For a couple of decades, I was privileged to have a mentor whom I cherished, learned from, and grew as a result of her investment in my life. Every time I mentioned how she’d impacted me, she acted surprised. When I told someone else what a place of honor she held in my life, she genuinely couldn’t understand what I was talking about. She was a woman full of rich wisdom and true grace. Being in the room with her was a delight and always moved me forward. What I gained from being in her presence impacted my personal and professional life. In fact, it impacted other’s personal and professional lives because I was compelled to pass her wisdom along.
While she didn’t think she had anything special to impart to me, every act taught me something. I chose to be in the room as often as possible. She simply lived her life authentically in front of me with confessions of her wrong doings, cries for help when desperate, and nuggets of wisdom. She taught me that I had a choice and what I was getting was exactly what I was choosing. At times I thought she was wrong, only to discover later, she was right on. She taught me that others weren’t my responsibility but that my response would always be my responsibility. She modeled cherishing life, even in unfortunate circumstances. She literally forced me to incorporate silence and forgiveness into my life. I was not fond of those particular moments but wouldn’t trade them for anything today. She gave and gave and gave to me without it appearing to be any real effort on her part. In all the modeling and teaching, she never felt the need to correct, always opting for encouraging. Not because I didn’t need correcting, but because she saw the value in focusing on what could be encouraged.
Not long after my treasured mentor moved away, I was given another mentor. She felt she had some things to teach me. As a result, she appointed herself to me. Typically, she found areas in which I needed correction. It did not take long before I dreaded being in the same room with her. There was an obvious gap between us – she, the wise one, and me, the one who needed wisdom. Because there was a disconnect in our relationship, nothing was discussed only handed down. As a result, there was one occasion when I went against my very nature in order to follow her directive. The only regret I have in a life full of mistakes and failures is doing something she told me to do. At her hand, I was learning to second guess myself and silence myself for fear of correction. This is not the intended outcome of a mentor. She was truly wise, but I was not gaining from her wisdom.
My monitor was self-appointed, while my mentor was chosen. My mentor was humble, yet my monitor felt she knew some things. My mentor was truly just doing life with me. My monitor was indeed monitoring my life. One showed me the way, the other brought correction along the way. They were both wise, had stellar reputations, and loads of experience. And yet, their impact on me was hugely different.
Mentoring is not replicating myself – making people look, sound, act like me. It’s drawing out of the other person their very essence – what they are truly designed to be.