Sunday, May 17, 2020

Silence is not always agreement

Today, I am writing to you from the vantage point of a pastor's wife. If you have been a reader on my blog for any length of time, you know this is very rare for me. I am, first and foremost, a wife and mother - as are many of my readers. My posts reflect this. 

However, I have also been by my husband's side through over 14 years in the pastorate. We both have learned many things, and are hopefully the wiser for it. Yet rarely will I share those lessons, because there is usually some pain involved in the learning curve, that of a church member or my own. Some things are better left unsaid. 

Yet, today I was inspired to share a little bit about my life as a pastor's wife after speaking with a new mom at our church this morning. She had come to thank me for some unsolicited advice I had given her just last week regarding a health issue I observed in her child. She had followed my advice, and her child had dramatically improved in just a few days' time. 

And herein lies what I want to talk about: I do not like to give unsolicited advice, and rarely do it. I am talking about person-to-person advice, not in general terms such as on my blog. That in spite of the fact that like anyone else, I have opinions about many things. Furthermore, I believe my opinions to be right (duh - who knowingly adopts a faulty view??). Many times, I see something that I disagree with or even find alarming, yet I do not say anything. In fact, 9 times out of 10 when I wonder whether I should say something, I don't.

"Unsought advice is seldom heeded, and often resented." - Unknown 

There are many reasons for keeping my opinion to myself. 

- It's none of my business. Duh. Your life is yours to live as you choose. Even as the pastor's wife, I have to be very alarmed before I will give unsolicited advice.

- It can come across as rude. There's no all-around nice way to tell someone that you think they are wrong, or overlooking something important. 

- I could be wrong. It happens, trust me. ;) The last thing I want to do is worry someone that something might be seriously wrong, when I'm actually the one in the wrong. 

- It's risky. For the aforementioned reasons, there is a real chance that the recipient of my unsolicited advice will take offense. I am not one to want to give people one more reason to be offended. 

- It wastes time. As a mother of 11, my time is extremely limited. Taking a chance and spending my time giving someone unsolicited advice, which is likely to not be well received and go unheeded, is simply something I don't have time for.

- I might not have a solution. Identifying a problem, and having a solution, are two very different things. There is no point in pointing out something wrong in someone else's life, if I have no advice on how to fix it. 

I was thankful and encouraged today to know that my recent unsolicited advice had not only fallen on willing ears, but had yielded such great results, so soon. I had given similar advice other times, only to have the recipient take offense, not even consider my words, and then continue watching them (or worse, their child) suffer. 

The longer my husband is a pastor, the less I am willing to say anything, even to a fault. One glaring example that comes to mind are midwives. Sadly, there are many charlatans or clueless ones out there, and they are typically the ones with the sweetest personalities, the most effective referral system, or the lowest fees. More times than I care to remember, there have been midwives that moms  in our church have chosen, that I had serious concern about, but didn't say anything. I did not want to come across as telling other moms what midwife to choose, even as some particularly clueless ones have seriously hurt or endangered some of our moms. Even so, I was recently criticized yet again for having a "blacklist" of midwives that the 60 or more moms of childbearing age in our church can review before hiring anyone.

With that in mind, here's my unsolicited advice, but it's generally speaking: 

- If you want to know my opinion on your personal matter, you will most likely have to ask for it. And rest assured that if I do give you unsolicited personal advice, it was after much consideration and prayer, and never flippantly. 

- You may assume that if you have a pastor and wife who love and care for you, they will come to you if they notice anything concerning. They might, or like us they most often might not. Please do not mistake silence for agreement, or an approval of your choices. This is true in all walks of life.

- If you are facing a challenge, please reach out to those whom you trust for good advice. Don't assume they will come to you and volunteer their wisdom. 

- Before reaching out for advice, take some time to decide whom to seek advice from. One good rule of thumb is that you ask those who have succeeded, not those who have failed, in your particular area of concern. For instance, don't ask marriage advice of divorced people, child rearing advice from those with errant children, or health advice from the ill. 

- Pray that God would reveal His advice through the person you are going to approach, by laying the right words on their heart. I have done this myself countless times: telling God who I was going to ask for wisdom regarding a matter, and asking Him to give His answer through that person, then resting assured that I could follow that advice as if it had come down directly from God. 

And one final piece of advice: Beware the people who always know everything, and freely share it with anyone who will listen. Asking for advice requires humility, while spouting off advice left and right appeals to the prideful (and often clueless). Rule of thumb: the more unsolicited advice someone is willing to share, the more clueless or wrong they tend to be. 

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out. - Proverbs 20:5


  1. You have a delicate position as a Pastor's wife.
    Sometimes it's tough being a mom-in-law or friend. Keeping my mouth shut at times takes discipline. Grins. Blessings to you. Love Proverbs.

  2. What an excellent, well written article! I can tell that you put a great deal of prayerful thought into writing it, and I was blessed by it today.

  3. I'm so happy you're writing on the blog again, and I wholeheartedly agree. Giving advice is a tricky thing, it can backfire quickly and unfairly.
    On the particular subject of midwives, I live in Florida and I really wish I had more experiences moms in my area who could help me vet good and bad ones.
    I had my first at the hospital because I didn't get a great vibe in the only birth center in my area. One of the midwives was very young, the other had only a 2-year associates degree and the third had just quit... The manager got very defensive when I asked about this. My friend also had a home birth go wrong with another local independent midwife, it almost cost her life. With no one else to turn to, we thought the local hospital would be the safest option but I ended up having a pretty bad experience (my water broke early, I was pretty much forced to get an epidural+pitocin after 12 hours of labor to speed things up, the epidural didn't work but the OB didn't believe me, then I was forced to push on my back against my will and had major tearing).
    For my next birth I really want to follow my gut this time and go with a home birth but I have no clue how to interview midwives for competency. I agree with you that the profession is quite unregulated and there are charlatans out there with fancy websites and great reviews that I wouldn't trust with my life and my baby's life. I'm sure many other moms would love to hear your advice on this.

  4. Aren’t fortune cookies sinful?

  5. Thanks for sharing this information. Bless you.

  6. Great blog! I love the Bible verse you picked for this article.
    Btw, I'm reading 'The Gift of Fear' by Gavin de Becker as per your review on one of your YouTube videos.. It's such a great book! Thanks for that recommendation! And of course I'd love to see more book recommendations videos/blogs, since I'm always looking for a good book - while we're on the subject of unsolicited advice, haha! :)


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