I once heard someone share that mentoring was a lifestyle. Hearing those words gave me a much different perspective of mentoring. Seeing mentoring as a lifestyle deepened my respect for the women mentors who gave of their time and resources to ensure I succeeded.
Looking back, I understand how the term lifestyle could apply to my mentoring relationships. My female mentors spent quality time with me, personally and professionally, it was truly a lifestyle for them. And I felt they certainly enjoyed supporting and encouraging me in my endeavors. I never felt like an obligation or an inconvenience to them.
I was blessed to receive mentoring as a young mother of three, a grad student, and a professional career woman. The mentoring moments with my female mentors took on a variety of forms ranging from informal gatherings for coffee and conversation to more professional meetups which at times included a set agenda to review my goals and aspirations.
What did I learn from these valuable mentoring opportunities? I learned that successful mentoring relationships all seem to hold the same qualities: loyalty, commitment, selflessness, trustworthiness, and respectfulness. The absence of any one of these traits can present a challenge and create an unbalance for the mentorship. Consequently, I find these 5 traits significant for the cultivation of a safe mentoring connection for both the mentor and mentee.
As I continue my research on female mentoring and women leaders of the Bible, I would be remiss if I did not mention the heartfelt mentoring relationship of Naomi and Ruth. The 5 traits mentioned are displayed throughout their story in the Book of Ruth.
Naomi and the Gift of Mentorship
The story of Naomi begins in Israel. Her husband had moved their family to Moab, a country God had advised His people to avoid due to its pagan beliefs. Their sons eventually married Moabite women, but not long afterward, her husband and both of their sons became sick and died.
After the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi recognized there was nothing left for her in Moab, so she made the decision to return home to Judah. Believing her daughters-in-law would be better off in their homeland, she encouraged Ruth and Orpah to return to their families as they were young and could easily marry again.
Ruth, however, refused to leave Naomi. In fact, it is written that Ruth clung to Naomi and insisted on going with Naomi to her homeland in Bethlehem.
With Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi, we see evidence of the first of the five traits – loyalty. Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law. She clearly loved Naomi and showed her concern for her mother-in-law through her choice to remain with Naomi.
Loyalty is an essential characteristic of strong mentorship. A genuine mentor/mentee relationship is built on a foundation of loyalty to one another – the assurance neither will betray the other. I’ve found open and honest support is significant to the success of the mentoring relationship.
After arriving in Judah, Ruth decided that she could join some of the other women in picking up the leftover grain left behind by the harvesters. She asked Naomi for permission to glean in the fields, and Naomi encouraged her to do so. Ruth, empowered by Naomi’s support, began gleaning in the fields.
Ruth was committed to caring for Naomi, and her commitment was shown in Ruth’s devotion to take care of their needs. Ruth wholeheartedly served Naomi.
Commitment is an important element of mentoring. Mentorship requires commitment from both the parties to step up and show up, to keep the commitment long after the newness wears off. Mentors and mentees must be committed to the partnership as they follow through on their word and intentions.
Ruth’s decision to lay down her life in Moab, surrounded by her family, and follow Naomi to Judah was a noble act. Ruth’s choice to gather grain from the fields to provide them with food was a beautifully selfless act.
Successful mentorships exemplify selflessness. In situations where the mentor or mentee is more concerned with the needs and wishes of themselves rather than the other, the actions may very well damage the mentoring relationship. Personal agendas have no place in a mentorship.
Selflessness shows more concern with the needs and wishes of mentee than with one’s own needs (the mentor). Selfless mentors and leaders have our best interest in mind at all times.
Not long after Ruth began gleaning, she and Naomi discovered Boaz was the man whose fields she was working in and one of Naomi’s husband’s relatives. Boaz was eligible to be their kinsman-redeemer and take on the responsibility of the family’s property and caring for Naomi and Ruth. Not only was he in a position to help them long-term, but he had already shown significant consideration toward Ruth by ensuring she was able to glean extra grain without any intrusion from others.
The story of Naomi and Ruth is a beautiful representation of God’s sovereign care. Both women, although destitute, trusted God to deliver them from their circumstances.
Trustworthiness is central in a mentoring relationship. Healthy relationships are built on honesty. Naomi and Ruth trusted God to provide for them, and due to their obedience, God showed up!
Naomi, discerning that Boaz would make a wonderful husband for Ruth, encouraged Ruth to take steps to make herself available to Boaz. Although this direct approach was somewhat against the culture, Ruth trusted Naomi and was oedient to her proposal.
The outcome of Naomi’s suggestion, Boaz married Ruth, and together, they cared for Naomi.
It was due to the esteem Ruth had for Naomi that Ruth took the counsel of her mother-in-law. Ruth knew Naomi had her best interests at heart. She held Naomi in high regard. It can take courage to heed the advice of others certainly when there are risks involved, but when the relationship is built on respect and trust, the choice is easier.
Respectfulness ensures both members of the mentoring relationship hold high regard and respect for one another. Respect is shown through the choice of words, behavior, and boundaries.
As you reflect on your current or past mentorships, are your mentoring relationships marked by these five traits? What other characteristics do you feel are significant to your mentoring relationships?
These traits, of course, are not only applicable in a mentoring relationship, but in all relationships. I encourage you to consider how you might work to develop these qualities in your own life and in the relationships you have in addition to your mentorships.
And, if you find yourself searching for a mentor and you’ve have had no success, please reach out. I’m happy to meet up to determine if we’re a mentoring match! I know from my own experience finding a mentor, a confidante, isn’t easy. And, that’s my goal, to simplify the mentoring search for young women seeking a Biblical mentor.
You can email me or contact me through my mentoring programs at www.robinrevispyke.com/mentorship