What to avoid in mentoring relationships
Mentoring someone takes some measure of wisdom and discernment. There are certainly some things we ought to avoid in mentoring relationships.
Quick questions to ask ourselves
No matter how pressing a mentee’s request may sound like, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves a few questions.
Precedent | If I agree to this, what sort of precedent am I setting for our relationship? Will it be a healthy or unhealthy one?
Who it honours | Will it honour God or the mentee first?
Biblical | Is it in line with the Word of God?
After answering these three questions, it is still important that we pray and seek God’s guidance for our next steps. He may want to do something that is beyond our human understanding.
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Some things we should avoid
1. Opposite-sex mentor relationships
As mentoring should touch on all aspects of a person’s life and involves some level of vulnerability, we should avoid mentoring someone of the opposite sex unless we choose to do it as a husband-wife team. This, however, does not mean we should not pray or host group Bible study lessons for people of the opposite sex.
Remember that while we are to help someone else, we should not become personally burdened by his/her problems or challenges. Never allow our mentee’s issues to creep into our own personal life. If we ‘feel the same suffering’ our mentee is feeling, we may have become over-involved and may no longer be an effective mentor.
Our mentee belongs to God, not us. Our role is to help mentees find God, not to become their ‘god’ or ‘servant’. So let us walk alongside them and encourage them. Don’t be tempted to overly interfere.
Colossians 2:2-3 – My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
3. Gripe fests
While people may need to get things off their chest and ‘vent’, do not allow the time together to become gripe sessions. Focus the discussions on what God’s higher plans are and how to overcome our struggles. Encourage our mentee to seek to exercise wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Never repeat what our mentee tells us unless the situation is very grave and requires the intervention of a professional counsellor, doctor or pastor etc.
Proverbs 11:13 NIV A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
Never allow the relationship to develop in a way that the mentee becomes dependent on us. That’s when we have failed. Instead, encourage mentees to become strong in and reliant on Christ so they are able to model good mentorship and give wise counsel to others one day.
1 Corinthians 1:25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
6. No boundaries
All healthy relationships have boundaries. The same goes for mentor-mentee relationships. One example could be the use of “emotional blackmail”. While we wish to demonstrate the grace of God in heaven, we should never feel that we have to be ‘nice under any circumstance’ and hence succumb to unhealthy relationships.
Here is an example and how we can respond graciously to one scenario:
Mentee: I really need to talk about my issues now. [Your mentee calls you at 3am]
Mentor: Is this an emergency? [If not] What is it that is bothering you? Let’s quickly pray together about it now and talk about it during the day tomorrow.
7. Financial gifts
We are encouraged to be generous with our love and time. However, we should never lend any money to a mentee or accept expensive gifts. Don’t do anything that changes the dynamics of our mentoring relationships.
Here is an example and how we can respond graciously:
Mentee: You care for me, so I am turning to you when I am feeling desperate. Can you help me with a loan of $10,000 to pay off my brother’s gambling debt? The loan sharks are really making our family life very difficult.
Mentor: Yes I do care for you but that is an amount I can’t come up with. [There’s no need to turn the conversation into a justification or argument, just say you can’t] But let me ask around discretely with social workers that may be able to help with your brother’s case.
Psalm 37:30 – The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.
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