who help us most to grow if we let them…
Wise words from the Broadway musical Wicked song “For Good.” We live in a world surrounded by new and exciting things, but what about the things that scare us? The unfamiliar things? What if there’s an easier way to navigate through them? What if there was someone who had more wisdom and experience who could help you, teach you, correct you, etc…and could guide you through the maze of emotions, circumstances and questions? Sure, we have our parents and friends that can help with a lot of these, but what about the ones that are deeper than surface level? We all need someone who knows how we are really doing. There’s a word for this type of person: mentor.
In my life, my mentors have helped me become a better man. Aside from my parents, I’ve had two mentors. There are three elements that made both men mentors in my life and I think they are solid factors when looking for a mentor or becoming one.
1. They go out of their way to spend time with you.
Maybe you’ve heard about love languages and how each person has their own (i.e. gifts, words of affirmation) that makes them feel loved and cared for. My love language is quality time. Personally, if someone goes out of his way to spend time with me, I view it as a sacrifice of their time, and I feel cared for. Whenever I get to meet one-on-one with one of my mentors, I feel important. Not because they are the almighty answers to my problems, but because I look up to them and greatly value their advice and input. So, when these men whom I look up to take time out of their schedules to sit down and talk with me and teach me, it’s the highlight of my day. And if there’s coffee involved it is the highlight of my day. You buy me coffee and spend time with me, you might as well be a super hero in my book.
2. They ask the hard questions.
Nine times out of ten when someone asks you how you are doing, it’s a socially acceptable question to initiate conversation. “How are you doing?” when used in its intended context is a powerful question that can lead you down a very long, and sometimes confusing road. A mentor is one who sincerely means it, allowing you to open up and be transparent.
You mean, I have to actually ‘open up’ to a mentor and tell them all the things I’ve done?
Well, no. You don’t have to say anything. BUT, In my experience with my mentors, their authenticity and sincerity in asking how I am makes me want to open up to them. I feel comfortable around them because I know they’re sacrificing time to listen to my problems and struggles and truly want to help me grow as a man. Not only will they help answer the questions I have, but they also ask followup questions (AKA the “hard questions”) that make me think and dig deeper. More often than not I leave with things to think and pray about that I probably would not have uncovered without their help.
3. They are always present.
Simply being available is probably the greatest gift a mentor can give. In the age of technology, the answer to nearly any question can be found on Google, but sometimes there are questions that only people can answer or explain. Whether it’s meeting up for coffee or just conversing via text message or Facebook, being there to answer questions or to talk about something is pretty incredible. For example, if one day I feel anxious or confused about something, sometimes just texting them and hearing their nearly-100%-spot-on-response helps me out tremendously. Even if it’s just an inspirational quote, a Bible verse or a text back, just knowing they know my struggle(s) and are praying for and encouraging me means the world. Talking with someone about what they’re going through is compassion, but being there for someone is commitment.
All this to say, seek out a mentor. I’m not kidding when I say these two men have drastically shaped my life for the better, and in two very crucial times of my life: starting college and living abroad for two months. Both of these times were trying and difficult for me and I owe so much to these men. So, on a personal note, I want to thank Andy and Ian for everything you’ve done and will continue to do to help shape the man who is writing this article. Words cannot accurately express the love I have for both of you.