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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The confession and repentance survivors of abuse need to receive

As we think long and hard about transgression, our transgressions against others, and their transgressions against us, we can quickly come to agree that what the transgressed require is simply the honesty of an appropriate and sincere apology (which includes admitting fault, saying sorry, acceptance of consequences, asking for forgiveness, and repenting — the promise not to do the wrong again and delivering on same).
It often isn’t hard to forgive an honest confession, where a person admits they were wrong and they apologise for what they did, accepting the consequences, and promising not to do it again — especially when they demonstrate true transformation by delivering on that promise.  Where they ask for our forgiveness, it isn’t terribly hard to accede to their request, after all, a sincere acknowledgement of wrongdoing is usually very much a prayer answered.
I have heard it said that people sometimes don’t want to confess they did the wrong thing for fear of repercussions — for example, legal action.  Part of their failure to apologise is couched, obviously in such a case, in not being willing to accept the potential consequences.  But I believe that a most sincere confession is enough to receive the sincerest forgiveness.  People should honour the truth when it comes to the wrongdoing they have engaged in.  Telling the truth so justice can be done is important.  Only the person who counts their own needs more important than another person’s needs will continue to propagate the lie.  And yet, time and again we see those who perpetrate abuse and who have power do just that.
For the person who has abused another person, who has transgressed them greatly, there is justice and potential great healing in confessing and repenting of the deeds that were done.  The initial harms done can often be redeemed if only further damage isn’t done by denying the facts at the least, or by gaslighting the victim at most.  Denying what was done does significantly more damage than the initial abuse ever could.  That sounds bizarre, I know, but it just goes to show the power there is to redeem even great atrocities, if only perpetrators would do the right thing.  Obviously, someone who has exploited another person with intention is also the kind of person who will be very reticent to pay the price for their transgression.
All the victim of abuse really needs is the humble recognition of that wrongdoing, but of course they most often don’t get that, because to admit guilt requires a potentially great risk on behalf of the perpetrator.  Yet, it is their only defense, because everything is done in the sight of God, and they will face God to give an account one day, as we all will.
I thought long and hard about using the word “need” in the title.  Whilst it’s true many victims of violence can seem to move past the events where they have been harmed and appear to genuinely prosper, it is also true that there are many who cannot move on, who are stuck within a trauma that is characterised by post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.  What could make all the difference in these people’s lives is for them to receive the simple acknowledgement from the perpetrator of the sin that was committed against them.  Usually, however, it can be predicted that someone who committed violence against a person is the kind of person who would commit a further violence by failing to acknowledge and repent of the sin.  It is rare that a person would commit violence and then be honest, humble and courageous enough to admit their iniquity.
There are those, though, who do this, who admit their fault, and recognise the wisdom in paying a price of the consequences required.  These may certainly be the one-in-100; the lost that the Shepherd goes after, who are found, and who come back into the sheepfold with the Shepherd (Luke 15:1-7).  Notice how much rejoicing there is in heaven when one of these (perpetrators of violence) repents as compared with the 99 who do not need to.
Blessed is the perpetrator who repents of their sin before the sun sets and they face God.
What’s in it for them?  Everything!

Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

Friday, May 29, 2020

Do you know if, when, how and why you’re being groomed?

This is not a creepy nor is it a cynical article.  Please be assured of that, even if at some point as you’re reading it you feel it is heading that way.  What I want to show you is a truth about life in just about every relationship we have.
We all exercise influence in all our relationships.  This can be both positive in loving ways, and negative in abusive ways.
In some (perhaps many) relationships we allow ourselves to be groomed.  Take the romantic relationship, for one very positive example.  Or perhaps you’re being groomed for a promotion.  Or maybe you are groomed for an unsaid purpose, and maybe you don’t know for sure you’re being groomed, but you feel that’s the case, and sometimes it can be a very positive thing.  Maybe you aspire to increase your influence in a particular community, and you see others higher up than you are paving the way.  You feel that things are on the up for you.  Of course, sometimes these unspoken things leave you feeling creeped out, and you just want to depart from the relationship.  Perhaps you prefer more transparency, and that’s okay because most people prefer that.
Whilst there are many different forms of grooming, not all of them bad, let’s spend the rest of the time in this space focusing on things we need to discern, as we create protection for ourselves and others so we don’t find ourselves in perilous places.
Here are a few situations where grooming foreseeably happens:
Þ           a young woman is told how greatly attractive she is and is favoured in extravagant ways before ultimately being ‘offered’ a ‘very exclusive’ role as an actress or model – sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Until there’s the need for her to feel decidedly compromised.  She’s very possibly about to be sexually exploited, and that’s just the beginning!  There are just so many situations where women, and particularly young women are taken advantage of, but that is not to say that men aren’t also, because they are
Þ           your family is welcomed by another family or a community, and whilst it might seem wonderful on some levels, perhaps as time goes on you may notice special attention being paid to one of your children, or perhaps your children in general, or perhaps your spouse, or maybe it is yourself — don’t be flattered into being deceived (i.e. this is just how affairs can often start!).  Know that, if one of your family members is being groomed, you also as an adult are being groomed, too.  The groomer’s goal is to create for themselves a very favourable persona, which is all part of the grooming process.  And that is just part of their elaborate scheme.  It is manipulative deception at every level.  Special attention paid is a red flag, and not every glowing welcome is authentic
Þ           a person notices you and perhaps from hindsight you can see it, that they have a plan for you, which is not necessarily the plan you would have for yourself.  If they were transparent about their plan for you it would be a grooming you would know and could even be complicit about, but if they do it in secret, they are manipulating you even as they groom you.  What may feel like love is an abuse
Þ           a person wants to be our friend, and they make a special effort to accommodate us in every way, which we don’t mind, because we feel special.  If we are wise, we will watch out, because if we are being treated as special, more special than we should be, it should be as a red flag to us
Þ           let’s not leave out the scenario of online grooming, which happens easier and far more efficiently than any other grooming we can think of, because words can sound so sweet, and all of us are potentially very easily deceived.  Much too often we can be manipulated online as we agree to doing things that we should not (and would not ordinarily) otherwise agree to do.  Of course, an online relationship, though it feels real, in so many ways just cannot be real, and that in itself is a red flag
There are so many other situations that I could write on, but I will leave it at that for the time being. Grooming happens every day, everywhere, continuously.  It is a good thing to be aware.
It is wise in life to have a default approach where we don’t trust anyone and everyone.  It is not being disobedient to God to have such an approach, indeed we could say that it is being as wise as a serpent whilst being innocent as a dove, because as we are sent out into this world, we go out as sheep among wolves.  Jesus himself warned us about this in Matthew 10:16.
This life, particularly as a Christian, is best lived holding the tensions of being wise as a serpent AND innocent as a dove.  Both-and.  We can learn how we are to trust within a specific relational dynamic without giving such an unconditional trust that we leave ourselves open to betrayal and abuse.  This is the employment of wisdom and discernment as they operate in unison to protect us and our loved ones from venturing into territory where angels may fear to tread.
You are never disobeying God by holding out on your trust of others where you discern something isn’t quite right.  Everyone, as a person of God, has been given the keys to the Kingdom to discern their safety.  Indeed, God desperately wants you to know when to say no, and your Lord will equip you even as you seek wisdom (James 1:5).  Did you hear that?  Anyone, especially any Christian leader, who suggests that you don’t trust them enough as an individual, or worse demands that trust, is someone to be watchful about.  That’s another red flag, and every Christian leader should be aware of this.  Manipulation is not a spiritual gift!
When anyone says to us, “You need to trust me more,” they are being manipulative.  If they were genuine in their concern about our lack of trust, they would use a different method, for instance, by endeavouring to build trust by being more trustworthy and less controlling, which is ironically about being less demanding, not more demanding.  Nobody has the right to control you.
Grooming by definition is a counterfeit love full of deceit that is bent on betrayal.  What is presented as love in grooming is set on murder.  It is not a bad thing to imagine predators are everywhere, because those who aren’t shouldn’t mind proving that they aren’t.  It’s sad that this is the world we live in, but it is better to be safe than very sorry.  No Christian leader worth their salt will besmirch you the right to insist on your own safety and that of your loved ones.

Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash

When you’re weary & feeling small, it’s context for when you’re feeling tall

Bridge Over Troubled Water was a smash hit for Simon and Garfunkel way back in the 1970 — (fifty years ago, can you believe it?) — and it isn’t difficult to understand why.  It plucks away at our heartstrings, because it taps into those emotional centres that are always open for transaction.  Think about rain for a moment when we we’re inside.  There’s something strangely comforting about rain when we are safely inside.  It’s completely the opposite situation when we’re out in the rain, out in the elements, feeling lonelier than ever, so it’s just as well that as we ponder the comfort of being dry and warm inside, we are also reminded of the care of God in being safe.
And yet there is a classic irony in all of this: without the concept of being caught in the rain, feeling completely exposed to the elements, there would be no concept of safety out of the rain in the cosy and dry environs.  It is the same with courage.  We have no need of courage unless we are fearful. Without scary circumstances there would be no need of courage.  When we have a plentiful supply of water, it’s so easy to be dehydrated because we take it for granted, and yet we only need to be in different circumstances, without it in hot conditions, and we see how critical for life functions it is.
When we received some rather bad news recently, a new friend from my son’s school, Martina, a life coach and prophet who had drawn alongside, was an encouragement to me when we were uncertain.  She reminded me of the body ministry we all get to play in lifting others up.  As we shared a laugh within the bigness of life, not sweating the small stuff, I was reminded of what I’d been contemplating.  God is good, and something better was coming.
When we are most vulnerable, we come to be most thankful, because we see the provision of God in the glory of wonder, through the power manifest not least in weather or famine or drought or disease, to name just a few.  As the rain pounds down, or as wind gusts rush furiously by in a gale, we are reminded of how small we are, and this need not be a bad thing.  Indeed, it is the opportunity to be humbled in the powerful presence of a creator God far bigger and more powerful than our restricted comprehension.
God is such a caring Creator to have brought us into being, and we exist here, in this life, in a Psalm 139 kind of way.  To rightly imagine God, we need to hold in tension these two opposite ideas: the sheer size and majesty of this awesome being that cannot be reckoned with, complete with the concept of the inherent caring and benevolent nature, a concept equally awesome and unparalleled in its majesty.  This ‘both-and’ thinking construct is necessary to more fully grasp God in the most human way.
Life can be incredibly scary, and there is no life that hasn’t been exposed to all of the elements at once.  It makes us appreciate the bigness of God.  It also heralds the idea that we are granted safe passage through the majority of life, and even if we have been harmed significantly, there is respite and sanctuary, eventually, where we come to truly appreciate those people and situations that help us feel safe.
When you’re weary and feeling small,
when life is teary and you feel you’ll fall,
remember your Creator holds you,
when you’ve got nothing left to give,
and you don’t know how you’ll live,

just hold fast to what and who is true.
Feeling weary and feeling small are both very human capacities of emotion.  If we’re not pretending to live some kind of fake life, we will feel estranged to God’s care from time to time, and yet isn’t it ironic that it’s in the context of these times we truly appreciate God’s care?  If it weren’t for the harm we were exposed to, we would not fully appreciate the safety that we enjoy today.  Bears thinking about.
Not that we would ever thank those who bring suffering into our lives, but all the more can we thank God for the safety we enjoy in having been carried past tyrannies beyond imagination.  The more darkness we have been exposed to, the more we may appreciate the light.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

In the most inconsequential moments God’s moving most

Never underestimate what God is doing in a single action.  I’ll never forget how, on a short hike within the wilderness of loss, I could find myself on a construction site, lifting materials and tools, helping older men I did not know to build a second storey structure on a church.
As I recall it, as I went to walk right on the highway, there was the vision of a crane lifting frames, one elderly man welding, another giving the orders, and others holding steel in place.  Part of me was incredibly curious, normally lost in my own world of grief at the time, but overtaken by what seemed to be a need before me.  I approached with the intent of just finding out what was going on.  I left there that day kind of a different man, having invested part of myself with these older men (Dad’s Army as they called themselves), just as much as they had invested part of themselves in me — without any of us really knowing it at the time.
Fast forward six months and I find myself on the leadership of this church, and, though I loved the Lord and service with passion, it was more as a function, I think, of the pastor (Hans) believing I needed good people around me.  Of course, he was right.  The best place for me was around older, wiser, caring people, and to be on a purpose-driven life implementation team.  God knew, and I certainly had no idea, but by the nine month mark I had received an irrefutably conclusive call to serve God.  As AA had become a central part of my life, recovering from a marriage failure and the loss of my family as I was, the church took over, just at the right time, and I was soon off to join the ranks of the seminarians — another community instrumental in my recovery.
It all started on that ‘nothing’ day in December 2003.  Not that I knew it at the time, but there was so much going on, and so many foundation stones were being set way back then on an innocuous Saturday afternoon.
What struck me about these men, none of them under 60, and some of them in their 80s, was just how different they seemed to be.  The leader, Ross, was a direct man, with purpose in his eyes, determined to do what he was not supposed to do, and that was to work at height.  I recall insisting that I would do the climbing and the working from height and having to remind him a few times that I was there and could do this.  There was another guy, George, with the strongest most joyous faith, so wiry and yet so strong.  Dave, another English guy, was humorous and wise and had so many life stories.  And there was Reg, too.  Everyone was so cooperative, so embracing, and there for each other, and there for me, nonetheless.
On this one day I found myself not only of use to these men as they lifted these sizeable pieces of metal flooring into place, few safety control measures in place for the safety manager in me, but within these short hours I saw the genesis of new friendships develop.  I came to be curious about this church through what they were building.  Soon enough I was attending, finding Christ again — or perhaps for the first time — becoming a ministry volunteer and then ultimately a member.  I really had no idea when I walked onto that building site, that nine months later I would be enrolling in a graduate course in divinity.  I had no idea, in the same month that God baptised me in the Spirit, that the Lord of my life was moving, even though it seemed at the time that my life was so incredibly stagnant, even in some respects, over.
It was one small step for a man to go on a walk and to find his purpose.  This incident has proven to me over and over again the power laden in a single moment to forge a destiny.  We all know that tragedy strikes in a moment, and they always catch us by complete surprise, even as we live our lives as if they will never end.
The men on the church construction site that day were all instrumental in helping me rebuild my life from the ashes as we continued our Saturday heroics each week over the next year or two.  Nowadays it’s more the children of those men who are my contemporaries — not that we’re close in any way.   None of these people really know the impact that their fathers had on me, not so much as fathers, but as fellow pilgrims walking the way of Christ.  There was a sternness in Ross, but also a softer vulnerable relational side.  Others whose names I have forgotten were examples of joy and joviality the likes of which I had never seen on a construction site.  And I got to see them warts and all.
The moral to this story is we never know what is happening in any present moment, and just how significant one moment can be.  With little things, big things grow.  It’s the nature of life, but we only get to see this as we look back years, and perhaps decades onward, as we look back amazed at how far we’ve come.
When life is going slowly, and change is not happening quick enough, we feel like nothing is actually happening, but we just need to be reminded that God is at work in all our lives all the time.

Image: the church building itself.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Naming and reconciling psychological abuse

Some realities in life are easier to face than others.  It can take a long while to own up to the fact that we have been verbally, emotionally or spiritually abused, or neglected.  It takes that amount of time because, quite frankly, we find it unconscionable that people could treat us these ways.  Deeper down, well and truly under those themes of self-rejection we party with, we know how lovable we are — we all do.  It is an existential affront to think that people who were charged with our development and nurture could fail us so much.  And it isn’t any easier when it comes to abuse in our adult life; indeed it comes as a huge shock if we’ve never faced it before.
We cannot reconcile the psychological abuse that we have suffered until we have named it and put it on the table in front of us, as the counsellors would say.  In naming it, we de-identify ourselves as the one and only unique owners of such a thing.  We don’t know it for some time, but the shame we may feel, and the disabling effect of trauma, makes us think it is us and only us who suffers.  And it may be, too, that we skate chaotically between the poles of self-blame and anger toward our oppressors, never achieving the middle ground.
In naming the psychological abuses we have been subject to, we give a designation to the hurts that have impacted us.  We make the abuses and the trauma tangible, relatable, mentionable, manageable.  We can see them and hold them as material subjects.  Beforehand, however, they were so intangible as to render us frozen by their sheer weight and the produce of overwhelm.  This is not to say, however, that it won’t be a rocky road.  It will be.  It is.
Reconciling these matters is no simple thing.  We enter a process or three of therapy over the seasons, as we ardently search for the way through the boggy mire.  Some people truly wonder whether it is worth it, but the years will advance at any rate.  If we don’t begin to make progress now, it’s like spinning our wheels, because if we haven’t made progress five years from now, we will be five years behind where we would’ve been in five years if only we had just started the process now.
Reconciling psychological abuse isn’t a pattern as if we could apply one set way to carry everyone over the threshold into a place called “healed”.  There are so many varietals of abuse, we all have different sensitivities, and we all had different inputs of resilience, and another factor is precisely when the abuse occurred, especially if we were weak and vulnerable at the time.
Some things to consider in this process include:
·               acknowledge that the abuse you suffered wasn’t your fault
·               accept that there were causes for why you were abused that are beyond you
·               give yourself time to understand how your mind has been wired because of the abuse, and giving yourself time and having hope that you can begin rewiring these patterns of thinking
·               pray around the types of trustworthy and reliable support that you need from seasoned professionals using therapy techniques that are proven
·               surround yourself with a support base who will encourage and affirm you every step of the way
·               be planted in safe and nurturing environments, including your workplace and family contexts, because recovery and growth is stifled in trauma-laden places
·               read what you can of all the important literature in terms of abuse and trauma, being mindful to absorb only that which encourages your recovery (be discerning; if it’s not helpful, it’s not helpful and only you may know)
·               stay committed to the truth, even though it is costly, whilst being wise enough to lean on a mentor for support and guidance as you need it
·               avoid community that either discourages dialogue or that rages about it, because both are unhelpful in the long run
If we are a friend to someone in recovery from psychological abuse and trauma, we will be patient sitters, available to sit in the liminal space, perfectly happy to be completely free of distraction, to be present, on a wing and a prayer.  This is holy work, and though you may not be a counsellor or a pastor, you are definitely doing important counselling and pastoral work, and so long as the person feels helped, you’re doing your job.  You are most certainly storing up treasures in heaven, though I suspect that just sitting with them and giving them whatever relief you can give them will be enough for you if that is what you love doing.  Lastly, watch for and provide your own self-care.  Be diligent to guard your own heart.

Photo by Ron Otsu on Unsplash

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Know this about people with sincere hearts

What we need to remember about people with sincere hearts is this…
They are so ordinary as to be unnoticeable.  Yet the entire world has hope because of individuals like these.  They excuse your frailties and don’t make you repeat yourself.  They make the effort to hear first time.  They give you the benefit of the doubt when you probably wouldn’t expect it, and you often don’t even notice.  At times when you should apologise and don’t, they either understand or don’t sweat it, but it still hurts if they’re honest or linger there.  They think you’re important even if you don’t treat them the same way.  They make a place in their heart for you even when they’re struggling with what you’ve said and done.  They’re never too busy for you.  They move heaven and earth so you can be accommodated.  And then they get into trouble because their boundaries ‘aren’t strong or clear enough’.  They absorb your junk and actually make your day run smoother.  These are beautifully hearted people who are often criticised for being a pushover.  Actually, they believe everyone should be treated the way they’re treating you, yet they’re humble enough not to demand back what they so willingly give.
You may wonder why the nicest people are also the most sensitive, and why they care so much about people and things, and why they are so easily upset; because they give of themselves to the fullest extent with little or no demand made on you or anyone else.  You take them for granted, never understanding how essential their love is.  The attention they give you they give because they want to, and you may too easily disregard what that says about you in their eyes; the fact that they esteem you so highly.  It’s ironic with these that they accept the love you give them, however little and insignificant it is to you, while they lavish you, still believing in their heart that you’re both giving equally, because for them to believe anything to the contrary would have them face a hurtful reality.
Here is what you should know.  Take them for granted no longer.  Everyone and every situation has a use-by date.  There is a day coming and soon to arrive when a sincere heart will get the message and begin to give up on you.  Fruit doesn’t go rotten immediately having been ripe for the eating for some time.  It rots when it’s ignored and isn’t cared for.  Sincere hearts do not grow hard unless they’ve been consistently treated harshly.
It’s such a tragic irony that we often don’t appreciate the good things in our lives until they are gone.  It does us well to consider the relationships we are blessed to have in this life, and to know exactly how they in enrich us, so we can be thankful now before it’s too late.  Every single day of our lives we are called to a ministry of reconciliation.  Every single relationship requires tending and repair.
“It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The subtleties of emotional abuse many don’t see

This happens in so many families, in so many workplaces, and sad to say it, even in so many churches, to every context of life; it is how people try to use our emotions to manipulate us, usually through either silence or rage, never underestimating the power of body language, gestures, cues, and every other kind of communication that is covert or overt that can be gotten away with.
It is so common and so pervasive we don’t even think about it half the time.  We expect that people will interact with us in the way they wish to, and not in the way that we wish for them to engage with us.  We are all at the mercy of each other.  But the least we can do is highlight the issue so at least we can see it.  The issues of emotional abuse are very often subtle, and far too subtle for most people to really see.  So the purpose of this article is to highlight these dynamics so you might begin to see, but be prepared for the truth to cause pain, because once you see it, you won’t stand for it, and nor should you.
As we look into this topic, we may find that there are people who either use no forms of emotional abuse, i.e. generally safe people, or there are people who use a variety of methods of emotional abuse, and not just against us. It is their modus operandi with everyone they can get away with it with — those they choose to lord it over, for not everyone is a target.  Of course, abusers are very often very calculating, knowing those who they can abuse and get away with it with from those it is wise not to abuse, as they manipulate their perception.  This latter issue is very significant, because those who are completely unaware, those who are having their perceptions curated at the hand of an abuser, are usually in roles powerful enough to provide victims some sanctuary.  But they don’t know what they ought to know.  They don’t know they’re being manipulated.
The subtleties of emotional abuse begin in silence, in withdrawal, in the abuser’s removing of their love or acceptance or presence from the one being abused.  The use of such abuse, i.e. the removal of love, acceptance or presence, really proves that the love, acceptance, and presence was never really there to begin with.  How effective is the use of silence by the assassin?  They manipulate the response of the one in the void.  No one can survive in a vacuum devoid of the life-giving elements of love, hope and peace, and where there is silence all the goodness of life is sucked out.  The one on the receiving end endures what is tantamount to solitary confinement.
The subtleties of emotional abuse continue in rage, to intimidate and control the victim with acute affect.  This is about getting the one who is being abused to conform very quickly to the demands being placed on them.  Notice the confidence in the abuser as they do this in the full view of others, but never in the full view of those whose perceptions they are manipulating.  This is their expression of power.  This is them saying, “You are in my control, and I will do as I damn well please with you.”  The use of rage is scary and anyone on the receiving end may try to signal that they don’t appreciate it.  This is when we know it is abuse, through the perpetrator’s response to deliberately continue to intimidate and to scare, and usually also to up the ante.
Emotional abuse, even when it is overt, is often highly subtle so the person doing it can continue to engage in it unabated.

Photo by Breno Machado on Unsplash

Thursday, May 21, 2020

7 qualities of great mentors... and 7 traits of those who aren’t

The subject comes up very regularly in counselling: what do I look for in a good mentor?  The reason the question comes up is the importance is more fully appreciated of people who will call us to a higher standard of living.  That is, people who help us to grow becomes increasingly pertinent.
It reminds me of the choicest wisdom that I received nearly 20 years ago from an unlikely source: we are either growing or receding in life and there is no plateau.  Even if we feel we plateau, we are actually receding.  If we make little or no effort to grow spiritually, we will actually go backwards.  But if we enter into a course of study, or we do something with strategic intention, and it has wisdom about it, we will most certainly grow.  Mentoring works to augment growth.
These are seven great qualities of mentors worth having:
1.             They don’t mind being observed.  Some of the best mentors we don’t even need to know, we can just observe them and mimic their qualities.  In this way, we can be mentored by anyone we can observe, and they can even live on the other side of the planet.  But those who are close to us, those we invite into our lives, will need to be available and willing.
2.             They are most of the time older and wiser.  They are superior to us in most if not all ways, and just about everything they do we could learn something from.  It is sincerely hoped that we don’t learn from them their current mistakes but from their past mistakes, and yet there is humility to observe in seeing how they deal with a failure.
3.             They will support your growth in every way they can.  This means they will not only help in the areas they can help, but they will quickly refer us on to others who are better than they are if we need it.  This means our mentor is themselves well-connected, and it shows us how well they assess and appreciate skill, knowledge and experience in others, and how much they want to support our growth.
4.             They are available.  It seems obvious, but in this busy life, people may have all the best intentions in the world, but if they don’t make time, the mentoring doesn’t happen.  The interesting thing about mentoring is the mentor benefits as much as the person being mentored.  The teacher learns twice.
5.             They maintain the tension between being a friend and being a coach.  I think the best mentors have that beautiful knack of being able to be our friend as well as being our leader.  This demands humility on the one hand and the ability to speak truth on the other.
6.             They strive to give more than they are expected to give.  In this way, they model qualities of generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness that we leverage off spiritually.  This giving might be relatively small, but it is just what we need, and they may often know what we need before we know it.  The relationship is about them serving us through their leading us.
7.             They can be a spiritual father/mother (no connotations to bad parent figures).  Occasionally I get to hear how parents may have failed the adults that I get to see.  The mentor has a unique opportunity to be a real spiritual father or mother to the person they mentor.  This means they are characterised as being gentle and patient, and can be relied upon to listen, and to walk alongside.  They do not exert any kind of manipulation or any sense of control.  Yet, they are genuinely interested in our wellbeing to the degree that they will simply and regularly ask us how we’re going.
Now we’ve dealt with the good qualities, here are some things to be watchful for in a prospective mentor:
1.             They give unsolicited advice.  It may have worked half a century ago (actually much longer back than that), but it won’t work now. Most of the time, probably all the time actually, whenever anybody gives us advice that we are not looking for, it won’t be appreciated.  People who give unsolicited advice tend to be socially undisciplined and/or deluded (thinking they have something to offer when they probably haven’t).
2.             They have poor perception and some strange views.  It’s no good if we are continually needing to filter what we see and hear, no matter some of their good qualities.  Or, we learn pretty quickly we can’t trust their perception, and their guidance clearly isn’t good.
3.             We don’t feel safe with them.  It might seem really obvious, this one, but if we don’t feel comfortable being ourselves around them, it’s pointless being in a mentoring relationship with them, because we won’t grow unless we can be ourselves.  The flipside is if they feel deeply within themselves that we need to change, there may be the wrong drive and motivation in their help.
4.             They don’t have the blessing of others we look up to.  This is really important, because if we are in a mentoring relationship with someone that others we respect within our life don’t agree with, we will be in constant conflict about the relationship.  This is about trusting the guidance of others we really respect.  This, however, is not an excuse for others to control us, just because they don’t agree.
5.             They are self-designated mentors.  A mentoring arrangement is always sought out, or in the professional setting they are allocated.  They are never self-designated.  Some people want to lord it over us and may use every opportunity they get to be a leader over us. This is not likely to win our respect.
6.             You feel worried you will disappoint them.  Good mentors know that it isn’t about them, and the performance of those they mentor is not always a reflection on their mentoring.  Mentors who are overly worried about how those they mentor perform possibly have issues around fear, anger or shame.
7.             Your gut tells you something’s not quite right.  If only we would listen to our gut a little more often.  This is discernment.  If we feel something isn’t quite right, besides praying to God for confirmation, it is advisable to ask wise and trusted others for insight.  For the spiritually attuned, the gut isn’t often wrong.

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash