Faith

How to Make—or Break—Your Mentoring Relationship 

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The first several times I heard of Sophie Hudson’s book, Giddy Up, Eunice, I confess that I thought it was a women’s fiction novel with a super great title. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I mean, it is a book for women, and it does have a super great title, but it’s far from fiction.

Giddy Up, Eunice is a real life handbook on mentoring—written in one stellar (and very funny) writing voice. Eunice is mentioned most briefly in the New Testament of the Bible, as she was Timothy’s mom. She raised and mentored this man who followed Paul as a pillar of the Christian faith. And so, in Sophie Hudson’s clever way, she is calling us to “giddy up,” to look around us and get on board with authentic relationships that are Kingdom minded, life giving, and could perhaps fall under the category of “mentoring.”

We are way too skilled in the church of overthinking the role and process of mentoring. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment, it doesn’t have to be born of expertise, and it doesn’t even need a formal “ask.” As Sophie says, that question that often sounds like, “Would you mentor me?” only serves to freak each other out when we ask it. You don’t have to acquire a mentor with an application process like part-time employment, and certainly not like a marriage proposal. It’s not that big of a deal. You can simply look at the people around you, the friendships already in place, and decide who you’d like to learn from—and whose life you could invest in. We don’t necessarily have to take on anything new; we just need to open our eyes and look around at the people in the places where we already are.

I am most intrigued by Sophie’s list of ways we can kill a mentoring relationship before it gets a fair chance. Because, let’s be honest, very often we drown possibility before it gets a chance to swim.

Assumptions and assorted judgments. Nothing kills trust more than these backdoor insults and comments like, I sure respect you girls who work outside the home, it’s just that I love my kids too much to put them in daycare. (As if working moms love their children any less??) Or, when the roles are reversed and a Millennial is talking to a Boomer, we might hear something like, How great that you’re willing to try something new at your age. Assumptions and judgments put us at odds with one another from the start, and the friendship hardly stands a chance.

Refusal to meet people where they are. As Sophie says, “If we are only ministering to people who have the handy ‘Sanitized for Your Convenience’ strip wrapped around their hearts and minds, we’re probably missing the people we want to serve.” Don’t be afraid of mess. It can be where love lives.

Generational stereotypes. If you’re over 50, you might think that ‘kids these days’ are cynical and entitled, unwilling to work hard, and addicted to technology. If you’re under 30, you might think that grandparents have an expiration date for their relevancy. The truth is, both opinions are wrong. Bite your tongue until you get to know this person at the other end of your generational spectrum.

Rigid Methods. Friendships aren’t the place for checklists and efficiency. Be open to thinking outside the box and learning new things, even if it feels indulgent or like a “waste of time.” Time isn’t wasted if you’re doing what you want to do, and sometimes the best memories are born in the least efficient moments.

Unreasonable expectations. “If you’re a younger woman, know that being mentored won’t fix all the things,” Sophie says. “And if you’re the older woman speaking into the life of a younger woman, know that it’s not your responsibility to fix all the things.” Let’s be patient with each other and just choose to do life together, not fix each other.

Next page: Tips for making connections.

On the flipside of the coin, Sophie gives five tips for making connections easier.

Shared interests. “You like Downton Abbey? I like Downton Abbey!” “You like to cook? I like to cook!” “You like to eat? I like to eat!” Shared interests bridge gaps and give us common ground, regardless of age. They offer a wide (or narrow) margin called a Comfort Zone. It’s a friendly, nonthreatening starting point.

Genuine friendships. “The folks I consider mentors in my life right now were dear, trusted friends before I stated turning to them for advice and counsel,” Sophie says. Look around you. Look at the friendships already in place, where you can listen and learn out of joy instead of obligation.

Regular, low-pressure contact. For most of us born after 1980, a ringing phone feels straight up aggressive. Couldn’t we just text instead? Have accountability and a way to stay in touch, but know that it doesn’t have to be on the phone or even always face to face. It’s the beauty of the technology age: real conversations can happen on a screen. It’s actual truth.

Fun and Laughter. “Laughter is the glue that binds us together… There’s something so liberating about being able to throw your head back and clap your hands with somebody,” she writes. When you can have fun together, you can learn to trust each other. It can be the beginning of authenticity.

Extravagant Grace. We’re all messed up. We’re going to hurt each other’s feelings. We’re going to say the wrong thing. But we are deeply loved by a God of endless grace. When we share that grace with the people around us, when we can see the healing powers of reaching an open hand to someone we deeply want to love, then we remember firsthand that his grace is enough.

I love Giddy Up, Eunice. I hope you’ll read it—and laugh with Sophie and me. In closing, I’m tossing this quote out to you, which I’d really like to have as a bumper sticker on my car and a magnet on my refrigerator and a bookmark in all the books on my shelf:

Life is infinitely richer when people are our priority. The end.

~ Sophie Hudson

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Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, a mom to two young men, a writer, teacher, reader, and thinker. Thousands of readers join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today’s funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. She is the author of two books: And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss and Hope Reclaimed; and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to be a Family. Tricia collects words, quotes, and bracelets, and she lives in Denver with her new husband and two sons. You can get to know Tricia through her daily posts at tricialottwilliford.com.