I was driving the car listening to an audio tape, in the days before blogs. The narrator was talking about asking questions in a mentoring context. He spoke about Jesus being full of grace and truth and I was thinking about how I work on that with mentees. How do you see yourself having a balance of grace and truth when asking questions of your mentees? He said, “If you see yourself as 80% grace and 20% truth, or vice versa, and you are praying to God that you might be more 50/50, then you’re an idiot”.
That caught my attention rather abruptly. That was exactly what I was praying! He went on “What you ought to be praying is that you will end up being 100% of each”, because Jesus was full of grace and truth. In the mentoring context, grace carries the meaning of having empathy, listening etc. Truth includes being blunt, frank, – naming up things that need to be named up – or being prepared to ask the difficult question.
I’ve always struggled with that. Would I dare to ask a person a certain question that I think should be asked of them? And if I’m not prepared to ask it, why wouldn’t I ask? So, I didn’t have great capacity, if you like, to express things truthfully. I have been on a long journey growing in my capacity to inject truth into my mentoring relationships. Maybe you underestimate your ability to do this – consider asking some of your existing mentees how you go in this regard.
A Real-life feedback from a mentee
She was struggling with the idea of public speaking and recalls:
In the midst of a conversation around my fear of public speaking, you quietly slipped in this question: “Do you lack courage?”. Then you sat back in silence! I smiled visibly but flinched inside and did not reply truthfully!
Much later the mentee told me, that at that moment, she wanted to throw me a right hook. However, she did go away and consider those words that irked her. When she thought about it over the next week, she came to see it more as a gentle nudge, but it seemed offensive at the time. Why did her thinking change? Because, based on her experience of the mentoring relationship, she understood her mentor had her best interests at heart. This mentee went on to accept many invitations to publicly share her testimony and spoke widely and confidently about the ministry God had called her to.
In a spirit of grace, mentor respects mentee enough to humbly tell them the truth of what Mentor sees.
So, what needs or issues am I, as Mentor, avoiding addressing and why?
My mentee might well say to me in response to this question: Do you lack courage John? – when it comes to identifying challenges, or naming up what you believe needs to be named up for the benefit/growth of your mentee.
So, key questions for the Mentor might be: “How do I find the courage to express truth with grace-filled words?” and “How, if necessary, do I facilitate/assist action on the mentee’s part”?
“If our words and our actions accurately demonstrate both the grace and truth of Jesus, some will be drawn to us and others will be offended by us – just as they were by Jesus. Sometimes showing grace requires silence. Other times it requires speaking up”. (Randy Alcorn)
– By John Morse