I’ve never met anyone …
who doesn’t like the idea of mentoring. Whether it’s being mentored or having the honor of mentoring someone, in concept, almost everyone sees the value.
However, although most people embrace the notion and intent of mentoring, sometimes the realities are difficult to swallow.
For example, having an advisor or life coach is great until your mentor challenges or confronts you with a growth opportunity, and you don’t like it. Never mind that mentoring implies correction, not just instruction, we still struggle when we encounter our flaws. When faced with our deficiencies, most of us (me included), tend to run for cover or get defensive.
One of the challenges of being human is our proclivity toward arrogance. We’re often quite certain we know better than others, especially if those others are a lot older. Our western mentality regarding age does not lend itself to seeking out the gray among us, regardless of their wisdom and experience.
I hear this from (or see it in the actions of) young people at times:
You don’t understand my generation. (My response: Humans are all pretty much the same in every generation.)
You’re out of touch with what’s hot, acceptable, cool, sick, dope, etcetera. (My response: Do you have any idea how many times bell bottoms have come and gone in my lifetime? And I’ve been wearing flannel for decades and Converse before you were born. Cool is not an honorable life goal.)
Things have changed. (My response: Nothing is new under the sun. Yes, things change, but humankind does not.)
Granted, much about the world is radically different than it was when I was a young man. Of course, staying current and relevant matters. But perhaps it takes five or six decades of life for someone to realize that technology and things change; human nature doesn’t.
So, what do you do if you are the mentor?
Be patient. Be kind. Be true to what you know. Sometimes the person you are investing in will understand and accept your wisdom; sometimes they won’t. Offer what gifts you have with no strings attached and pray—hard. Never forget, a mentor is a model, not a master. By the way, you can learn from mentees too. But as Brent Curtis once said to John Eldredge, “Let people feel the weight of who you are, and let them deal with it.”
What if you are the mentee?
Be humble. Be a learner. Be a good follower because every great leader is a great follower. Your present experience and world is different than your mentor’s, but your reality is not. Most mentors have lived long enough to know how to avoid mistakes, and you can gain knowledge from their experience. In fact, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way, so please don’t.
(BTW, if you don’t have a mentor, ask God for one, and see who He sends your way.)
On a final note, let me be clear: mentors are imperfect. No human knows all or sees all. No one gets life right all the time. For most of my life I’ve followed fractured leaders as they follow the Perfect Healer. I’ve never put a mentor on a pedestal or suspected I was connected to a flawless saint.
I have, however, gained far more than I can tell you in this short blog from others whom God has used to mold and shape me into the person I am today. Sometimes it was painful, and sometimes it was fun, but their influence in my life mattered. It still matters today.
So, thank you, Mark Peterson, Joe Wittwer, Jack Little, Scott Bauer, Ralph Torres, Noel Campbell, Don Bubna, Rick Noll, and Frank Mayo for personally investing and always believing in me. I owe you an eternal debt of gratitude.
Who are you grateful for today? (Perhaps you should send him or her a link to this post and say, “I thought of you today!”)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
How is God encouraging you today?
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