By Rick Lewis
Much about mentoring can be learned along the way. There is no need to have everything right before you start. However, motivation is one of those matters that do need to be examined before you begin, and regularly reviewed as you go along. Although this self-examination is a confronting business, it is necessary for mentors to get their hearts in tune with the Spirit of God if they expect to be used by him to bring benefit to others through mentoring. So, what motivated you to get into mentoring? For most of us, the reality is a mix of noble and base motivations. We may wish it were not so, but there is no use pretending. Having acknowledged that, it befits mentors to propagate the noble motivations and weed out the base ones.
Motivational forces may be either internal or external. Mentors require internal motivation if the mentoring relationship is to be healthy and sustainable. However, some mentoring relationships are established because of an organisational requirement or some other form of obligation. External demands and expectations like this may be present, but they do not predominate in healthy mentoring relationships. To paraphrase 1 Peter 5:2, our message is this: be eager to serve as mentors – not because you must, but because you are willing.
However, even internal motivations deserve scrutiny. Self-serving motivations make a mentor unsafe and not worthy of being trusted with access into the soul space of a mentoree. Two motivating factors in particular are to be avoided. The first is the motivation that the mentoree will be useful in some cause to which the mentor is committed. It’s easy to see how this could lead directly to manipulation of the mentoree. The second unsatisfactory motivation of special concern has to do with someone liking the title of ‘mentor’ because it makes them feel good about themselves. Mentors who become aware that their work has become more about what they can get out of the mentoree rather than what they can give are best advised to withdraw from mentoring, at least temporarily, in order to find their worth and security in God.
On the other side of the coin, there are many noble, selfless motivations that mentors can cultivate in their hearts to make sure they remain an asset in the lives of their mentorees. Among them, five are worthy of special mention.
- Mentors may have a sense of responsibility under God, responding to a moral urge to do what is right in making a contribution to Christ’s cause.
- They may mentor others out of gratitude, desiring to give back something in return for blessings they have received.
- They may be motivated by a sense of convergence, where mentoring is a fulfilment of God’s purpose and call at the present time.
- Mentors may be motivated by hope, having their imagination fired by the prospect of seeing God at work.
- Mentors may be motivated by love – simply seeking the best for the other person. This final motivation seems to me to be the strongest and purest of them all, and one to be especially cultivated through prayer as the mentor seeks to take on God’s attitude toward the mentoree.
The message of 1 Corinthians 13 is particularly pertinent to mentoring. Even though mentors may have an impressive array of skills to bring, if they lack the motivation of genuine care for the well-being of the mentoree, the results are likely to be disappointing. Once a mentoree is certain that the mentor has their best interests at heart and is not simply operating in a task-oriented contractual arrangement, the relational environment is safe. Trust and confidence in the mentor may then develop, opening the possibility of addressing the real issues and overcoming obstacles to growth. Without the trust that springs from love, it is very difficult for the mentor to make any worthwhile contribution to the life of the mentoree.