Achieving growth … whether secular or spiritual in nature…is often very challenging, with faith touching and testing every life area: individually, professionally, family-wise, spiritually, and sensually, too. It is for this very reason we are not meant to travel this road alone. Staying on course and living life as Jesus would is an even narrower path to follow. Regardless of reason, we often seek out guidance from others who have much knowledge and wisdom to offer. Mentors are often a great source of guidance, providing much-needed objectivity concerning our goals, actions, and attitudes. Finding the right person to serve as our mentor can be both daunting and rewarding. Special care must be taken when selecting one as the relationship you share with your mentor has the potential of being the single most powerful and influential relationship of your entire life!
During the past 7 years, I’ve been blessed with 3 mentors and have had a full range of experiences.. everything from the very darkest moments to the most brilliant ones. With my first mentor, I learned who I had become as a result of past experiences; my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Our relationship was often a rocky one, due in part to our strong personalities. After seven turbulent years together, we mutually agreed to part ways last February 2009.
Just prior to our parting, our Lord blessed me twice more, placing two extraordinary individuals in my life. With their arrival, came another period of extreme growth. I like to say Justin has been a spiritual mentor who has one foot in the secular world while Melody has been my secular mentor who has one foot in the spiritual world. From Justin, I learned the wisdom, strength, and beauty of a Proverb 31 individual. From Melody, I’ve learned the importance of having a dream so big you have to grow into it. Through their abundance of wisdom, friendship, and love, I’ve found my life purpose: to revitalize Holley NY in the same way I myself have been revitalized. Their continued presence in my life leaves me in complete awe as I feel as though I am now the wealthiest woman in the whole world; perhaps one day I will be financially too 🙂
Now for the advise
In finding a mentor, it is not only important to know who to choose, but even more important to know who not to choose. The following advise is based on my personal experience tempered with research. I offer it with the hope you are blessed with only the best of mentoring experiences:
- Choose someone who is positive. You know who they are. You respect them because their life more closely resembles Jesus’ life than most. They love everyone around them, emphasizing the positive rather than negative, and focusing on individual gifts rather than faults. They are humble, patient, even-tempered, giving, and graceful. Most of all, they know the Bible well; live exemplary lives; avoid sin whenever possible; and when they do make a mistake, they are quick to own up to it and seek forgiveness.
- Seek out wisdom, not just knowledge. Choose someone who is not only smarter than you, but “walks their talk”. This is really important as wisdom is knowledge in action. While age or education are often factors, they may not be. Regardless, whoever you choose should have been “around the block” so to speak a few more times than you and have a great deal of experience in all aspects of life. As a result, they can provide you with much more wisdom than your peers, and certainly have more perspective than you do.
- Always check credentials and do background check. If you do not know them directly in a different role (such as a friend, neighbor, or a relative), be sure to choose someone who openly shares ALL their credentials with you; feels comfortable with you performing a background check on them; and readily volunteers as much information as needed to make you feel comfortable. Be wary of vague, one-word answers, or answers that may be interpreted in multiple ways. Clear up any discrepancies immediately. To increase your comfort level and personal safety, STAY AWAY from “online ministries” and “prayer gardens”. Also, take care as to how much you share on dating and social media sites such as Facebook, MYSpace, etc… anywhere where predators can lurk as their background and credentials are not always questioned or obtainable. Focus instead on people you know in the “real world”. Perhaps someone who is affiliated with a specific church community, business, or service organization. Chances are good someone knows them, have heard of them, or have already checked them out. If you are still not completely satisfied, do not be afraid to do a thorough background check.
- Ask about their approach upfront. A mentor has a proven process and is willing to openly share it upfront. If they aren’t, or seem vague, walk away. A mentor’s approach guides you, never directs you on how to live your life, or how or who to relate to. If anything, your mentoring relationship fosters freedom, not co-dependence. Further, your mentoring experience is not only a wonderful opportunity to make much-needed changes to your life, but also a great way to teach others what you learn. This requires a mentor who is not only open to teaching you, but is also open to learning from you. As in life, the mentoring experience is all about having the opportunity to grow both as a student and as a teacher.
- Avoid intimate rituals. Often a taboo to talk about it, I must. If your mentor encourages you to “sit naked” or otherwise become physically / sexually intimate with them, or with others as part of the mentoring process, contact authorities. This is abuse in the making. At what first may seem to be a “harmless” consensual activity, can become overwhelming really fast as coercion often plays a part. Due to the dominant-submissive nature of a mentor-protege relationship, there are often ramifications and intimidations surrounding non-compliance. It is for this reason they have the potential of becoming dangerous to your physical and mental health and well-being. Participation in such a practice is the hardest thing to admit to, talk about, and get over…. and that is what they count on!
A note about intimacy. True intimacy is the most beautiful gift God has bestowed on us. It allows us to engage and connect with many people, in a multitude of ways, and on many levels – emotionally, intellectual, sensually, spiritually, and more. If you believe sexual intimacy is a real barrier for you, consult a professional who is trained in these matters. It is not meant to be part of a mentoring experience.
- It’s about learning and growing. As you spend months… even years with one mentor… you may discover you have learned as much as you can from them. It is with this realization that it may be time to part ways; not only for objectivity sake, but in preparation for the next step of your journey and perhaps for another mentor. If you find yourself in this situation, do not panic. Rather, be thankful for the time you spent with your mentor and for all you learned with them. Further, consider it a much-needed push to learn as much as you can from every individual who shares your path; not just from one individual.
- If you do not first succeed… try, try again. From time to time you WILL stray and you WILL take a detour down the wrong path. It’s bound to happen as we are all human. In wanting so much to make much-needed changes, you may find yourself drawn to unwanted people or situations, perhaps even with your mentor. For example, with your mentor helping you make so many significant changes to your life, you are bound to feel much gratitude. You may even develop romantic feelings towards them. If the feelings are mutual, that’s great – but realize you and your mentor need to decide which path to take: romance or mentoring as objectivity is lacking to do both well. On the flip side, if the feelings are not mutual, then this situation may have devastating consequences.
- Trust your instincts. Choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. If something does not feel right about someone, trust your “gut” feelings. It is your Guardian Angel telling you that you may be putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. For example, you may be become involved with someone who does not have your best interest at heart, or you may be with someone who is exhibiting undesired behavior. You have been given a free will in which to change your course. Use it.
Stop to think about what it is you are doing and about what you should be doing about it, but never beat yourself up over the situation or about the actions of others, including your mentor. Realize that most things are beyond your control. What is within your control though is the realization that the relationship you have with your mentor, by nature, is an uneven one; that is to say, your mentor is not your peer, rather he or she is an authority figure. If you make an error in judgement when selecting a mentor, pick yourself up, be thankful for the lessons learned, forgive them and yourself, and move on from the situation in a positive direction.
- Pursue Jesus, rather than any one individual as your ultimate spiritual mentor. That is, place more emphasis on the Bible’s teachings and on Jesus’ example than on any one individual, including your spiritual mentor. While they are a great source of inspiration, do not have blind faith in them. Always ask lots of questions. After all, they too are human and subject to very human frailties, vulnerabilities, and mistakes.
- Realize God is the ONLY one who wants you to grow into the person He created you to be. Allow Him to bless you with a mentor. And when He does, be mindful that your mentor is meant to be a servant and a messenger of God’s love and guidance; he or she is NOT meant to be a substitute for God’s love and guidance.
My best to you on your search!
Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my customers, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.