“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” John 5:6-9
How many times do we give excuses to God? Really? Jesus encounters a sick man and asks if he wants to get well, and his lame answer is: “I can’t. No one will help me get into the healing waters.” He actually missed the question which was whether he wanted to get well or not. Pretty obvious answer, but not to a man who had lived for years with no hope and was defensive and full of excuses developed over time.
I was recently thinking about how difficult it was for my youngest son who is five years younger than his next eldest sibling to justify his behavior. By the time he got to high school, they had pretty much used up all of the excuses that parents hear when their child does something wrong, like staying out past the designated curfew time. “The dog ate my homework” is one of my favorites, although it was never used by my children. I told my youngest son that he would have to be very creative if he had a real excuse because we had already heard most of them from his siblings.
Benjamin Franklin, one of our founding fathers, once said: “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” And Scott Spencer added: “The trouble with excuses is that they become inevitably difficult to believe after they have been used a couple of times.” Ouch – those are penetrating observations.
As I meet with people who would make great mentors and I try to encourage them to reach out to the next generation, I get the same clichéd excuses for their non-involvement in investing in the next generation. Most in our culture don’t see themselves as mentor material. I am convinced that most of them are based on what Hendricks calls “misguided perceptions and unrealistic expectations” about what mentoring is all about. Here’s a sample:
I’m too busy.” Frankly, if you are busy, that probably means you have achieved some level of success which is exactly what a mentee is looking for. If you thought about the potential impact your experience could have on another, you might find an hour or so a week to get together with a mentee at lunch, or coffee.
“I don’t care.” A lot of potential mentors are not interested in the process. They can’t see the need or the urgency of investing in someone else’s life, and often when one is approached with an appeal for action, they respond with apathy. I spend a lot of time telling others that 80 to 90% of the millennials – the next generation – would love to have a mentor, yet only 2-5% of the mentor aged population are involved. My principal point is that the next generation will one day be running things, so wouldn’t you like to help shape their destiny (and yours as well)? Howard and Bill Hendricks put it this way in As Iron Sharpens Iron: “When it comes to mentoring, the stakes are too big and the benefits – for you, the other man and society in general –are so enormous.”
“I feel inadequate.” It might be expressed as “I don’t know anything”, or “I need training”, or “I can’t teach” or even “I’m not good at relationships.” Mentoring is really organic. Sure, you can improve on your style and technique, but anyone who has gray hair is equipped to share his life experiences with a younger person. That was the point of my post entitled “Perspective” – life experiences equate to wisdom that can be imparted to others. Wisdom is the “skill of living” according to Proverbs. You are surrounded by younger people who need a champion to guide their path. It might surprise you that most mentoring is passive – the art of listening and asking questions is actually more important than imparting wisdom.
“No one ever asked me.” Well, I just did! End of discussion. Let this post be your invitation to get involved. As Hendricks notes in As Iron Sharpens Iron, “the most compelling reason to get involved in mentoring relationships is because God Is asking you to do it. Proverbs 13:20 says that ‘he who walks with the wise grows wise.’ That presupposes that the wise are willing to let someone benefit from their wisdom.” Jesus final command as recorded in Matthew 28:18 is to go and make disciples – learners – who will follow His ways.
“I don’t know how.” This may be the lamest of them all and the easiest to overcome. Mentoring is an art, not a science, and anyone can learn to do it. After one of my Mentoring presentations to a group of men at a Church where I encouraged the mature men to reach out, one man came up to me a week later and was all excited because he had met with a younger man and spent most of the time listening without comment and he realized that just listening was important to this young man. “It’s really easier than I thought,” he exclaimed. Exactly my point.
So the challenge is clear – get out of the stands watching the world go by and go to the sidelines and start coaching the next generation. I’ve heard all the excuses already. It is a biblical imperative to pass it on to the next generation. George Washington was quoted as saying “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” Let today be the day you decide to invest in the lives of others, just as Jesus invested in the lives of His disciples.
RESOURCES: Here are some books that I would suggest on the topic of Mentoring As Iron Sharpens Iron, by Howard and Bill Hendricks (1995); The Art of Mentoring: Embracing the Great Generational Transition, by Darlene Zschech (2013); The Mentor Leader, Tony Dungee (2010).
WORSHIP: A song we sing that you might enjoy by Hillsong called “From the Inside Out” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-afZJ9_TIM Enjoy.