James 1:19 advises: “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” This is particularly true when we are receiving counsel. Why? For one thing, is it not true that we are often aware of our own shortcomings, and it does not come as a complete surprise when a concerned friend points them out and offers counsel? It surely makes it easier for all concerned if we quickly discern what he is trying to say and humbly accept the loving help.
When a friend approaches us with counsel, we should remember that he or she may be quite nervous. It is not easy to give counsel. Perhaps the would-be counselor has given much thought to the words or approach to be used. An elder may begin the conversation by commending us for some area of Christian service in which we have been doing well. But that should not cause us to question his motives when he goes on to offer counsel. The one offering counsel may speak in an indirect way at first, trying not to be tactless or blunt. Our being discerning enough to get the point quickly will help the counselor in his task and perhaps spare us hurt feelings.
Sometimes the counselor may use an example or an illustration to help us get the point. One young man had not yet become a serious wrongdoer, but he was on an errant course. In reasoning with him, an older Christian man picked up a ruler that was lying on the desk. Flexing the ruler in his hands, he asked: “If I bend a ruler like this, can I still measure a straight line with it?” The young man got the point. He had been trying to bend the rules to fit his own desires. The illustration helped him to follow the wise advice of Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline.”