The Gift of MentorsOct 30, 2019
I’ve had the treat of having many mentor-like people in my life who were ahead of me on life’s journey. They knew more than me and they readily shared their knowledge and wisdom. They believed in me and my potential and were willing to help draw me into the next level.
Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It is certainly true that my mentors taught and trained me, but just as Ms. Angelou stated, what I remember the most is how they made me feel. Although there have been dozens of people who poured into me throughout my life, I would love for you to get to know a little bit about three of my mentors.
First, when I was in college I had the privilege of being trained in singing by a master teacher, Mrs. Perla Warren. She was a beautiful Asian woman with a black bob and one gray streak that framed her face. She laughed easily and could be quite silly. But not in the classroom. In the classroom we were down to business. Mrs. Warren had a magical touch. She took a group of “just fine” singers and guided us into a new realm of musicality and ability.
I don’t remember everything she said, but how did she make me feel? Seen. Capable. Believed in. Empowered. That there was quality within me and it could be teased out with practice.
All this, poured into 19- to 21-year-old me. She was one of the early foundation layers in my life.
Second, when we first got married, Alan and I moved almost immediately to Southern California from Northern California. My first job was in the real estate department of Great Western Bank (now Chase Bank). My boss at that time was a man named Hal Clark. Hal was a very capable businessman. He, too, saw something in me and never lost a chance to help me grow and shine.
I don’t remember everything he said, but how did he make me feel? Valued. Believed in. Challenged to rise. Stretched into my capabilities. Open to possibility and growth.
All this, poured into 21- to 27-year-old me. He was also one of the early foundation layers in my life.
Finally, when I was about 40-years-old, I began my first spiritual direction training. In that cohort was a mentor named Ellyn Cowie. I always enjoyed her presence in the training and a few short years after that, I asked her to be my spiritual director.
Ellyn walked with me for 10 years as I made my way through mid-life and all of its twists and turns. She gently and skillfully held space for me as I dove headlong into and out of the great undoing. She said many things to me in that time, but most important is how she made me feel.
How did she make me feel? Listened to. Seen. Not rushed. Important. Held.
All this, poured into mid-life me. She held space for some of the most intensive growth of my life.
My guess is that you have a list as well. People who were there for you in critical seasons of your journey. And, yes, you may remember some of what they said. But you more likely remember how you felt in their presence. How you felt because of the way they viewed you or held space for you.
In our recent Unhurried Living Podcast Episode #97, we shared the dynamic between Living Fuller and Leading Better, which is Strategic Personal Influence.
Whether my mentors meant to or not, their personal influence had a strategic impact on me. Who they were in my life became a part of the fiber of my being.
There are a couple of ways to respond to this great goodness. First, we can be grateful. I am so thankful for the people in my life who have made me feel valued, seen and heard. Second, we can welcome God’s invitation to reflect on our own lives. How are we giving back? Into whom are we pouring?
Here are a few reflection questions in this regard. Ponder…when people have spent time with us…
- Do they end up feeling somehow used or feeling loved?
- Do people feel that we’ve taken from them or given something to them?
- Do they feel diminished or blessed?
- Do they feel criticized or encouraged?
- Do they feel more like a competitor or a friend?
Blessings to you as you find yourself in gratitude for your mentors and as you seek to pass on some of that goodness today.