Are You My Mentor?

By Brandon Roysden

Mentorship seems to be en vogue these days. At least the idea of it, anyway. With the breakdown of the family unit, an increasing interest in non-traditional education, and the feeling of isolation that sometimes comes with our increasingly digital world, many of us are beginning to look for individuals who can speak into our lives with wisdom and care. That may seem somewhat sappy to the more independent among us, but the fact is that this passing down of faith, values, and knowledge from generation to generation is the way God planned it from the beginning. Of course, much of that begins in the home, but something tells me that none of us have arrived just because we own a car, have a degree (or not), and have officially changed our residential address from the comfort of mom and dad’s home to a much less inviting apartment or dorm room. So what are we to do? Unfortunately, in my experience, I have failed on both sides of the mentorship equation (mentor and mentee) more than I have succeeded, but I do believe there have been some valuable lessons in that failure that can help point us toward a more practical framework of mentorship. This framework is more about practice than it is about philosophy, because, let’s be honest, talking about mentorship is a lot more comfortable than the messiness that comes with actually doing it. It can be—no, it will be—uncomfortable, but like most things in life, that tension provides the best opportunities for growth and authenticity that will last a lifetime.

It’s ALL About Relationship

One of the mistakes I made early in my pursuit of a mentor was to think that it was about the formality of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits to having specific goals and even Defining The Relationship (“DTR”—remember that from middle school?), but there needs to be an organic element to the mentorship process that comes through relationship. Simply calling someone that you think is awesome and asking him or her to meet with you for an hour every other week more closely resembles counseling than mentoring. There is a place for that, but from a mentorship perspective, there must be an element of personal interaction and understanding that can only take place by spending time with one another. Ideally, this means there is someone already in your life that fits the bill. Think about someone who is 10+ years older than you who has some knowledge of who you are, what you like, and where you’re headed, and consider developing that relationship at a much deeper level. This could be a former teacher, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Chances are you already have someone in mind. Unfortunately for many of us, our relationship with those significantly older (or younger) than us consists of acknowledging their existence on Sunday morning at church (maybe) or asking them for help (watch kids, support a mission trip, bring food to the potluck, etc.). Change that! Begin by asking a person to lunch. Show interest in his or her life. Call or text this individual during the week. Remember, this is not a transaction. It’s a relationship. Once you can start looking at this person as a friend rather than as a vehicle through which you can realize your goal of self-improvement, you’re probably about ready to have the conversation about mentorship if you’d like. If you want to formalize it, now is your chance. Either way, remember that mentorship is about a real relationship. When that happens, it can lead to transparency. Transparency Is Key This is probably the hardest part for many of us. Superficial conversations about the weather, our favorite sports team, or the next movie to hit the box office are easy. They have nothing to do with our skeletons, our failed projects, our broken relationships. Sure, those fun discussions are important to the development of a friendship, but at some point, we have to move past the comfortable and into the challenging. Why? Because no one changes without confrontation. Think about it. Why would anyone diet or choose to exercise? Confrontation with a reality of poor health. Why would anyone pursue a new job or different career? Confrontation with a boss or realization of income limitations. Why do we come to Jesus? Confrontation with our sin and its consequences. In order for us to realize any sort of positive personal growth from a mentorship relationship, there has to be the opportunity of confrontation. This doesn’t always take the form of a disciplinary hearing, but there needs to be the opportunity for disagreement, for sharing of failure, for real talk. And this can only happen by choice. It is not something you will fall into. It means making a conscious decision that you are going to be vulnerable with someone. This may be the very reason many stop short of cultivating a real mentorship relationship. While vulnerability is difficult, it is also necessary.

It Goes Both Ways

At this point in your life, I hope you are realizing, or at least beginning to, that you need someone to invest in your life on a deeper level than pandakiller12645 on Xbox Live or the barista at the local Starbucks. But before you take that step, there’s one more action you need to consider: what will you do to pay it backward? Yeah, I know. But one poor attempt at a movie reference deserves another. Remember when Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility”? It reminds me of a passage in Scripture when Jesus told the parable of the servants and ended by reminding His disciples, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). All of that to say: whom will you invest in?Sure, it’s simpler to be the project. I don’t mean that as an insult, but truthfully, it is much simpler to allow other people to pour into you. It makes us feel good. It might even feed our egos. My challenge to you is to find someone to mentor in your own right even before you have found a mentor for yourself. It’s in this giving that you will become more receptive, and it’s in this caring that you will understand what it means to invest in a new generation of young people who will grow up looking for that role model in their lives just like you.

The 20-Year Rule

If this whole process seems overwhelming, let me assure you that while it may not be easy and you may fail to get it just right, it is 100 percent possible, and once you have someone in your life who you can truly call a mentor, you’ll never want to let that go. So think about the oldest friend (real friend, not acquaintance) you have and the youngest. Subtract their ages. If you don’t get a number over 20, you have some work to do. If the number is over 20, begin pouring into those relationships, practice transparency, and you might be surprised what you learn along the way.

Seeking a Mentor/Mentee:

● Invite the person to go for lunch, shopping, etc. The key here is to do something where conversation is necessary. A movie is a no-go.

● Ask questions about the other person. What does she like to do? What does she wish she knew when she was your age? What are her hopes for her children/grandchildren?

● Be intentional with communication. Call, text, email. Set a reminder on your phone to do it regularly.

● Formalize the relationship. Once you’ve decided this is someone who is wise and cares enough about you, ask him to go through a book study or a course with you to make this more than just two friends having coffee.

Being a Mentor/Mentee:

● Determine some specific areas where you would like to see improvement. It helps to focus on specifics, especially at first.

● Practice asking good questions. Make them open-ended so they can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Start your questions with “Why” and “What.” (i.e. “Why do you think he acted that way?” or “What do you hope comes of this decision?”)

● Be intentional with communication. Call, text, email. Set a reminder on your phone to do it regularly.

● Pray. Never forget the power of prayer in both your life and the life of those to whom you are connected.

 

Brandon

Brandon is the coordinator for the D6 Conference and serves as the Director of Events for Randall House Publications. He is a former teacher and coach who has a heart for students and their families. Brandon and his wife Beth were married in 2005 and have two children, Ethan and Kate. He enjoys talking sports and ministry, is a recovering Dr. Pepper addict, and can’t wait for Chik-Fil-A to introduce spicy nuggets to their menu. His

Author: The Brink

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