About 15 years ago, I collaborated with my late friend, David Stoddard, to write The Heart of Mentoring. To sum up the book’s message, we wanted to suggest that everyone should be a “mentored mentor.” In other words, each of us should be mentoring someone else, and we should find someone willing to be a mentor for us.
Today much is said and written about mentoring, with good reason. As we trudge along this journey we call life, it helps to have someone to offer wisdom, advice and guidance whenever we encounter occasions of uncertainty. Which we will. Daily life is more complex than ever; competing and often conflicting messages are plentiful. If we’re humble enough to admit it, having someone to show the way – or least assist us in sifting through the alternatives – can be indispensable.
If we don’t already have a mentor, we might be inclined to admit it could be useful to find one. But when challenged to mentor another person, a typical response would be, “Oh, I’m not qualified to mentor anyone. I don’t know enough.” As if being a mentor requires being an expert or recognized authority.
That’s hardly the case. As we stated in The Heart of Mentoring, all that’s necessary is that you be just a little bit farther down the road from the person you’re starting to mentor. You might be a bit older, or a bit more experienced. It doesn’t require a lot. A college student can mentor a high school student. A young married person can mentor a single person. A long-time married person can mentor a newlywed. Someone who’s been on the job for several years can mentor someone that’s newly hired. And anyone can mentor a child or adolescent.
We can mentor others not only by talking about our successes, but also our failures. Why do we have to make all of our own mistakes? We can benefit from hearing about the mistakes others made, and trying to avoid repeating them.
When it comes to mentoring, the demand always exceeds the supply. But as I’ve learned over more than 30 years of mentoring and discipling others, the return on investment can’t be beat. It’s a great example of the principle Jesus taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Because by investing time and a little energy in meeting with someone over time in a mentoring relationship, we receive not only the satisfaction of helping another person, but also learn ourselves – gaining from their perspectives and unique life experiences.
Mentoring might be unpleasant for both parties, as Dave and I acknowledged in our book, if the mentor takes a condescending, “I’m doing you a favor” approach. However, if it’s understood and approached as a mutually beneficial relationship, in which the mentor recognizes he or she can learn from the “mentoring partner,” it becomes not only a good experience – it can be life-changing.
One of my favorite passages from the Scriptures related to this is Proverbs 27:17, which reminds us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As I’ve made myself available to other men, offering to share some of what God and life have taught me, I’ve found them “sharpening” me, too, through their insights and questions.
A great thing about mentoring – or if you prefer, discipling (in a spiritual context) – is that it multiplies. Once someone starts being mentored, they can begin mentoring another individual and before long, the pattern starts repeating itself. As the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
That’s at the heart of what Jesus was commanding when He left His disciples with the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus expected His followers to multiply – as they have through the centuries, from a mere handful to countless millions around the world. And this has occurred simply by men and women willing to be used by Him to pass along to others what the Lord has given to them.
If you’d like know more about what a mentoring process looks like, I’d suggest getting a copy of The Heart of Mentoring. I assure you it would be money well-spent. But most of all, if you don’t already have a mentor, try to find one. Ask God to direct you to the right person. Also ask Him to identify someone you could start mentoring. In both cases, it will be time well-spent.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.