CM: How does someone choose a mentor?
DAR: Pray for the right mentor — someone who models God’s call for you, and who will recognize your call and invest in it. Look within your circle. Consider those who God has already put in your life. Just as God has called you, there are people He has called to help you along the way. Look for someone who you can trust, has integrity, and will speak truth. Mentors help mentees navigate through their life’s journey. Listen to your spirit, and listen to God. This will help you sense if someone is a suitable mentor for you.
CM: How should someone approach a potential mentor?
DAR: Avoid abrasive approaches. Someone may decline your request to be their mentor because they do not think they have mentoring skills, or know you well. Therefore, try an approach that invites dialogue. For example, you could say, "I would love to have the opportunity to talk with you about my future, and how you perceive my gifts and talents. Would you be available to have coffee with me?" You could also ask the person you admire, "Can you tell me what you see in me?" or "If you had to name my gifts, what would you say they are?" Only someone who knows you can answer these questions. Give the potential mentor permission to be honest. Let them know that you are asking for openness. During the initiated conversation, share with them what you need and desire in a mentor.
CM: Is a mentoring relationship temporary?
DAR: Since mentoring is based on a relationship, its intensity and duration varies. It is based on the mentee’s needs. I was very close to my mentor; however, the course of life changed things. Although I still consider her to be a mentor — and would respect whatever she said to me — the intensity of our mentoring relationship is not the same. I am now at a different level of maturity. The dynamic of your mentoring relationship will change as you mature.
A mentor is like a mother bird, and has to be willing to let the baby fly. You should have the freedom to spread your wings and soar. A mentor should not try to hold you back, and you should not try to cling. If that happens, it’s an unhealthy relationship.
CM: What precautions should a mentee take?
DAR: Learn to discern for yourself. Even after having a strong mentoring relationship, you must remain sensitive to God’s call — and be able to recognize it on your own. The mentor’s role is not to tell you what to do. It is to help you mature into who God has called you to be.
Discern abusive exercises of power. If at any time you feel uneasy in a mentoring relationship, the power dynamic might be getting out of control. Statements such as, "I know what is best for you," and "You are going to do this because I said so," are dangerous. That is not mentoring. It is an abuse of power. Jesus told the disciples to follow Him, but He did not tie a rope around their necks and make them follow Him.
You can say "No." Do not feel compelled to submit to a mentor if you are not comfortable in the relationship. If someone chooses you, you do not have to accept them as your mentor. A mentoring relationship should be mutually desired.
CM: Any further words of wisdom?
DAR: Be willing to hear the truth. A good mentor tells you things that you sometimes don’t want to hear, but need to hear. Therefore, receive the truth without arguing. Of course, you should always use discernment when determining the validity of someone’s input — but remain open to what God is saying through your mentor. Finally, be patient. Relationships take time to develop. As you and your mentor walk together, God will reveal the exact purpose and direction of your relationship.