Nearly every millennial has been given the advice, “get a mentor.” We know we are lacking in experience, knowledge, and wisdom. We go off into the world and beg the most popular and influential people we know to be mentors. Often, they are smart, successful, wise, and busy. We expect lots of time, energy, and emotion directed towards us – after all, we’re the selfish generation.
In our hyper-individualized world, where texting is more comfortable than talking, we are often isolated not just from our own peers, but especially from older generations. Wisdom, knowledge, and experience that was once learned in the context of daily life now has to be gleaned in curated conversations over coffee.
What if this didn’t have to be the case? What if instead of clamoring for mentors, we sought to be friends instead? What if we made intentional efforts to spend time with people 10-50 years older than us, just because?
Two of my dearest friends are 60+ years old. They are kind, easy to talk to, can be funny or serious, they give great advice, they listen well, laugh quickly, and remember small details about my life. They tell great stories and they love people.
These two women are wholly committed to God and his Word. They love the Scriptures and they love people. They are active in their churches and they love talking about their faith. They are skilled in debate and often challenge me to think more deeply about my own faith and life. They refuse to settle with platitudes or shallow thinking. To engage with them is to draw water from a deep well.
They encourage me to be more fully me while challenging me to dive deeper into God’s Word and his plan for me.
It would be easy to call these women my mentors, because they are. They counsel, exhort, and love me, but our relationship is deeper than a formal mentor relationship. Each of them came into my life for what I thought was a particular season, but our relationships have bloomed into something longer lasting.
Individuals of my generation are often told to “find a mentor.” The implication being, in this individualistic society we need the wisdom of those older and wiser than us. This is sound advice.
However, too often, we look for a “mentor” without having a clear idea of what that relationship should look like. I’m guilty of this too. If I know someone has skills or wisdom I need, how do I best ask and get that information from them?
Embedded in this thought process is a self-focused “me” attitude. I am only looking to get, not give. Part of this is true humility because I am painfully aware of my weaknesses and lack of experience/knowledge. On the other hand, it is much easier for me to go to a lunch and drill someone with a set of questions without ever pausing to really get to know them. It’s efficient (of my time and theirs), purposeful, and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I leave.
Still, when I think about the people who have meant the most to me and from whom I’ve learned the most, these two women immediately come to mind.
They have laughed, cried, and prayed with me and for me. Their perspective in my life is invaluable. Their age gives them a tranquility about crisis that is refreshing and calming. They have spent decades studying God’s Word and are able to exhort me in the kindest, most gentle manner. They have a gift for telling stories; grandkids, vacation, death, dinner plans, physical weakness, and dreams of the future all flow through our conversations. In these conversations I’ve learned more about life, being a women, and myself than I could ever have with a pre-determined set of questions.
I rarely leave our conversations feeling like we accomplished “the agenda” and yet, I always leave feeling full in the deepest sense. They share hopes, fears, challenges, and praises with me and asked me to pray on their behalf. I’ve felt the weight of the responsibility of friendship not as a burden, but as a privilege. In the technical sense, I would consider these women mentors. They advise, cheer, support, and counsel me regularly. More than anything though, they are my friends and my life is better for it.
*As a disclaimer, I do not think mentors are bad and I know some relationships last for a specific season or a specific topic, but what if we actively sought to be good friends and not just good mentees?