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Mentoring: the Myths and the Facts of a Mentoring Relationship

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

My seminary program required me to have a mentor for several semesters. I loved the idea of mentorship, but I didn’t know much about the dynamics of the mentor-mentee relationship. As I asked questions and considered my options, I found many of my assumptions were incorrect, and I was glad. The reality was better than what I had imagined, opening up more possibilities for good mentors in my life.

In celebration of the NW Ministries mentoring program, here is a compiled list of some of my misconceptions, as well as others I’ve heard along the way:

  1. My mentor has to be older than me.” The mark of a good mentor is not in her age. The mark of a good mentor is in her knowledge, wisdom, and experience. At one point, I had a mentor 6 years younger than I because she was the most developed individual I knew in the particular area I was seeking help with. Which brings me to the second myth…

  2. “My mentor must know more than me about everything.” Good luck! This person would be hard to find. Going on a search for the ultimate mentor isn’t the best use of your time. If you sit down and write out the areas of your life you want to grow in, then think about the people in your life, you have a good chance of matching one person to one or two areas for growth. The friend who is significantly younger than I was much better with her financial management. I had never been taught how to make a budget or track expenses. So this was a perfect match.

  3. Mentors wear the pants in the relationship.” You may have caught this trend already in the first two examples, but as the mentee, I was primarily responsible for the mentoring relationship. I knew what I needed a mentor to help me with, and I sought out the right person who could commit to providing that. The work of the mentee does not stop there. I continued to pursue the relationship. I scheduled regular times to meet, I arrived prepared with questions and topics for discussion, and I ensured my mentor knew I appreciated his time and expertise. This didn’t eliminate all responsibility from the mentor...he still needed to show up and be prepared as well, but I was in the driver’s seat.

  4. I’m a mentor or I’m a mentee, never both.” I have simultaneously been mentored by one person while mentoring someone else. I have also mentored someone in an area of life in which I had more knowledge, wisdom, and experience, while she mentored me in another area at the same time. Again, a mentor isn’t the expert on life in its entirety, so the relationship can be mutual. You can also have various forms of mentoring relationships, as needed, for yourself and with others.

  5. People who need mentors have failed.” Absolutely not! People who seek mentorship desire to grow, be refined, and reach their highest potential. Those who crave improvement to the degree of seeking out a mentor are arguably the most likely to succeed–that’s certainly the person I’d have voted for my senior year in high school. Mentorship is a method for learning, not a consequence for failure, and asking for help should always be applauded.

  6. If I ask this person to mentor me, then everyone we mutually know will find out what we talk about.” This should not be the case. I highly recommend an initial conversation surrounding confidentiality. Directly state what your expectations are and why you need an agreement to be made. The mentoring relationship will serve no one if it isn’t built on trust. And remember: confidentiality goes in both directions. Your mentor may share some personal examples from his own life, such as marriage battles he's won, if you’re discussing intimate relationships. Disclosures such as this should never be shared without explicit permission.

Mentorship has so much possibility for both parties involved. At NWM, we specialize in offering insights into the lives of those who:

  • are suffering from an unhealthy religious experience,

  • are feeling stuck in their healing journey and need help with next steps,

  • are connected with someone actively involved in an unhealthy religious group, or

  • are providing psychological and emotional support to someone in their healing process.

All conversations are treated with the same level of confidentiality as with a counselor or a psychotherapist. We use the same software with the same HIPAA compliance as other support professionals, because your experience is significant and warrants the best we can offer.

I know the despair of seeking help that is near impossible to find.

We are committed to changing this reality.

One step, then another.

Let's get started.

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