career and collecting a decent paycheque.
But one evening over an iced tea with an older companion,
he began to acknowledge some concerns.
The work he produced never seemed enough. More
was expected. His boss was always on the job an hour before he arrived and still on duty when Stan left. A relentless
influx of new tasks – each one urgent – drew him away
from the major project he’d been hired to complete. He
felt the heaviness of expectations he would never be able
to fulfil. Work time was like doing time.
Maybe if he got there at 8:00 he could leave at 5:00
without getting the feeling he was shortchanging the company. Maybe then his boss wouldn’t give him the hairy
eyebrow when he left for the day. Maybe that would leave
him enough time for church responsibilities, sports teams
and, ahem, his girlfriend who was – confidentially speaking – starting to complain about how her future husband
seemed stressed out about work.
The more anxious he got, the more he wanted to huddle under the covers of his bed in the morning. He’d sleep
in a little later and, to make his self-imposed early arrival
deadline, end up rushing out the door unshaven and less
kempt than he wanted. He’d feel bad about himself, and
every comment or glance from his boss would strike him
as a silent rebuke.
This wasn’t helping his productivity – it had him looking for distractions. It had him burrowing into minor tasks
and neglecting important ones. He was tumbling things
around rather than turning them over. He was getting
stuck, and it wasn’t fun anymore.
Sound familiar? To Stan’s companion that evening, a
middle-aged Christian man with some management experience, the issues troubling the younger man seemed
ordinary and relatively easy to address.
He suggested Stan ask his roommate to make him accountable to be out of bed at 6: 30. That would give him
Giving Good advice
Listen carefully. Discern properly. Guide
time to shower and shave, and report professionally and
promptly to his desk by 8: 30 each morning. Then he
should also feel free to leave promptly and unapologetically at 5:00.
That small step helped him realize both the extent and
the limits of his responsibilities in the workplace. He didn’t
have to buy into the bond-slave culture his boss embodied.
He simply had to do his job. It’s important to do work well,
but there is life beyond the workplace.
how to Give advice
Surely all of us would like to be a help like Stan’s companion. The Book of Proverbs says, “The godly give good
advice to their friends” (12: 26 NLT) and “The lips of the
righteous nourish many” (10: 21 TNIV). How do we do
that? Here are three principles.
First, listen carefully. Stan’s companion made time for
the younger man in a casual atmosphere, enabling Stan
to speak frankly of matters below the surface.
He was also careful not to let the conversation deteriorate into a gripe session. While he encouraged candid
conversation and was careful not to trivialize the heart
of the concern, he was careful not to indulge a culture of
Second, he aimed to discern properly. His questions,
nods, and quizzical looks invited a search for remedies
that could actually be realized. He was wise enough to
know that changing a habit, as difficult as it might be, was
easier than changing the patterns embedded in a company
or boss. He knew better than to try to solve it all at once.
So he looked to find a helpful approach and focus on
one doable item. The young man needed a victory, and it
didn’t need to be large. Nothing motivates like results, and
making progress in one area creates confidence to move
into another. The older man could see this, even though
Finally, the companion needed to find a way to help
Stan discover such a solution. For that to happen he knew
he needed to guide gently. When a solution seems blatantly
obvious to us, we need to remind ourselves the one we’re
advising is sincerely stuck. We need to find a simple, helpful step to improve the situation, and then give the recommendation in a way he can receive.
May God equip all of us with the humility to seek ad-
vice from a godly brother or sister, and the wisdom to bless
someone who may be seeking such counsel. FT
DouG Koop is a freelance writer and spiritual
care provider. He posts some of his articles and
blogs occasionally at www.dougkoop.ca.