It takes courage to be a mentor. What if I don’t have answers to their problems? What if I don’t think I’m a good enough example? What if they don’t like me? All of these feelings and more can make for an awkward start to a mentoring relationship. When I do mentor training, I attempt to help overcome some of the challenges of getting past the awkwardness and getting started. I have the potential mentors practice a little exercise (which is in itself awkward).
In the last post, we talked about the mentor’s mandate being to show kindness. Kindness is shown when we really see the other person; not just their public persona, but making eye contact and inviting genuineness. When a mentee gives permission to be seen in authenticity, they next need to feel they are heard. Much is written and taught about “active listening.” The key is to make eye contact and listen for what they are saying. Don’t listen to respond or to judge. Just hear them out. The third element which kindness flows out of is relationship. If a mentee is seen and heard and the mentor still wants to be with them, the foundation for kindness is set.
In the mentor’s exercise, we practice seeing, hearing and relating. I have them divide up in pairs, sitting face to face and fairly close (knees nearly touching with no barriers between them). I ask them to make eye contact and take turns saying, “I see you.” Next they say, “I hear you.” Thirdly they say, “I want to relate to you.” This is awkward enough, and we’re not asking mentors to actually say these things to their mentees. They just need to be aware that their role as a mentor is to see, hear and establish a relationship with their mentee.
The last thing I ask the mentors to do in this exercise is to take a hint from one of my favorite Bible mentoring couples. After Mary heard from the angel that she was going to be the virgin mother of the Messiah, the angle also told her about her relative Elizabeth who was also beginning a surprise, miracle pregnancy. Mary rushed off to meet Elizabeth. The first words out of Elizabeth’s mouth were recorded in Luke 1:41-45. “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’” As mentors, we need to be ready by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, when we meet and greet our mentees, we need to be looking for words of affirmation and encouragement to share with them. They may be in difficult circumstances as Mary was. They may feel alone and confused. A mentor can do a lot to build courage in the mentee to step out in faith to follow God’s call on their life. So, I ask the mentors to practice saying something like :
I can see God has a call on your life
I am so blessed to get to know you
I think it’s great you want to follow the Lord
I can see you’re a person of faith.
These are words that I encourage the mentor to say often to the mentee.
Kindness, it’s all in the seeing, hearing and knowing someone else and speaking words of encouragement over them. Psalm 34:15-18 shows how God expresses this kindness to His people.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help.
But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
As mentors, let’s join Him in His work of being close to the brokenhearted and rescuing those whose spirits are crushed. Let’s truly see, hear and relate to them, giving affirming and life giving words. This is the way of kindness.