What happens when someone gives us unsolicited advice?
It turns out that when we are in liminal spaces where great personal changes are unfolding, others may offer their opinions about our process or decisions.
Has this ever happened to you?
I had this experience recently. It was quite painful. The words spoken to me were not supportive, rather they were judgmental. Critical. Hurtful. Questioning and second-guessing my decisions. I totally regretted being vulnerable with the person who spoke so harshly of what I was going through.
In the moment, I shared a decision I made that was carefully thought out, prayed about, and reflected upon. My decision had implications for me and those nearest me. I needed a supportive response that sounded something like, “Wow, that must have been hard.” Or maybe, “This is a big loss, how is your heart?”
It reminded me of a very valuable lesson: in the liminal, there are people who will second guess your decisions. Who will offer unsolicited advice? Some of that advice will be critical. Some of it will not be helpful, supportive, or even kind.
This experience, when it happens to you, also provides you with valuable information about the person who speaks it.
As you navigate changes in your life, not everyone will remain in your closest circle. Some people will show you who they are in the words they speak over you. They will not ask caring questions to convey their concern. Rather they will make statements about your wisdom (or lack of it according to them). And while they may say they mean well, they are not mindfully honoring where you may be in your journey.
My recent experience reminded me that it is okay to have boundaries around relationships. Particularly in watershed seasons. You get to choose who you let in and who you keep at a safe distance.
You may be facing very difficult personal decisions. Some of them will come because of your watershed circumstances. The liminal season you find yourself in will also reveal new territory. Opportunities that never occurred to you, clarifying moments, or nudges forward that draw you to your next steps. Within your process and experience, you get to do everything you can to hold on to your own perspective, peace, and prayerful understanding.
As for unwanted advice, it can be helpful to have a reality check with someone you trust.
Is what’s been spoken real? Are you missing something in your decision-making process? Or is the person who gave the unsolicited advice playing their movie on your own process? Are they taking your inventory? Are they projecting their own trauma, fears, or doubts? A trusted friend or a therapist or a life coach can be a valuable resource for a check-in.
Liminal spaces have taught me to take care of myself in new ways. I made a mistake in sharing what I shared with this friend. This conversation created a wound in our relationship. I get to use this experience as an opportunity to reflect on what was spoken as well as who spoke it. I can make decisions based on my own self-assessment of my decisions, progress, and opportunities. I can also choose the nature of this relationship going forward.
Not everyone will be on board with the changes you make in your liminal season. Some will push back because they wish for you to stay the same. Others will openly criticize, question, or even devalue what you are doing. Yet, loss, personal growth, and new directions that arise out of the liminal are all wonderful outcomes. The bridge we cross between what was and what is may feel fraught sometimes, but when we look back, we can congratulate ourselves for our bravery, creativity, insight, personal growth, and the new adventures in which we arrive.
Let us know in the comments how you stay grounded during times of change and uncertainty.
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