Authorized, or not?


Clown-walking with fins

After scuba diving for the first time around the age of 15, I became a bit of an aficionado. Consequently, when I was vacationing and saw a friend in snorkeling gear, walking, horribly awkwardly, towards the water with fins on, I called out, “You might want to turn around.”

(It’s much easier to enter the water while walking backwards when wearing fins; backwards, one doesn’t need to pick up one’s feet in an over-exaggerated way.)

My friend didn’t heed my advice.

He just kept approaching the surf in a clown-like way – one inconvenient, large step following another.

This time, I shouted a little to make up for the distance between us and also for emphasis, “Turn around; it’ll make it easier.”

Without turning to face me or turning around to enter the water the easier way, he said, “I’m having a great time. Mind your own business.”

And he was right. I was pushing my opinion on him.

I’m certain you’ve done the same – putting your 2¢ in when you aren’t asked.


Imagine two scenarios:

1- Someone asks you, “What do you think about  _____?”
2- Someone doesn’t ask you, “What do you think about _____?”
In the first scenario, you have been clearly authorized to give your opinion. In the second, not so.
Of course, there are times when authorization is implicitly given – like a work supervisor with a trainee.
But when advice is not asked for, do you authorize yourself to tell others what to do?
Kids often receive unsolicited advice from adults they don’t know.
Bosses sometimes get confused as to the limits of their workplace authorization.
Teachers do the same with their students.
As do parents with children – especially their adult children.
Partners do this with each other.
And I did with my snorkeling friend.


You and your life

This week, pay special attention to how many times you find yourself giving an opinion that wasn’t requested. Instead of giving unsolicited advice, contemplate why it is that you feel compelled to add your expertise.
Giving unauthorized advice reminds me of a joke clergy folk say: “Many people want to serve God…but only as advisors.”
Perhaps the world wouldn’t be better if it conformed to our rules.
Perhaps the world would be better if we were better able to accept reality as it is.

Share with a Friend


Also by Rabbi Brian

77% Weekly
Rabbi Brian

A Story of Humanity

A Story of Humanity   I’m the 30-year-old assistant rabbi of Temple Judea — a congregation of a few thousand in Tarzana, California.   It’s my

Read More »