Why our advice often goes unheeded

Suppose we give a bag full of warm clothes to someone traveling to a cold place. If they somehow believe that their destination isn’t all that cold, they will treat our gift as an unnecessary burden. 

The same principle applies to unsolicited advice. Suppose we see a wrong choice being made by someone, especially someone who isn’t our ward or apprentice. We may feel impelled to advise them against their wrong choice. But they may not share our vision — what seems wrong to us might seem right to them. As long as they see things differently and aren’t ready to reconsider their vision, our advising them will simply alienate them. If we force them to do our bidding, they may reluctantly do so. Till they are out of our sight, when they will vehemently return to their earlier choice. Best to desist from giving unsolicited advice. 

The Bhagavad-gita demonstrates such desistance when Krishna refuses to give Arjuna any systematic advice till Arjuna explicitly seeks such advice (02.07). Prior to that, when Arjuna unilaterally declares that he won’t fight(01.46), Krishna replies with a brief exhortation (02.02-03). Predictably, Arjuna rejects the premise of that exhortation (02.04-05). Despite that rejection, Arjuna finds himself still perplexed and paralyzed (02.06). That’s when he seeks guidance (02.07) and emphatically reiterates that request (02.08). Only then does Krishna start speaking the Gita’s message. 

If someone doesn’t seek our advice, what can we do for them? We can pray for them. And we can stay cordially connected with them and wait. When life eventually brings them to a juncture where they recognize the need for guidance, they will see us as a potential guide. The guidance we give them then will be valued and used. 

One-sentence summary:

Advice that is unsolicited often goes unheeded.

Think it over:

  • Why might others not value our advice?
  • What does the Gita demonstrate about giving advice? How?
  • Do you tend to give unsolicited advice to anyone? How has it affected your relationship? What can you do about it?


02.07: Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.


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