Most young people prefer to figure out their own solutions to problems, to do things without help. They think resisting guidance is a sign of maturity.
Yet in popular stories, the heroes usually have mentors: Gandalf, Obi-wan Kenobi, Dumbledore… The authors of the books and movies where these characters appear know a fundamental truth: that to be great and to accomplish great tasks, we need the guidance of someone else.
A mentor is a valuable help throughout life. A good mentor helps us know our own strengths and weaknesses better, set goals and identify the steps towards achieving them, overcome obstacles, and avoid pitfalls. A good mentor gives us advice when we are confused, encouragement when we are discouraged, gentle admonitions when we are in error, and warnings when we are in danger. He or she leads us through word and example, and supports us with prayers.
It is a good to have a mentor whom one can speak with regularly about life, about progress in one’s projects. A mentor can be an older friend, a counsellor, a clergyman, a coach, a teacher, or anyone similar, as long as he or she has the following qualities:
• Wisdom. A good mentor lets his or her own personal life be guided by principles of truth and goodness. He or she sets a good example.
• Prudence. A good mentor has good judgment, common sense, and uses sound criteria for making decisions.
• Loyalty. A good mentor can be trusted by the mentee, and looks out for the mentee’s best interest.
• Courage. A good mentor does not hesitate to give the advice that the mentee needs, even if the advice may not be to the mentee’s liking.
• Piety. For spiritual mentoring, a good mentor takes care of his or her prayer life, and prays abundantly for the mentee.
• Competence. A good mentor has expertise in the field on which the mentee seeks guidance, or, if he or she does not, is humble enough to admit it and to direct the mentee to someone else who can help.
One’s relationship with a mentor should be governed by trust and willingness to learn. For mentoring to be fruitful, the mentee must be open to the mentor’s suggestions, and should not hesitate to raise concerns and ask questions. While having a mentor does not relieve one of responsibility for one’s own decisions, an arrogant attitude of “I-know-better-than-my-mentor” should be corrected. For one always can learn something from a mentor. Two heads are always better than one, and a mentor can help compensate for whatever blind spots we may have in analysing our problems or approaching our tasks.
One must also practice courtesy with the mentor by taking care of details like keeping appointments and informing the mentor in advance if, for some reason, an appointment must be cancelled. One must realize the time and effort that a mentor invests into his or her mentoring commitments.
Finally, one must be grateful to one’s mentor. While success may be possible without a mentor, a mentor can help one achieve more and better. More importantly, in addition to helping one attain goals, a mentor helps one grow professionally and personally. A mentor helps one acquire skills and wisdom which he or she could not otherwise have acquired alone. A mentor’s words and example are treasures to cherish, and to pass on when it’s one’s turn to mentor others.
Cristina A. Montes, Lawyer, Phillipines