In my fantasy life, I’m a good mentor. Truth be told, I’m not.
It’s National Mentoring Month. The words “Will you be my mentor?” or “Are you willing to mentor So-and-So?” always stop me in my tracks. I feel that in saying yes, the relationship is now doomed.
The problem is the formality of it all. The mantle of responsibility is too much for me to bear. I want to say, “Aw, c’mon. Can’t we just hang out and be good influences on each other? Do we have to make it an official thing?” I realize this is a lot like saying to someone you’ve dated a long time, “Let’s not ruin the relationship by getting married.” You know there’s a backstory there somewhere.
I wrote a short-ish post about my feelings, then held off publishing it because it wasn’t very encouraging. To potential mentors, I mean.
The problem is I lose track of my mentees. We meet. We do stuff together. We pursue goals. This goes on for a while, possibly a long while. Then life happens (usually college). Years pass. Next thing you know, I’m getting a wedding invitation and being introduced as an influencer. I don’t even know the groom’s name or what anyone majored in! Is this the right moment to tell them I feel like I failed? Nah, they might think it’s about how they turned out.
Okay, maybe the problem is I have a little perfectionism going on. Since the ultimate goal is not concrete and it’s unclear to me whether I’ve hit the target, no matter what I do, it never feels like enough. We don’t meet with enough frequency. We don’t have enough important conversations. We don’t have enough fun. (Suffice it to say anyone having me for mentor is not having fun. That’s a given. If they wanted a fun person, they should have asked someone else.)
Despite all this, today in Sunday School there was a discussion about mentoring, about being willing and available to empower someone else, to help them grow to their fullest potential, and I do think it’s important.
So I came back and wrote this medium-ish post because I was inspired and renewed in my thinking, and reinvigorated! (Still, this isn’t a very encouraging post. For potential mentors, mean.) But while the teacher was talking and drawing a graphic on the board and inviting thoughts, it struck me: The whole time I’m walking with someone else and they are being stretched and they are growing, I, too, am being stretched. I am growing.
Mentoring isn’t about resting on my laurels, disseminating wisdom from on high. I’m still learning. I’m still encountering faulty thinking on my part, ridiculous expectations and inner resistance tracing from who-knows-where.
In fact, if I ever start to think I AM a good mentor, that might be a red flag.