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A Better You
by Jo Ann Fore

Mentors Matter:
How a Mentor Can Make a Difference in Your Life

“My chief want in life is someone who shall make me do what I can,” 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson shared, “The glory of friendship is not in the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is in the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.”

Many people have accomplished much greater things than they thought they could just because someone else believed in them.


My teenage years were tumultuous. But, I learned first hand that mentors can have a life-changing impact. Mentoring experiences were essential to my maturity and are crucial to my continuing life education.

What is a Mentor?
A mentor is someone who we can trust to guide us through life decisions, someone who will take the time to come alongside of us. Sharing from their own life experience, mentors teach ways that will help individuals make better choices. They coach, they give instruction, and often, they just listen.

“A mentor is someone you can be real with—about the hard things in your life – and they won’t turn and leave,” shares Karen Trigg, a mentor of college-aged individuals. “Mentors speak truth into your life and encourage you in the things that make a difference for the long run.”

Mentors in Action
Mentors are imperative to personal growth. A few years ago, I began a mentoring relationship that helped prepare me for my marriage to a wonderful husband. My mentor taught me how important relationships are in life—that successful relationships require trust and vulnerability.

At the time, I was juggling a demanding career with being a single parent, and I didn’t make time for close friendships. I socialized, but only on the surface. It took time and vulnerability for friendships to go deeper, and I wasn’t willing to give up either.

But, sometimes mentoring relationships just happen. My mentor and I worked at the same company together. She had qualities I admired and respected. And there was something different about her. I noticed when she talked to people, she really ‘talked’ to them.

One day, she walked into my office. “I’d really like to get to know you better.”

A red flag went up immediately. I don’t have time for this. How can I possibly tell her?

“You are great to be around in the office, but I really don’t have time for anything else,” I stammered. “Life is just too busy for me to have close friendships. I’m sorry.”

A perfectionist, and admitted workaholic, one of the most difficult things for me to do was to be vulnerable. From a distance, I watched women in intimate friendships. A pair of friends sits in the corner of the restaurant, sipping coffee, tears fall softly as they discuss a crisis. One takes the others hand, pats it, and nods her head compassionately.

That’s what my co-worker had in mind. I just knew it. And I wasn’t willing. Actually – I didn’t know how – so I convinced myself that I had no need or desire for relationships like that.

Somehow, I felt that if I openly shared my doubts, fears, or problems, then people would realize I didn’t really have it together after all. They might think I was a fake, or a failure, and I couldn’t stand that.

So, I kept my distance.

Lessons from a Mentor
But one night I had a major crisis. With nowhere to turn, I remembered my co-workers attempt to reach out to me. I called her. We talked. She taught me when you are hurting, and need counsel; it helps to talk to someone who cares—someone who believes in you.

We talked through my crisis – and we kept talking. We talked while my teenager learned to drive. We talked through my divorce. We talked when my faith grew weak. We talked when I starting dating again. We talked when I opened up my heart, and learned to be vulnerable enough to trust my new husband. We talked when I was struck with an illness that lasted 18 months. We talked through surgeries, a career change, and my daughter’s graduation. We haven’t stopped talking since.

My mentor taught me that close relationships are vital in life. I discovered a sense of healing and restoration. The relationship with my mentor propelled me from being a shy, self-focused individual to one who now enjoys intimate relationships with others.

I read once that over half of all the Nobel Prize winners were mentored by other Nobel Prize winners. These mentors were simply sharing what they knew with someone they believed in.

Mentors do matter. Have you considered the impact one could have in your life?

Jo Ann Fore welcomes your comments about this article or suggestions for material you would like to see in future articles. Email her at: A Better You is published every Saturday.


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