When you’re asked to name a person who has made a lasting impact in your life for the better, who comes to mind?
For me it’s Sheri. And the funny thing is, it wasn’t until after she moved to a province far away I realized what I had lost—a mentor.
Mentors are people who shape your life, and they’re not always the people you expect. A mentor is someone you look up to, someone who teaches you, someone who keeps you accountable, and someone who advocates for you.
Sheri worked at my church and over the years we became good friends. She would do crazy things like meet me after work (often in the middle of the night) for an adventure, or drive halfway across the province with me on a whim. In all the fun she taught me how lighten up, which was no easy task for I was a driven kid.
Looking back I see she taught me a lot more than how to have fun. Somehow Sheri also taught me about honouring my parents, making wise choices, and taking God seriously. We’ve lost touch now but I still find myself reflecting on our adventures and am thankful I had someone who cared enough about me to invest time, energy, and a lot of mileage.
If you don’t have someone in your life you consider a mentor here are three reasons why you should have one.
1. You should have a mentor because they don’t get personal.
In an ideal world your mentor isn’t involved in your day-to-day life, so he or she can offer wisdom, support, and objective advice without the distraction of all your “stuff.” You want a mentor who is far enough removed from your life that it doesn’t affect growth and learning.
2. You should have a mentor because of what mentors are not.
Mentors are not:
- Social Workers
A mentor teaches, counsels, and keeps you accountable but in far less formal ways. Teaching often comes through sharing experience and passing on knowledge. Counselling usually takes place in the form of a two-way conversation. And accountability is not enforced, only encouraged. Having an impartial, independent viewpoint in your life is invaluable.
3. You should have a mentor because they know more than you.
Not only does your mentor know more than you, he or she wants to share it with you. It would be a pity to not take full advantage of someone else’s wisdom because you’re too proud to admit you don’t know everything. Think of Proverbs 9:9, “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning” (NIV).
Of course, mentors don’t always readily present themselves and often it’s not as simple as asking someone to be your mentor. In most cases, mentorship is an organic process, developing out of a relationship. Take a look at your peer group. Are there people in it who help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, introduce you to new perspectives, or challenge you to grow? These are good mentor candidates.
Something to keep in mind while you search for a mentor is to develop a healthy relationship you need both give and take. If you are only in it for what your mentor can do for you, it won’t last long. Find ways to contribute value to the relationship.
Chuck Swindoll offers this advice for finding a mentor in his message A Tribute to my Teachers.
If you’re looking for a mentor to follow, [Jesus] is the place to start. He alone came to give life and to give it more abundantly. There is one God and one mediator between God and human beings. And that’s the Man Christ Jesus. The most significant One who has invested Himself in me is the person of Jesus Christ who died and paid the penalty for my sins and wrote in His Word truth that I can gauge and guide and guard my life by. And because He’s lived and died and now lives on eternally, I am able to live with purpose and meaning and forgiveness and hope and joy. And I commend Him to you, for without Him all you have are human teachers and mentors. But with Him you have the promise of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins and the only One who can heal diseases no human being can heal.
Having a mentor takes the pressure off of you. If you’re thinking about finding one, do it. If you feel challenged to become a mentor, do it. And if you don’t know where to start, follow Chuck’s advice and look to Christ.