People on the grow!
That’s what effective mentoring is all about. Learning to nurture well requires helping mentorees explore and discover who they were meant to be, rather than trying to mold people into who we want them to be. This, of course, requires the careful listening and question-asking abilities which form the core for all great mentoring, while also requiring keen observation skills. A good mentor notices when someone lights up with a new spark in their eyes or voice. That glow may be the key to helping your mentoree discover passions and interests they didn’t even know were there, so that you can nurture them into all they are meant to be.
I remember having a phone conversation with a woman I’d never met who had recently lost her son to suicide. She felt totally defeated and depressed. I listened and asked questions, but felt ill-equipped to help her in any way. As I prayed for wisdom, I sensed her deep frustration that programs probably existed that could have helped her son, but no one could connect them with the right resources. Finally, I said, “Maybe the reason you see this so clearly now is so you can help others in similar situations get the help they need.” Immediately a new enthusiasm came into her voice as she admitted that she wondered the same thing. I pointed out, “Do you hear the excitement in your voice? You are passionate about doing this! What next steps could you take?” We talked a while longer, and she seemed greatly encouraged. Before hanging up she told me that I “got her” in a way no one else did, but the truth is that God is the one who “got her” and allowed me to see and support the path already in her heart.
To nurture well requires identifying passions and desires within our mentorees that are based on their gifts, talents, interests, and life experiences. We have to observe the things that excite them and help them pursue that path – rather than settling for what they think they are “supposed” to do.
I remember going through this with my daughter during her college years. She entered the university as a math major, but also took a theatre class her freshman year. Whenever we talked on the phone, she became especially animated when she talked about her drama class. Eventually she changed her work study from grading calculus papers to working backstage in the theatre department, so I suggested she might want to change her major to theatre. “Oh no, Mom. I could never do that! People think you’re so smart when you’re a math major!” Later I suggested she pursue a double major. “Are you crazy, Mom? You have no idea how demanding that is. I could never do both!” Yet within four years she graduated with degrees in both mathematics and theatre arts. Listening to my daughter’s heart allowed me to nurture her in areas that excited her, instead of trying to make her fulfil my dreams for her.
Isn’t that the true essence of what mentoring is all about? We nurture mentorees to become who God created them to be, rather than allowing them to feel trapped by their own preconceived notions or forced to live up to someone else’s expectations for their lives. There is something very freeing about helping someone explore their gifts, abilities, and desires. We want our mentorees to thrive and flourish as they become all that God intended for them to be and do with their one precious life.