On Giving and Receiving Advice

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On Giving and Receiving Advice

Kabbalah Centre
January 13, 2014
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“Our job is not to judge another’s actions; our job is to listen beyond the words.” ~Karen Berg

Giving advice can be an opportunity to share our opinion and perspective—to tell people what we really think. Who doesn’t love an open forum? But giving and receiving advice is a delicate business. Both take just as much consciousness and thought. The truth is, we are often much more open to giving advice than receiving it. Even when we ask for advice, if we’ve already made up our minds, there is usually little one can do to dissuade us from our intended course. Kabbalistically, whether you are on the giving or receiving end, every exchange is an opportunity to learn and grow.

In order to remain completely open to advice, it is important to let go of preconceived notions of what course of action you think you should take. That is not to say that you should ignore your instincts. Simply be open to the wisdom a friend, mentor, or loved one is trying to share with you. After you’ve listened, if you still feel that you should move forward with your original plan, go right ahead. You’re likely to feel more confident in your decision once you’ve considered other options.

Kabbalists teach that every exchange—no matter how slight—is a chance for us to grow spiritually. Advice can reveal new information about ourselves and the situation, even if we choose not to follow it. “We cannot receive the Torah if we are not open to listening to anyone at any time,” says Michael Berg. “If we are fully aware that we should consider everything as if it were coming from the Creator, even when its source is a person who has done terrible things, then we are ready to receive the greatest spiritual revelation of all time.”

The biblical chapter Yitro is named for Moses' father-in-law who pulls him aside to advise him. Up until that time, Moses was the only one making judgments and settling disputes in the community. His father-in-law could see that the responsibility had the potential to wear him down. So Yitro approaches Moses about the issue. He basically says, “What you're doing isn't working; this is how you can do it better.” Instead of getting annoyed or upset at the suggestion, as many of us might, Moses follows his advice and sets up a judicial system so appointed representatives could settle simple disputes, freeing him from the overwhelming sole responsibility. Yitro was not as elevated as Moses, but that did not deter Moses from being open to his suggestion and considering how he might do things differently. In the end, it behooved the entire Israelite community for Moses to think over Yitro’s advice.

When giving advice it is crucial to steer clear of judgment and set aside personal bias—keeping only their welfare in mind. When others feel scrutinized they often put up a wall in order to protect themselves and are less likely to accept counsel. Put yourself in their situation. Ask yourself, how does she feel? What are the pros and cons? What are her concerns? “Every time we put ourselves in someone else's shoes,” says Michael Berg, “the effort we make at feeling their pain removes an illusionary curtain that separates us from them.” Empathizing with their situation and letting compassion guide us allows our words and guidance to be heard with an open heart.

Sometimes helping someone find their own course of action is the most effective way to give advice. Ask someone who needs help what actions they can take to remedy the situation. Lead them to identify the steps that will bring more Light. We all feel more empowered when we solve our own dilemmas and choose our own path. This way you haven’t told someone what to do, but simply guided them towards their own answers.

Michael Berg states that, “We can study all day and pray all day and night, but we will not elevate unless we merit assistance from the soul of a righteous person.” Giving and receiving advice is an opportunity to connect to others. In doing so, we transform and expand our capacity to receive Light and bring more Light into the world.

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