One common complaint about the millennials is that they resist mentoring. To be fair, it is not a trait exclusive to this generation. Young people of every generation tend to think that the ones before them have nothing valuable and relevant to teach.
But mentoring is an age-old way of acquiring skills, knowledge, and wisdom. Fantasy heroes like Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins had their Obi-Wan, Dumbledore, and Gandalf. This is just a reflection of what goes on in real life: everyone who is skilled, smart, and wise learned it from someone more skilled, smarter, wiser, and — most of the time — with more experience.
This is obvious in some aspects of life like sports or one’s career. What is less obvious is that mentoring is necessary in all aspects of one’s life.
Take love life, for example. Where would a young woman look for answers to questions like what should she look for in a future spouse, or how would she tell if the dashing young man attracting her attention is a genuine gentleman or a narcissistic jerk beneath his enticing exterior?
Many young women today turn for answers to women’s magazines, blogs, and friends who are either just as clueless as they are on love and relationships, or who are schooled in the same platitudes on love and relationships that their favorite celebrities are schooled in. To be sure, not everything coming from these sources are bad. Some sound advice comes from them. But how does one distinguish the wheat from the chaff, especially during the emotional high of romance when one’s objectivity tends to be clouded?
Every time I hear about a precipitate decision that led to an unhappy marriage, I wonder if it could have been avoided if the parties concerned had only listened to and followed advice from wiser folk who have their best interests in mind, instead of figuring things out on their own guided only by their hearts and whatever opinions and trends are in fashion.
What was said about love life applies to other aspects of life.
Of course, wise old souls can be mistaken too, and their advice is no guarantee against making wrong decisions. Nothing can guarantee against making wrong decisions. But asking advice from wiser persons is always a good decision, and a good habit to acquire that stacks the odds in one’s favor. It is a habit that molds one into a prudent person, one who knows how to choose worthy goals to follow and to take the right steps to achieve these goals, one who makes good judgments.
The question then arises: to whom must one turn for mentoring? This is a good question, because it won’t help to be mentored by the wrong person either.
The shortest and most obvious answer would be, to someone wise. Usually, this is equated with someone more mature, and with good reason. “Listen to your elders” is usually sound advice. More mature people may fumble when it comes to operating gadgets and navigating social media, but because of their experiences in life, they are experts on truths about human nature that never change.
However, wisdom is not exclusive to the more mature in years. Neither can wisdom be always equated with experience. It is possible to be well-experienced without being wise.
Wisdom is about knowing what matters in life, and being able to distinguish between right and wrong. For those who are religious, wisdom would mean aligning one’s mind with God’s. As the Psalm says, “Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts.” (Ps. 119: 98–100).
It is a blessing to have someone to whom one can easily turn to for advice who is wise, who himself or herself tries to make good decisions always, who gives good example, who understands human nature very well, who is understanding and approachable, who inspires confidence, and who has nothing but the mentee’s best interest in mind. Such a person is the best friend one can have.
Most likely, we have such a person among our friends and acquaintances. Others may have to search farther for someone.
In any event, to resist being mentored by a good mentor is to waste a valuable and time-tested opportunity to grow in wisdom.
To be sure, mentoring is no guarantee against making wrong decisions. But yes, mentoring can help one make many good decisions.