Giving grace instead of advice

Sometimes mamas need help and advice. But all the time, they need grace. 

Once upon a time, at Trader Joes, I allowed my three angels to push their own mini-carts. So—they decided to play bumper carts down the aisle of wine bottles. Smack in the middle of the horrific scene, another mom sauntered by, her two children peacefully pushing one cart and said, “You know, it’s really not the best idea to let each of your children have a cart.” 

I don’t remember what I said. But I did not say, “Wow, that’s such wonderful advice. You’ve helped me feel like a non-idiot. You clearly care about me and the six shattered Merlots I’m about to pay for.” 

Yeah. I did not say that. Moments later, a heroic Trader Joe’s worker rushed to my side as I confiscated the horrid mini-carts. I was attempting to balance all three on top of my big one. She gently offered the kiddos a sucker while I completed my mission. 

I look back on this day and ask myself—Which character in this embarrassing story do I want to be? Our words and actions, even well intended, are pathways. 

Key questions I’m learning to consider when giving advice

• Is what I say or do leading someone down a hallway to God’s love? Or, is it a route to my own self-validation?

• Will this help them feel better, or will I feel better?

• Which corridor am I nudging people towards when I come to their aid?

I don’t think the mama at Trader Joe’s had a heart to help me. She wanted to make it clear— she knew more about this parenting thing than me. 

I’m super guilty of behaving this way, too. We all struggle with insecurities when we seek validation outside of God’s love. Once I shamed a mama for packing her daughter marshmallows as a ‘healthy snack.’ 

Not my finest moment. 

But advising her how not to feed her children, validated the way I chose to feed mine. It was vain. 

God’s word makes it clear, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV). 

Holding my tongue is just as hard as the Bible says. God’s shown me, sometimes I don’t really want to help, I want to be heard. 

Give grace instead of advice

If being heard by others becomes more important than loving them, we’ve missed the mark big time. This is true in our friendships, marriages, and everyday encounters. 

Jesus didn’t say, the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with your heart…And the second is to give judgmental advice to all the tired moms on your street.” Nope. 

He said, “‘Love the Lord your God… And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37–39).

How did you feel loved when you were in this bleary-eyed stage? 

Consider those things—and then do them for others. Next time you see a crazy mama balancing mini-carts in Trader Joe’s, help her get the third one up with a smile. She doesn’t need your advice—she needs your grace.

Looking for other resources on grace?

When your child has a character misstep

Learning and teaching patience

Bitterness, forgiveness, and restoration

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