One who gives bad advice is called a “darkener”, as in the verse, “Who is this that darkened counsel by words?” (Iyov, 38:2) It is evident from this that good counsel is light and improper counsel is darkness (Kad HaKemach, The Chanukah Light).
When we give someone advice, we must make sure not to project our own feelings onto the other. When we express judgment and manipulate the other person to act as we see fit, or when we lack information about the topic at hand, yet jump to a hasty conclusion and mislead him or her, we are being as Rabbeinu Bachya calls it, a “darkener”.
Darkness is restrictive. When we give poor advice or when we rob people of their ability to think for themselves and prevent them from developing their judgment skills, we are limiting them, thus bringing them darkness.
On the other hand, giving productive counsel by listening carefully to the person seeking advice, by paying attention to what is not being said explicitly and then by guiding the person to come to his or her own decision is enhancing their light.
Light symbolizes potential. By giving constructive advice, we can expand others’ potential by providing them with the tools to grow as independent human beings and reach more clarity.
Between now and Chanukah, we can focus on how to improve the way we give advice to others. Are we being attentive to the nuances in the question asked? Are we too eager to offer counsel because we enjoy the feeling of being an “expert”? Are we helping others attain their own conclusions?
Also, review “Confessions: Ya’atznu Ra”, in i-celebrate, Yom Kippur.