8 Ways to Know if Your Friend's Advice Is Bad

8 Ways to Know if Your Friend's Advice Is Bad

8 Ways to Know if Your Friend's Advice Is Bad

If I had followed every piece of advice well-intentioned friends gave me over the years, I’d likely be divorced, I wouldn’t be a published author, and my relationship with God would have stagnated, if not become nonexistent. I suspect everyone could say something similar. 

Presumably, we’ve all benefited greatly from other people’s wisdom, and we all probably have allowed other’s unknowingly foolish words to lead us astray. 

How can we discern what counsel to follow and what to discard?

Here are 8 questions to ask to discern whether or not our friend’s “wise” advice is in fact bad.

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1. Does their suggestion contradict Scripture?  

1. Does their suggestion contradict Scripture?  

Sometimes the answer will be obvious. Hopefully, if our friend wants us to lie to a loved one, to steal from our boss, or to leave our spouse for another man or woman, our hearts issue immediate warnings. But what about those gray areas, like whether or not to attend a neighborhood block party where there will be alcohol or to watch an R-rated movie? Does Scripture, written long before television existed, actually speak on such modern-day issues?

The answer is yes. Though the Bible doesn’t tell us what movies to watch, it does provide timeless principles we can utilize. For example, Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV.) 

This means we’re not to live passively, leaving our hearts vulnerable to whatever influences they might encounter. Rather, we’re to proactively protect ourselves. The Hebrew word translated as “vigilance” in the ESV and “diligence” in the NASB has the connotation of something that is kept in confinement, such as how a prison guard might watch a prisoner. According to David Guzik from the Enduring Word, “This implies that it isn’t easy to guard or keep one’s heart.” 

As we strive to do so, here are some questions we can ask:

  • Will following this advice potentially lead me further from God?
  • Will following this advice increase sin in me (lust, pride, selfishness, discontentment or greed)?
  • Do I feel an overall sense of peace regarding the suggestion or does it trigger some degree of internal unrest?

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2. <strong>Is our friend’s advice loving?</strong>

2. Is our friend’s advice loving?

When a man asked Jesus how he could please God, Christ said, in essence, “Love God and others.” This command applies to us as well. It’s to be our filter for all our choices and the driving action for all our behaviors. However, this doesn’t mean we will always live to please or appease others. Often such responses stem from selfishness rather than love. Perhaps we worry we’ll trigger a family member’s anger or rejection, should we set a clear boundary or initiate a difficult conversation. But when we allow fear to drive our actions, we’re not acting in love. Real love seeks what’s best for another and the relationship. In other words, love always pursues emotional, relational, and spiritual health. 

Sometimes, in our culture where “tolerance” and “acceptance” are often prioritized over life-changing truth, or in-your-face confrontation is chosen over grace, our view of love can become distorted. But Scripture provides a clear and thorough definition in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which says:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (NIV).

In light of this passage, here are some questions we can ask ourselves:

  • If I follow this advice, will I be acting prideful or impatient? 
  • What is (or would be) my motivation behind this behavior?
  • How might Jesus respond in this situation?
  • What do I hope to achieve, and is that result based on love for all involved and God? 

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3. <strong>Does my friend’s advice encourage my growth?</strong>

3. Does my friend’s advice encourage my growth?

God’s ultimate desire is that we grow in our spiritual understanding and maturity so that we progressively reflect Christ. Romans 8:28-29 makes this clear when it says:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (NIV).

This should be our goal for ourselves, and it should also be our friends’ desire for us. In fact, this is one of the clearest determinants of love. If our friends are more concerned about our temporary comfort or pleasure than our transformation, then they don’t truly want our best. 

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4. <strong>Is my advising friend trustworthy and mature?</strong>

4. Is my advising friend trustworthy and mature?

Sometimes it can be difficult to discern the validity and wisdom of a friend’s advice, especially if we are new to Christianity or facing a particularly challenging decision. When this occurs, we can evaluate present suggestions based on past actions. If someone offers marital advice, we’d be wise to consider the health and longevity of their relationships. Similarly, before accepting their counsel regarding money matters, evaluate the state of their finances. 

Also contemplate their spiritual maturity. Is this person actively growing in their faith? Do they regularly spend time with God and cultivate intimacy with Him? Is this individual a person of prayer? If so, the best response they can give you is not an immediate answer to your question but rather a promise to bring your concern to God. Have they done that? If not, then perhaps ask them to.

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5. <strong>Does my advising friend have “skin in the game?”</strong>

5. Does my advising friend have “skin in the game?”

Though this doesn’t necessarily negate a person’s opinions, if they have something at stake. We may even want to ask them outright if their personal desires have impacted their perspective. Keep in mind, The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5, NIV). In other words, we may need to ask probing questions in order to discern underlying motives—ours and our friend’s.

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6. <strong>What does God say about my friend’s advice?</strong>

6. What does God say about my friend’s advice?

This, of course, necessitates that we’ve prayed about the situation and our friend’s suggestion. The tendency, however, is to focus entirely on solutions without first taking time to prepare our hearts. This is a problem, however, because we’re less likely to hear God if our hearts are clogged with pride, fear, and deception. He’s also not apt to answer according to our time table, but He will answer in time. Scripture promises, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21, NIV), and in John 10:3 Jesus said His “sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out” (NIV). 

Jesus calls His sheep, we hear Him, and He leads us. This is His promise to all of His children, one we can trust Him to fulfill because He is trustworthy. Knowing this increases our confidence and courage to wait on His guidance regarding difficult decisions, including whether or not to follow our friend’s advice. He’s the only One with the perfect answers to every question. Only He knows precisely what’s ahead and how everything will play out. 

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7. <strong>What does my conscience say regarding my friend’s advice?</strong>

7. What does my conscience say regarding my friend’s advice?

Though our hearts can be deceiving and filled with perception-distorting sin and pride, God’s also given us an internal compass known as our conscience. This refers to our innate capacity to understand right from wrong, to self-analyze, and our desire to live consistent with our values. 

That isn’t to say our “inner voice” can’t be dulled, deceived, or numbed by culture, negative influences, and sin. But it can provide a discernment filter to use in conjunction with the tips above. What’s more, our conscience grows stronger and clearer the closer we grow to Christ and the more truth we’ve obtained. As Got Questions puts it, “A fully informed value system produces a strong sense of right and wrong.” This assumes the converse: an immature or misinformed value system produces moral confusion, and moral confusion often leads to mental and emotional angst. 

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8. <strong>Does the advice align with my personal mission or calling?</strong>

8. Does the advice align with my personal mission or calling?

According to Scripture, God has a clear and definite plan for each of us. Collectively, we’re to grow closer to Christ and proclaim His grace. But God has given each of us unique and deeply fulfilling ways to reveal Him and show His love. Though our God-assigned roles may change over time, they will often fit our passions and desires. Life presents all of us with more ways to use our time than there are hours in each day, therefore we must be prayerfully selective. When we consider our individual missions, many decisions, including what advice to follow, becomes clearer. 

Ephesians 5:16-17 tells us to Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” 

In short, God has much planned for us, much for each of us to do, and His plans are always so very good. We simply can’t waste a moment or ounce of energy on anything else. 

When facing hard decisions, most of us seek other people’s insight, and while that’s not wrong, we do need to make sure we’re listening wisely. When we check everything we hear against the truth of Scripture and God’s call to love, take time to evaluate our advising friend with honesty and depth, and consider our personal values and how God might be leading us, we’ll be better able to discern the merit of the counsel we receive.  


Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers nationwide. She’s the author of the soon to release Building a Family, the Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan, and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. She’s also the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE  and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

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