How to Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor - Bill Hendricks (Podcast Episode 25)
Guest Bill Hendricks discusses the benefits of finding and being a mentor, and gives practical advice for how to do both. He is the author of Men of Influence: The Transformational Impact of Godly Mentors.
Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another. (NRSV)
1 Timothy 1:2
To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (NRSV)
2 Timothy 1:2
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (NRSV)
1 Thessalonians 3:2
and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming[a] the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith (NRSV)
When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.(NRSV)
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (NRSV)
Additional Resources Referenced
Men of Influence: the Transformational Impact of Godly Mentors by Bill Hendricks
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Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.
Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work
LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace. I’m Mark Roberts.
LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.
How can you get your start-up idea in front of venture capitalists? How can you get your new baby to sleep at night? These are questions that would be good to bring to a mentor, someone who's not only been there before, but someone who knows you and cares about you and your future. No matter what stage of life you're in, a mentor can be integral to helping you achieve your goals and helping you grow as a person. Today we're talking about the practical aspects of mentorship. How do you find a mentor? How do you approach that person? And when you're across the table from each other, whether it's in person or virtually, what do you actually start talking about? Our guest, Bill Hendricks, has had a long career as a consultant helping individuals and organizations develop their potential. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and he's the author of many books on work and calling, including his latest book, Men of Influence: The Transformational Impact of Godly Mentors. Bill Hendricks, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.
Bill Hendricks: Well, thanks for having me, Leah and Mark. I'm very excited to be with you guys today. Thanks.
LA: Thank you. It's so exciting to have you. So would you start us off giving an example of how mentorship works? And I wonder if you have a story from your own career that you could talk about.
BH: Absolutely. I've been blessed with countless mentors, and really I don't know if it's so much my career, but the very first one was my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Gibson. And the problem was that fifth grade had been a very bad year, I kind of limped through sixth grade. Then comes seventh grade and a new teacher, Mr. Gibson, shows up and he instantly recognized that I was somebody who needed to be given lots and lots of extra projects and extra assignments, but good assignments. He began to recognize, I think, maybe some leadership ability, and he also recognized some musical ability. He played the piano, I played the trombone, he put together a kind of a group of us that began to perform together. He saw in a little boy who was becoming a young man some potential that apparently the fifth grade teacher had overlooked. I didn't think about it that way at the time, but here was an older person who was having an actual influence that was shaping my life and even my character, and I've never forgotten him. And if it hadn't have been for him, there are many paths I think I probably would never have taken. And so at the core of mentorship is the way one life impacts or influences another life.
LA: And it's amazing to me, probably it's not amazing actually, 'cause we all have stories about this in our life, how much one older person has influenced us, you know that you're still... When I ask you to give me an example of mentorship, you're telling me about your seventh grade teacher. That's reaching pretty far back.
BH: Decades ago, yes.
LA: No, that's not what I meant, Bill. [laughter]
MR: A long time ago, right?
BH: Well, I'm trying to underscore your point, Leah, that somebody who was long ago and far away, nevertheless still has had an impact on somebody's life decades later. That's the power of mentoring.
LA: Yeah. And is that kind of the definition that you would give to mentorship? Or how do you define it?
BH: Yeah. I mean I've done the research on this and one study shows that in the literature, there's literally like 150 different definitions of mentor out there. The simplest that I'm aware of is that a mentor is really not defined objectively, it's almost subjective by the person who says to themself, "You know, if it hadn't been for blank," and then they fill in a name, "I wouldn't be the person that I am today." And so, as our listeners all think about, who is it that you look back on and you say, "Gosh, you know, if it hadn't been for so and so, I would never have become, in a positive way, the person that I've become today." That would be a person we would define as a mentor.
LA: Bill, do you think we often kind of luck into these mentorship relationships based on who's above us in the workplace?
BH: Well, I do, and it's unfortunate that we're not more intentional about it because they're so valuable. I actually think that mentoring is something that God has built into the fabric of humanity as a way for people to grow and develop and mature. And I say that on the basis of not just of personal examination over the years, but actually through the work that I have done professionally in ascertaining people's what we call their giftedness. Giftedness is what you're born to do, it's really what God has designed you to do. And what I've discovered... And this is after spending in depth time to figure out the giftedness of, I estimate, about 2000 individuals over the last 25 years. I've discovered that there's an element in a person's motivational makeup that we call a modeling individual. That's a fancy technical term in our scheme for what typically we'd call a mentor, a guide, a coach, a tutor, a sponsor. That element shows up in roughly 75% to 85% of people's motivational patterns. And what I'm suggesting here is that probably somewhere around three-fourths or more of people... It's not just like, "A mentor, it'd be a real nice thing to have, it's just kind of a luxury." No, no, no. For those people, a mentor-type person is actually a requirement for them to function optimally. And without that element, they don't function nearly as well as they could. In fact, they may really struggle. I could show you cases of people where when they have a mentor-type person, that modeling individual in their life, they're on top of the world, they're really making progress, they're performing well, functioning well. No mentor figure, they go right in the pits. And they're shocked when you point that out to them, but I say to them, "Look, you're not looking for a job, you're looking for a person, you're looking for a modeling individual. You need a mentor, and you need to get intentional about finding these people because it's that important for you."
LA: So I hear you saying, Bill, that mentorship really is in the DNA of many people to really strive to have that modeling individual in their life. Do you see that also modeled in Scripture? I mean do you have that biblical basis for mentorship?
BH: Yeah. In the book of Proverbs, there's a very interesting proverb. Proverbs are sort of collections of wise sayings, and there's one of them that says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Now, I think in our culture, we have this image in our mind that these are like two swords that are somehow coming together to sharpen each other. It's actually a misreading of the context. Actually, you would never bang swords together to sharpen them because prior to about the time that Proverbs was written, all the implements of war as well as, agriculture were copper. And if you bang them together to try to sharpen them, copper is very brittle, you'd break them. But this Proverb was written about the time when iron became dominant. And with iron, you wouldn't file it down like we might think today, because pretty soon you'd have no iron left, you'd shave all the iron off. So what people would do with whether it's a sword or a spear tip or an implement of... Like a plow, over time, the implement gets dull, and so the way you'd sharpen it back out is you would take iron, like a mallet, and you'd beat on that iron until you had a nice sharp edge again. And that way you could retain the iron, but you'd also sharpen it out. But the properties of iron were needed in order to sharpen the iron. And so what the Proverb does is it... The way the Hebrew works is it just sets two thoughts side by side and lets you do the math. And so it says, "Iron sharpens iron. One person sharpens another." And so you step back and you go, "Huh. What's this analogy? Iron sharpens iron." Well, that means that the properties of iron sharpen iron, so the properties of people sharpen other people. And I think the way we would say it today is we as human beings have a tendency to rub off on each other. If you hang around people, after a while you start to use some of their same language and maybe even copy some of their behaviors, and they've had an influence on you. Well, that's the idea behind this Proverb, is that people are going to have an influence on each other. And I think what the Proverb is really getting at is we need to bring people into our lives who will make us better people, but the way that happens is a life-on-life sort of interaction in which they say things to us, do things with us, put us onto tasks, give us feedback, and otherwise begin to shape our lives so that we move in a direction that's positive and life-giving and we thrive and the world flourishes. We call that a mentor. Conversely, we intentionally are on the lookout for people that probably could benefit from someone having a positive influence on them. So you've got the two sides. Everybody either needs to be a mentor or they need a mentor, and it's frankly both. As humans, we both need to be mentored, but we also, increasingly, as we get older, need to become mentors.
LA: Okay, so you've convinced me. Let's say I wanna go out and I say I need one of these, I need to find a mentor for my career. How do I do it? Who do I look for? How do I approach them? What do I say?
BH: Yeah, well, let me be counterintuitive. The first word of both advice and caution, frankly, I'd give is, whatever you do, don't use the term mentor. [chuckle] Okay? Let's say that I'm a 20-something and...
LA: Is that like asking someone to marry you on the first date? Is that kind of what...
BH: Basically, yes. They will have a deer in the headlights look and you'll get a no real quickly. You'll spook them. But let's take young adults. I work with a lot of people in their 20s, and I believe that what most young adults really need more than anything else is an older adult to come and essentially invite them into the adult world of work, which we can call mentoring. But I would never advise a young adult, somebody who's 25, 27, or whatever, to invite somebody who's in their 40s out for a cup of coffee and sit down and say, "Would you mentor me?" Because as I say, in our culture, this idea of mentoring has all these connotations of, Oh, you've gotta be this wise sage, you've gotta be a Yoda, you've gotta be a Obi-Wan Kenobi who every word that comes out of your mouth is worth capturing for posterity and you've got all this gravitas. And most people look at themselves and they're like, "I don't have any of that, I'm just me. I don't belong mentoring anybody. Why, I've made so many mistakes in life." And there's a lot of excuses people will make, say to disqualify them as mentors. So let's turn it around. Then, how would you positively go look for a mentor? Well, first of all, I think you kind of size up people, say at work, the workplace is one of the best places to be on the lookout for a mentor. You find somebody that you look at and you go, "You know, they do certain things that I'd like to emulate, that I'd like to learn about. They seem like they have something to offer." Maybe there's just a chemistry involved. Frankly, it could start out with what I call top level matters. I distinguish between top level issues and more core issues. Top level issues are things like, Okay, I'm new at this company, how do things work around here? Or, I'm young in my career, and I've been asked to run a meeting. And I think about it, and I'm like, "I've been in a lot of meetings, but I've never had the responsibility to run a meeting, I wonder how you do that." Or, I'm in my job and I've been promoted into this new role, and now they've told me I've gotta hire somebody. And I don't know, I've never hired anybody. Where do you start? How do you do that?
LA: It seems like a lot easier ask than asking someone to be a mentor.
BH: Exactly. Exactly. So you find somebody who's just a little further down the trail than you, and you say, "Look, could get a few minutes? I need to ask some questions about how to do this thing." And that's a good place to start, and that is a form of mentoring. And what often happens when somebody is sort of showing you the ropes on something like that, you get to start to know them as a person and vice versa. 'Cause if anybody has any emotional intelligence, they generally go, "Well, tell me a little bit about you, tell me a little bit about your background." Just as humans, we do like to sort of have a comfort level with who we're dealing with, and so we get information about each other that's not always directly work-related, it's more on the personal side. And as that happens, we begin to get a window into what drives this person and what makes them tick. But also they begin to get to know us a little bit and they maybe find out some of our concerns, some of our fears, some of our aspirations, and that's where the core issues start to begin to come into play.
LA: Mark, let me ask you, I know you work with a lot of people of different ages. Has anyone ever approached you and asked you to kind of be Yoda for them?
MR: You know, when Bill said that... Again, Bill is evoking all these memories for me. I think the first time anybody ever used the word mentor in my life in that way, I was actually out at Laity Lodge Family Camp where I worked. And on the first day, six guys, six adult men, came up to me and said, "We would like you to mentor us this week." Now, my first response...
LA: As a group? Like they ambushed you?
MR: Well, yeah. And the thing was, I was probably 55, they were around 45. So my first thought is, "Oh my gosh, they must think I'm really old."
And then my next thought was, "I don't know if I have anything to give these guys." And so I... But we began a conversation and as we got into it, I realized, "Oh, they just want me to talk about life and parenting and family and share some of my mind and get to know them." And so once we sort of unpacked what it was... But it was really, it was the first time in my life, one of the first times, I thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm looked upon as older." And then exactly as Bill said, "Well, do I really have anything here?" And as we begin to live into that, it was really a sweet and a positive thing, not only being over the course of a week. You know, it is funny, there are people who now will refer to me as having mentored them, and I'll think, "Huh, yeah, I guess that was it." But I don't think any of them ever approached me that way, nor did I approach them that way. And honestly, some of it was, as I've learned, people deciding to be like me in some way. So it wasn't just what I was saying, it was the fact that I cared about them a lot. And then they're thinking, "Wow, I need to really care for the people that I'm working with too. That sort of thing.
LA: Now, when I read your book, Bill, I actually was surprised by how practical it was. You give a lot of tips, not only how to find a mentor, but how to relate to that person and how to suss out whether that person has room in their life to be a mentor. Are they emotionally available? Do they seem interested in you? Are they available for conversation? You know, I found it incredibly practical, and so I have to say your book is titled "Men of Influence"... Is mentorship just for men, or can women benefit from this too?
BH: No, no, no. 98% of that book is applicable to women as well as men. But yes since I'm a man, I thought, "Well, let me at least speak to the men," but I still think 98% of this, yeah, women, it applies equally so. But I claim to be no expert in mentoring women.
LA: What do you think about mentorship relationships across...
LA: Gender. Yeah.
BH: I'm fine about it, with obvious cautions and boundaries. I mean I believe that every person that God has made probably has something to teach someone else of either gender. Let's just take our schools, which in some ways teaching is very akin to mentoring. For generations, for millennia, we've had men teaching women and women teaching men in schools and so forth with great benefit, and I don't see why that suddenly changes when we just get out in the work world. And I've had the benefit of being mentored, if you will, by many women that have been just incredibly invaluable in my life. And likewise, I've had women who tell their friends and others, "Bill's been a real mentor to me." I suppose there's some issues that if a woman asked me, what do I think about such and so, I'd shy away and say, "I just don't feel comfortable speaking about that as a man. That's... I don't know what I'd have to say." I wear a second hat, we have a leadership center called The Hendricks Center, and we have a team of about a dozen people there, and we do readings as a team. And a couple of years ago, we did readings on issues that take place commonly for women that men just... It's not even on the radar for them, they don't think about until somebody points it out, but they ought to. As leaders, they need to be aware. And I'm talking about things like, What does it really mean for a woman to feel like she's the one woman in a room of eight men or on a team of eight men? And it was just really helpful to me as a man to realize how much I don't know. So if a woman came to me and asked me about some of those kind of issues, I'd say, "Listen, you're asking somebody who just is ignorant about a lot of that stuff, and I could tell you what I know, but I could tell you even more what I don't know, so I'm not the right person to mentor you on that."
LA: Well, at the same time, being a woman in the work world, I've spent my whole career at different business, in business. And for the majority of my career, I'm still young, I'm 39 now, but everybody above me has mostly usually been a man. And I would call many of those men people I learned the ropes from, and certainly even people who speak into my life. My current boss is a man, and I think of him absolutely as a mentor and a confidant and someone who can very gracefully tell me when I'm wrong. And because I trust him a lot, I can gracefully take that feedback. But I think for a lot of women, especially in settings where you don't see a lot of women, let's say, in the work world, it can be a little bit more challenging to cross those barriers and develop a deep relationship with a man until there's a high level of trust in that person's integrity.
MR: Bill but... And Leah, I really appreciate what you're saying, both out of my own life experience, but I also think that in our current world, it's still true that men tend to have more power and influence in many, many organizations, and that mentoring is a very common channel for advancement in organizations. And so if men don't mentor women, that's really holding women back in a way that I think isn't just... Not a good idea, I think it's really unjust. Now, having said that, obviously, we have to be careful in certain ways when we enter into relationships with somebody of the opposite sex, and there are things that we need to think about. And I'm sure you do, Bill, and you do, Leah. But I really feel like it's a moral obligation for men in power or women to mentor people without regard to whether they're men or women, but in particular for men to pay attention to women who really need and deserve mentoring. And so, I so appreciate what you've said, but I would almost say, Yeah, this is something we really need to pay attention to. 'Cause it's super easy for me as a man to just sort of pay attention to men 'cause they're more like me and just it feels easier, and I need to work not to do that only.
LA: I think it's also easy for me as a younger woman in the workplace, I have a fear of asking for feedback. 'Cause I'm not gonna ask an older man to give me feedback on something because I wanna show that I can do it all by myself without anybody's help. Whereas a younger man would be less reticent to reach out and therefore start, like kick-start that mentorship relationship. So I think part of the onus on women too is to put themselves out there for the kind of feedback that you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation.
MR: And Bill, like you, I've had women who have mentored me. In fact right now, my board Chair, I'm part of the De Pree Center at Fuller, my board Chair is a woman. And though we don't have a meet every month and talk about things, she has certainly been a mentor to me, a very wise presence and a person who's way of being I have noted and have imitated, and that's been an invaluable relationship. So, again, I'm really glad you raised that question, Leah, and glad, Bill, for your perspective on it.
BH: Well, Leah, you mentioned it's common for someone to have some personal doubts or fears at various places along their career, and yes, to sort of mask those with a certain bravado. But deep down in one's soul, if they're intimidated by something or they're doubtful or whatever, that's there. And I feel a responsibility the older I get as well as at whatever position of influence I have and position of authority to kind of be on the look out for my younger co-workers and try to find and provide safe spaces for them to articulate some of those feelings. Because I believe by doing that, that in and of itself is helpful for them and it will form them in some useful, beneficial way. The fact that somebody who's... I'm 66, so the fact that somebody who's maybe like 30 feels safe enough to say, "Wow, I just... I'm so embarrassed by what I said at that last meeting," the fact that they can even openly tell me that, I feel honored to even be able to hear that. But I also feel like in providing that space for them to do that, I've opened up a path for them forward, like that it's no longer a deep dark secret, that they now feel some confidence that, "Well, you know, sometimes we say things we regret. What could we have done differently?" But also the fact that I'm still standing here on the other side of it, and the sun came up this morning, it's not the end of the world, so we'll learn from this and move on. I think that's how humans grow. I will tell you that a great deal of the work that I do in what I guess you'd call mentoring, and this is aside from the stuff that I'm not aware of, obviously, but most of the questions that people bring to me are not informational questions. Most of the questions are some form of the statement, "I don't know what I'm doing here." I mentioned some of these, "I have to hire somebody, I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing that. I have to make a decision, I'm not quite sure how to make that decision. I'm facing a choice, and I've got these two people that are at odds with each other, and my job is to help them get along. How do you do that?" And the answer is, "Well, nobody knows how to do that, because the truth is, nobody has ever faced this exact situation until you just brought it. Now, there's people that have faced similar situations. What have they done that's been productive or not productive, and what can we learn from that? If I was in your shoes, here's some questions I'd be asking." And basically just you dialogue so that, "Maybe between the two of us, we can come up with a few thoughts as to what you might do. Now armed with that, why don't you go and figure out exactly how you're gonna do this, and then I'll walk alongside you and let's debrief afterwards and kinda see where we go." I think that's how knowledge workers basically learn, and they learn by going through real-time things together and seeing what happens, but there's... Somebody used the word trust, and I think trust is a big part of what's going on here, is somebody trusts me to be there for them, and I'm trustworthy to walk with them as they take a growth step.
LA: Bill, you mentioned three characters from the New Testament, Paul, Barnabas and Timothy, who were all people who worked together, there were co-workers in different aspects, but also across maybe some generational lines. What in their story can inform our ideas of how we mentor or be mentored today?
BH: Yeah, Paul was the Apostle, and he wrote quite a bit of the New Testament, and so we sort of see in him, I guess, what I'd call the sage, here's a person with quite a bit of perspective and insight. And so he in mentoring sort of represents somebody who's got a lot of perspective that's valuable and that we can learn from because he knows a lot, has been through a lot, has a character that is seasoned with all the adversity he'd been through, as well as all the time he had spent praying and spending time with the Lord. And so he's kind of a father figure in a sense, and he even uses that kind of language when he writes his young protégé, Timothy, in 1 and 2 Timothy, as well as others. Barnabas was a peer to Paul. He was basically, as I perceive it, not only maybe the same age, but maybe a little older. But the point is that we remember Barnabas because as Paul was getting started in his venture of being an evangelist and an apostle, Barnabas was the sponsor. Barnabas opened the door for him with the church at Jerusalem when nobody wanted anything to do with him, and it says that Barnabas accompanied him on the first missionary journey. And so you get this idea that here's somebody who's more or less at my level, but they're walking alongside with me and I'm giving input to them, and they're giving input to me. And of course, it's interesting that Paul and Barnabas actually had a falling out over another young person that Barnabas was mentoring named John Mark, and they had to patch that up later. And so sometimes you'll have a mentor that you disagree with, and that happens. And then Timothy is the young up and coming leader, a person who they're building into, they're preparing for the next generation. And what you sort of perceive in this is that it's like a baton race, a relay race, where they're passing off the baton to one another. And so there's a generational aspect to mentoring that's huge here, and I think we shouldn't lose sight of it. When I invest in the life of someone younger than me, I'm very definitely investing in the future.
MR: Bill, I love your... You're just making me think about all kinds of things. But you know, and the relationship with Paul and Timothy, and you're right, he definitely refers in several places...
BH: My son.
MR: As my son or my child in the Lord, and yet he also in other places... Like when he writes to the Thessalonians, he refers to Timothy as our brother, and then literally a co-worker of God. It's amazing praise. And so what you see there is sort of the layered relationship. That on the one hand, there's a father-son and a deep affection in this relationship, and then there's also a brother-to-brother relationship, and there's also a fellow servant of God, co-worker relationship, and they're all sort of layered in together in this sort of intimate and sort of multi-varied kind of relationship that would be often true of mentoring relationships as well in today's world.
LA: Mark, this is... These sweet words from Paul to Timothy are in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, where he calls Timothy God's co-worker. I wanna harp on a little more of the sourness that Bill brought about in that story. Because in addition to having such sweet relationships with mentors, which we've mostly talked about in this podcast, people we choose as mentors, or maybe we don't choose, are human beings. And going back to the fight that you mentioned between Paul and Barnabas, they're passing ways, this happens in Acts 15:36-41, it talks about the whole fight that they had, but it said that they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Something was really going on. So my question to you is, when we choose a mentor or pick a mentor or fall into a mentorship relationship, we're aware that this person is gonna be a human being. How do we set expectations appropriately?
BH: Well, just as you say, we gotta really calibrate our expectations. Any human being that we have in our life, sooner or later, will disappoint us or rub us the wrong way. our heroes, all, including mentors, they have feet of clay. Sooner or later, we're gonna find something in their character, in their background, in just the way they look at life or treat people or something, and we go, "Boy, I don't like that. I don't wanna be like that. That's really problematic for me." And yeah, sometimes in order to protect ourselves and do what's right, we have to set some boundaries and even walk away. If somebody just goes off the deep end and does something really, really hurtful and despicable, with tremendous regret, we may have to put distance between ourselves and them, and then do what Jesus taught us to do, which was to pray for them and pray for their restoration. But you've gotta know that any human that you interact with, sooner or later you're gonna see something that you go, "Man, that's not right." And of course, they're gonna see that in you as well.
MR: And it's such an important reminder, 'cause it is true. And sometimes it's not big things, sometimes it is big things. One of those, if I were to list out the top 20 mentors in my life, probably somebody in the top five, turned out to have been unfaithful to his wife. And that was devastating to me. Now, it doesn't invalidate the incredible influence he had on my life, but it... And what it actually did, it actually sort of helped me to kind of reframe a lot of things in life and realize that I know this is gonna sound like Sunday school, but in the end we really have one mentor really. Right?
BH: That's correct.
MR: Only Jesus will be always faithful and always reliable. And so what you're saying, it keeps us from almost a possible idolatry of holding up a human being too high, which doesn't mean we don't take seriously sin. And I know you're not saying that, neither am I. But it does put things in a perspective that allows us to receive the goodness and the giftedness of people, and at the same time acknowledge their humanness and realize that really, in the end, I really want Jesus to be my mentor most of all, and he will never fail.
BH: And by the same token... That's an interesting observation, that you bring up. I've also had mentors who as people, I guess you'd say, their character, they were not people that I wanted to emulate. I had a professor once in one of my graduate programs, I won't get into which one, who was frankly a misogynist and I hated it. But the guy knew something about the discipline that we were studying that was just fascinating, and he was almost a different person when we got on that. And I learned a great deal from him. So even people that look like rotten apples on the outside, and to some extent are on the inside, nonetheless, they turn out to have qualities or knowledge or something that's quite valuable that we can still learn from or benefit from, and by that token, later on we look back and you go, "Yeah, that person actually was kind of a mentor to me." It's interesting how that can work in this world.
LA: That gives me a lot of hope, actually, for any of us who might wanna be potential mentors one day, that we don't have to... That we don't have to be perfect ourselves, that we can offer whatever it is that we have, and God can use that in some way.
BH: Well, oddly, the fact that we prove that we're human actually raises our esteem in somebody's eyes. Like, now they'll listen to us. They thought, "Oh, Bill just... That's just Bill. Of course, Bill is gonna be able to do that 'cause that's Bill. He can do everything right." And then they start to realize, "Huh, Bill's human like I am. Well, if that's the case, maybe he struggles with some of the same things I do, or maybe he has struggled with some of the same things I have. Maybe he's a little more approachable that I thought." 'Cause as you say, we can get bedazzled by people above us and get intimidated as a result, and so we don't access what they really have to offer. Again, I find myself so many times when somebody comes to me and they put their situation on the table, I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I've looked at them and inside I'm thinking, "I don't have a clue what to say to you." You know? And so what do you do? Well, you say, "Boy, that's a tough one." And then I start... I do one of two things. I either ask a few more questions to make sure I'm clear on it. What I think I mostly do is I go, "You know, I've never faced that exact situation, but let me tell you a story about something I have faced that is somewhat perhaps illuminating as to, if nothing else, the fact that I empathize with them."
LA: So in the same way, to bring our conversation back to the Proverbs 27:17, in the same way that iron sharpens iron, the way that we become better humans is by being humans with each other, displaying our humanness to one another.
BH: Exactly, exactly. I think I try to do this somewhat intentionally, to be cautiously vulnerable, if I could use that word. I'm not one of these people that spews out every terrible thing that's ever happened in my life, but I want the person to, first of all, not be intimidated and secondly, to know that I don't have it all figured out. And one way I put it, Leah, is particularly when somebody says, "Oh man, you're so wise," or something to that effect, and I go, "Look, I'm the world's best expert on my own opinion. Whether any of it rises to the level of wisdom, that's for you to decide." But you know, I use that little bit of humor and self-deprecation just to let them know, "Hey, I don't really have it all figured out. In fact, in some ways, I've got more questions than you have." But again, I don't think people are looking for answers nearly as much as they're looking for a person to engage with them as they walk through life. That, to me, is the real sizzle in whatever we call mentoring. Here's another person who seems to care enough to listen to me, to attend to me as a person, and then is willing to kind of walk with me as I walk my path. That's a pretty valuable thing.
MR: Man, that sure is. In fact, That was a great wrap-up, I think. So if I'm thinking about maybe, "Could I be a mentor or not?" that might be an intimidating question. If I think, "Could I find somebody that I could walk along in life with, walk along through work with, and share in life and share some of myself and be there for that person?" That has a really different feel. It makes it an open invitation. And then in light of our most recent conversation about of the shortcomings of mentors, it also means I don't have to be superhuman. I can be human, I can be open, but it's really about that sharing of life. So I love the way you put that, I think that was just a great statement.
LA: Bill, thank you so much for walking alongside us in this conversation.
BH: Well, you're certainly welcome. Thanks for having me on the podcast today.
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