'I know you’re not the man who birthed me...'
“…But I need a man I trust to give me some fathering, as my father was absent from my life. And now, I’m also a father, who needs some guidance. Will you be that with me, for me?”
Those who know me well, know I’m rarely speechless, but to the above request I barely knew what to say. Never have I wanted to over-function in any of the mentoring friendships I’ve experienced over the years.
I am who I am. They are who they are.
For a conversation, for months, even to years, there is a deep joy in being someone’s whole-life mentor…and seeing them released into all they were designed to be and do. Sometimes, when appropriate, that mentoring gets extra personal.
Over the last few decades of my life I’ve been increasingly concerned at the number of men, from teens to those in their 60’s, and beyond, who have stated, without rancor or bitterness, their fathers did not mentor them, were absent for a whole host of reasons. Of course, I’ve also had deep conversations with other men, on the grow, who have lived with a deep bitterness and/or lack of confidence in other men due to dads who, themselves, did not have a man to guide them into and through their life, then ignoring their sons.
When I mentor a man, even with their own father’s blessings (…maybe even especially with that blessing!), something good, solid, growth-filled begins to take place in that man’s life. Men, if honest, way deep down, are legitimately hungry for care and blessing…no matter their age.
Too many men do not have,
have not had, the life-enhancing experience
of being well mentored for
of who they are and
As a leadership, whole-person mentor, it is vastly important to not be more than you need to be with those whom you mentor. This is distinctly serious business when one is being entrusted with the cares, hopes, dreams, stories, failures, successes, grand moments, and the not-so-good moments of one’s life.
The best of mentors
keep fully in mind who they need to be
with those who are seeking
guidance and wisdom.
Personally, I have a deep sense of care for those who seek me out for mentoring. Because each mentoree and I are human, there are varying measures of connection. But the focus always needs to be kept on who the person being mentored is hoping to become, to grow into from the insights and gifts of the mentoring relationship.
I am there for them. They are not there for me.
Many of the men I mentor, those with absent fathers, deceased fathers, have a legitimate need/hunger for perspective from an older man. That is not weird or unusual. That is an important fact to realize and own.
When arriving at that conclusion, and a more than obvious understanding that I am not their dad, I then am free to speak more fully into their lives. Sometimes I ask, “If I were your father, right now, what would you want to hear me say?”
Or when there is already a deeply developed trust between us, I may suggest, “Knowing this is something you long to have your father’s input over, and that’s not realistic right now, would you mind my sharing, suggesting what a father might say to a son?” Rarely has that been turned down.
I am not aware of such a suggestion even being misunderstood…as that is suggested only when there is deep trust and proven care between us. Mentoring the whole person, in all 8 dimensions of one’s life, listening, reflecting, understanding one’s limits and capacities…for the complete good of the man being mentored…gives permission for longings to be owned and life-enhancing choices to be made that bring wholeness to a man on the grow, of any age.
Currently, at 74+ years of age, I am mentoring 30+ men between the ages of 18 and 64. With most, but not all, there is a Christian faith that we share. Unsought, a number, on their own, have stated that they some times look at me as a “spiritual father.” That is way humbling.
Unfortunately, for years I pushed back on that. Not good of me, I confess. It was a man I still mentor, one of the older ones, who took me to task on that several years back. He said, “I know you’re not my Dad. But I need one right now, like you.”
Therefore, be who you are to those you mentor.
In your own whole-person mentoring out of who you are, not just what you do, some times you will need to be a coach. Some times a counselor-of-sorts. Some times a listening ear, with a shut mouth. Some times a discerning friend. Some times one who helps sort out the good from the not-so-good. Some times an involved teacher. Some times a spiritual advisor. Some times maybe even a bit of a dad for a few moments while hope is being restored and decisions are being made.
Often, when a father/son relationship has not been the best, stepping in for a bit has allowed me to witness good men forgiving their fathers for whatever negative has taken place. That sets them free, as well as their fathers, living or deceased.