I’ve shared recently some of what’s been churning in my heart about friendship. About what it looks like to make new friends as an adult and how reading ‘My Yearlong Search for a New BFF’ really spoke to me about taking initiative. When I wrote that I had no idea that relationships as a whole would continue to be a theme in my life.
It started in the fall of 2012 with a kind of a collapse of my current relationships, followed by the epiphany that I wasn’t seeking out new friendships, and as I was wading through those two I landed on my rump after hearing about mentoring in bible study.
Pat Layton is the founder of the first non-profit I worked for out of college. She’s unbelievably awesome and I’m blessed to know her. She is also on the speaking team at the church I attend and now work for. I don’t think she wrote her talk with me in mind but you wouldn’t know that from how directly it spoke to my heart.
Pat broke down mentorship into three categories and I’m going to give you my version of what I heard her say:
- Before. The people who are ahead of you in life and maturity and you want to be like when you grow up. They inspire you and you kind of want to soak up their awesome. You know what I mean?
- Beside. These are the friends that are doing life with you. They may be better at some things than you are and you may be better at others but you’re constantly talking through the day to day and handling it as it comes, together. I think this is what the bible means when it talks about iron sharpening iron. And some of us our blessed to have a few people in our lives that are sharpening us daily. This category is also important because this is where the honesty box is. These are the people you can be the most transparent with.
- Behind. These are people you’re pouring into that may not be as far along as you are either in their stage of life, their finances, their relational life, or their spiritual life and you’re leading them. You’re guiding them to where you are. Coaching them up, encouraging them, and sharing your life experience with them.
I see an immense amount of value in having several people in each category that you actively spend time with. This goes back to that breakdown in my friendship structure, which is – this requires initiative. It takes time and (of course) effort to maintain relationships so are you ready, willing, and most of all motivated to keep this structure up? That’s where I’m working on myself. For me, more than anything else, this is requiring me to cut back the time I spend on surface relationships and really pour that time into less relationships but ones that contain depth (can I get an amen from my social butterflies?)
As I read through her categories and nodded like a bobble head about all the great points she made about why these were important I thought – who are those people for me? And that’s when I realized I’m not living this mentoring structure at all. My categories are completely out of whack.
I found that I have a list of behinds – which I love. My inner social worker thrives on these relationships. BUT the caution here is if you have too many in this category you’re not mentoring them well and they can drain you of time and energy to maintain your Befores and Besides.
I have a couple pretty new people in the beside category that since learning I have to take initiative I’ve really started investing time in, inviting to do things, and loving doing life with. So for that I’m grateful.
The hardest thing for me is finding the people that I need to ask to lead me and being willing to ask them. I hate asking people for their time and energy. I don’t know why that is considering I LOVE when people ask me. (Hence I’m learning to say no) So I’m working on identifying those people (I think I’ve found one and I’m praying about pursuing her as a mentor).
Pat’s lesson was so crucial for me I couldn’t help but pass on some of the wisdom to each of you. I think so many people who read this blog are in similar phases of life to where I am so I KNOW that this will ring true for many of you and that a lot of you will identify with me – your structure is all sorts of out of whack. But hey, we have to start somewhere. Knowing where the breakdowns are is a great jumping off point for getting it back on track!