Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The nature of unsolicited advice

Chris Saxman wrote a column about an interesting topic, “unsolicited advice,” and he cited a column that cited a summary of studies on the motivation of those who give unsolicited advice.

“Researchers discovered: ‘…giving advice to others can increase the feeling that you have power. In particular, the researchers suggest that when you advise someone else, it gives you the sense that someone may follow your advice. That belief that you are influencing someone else’s behavior then leads you to feel more powerful.’”

I especially take note of this as it would not be hard to peg me as a “rampant advice-giver.” I do it enough that I separated my advice-giving into a separate blog and Twitter account. Usually my $0.02 has to do with technology and feature requests. I can be as guilty as the next person of thinking, “If technology can do something, it should do something.” Perhaps it is indeed an attempt to make a positive response to a perceived power deficit.

In some ways, unsolicited tech advice could be seen as seeking to exert influence for power or influence over the developer, but to me it's instead about getting more power from the tools the developer makes or provides (which gives them more power). It's not personal. It's about the tool. Of course, the flip side of that is when developers take power away from their users, like Blogger lately. Taking away powerful tools will inadvertently solicit a lot of advice.

I once heard from a former Hill staffer that after years working there, he finally realized information flows to power. Maybe in that context information is a form of advice. For a few who have been in power, it's not about power.

Perhaps it should be more fascinating that Jesus never offered more advice than he did. At one point a ruler marveled that He didn't even defend himself when accused. Jesus was more known for asking, “What do you want?” What are your desires? When Jesus asked blind men that question, they invariably responded that they wanted (the power) to see. Blind men don't give advice on how to see. A feeling of power is useless if it's not real and produces nothing. Giving advice is the illusion of power reflected off one's own powerlessness. Fulfilling desires is real power, real gain.

What is the ultimate real power and real gain is “the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.” That's what the Good News of Jesus is all about. My unsolicited advice to the reader or anyone being read this document is to accept the gift of salvation from God! This is not out of a desire for power, but out of a warning that without Jesus one is in a severely inferior position of power with respect to his standing before God. Therefore, it is in no way beneath the believer to beg men to reconcile themselves to God which is in itself a tangible demonstration of the desperate situation of the lost.

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