He is a few years younger than I am. Come August he would be heading into his sophomore year of college and everything in his life seems to be rapidly changing. A hope come true. He was taking steps to get out of the thick of the woods and back on the straight and narrow path, a tough transition never meant to be traveled alone. Over the summer months we had gotten to know one another and often he’d pull me aside for advice, and did so again one particular afternoon.
Anytime someone asks if they can speak to me in private I get nervous.
“Will you be my mentor?”
It’s a question I’ve asked others before. Men who would go on to teach me, speak truth into my life, and guide me in my faith. It’s a serious question, one that requires confidence, dedication and investment, like asking the girl of your dreams on a date or the bank for a loan.
For as much as this is a question, it is an outright statement. His words highlight his desire to change his ways, to become a better man. And for as much as it is a question and a statement, it is an honoring, weight-filled compliment to the one being asked.
He has taught me something significant through our conversations. What he taught me can been found in promising generations, inspiring leaders, and difference-making mentors. It’s something I’m still learning, but something that is currently changing every facet of my life:
Speaking honest words of love.
1) Speaking honest words of love . . . allow us to dig deeper in our relationships
Being honest with love does not put up a roadblock, rather it is an invitation for us to grab a shovel and together dig deeper. Vulnerability pulls apart the surface, adventuring into a relationship bonded with patience and growth to teach patience and growth.
2) Speaking honest words of love. . . will inevitably change our schedule
Our honest words of love will change more than our words and actions, but our schedule. The words we speak should change our actions and availability. I’ve stopped letting phone calls go to voicemail and have done my best to respond to messages as soon as possible. Our availability is not dictated by a schedule, but by love, which means we are more free.
3) Speaking honest words of love. . . will introduce our community to truth
Honesty allows us to speak hope into the lives around, especially the ones we mentor.
We get to tell them they are brave, that they are changing our world, and that they are inspiring. Our honesty lets us lead others to the edge and together exclaim ‘yikes!’, but remain secure with the understanding they are not alone!
4) Speaking honest words of love. . . means we have to say the hard things
Speaking honest words of love doesn’t mean we are always saying what they want to hear; it means we are saying what they need to hear. Honesty builds trust, and they will begin to see we are on their side and only want what is best for them. Our honesty will show them we care enough to say what wish we didn’t have to say. But remember, we speak out of love with love.
5) Speaking honest words of love. . . point to the example
Maybe this should be the first one point, or even the last one but either way it’s on the list. Speaking honest words of love should lead others to the Guider. Our example and words have the power to lead others to the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Our words should reflect the One who has set for us an example of what it means to not only live honest words of love, but to also speak honest words of love. Jesus’ example of honest living and loving clearly changed the world, showing us true hope, and revealing to our world a new way of how to live relationally with one another.
6 ) Speaking honest words of love. . . does not come first.
Listening comes first. Listening with love comes first.
Listening is one of the most important qualities an individual can possess. A closed mouth can be an even greater comfort than an open one. With our mouths closed we are allowing them to talk themselves through their questions and struggle. This isn’t to say we aren’t to speak, this is to say we wait for the right time to speak.
Speaking honest words of love will not only make a world of difference, but will make our world different. As mentors, may our honest words of love lead, inspire, comfort, and build up future mentors.