Friday, February 09, 2007

Mind over Mentor

I still remember it like it was yesterday. A group of us women from Windsor (back when we all still attended the church) had gotten together for a fun “girls’ night in.” We were sitting on a living room floor and going around the room, each of us talking about prayer requests in our lives.

When it was her turn, one of the women, probably about seven or eight years older than me, talked about how much she was learning from the older women in the group. She talked about how much she appreciated them sharing their experiences and how much she looked up to them.

Then came the moment of surprise.

She looked directly at me and said, “And it’s wonderful that I get to be a mentor to younger women.”

I was so surprised. I even looked behind me to be absolutely sure she was talking to me. I mean, surely, she couldn’t be talking to me!

It wasn’t that I didn’t admire and respect this woman. In fact, we were friends. It wasn’t that at all. It was just that I had never considered her (or ANY woman other than my mother) as a mentor. This particular woman had made choices I didn’t respect, and I had no desire to emulate her or her life.

In truth, I was a little offended she’d even said it. I felt like it was a slight – like she thought I NEEDED a mentor. Mentally, I was like, “Well, I don’t, and even if I did, YOU, my friend, would NOT be my top candidate.”

I sounded off to Angie about it for a long time. Poor thing. She finally told me I just needed to let it go. The woman, we both knew, hadn’t meant anything by it. She was just deluded in her thinking, and probably thought I would be honored to be her protégé.

After that incident, even after I “let go” (thanks, Angie!), I found myself thinking about mentors.

I know God blessed me with amazing parents, and (truth be told) I’ve never had to look any farther than my own mother for the inspiration and example to live a balanced, godly life.

However, I know it’s not that way for everyone. A lot of people didn’t have the same kind of parents I did. Those people DID have to look elsewhere for mentors.

I know my Dad’s mentor was his pastor, Dr. Rowe, the man who helped Dad get to Bible college and on his feet after his tragic home life exploded.

In the professional world, it’s not unusual for people to have mentors. Usually people higher up in the corporate world who have more experience and are willing to share it with those just starting off. I even had the good fortune to start off with a GREAT professional mentor at my first job as a PR Intern in Chicago.

But the truth of the matter is that I’m not all that sure that I would ever want a “mentor” per say. I think having a mentor insinuates that you are in some way putting that person on a pedestal. And we all know what happens when you put any human on a pedestal – they fall off. And usually not gracefully.

So, instead of mentors, I think I’d like to believe in the power of good friends with good advice. People who share your same human frailties but are there to help, advise, and sometimes just be your sounding board.

There are women I admire. After all, what kind of quasi-feminist could I be, if I didn’t look up to accomplished women? (Smile) In these women, I see character traits and godly abilities (some natural, some gleaned through years of trials) I can aspire to.

In this humble little post, I’d like to acknowledge some of the people, women in this case, who made a difference in my life and the character traits I admire in them. I wouldn’t call them mentors, but I’d definitely call them friends.

Grandma – I think the most amazing thing about Grandma is her ability to just listen and not get involved in or judgmental about other people’s problems. She’s there to listen and give advice, but never to judge.

Aunt Helen – My great aunt was a sparkling light. Everywhere she went, she just spread God’s love in huge, liberal doses.

Aunt Jan – She manages to be spiritual without completely losing her sense of humor.

Aunt Kathy – My second mother taught me all about being hospitable and accepting of everyone.

Jean – My mother-in-law defined “a saint” in so many ways. She was selfless, loving, and unbelievably kind.

Tania – If I was the balloon, Tania was my string and satin bow tie, allowing me to float with my head in the clouds without ever having to leave the ground. She has the amazing gift of friendship and forgiveness.

Charity – My practical cousin has been the sister I never had. She keeps me grounded, honest, and calls me on it when I start to exaggerate anything. Plus, she rolls her eyes better than anyone in the world.

Colleen – If they really want to bring peace to the Middle East, they should send Colleen. She’s been a peacekeeper for as long as I’ve known her. Quietly holding to her own convictions without ever judging others.

Candice – I’ve always admired how Candice can be herself with anyone. She doesn’t play games or try to be anyone other than her bright, outgoing, vivacious self. Plus, she LIKES getting in trouble with me!

Jennittia – She may be tiny and blonde, but I like her anyway. She was a campaigning feminist with me (in the old days). She dedicated herself to overcoming the difficulties life had sent her way with a godly spirit that I still admire. She has success in life, but it didn’t come easy!

Kelly – Ah, yes, the only person I have ever been with 24/7 and never, ever got tired of or bored with. I have never laughed so hard, or so long with anyone in my life.

Jeanette – She taught me that a woman can seek God’s will, find answers in His word, and still be up for eating double chocolate cake at midnight.

October – So many good qualities! My favorite has to be her gift of loving and caring about the unlovable. Such as yours truly. Along with everybody in every tiny dive and diner in Chicago!

Angie – I’m going to selfishly say that my favorite thing about Angie is…that I feel like I’m important to her. She’s one of those rare friends who manage to balance her responsibility to her family (of seven) with her ability to put effort into maintaining our friendship. Angie makes time for me. She truly makes me feel like I’m special. I know she’s always there for me, and that means more than my meager words can ever say.

Dr. De Rosset – My “Message Prep for Women” professor in college taught me that God loves me as a person, that God loves women just the same as men, and that I will forever be equal in His eyes. Still a sinner, saved by grace.

MJ – My hilarious, wonderful boss in Chicago was hardly godly, not a Christian, by she taught me everything I needed to know about the seedy underbelly of life in the corporate world – all with a great sarcasm I came to adopt as my own.

Linda – My cousin Aaron married an amazing woman. I look up to her because of her…well, I’m just not sure how to say it. I guess because Linda is one of those people who I can be completely myself around. This may (NOT) come as a surprise to you, but some people think I’m loud, obnoxious, and completely not spiritual enough to be a “good” Christian wife. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I “make light” of things I shouldn’t. I’m sarcastic. Many people roll their eyes to the heavens and say, “That’s Ann-Marie for you!” But not Linda. With her, I can just be me, and feel loved, accepted, and valued. I hope I can make other women feel that way some day.

Carleen – She’s the truth tester of my life. Carleen isn’t afraid to tell me the truth, even when it’s the last thing I want to hear. She’s courageous enough to be honest, and that’s a quality I want in a friend.

And, I saved the best for last. Of course, my Mom isn’t perfect, but in my book, she comes pretty close. I hope each day I am becoming more like her. I hope someday someone thinks that I’m “just like her mom.” That would be the highest compliment I could ever receive.

Truth be told, my mom would never want me to be like her. She would want me to be like Christ. So, by striving for that, just like Mom does every day, hopefully, I’ll grow to be like her, too.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Who needs a mentor when I’ve got my mother?


BJ Boehm said...

If I say I think I might have been a women in a past life (but don't believe in reincarnation), could I be on you great women list? No but seriously...thanks for the stuff you sent me, charity, and colleen. I liked it. By the way, how can you be a quasi-feminist? Would that make Full feminist mad? I don't know...have you seen the movie Iron Jawed Angels? It's about feminist...I liked it. I'm a feminist fan, minus the ones that thing men should just go away...I just like the ones that think women are equal to men in every aspect, and I agree....

October Dawn said...

So strange that you should be inspired to write about mentors. I have just started reading a book called MENTORING, CONFIDENCE IN FINDING A MENTOR AND BECOMING ONE, by Bobb Biehl. I had been thinking that I would like to be mentored by an elderly lady at church... I'm still thinking I might approach her about it. I was also wondering if I would be able to mentor anyone ever... you know I have done some awful things in life...and I knew better which seems to make them worse. Anyway, this book says that you ask two questions: What are your goals, and how can I help you reach them. I think I can do that. I'm praying about mentoring three girls; two who are particularly precious to me somehow and I don't even really know them that well. I'll have to let you know what happens.

Ann-Marie said...

BJ -
I have to be a quasi-feminist, since, if I admit to my full feminist tendencies, I think I get drummed out of all the Christian circles. Ha! Ha! The truth is that I don't have a full handle on the whole thing. If I believe women are equal (and I do), then how can I believe there are certain things they "can't" do - such as become pastors and such? I just haven't worked it all out yet.

I'm glad you liked the Valentine's Day package. I couldn't remember whether or not you liked candy or not, and if you did, what kind you liked. Hope you liked something in the variety mix!

I haven't seen Iron Jawed angels, but I thought it looked good. I'll put it on my Netflix list.

I'm glad you are a feminist fan. I always knew I liked you! Do you know I tell people you are my funniest cousin? You are!

Ann-Marie said...

I think the reason I don't like the whole idea of "mentoring" is because I think it makes people put other people on pedestals, and I just don't think that's right - ever. That's why I think friendship is a better alternative.

On the plus side, I think you make a great "friend" to anyone who needs one. Heaven knows, I'm grateful you're mine!

Ann-Marie said...

Oh my goodness, I don't think I've ever typed "I think" so many times in a row. Sorry about that!