Mentors are people who teach, guide, and advise others who are younger than them. They normally teach them in areas such as Christian growth, ethics, or a certain field of study. In the modern day, mentors are not as common or encouraged. Since mentoring relationships aren’t as prevalent, many individuals question if they are important.
Depending on the mentor and the age of life you are in, a mentor can be very important.
Finding My Mentor
Until college, I never really had a mentor. I had a mom and a dad, but never a direct mentor. It wasn’t until college that I actually had a mentor. My mentor was my missions professor, who became like a grandfather to me. He was the missions professor of the school, which meant he was the professor who taught us about missions, missiology, and intercultural studies. Since missions was one of my minors, I was taught by the missions professor throughout most semesters. I always left the class knowing more than I did before, and, more importantly, I left class with the feeling that I mattered.
All before my mentor, teachers never encouraged me, nor did they support me. I never felt safe going to them. With my mentor, I was able to talk about school, the classes, and my walk with Christ. He believed in me when nobody else did—and before I could believe in myself. As part of my missions program, one of the classes was a missions internship. With my mental health battles, I was nervous to travel overseas, to say the least. Due to compulsions, anxiety, and depression, I was afraid of what was going to happen.
Encouragement from My Mentor
Despite my fears, my mission professor believed in me and encouraged me as the day of my departure came closer. He and his wife even drove me to the airport and encouraged me the entire drive. To say I’m extremely grateful for both of them is an understatement. My mentor truly helped me overcome a huge obstacle by supporting me before, during, and after my mission internship. Once they had to leave me at the airport, I was afraid, but they had left me with the encouragement I needed.
Did I stress out at the airport and call them? Of course. Did I end up crying and calling my family? Of course. I was scared, but through the encouragement and support of others, I was able to board the plane and head overseas. As nice as it would be to say that everything was smooth sailing from there, it wasn’t. I stayed with three missionary families while I was there, all of whom had to fill out evaluation forms on how well I was doing. I was struggling greatly there, not to mention a myriad of mental health issues that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with them.
On each of these evaluation forms, I was given terrible reviews. I was doing everything they told me, yet form after form, my mentor was met with reviews that said I had too much emotional baggage or I had “spiritual problems.” These “spiritual problems” were simply the depression, anxiety, and anorexia that I had been struggling with for over a decade. With these negative evaluation forms, my mentor still believed in me, and I passed the class. Passing the class was a task in and of itself, but to know that my mentor believed in me, even after all the negative things that were written about me on the forms, was the greatest encouragement of all.
Each of the three missionary families suggested that I wasn’t cut out for missionary work, but my mentor believed I was. To say the words from the missionary families didn’t hurt would be a lie. In fact, they hurt so much that it sent me on a downward spiral with my mental health for a long time after. They convinced me that I wasn’t good enough to be a missionary and that I had too many “problems.”
It’s funny how each of these missionary families could say I had too many problems, emotional baggage, and spiritual problems—because don’t we all? Don’t we all have past trauma, hurts, and pain? How many of us have a mental health issue and are afraid to tell others about it? Why are we scared? We are scared for the exact reason that they would label us as a “freak” or as someone with “spiritual problems.” We need more people who believe in us despite our illnesses and problems, who support us no matter what, just like my mentor.
Lasting Friendship with My Mentor
In the aftermath of my trip, my mentor and I kept in touch even though he moved with his wife across the state to be with their family. Even though we don’t talk as much as we used to, I know I can always go to him when I’m in need of help, guidance, or advice. He never tires of my questions and he was never tired of how many times I would submit my assignments way too early. Since I had such a great experience with a mentor, I would say mentors are very important. Granted, not all mentors would be as supportive and encouraging as my mentor, but there are some great mentors out there—you just have to find them.
While I understand many individuals have had bad experiences with mentors, we need to know not all mentors are negative. In the case with my mentor, he wasn’t assigned to me, nor did someone tell me one day he was my mentor. Instead, he grew to be my mentor as I took his classes and relied on him for his knowledge of the field I was studying. Therefore, my piece of advice would be to find your own mentor and let it flow naturally. Nobody wants to be forced to be someone else’s mentor, yet over time, the right person can become the perfect mentor for you.
Mentors are very important because they are wise and knowledgeable. My mentor was a university professor at my college, but your mentor might not be a professor. Your mentor might be your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa. Even outside of the family, you can find a great mentor with spiritual/life advice. It might be your counselor, therapist, or your youth leader. When we stop trying to specifically look for a mentor, that is when we will find them. Ask God for His help and guidance as you try to find a mentor.
The most important part of a mentor, by far, is his or her relationship with God. If they don’t know God, then it is best to choose a different mentor. If you’re going to have a mentor, it should be someone who loves God with all their heart, mind, and soul. A mentor without Jesus isn’t going to know how to lead you in a way that brings God glory. However, if you have a mentor who loves Jesus and follows Him faithfully, it will overflow in their lives and give glory to God. In time, you might become a mentor to someone, and you too will be able to share the love of Christ in your actions, just as my mentor did in my life.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Zinkevych
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.