Trust grows best when you are willing to be vulnerable.
Mentorship often includes a process of introspection on the part of both parties involved. However, if this becomes more of a gripe session, or a time where either the mentor or the hero is overly criticized for past failures, or current struggles, then we must refocus ourselves on the primary theme of mentoring. It’s about progress, not perfection. When sharing past mistakes, the tendency of many people is to highlight their own depraved mind. Many times, this is a subconscious attempt to garner favor from one’s audience by exaggerating your vice to a ridiculous degree. However, if we are honest, accurate, and precise with our recollection of past mistakes, we are far more likely to be able to illustrate our progress. This helps your mentee/hero relate to your journey.
Growth is about progress, not perfection!
That’s a really easy thing to say, but it’s a hard theme to live out every day. I once heard a pastor speak about the concept of our choices leading us to perfection, as if it was some kind of attainable goal, but that is a falsehood of epic proportions. It’s not possible to become perfect if you aren’t already perfect. And it’s impossible to become perfect if you are already perfect.
The concept of perfection is our enemy because it supposes that there is something that I can do to achieve it. There isn’t. We’ve got to get that out of our heads!
Nowhere else is this more important than in the mentor relationship. The person who is leading out in the relationship has to understand that it is often their failures that teach the best lessons, and the one learning has to grow from their own missteps. So exposing our shortcomings is a critical part of the growth process for mentors and heroes.
However, we must caution ourselves against self-deprecation.
I try to help the young men I mentor learn from my mistakes. I try to provide them with enough context that they understand why I made the decisions I made without attempting to excuse the behavior altogether. And I’ll be honest with you, this is a really hard thing to do. Your stories have to make sense. They have to have a relatable setting for your mentee. Your motivation has to be understandable. But most of all, your failure must have consequences.
You want to display exactly what your decisions cost, and to understand how difficult it was to walk through the mess you made. You aren’t trying to convince them that you were the worst person on the planet, you want to show them that every decision we make in life has a real, and measurable cost. Your goal is to help them recognize how broken you were, and how healed you are now.