How to Separate the Good Advice From The Bad: A Helpful Two-Part Test

“I’m judging you right now.”

That’s what one of my friends said when I told her I was moving to the city where my long-distance boyfriend lived.

Her words felt like a slap in the face. I didn’t know how to respond. 

Maybe you’ve experienced skepticism or judgment about your long-distance relationship, too.

Some people’s opinions are easy to brush off by saying, “They just don’t understand.”

But others’ concerns cause you to pause. What if they’re right? You wonder. What if I’m making a bad decision and I don’t know it?

Knowing when to listen to others’ opinions of your long-distance relationship can feel like swimming through murky water on a moonless night. How do you know who to listen to?

In my own life, I’ve developed a test to determine whether to seriously consider someone else’s advice.

This test helped me sort through all of the opinions I received about moving to be near my long-distance boyfriend — and seek God’s guidance as I made a decision.

Why Listen To Others At All?

Before we dive into that, though, we must ask: why listen to other people’s opinions at all?

Proverbs 12:15 gives a clear warning: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” 

It’s far too easy to convince yourself that things are going well when they’re not. 

Marshall Segal (who dated his wife long-distance, incidentally) believes this truth is so important that he describes “the golden rule of Christian dating” as: “Lean hard on the people who know you best, love you most, and will tell you when you’re wrong.”

He explains, “It’s not the first rule, but I have found that it is a “golden rule” that most often makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy Christian dating relationships.”

While you don’t need to doubt your relationship constantly or put others in the place of God, asking others for advice about your relationship is a wise move.

The Voices Worth Listening To

Here’s the test that I use to determine whether to lean in and listen to someone’s advice.

When someone…

  1. Knows and loves the Lord, AND
  2. Knows and loves you

…then you should stop and seriously consider what they’re saying. 

This is why when women chat with me 1-on-1, I tell them that they should follow the advice of people who know them best if my advice conflicts with theirs.

If people possess one of those qualities but not the other, they still may be worth listening to. However, give their opinions less weight than someone who has both traits.

These traits may seem simple, but I’ve found that the number of people in my life who fit these criteria in the strictest sense is actually rather small.

Knows and Loves the Lord

Without the shared foundation of faith in God, people will give their advice on their own understanding of the purpose of relationships.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the Christian view of dating and marriage is radically different from Western culture.

Your non-believing friends may really care about you and want what’s best for you. But if they’re assuming that what’s best for you means thinking of yourself first in everything, their advice may miss the mark.

Contrary to culture, the Bible says that self-denial and submission to God are the keys to healthy relationships (Philippians 2:3-11). We follow the sacrificial example of Christ as we grow in love for another.

People who don’t know and love the Lord can still offer helpful perspectives, thanks to common grace. But their opinion shouldn’t be the only one you seek.

Knows and Loves You

If you know a lot of other believers, finding people with this second characteristic may be harder for you.

Why? There may be a lot of people who love you as their sister in Christ but don’t really know you and your relationship’s history.

For example, I received skepticism from a lot of other Christians when I moved to be closer to Reed.

To be honest, I understood where they were coming from. A lot of people make rash, foolish decisions related to long-distance dating.

So, if someone didn’t know enough about my relationship to know that it was healthy, they usually decided to err on the side of caution. 

This is why it is so crucial that you let people into your life and let them see how your relationship grows over time. 

5 Tips For Getting Advice From Others

Once I identified the people in my life who knew and loved the Lord and knew and loved me, it was much easier to sort through all the advice I’d received. All of the people whose opinions mattered were supportive of my decision.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you follow those two criteria, here are some people whose advice might be worth considering:

  • Parents and siblings
  • Your closest friends
  • Your small group leaders and mentors
  • People from your church

And as you’re seeking advice, apply these tips:

  1. Become friends with people who know & love the Lord. If you don’t know anyone who fits both of those criteria, make an effort to change that. Getting to know people at a local church isn’t always easy, but it’s crucial for thriving in your faith. 
  2. Use any available opportunity to help friends & family get to know your boyfriend. Talk about your relationship with them. Give them a chance to get to meet him if you can. Let them know early on that you want them to know him.
  3. Listen to advice even when it’s hard. If people truly love you and the Lord, they won’t always tell you what you want to hear, because that’s not loving. Ask God for a humble heart that’s receptive to the input of others.
  4. Test all advice with Scripture and prayer. Human advice is not perfect. Dig into the Bible daily and pray for God’s guidance in your decisions.
  5. Don’t try to please everyone. It’s highly unlikely that everyone in your life will have the same opinion of your relationship. Focus on listening to the people whose opinions matter most.

Finally, if you have questions specific to long-distance dating, remember that you can always schedule a time to chat with me 1-on-1.

If you or other people in your life are concerned about your long-distance relationship, I can help you figure out if those problems are caused by the distance or related to deeper issues — and encourage you with practical strategies for taking your relationship in a healthy, Christ-centered direction.

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