I’ve learned recently what it means to be an external processor, and man, sorry friends, we can be exhausting people. I also know that I am a solution focused person, so advice and recommendations on issues or problems in my life are welcome. From certain people. The past 10 years, I’ve been blessed by a mentorship that has me questioning how people even function without these types of relationships.
For most of my adult life, as problems arose, I took them to my sponsor. The word “sponsor” may be new to you if you aren’t familiar with recovery programs. Essentially, in the recovery community, sponsors serve as a mentor and point of accountability. As my husband would say, this is a person who “loves me enough to hurt my feelings.” My sponsor is someone I look up to, respect, and who God speaks through to bring me truth. After many years of sharing our hearts, she’s become so much more to me than just a “sponsor” and is now more like a second mom.
If we’re close, you’ve heard about her. I’ve shared over the years the advice and guidance she’s given me. So many times I have heard, “I wish I had a sponsor.” That statement always made me laugh because, as an alcoholic in recovery, I remember thinking how silly it was to have one. The fact that me, an adult, checks in with another woman daily doesn’t seem like what we’re “going for”.
Not that she ever told me what to do or not do. She’d listen. She’d share wisdom. She was able to help me see clearly through sticky situations. And when it was clear I was crashing and burning, she’d tell me the hard stuff only someone you put in that place is “allowed” to say. It’s true she was support for my recovery, but part of recovery is learning how to live life. My sponsor helped me do that.
Why can’t we all have a “sponsor”
After years of hearing how my friends wished they had someone in their life like I had, I started to realize how important it was. More than important, essential. It’s essential for me to have a person in my life who cares about me, but is also neutral, who knows what’s going on in my life and in my heart. Someone I can call when the stuff is hitting the fan and no back story is needed. We can dive right in, get to some solution and move forward.
This woman has been the one who allows me to cry and grieve, but also encourages me to move forward. I’ve spoken of her often in my writing. Trust me guys, you all wish you had someone like her. So why don’t we? Why do we limit this idea of mentorship to children, young adults and young professionals? Couldn’t new moms, single guys, empty nesters and everyone in between benefit from the kind of support I’m describing? Couldn’t we all benefit from someone who’s gone before us in a season of life who is willing to invest and walk alongside us? The answer is yes.
Establishing a mentorship
Friends have asked me, how do you go about getting a “sponsor” if you aren’t in recovery? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the exact answer. It’s awkward enough asking someone when there is a specific title and you both understand the purpose. Outside of this community, it’s not exactly clear what mentorship looks like. But that’s good because that means you get to decide! But since we are asking the question, here are my thoughts on how to go about asking someone to serve as a mentor:
- Find the person. You might have many options, or you may have just a few. Try making a list of potentials. Maybe it’s a friend or a lady from your Tuesday night bible study, or even a friend’s mom you only kind of know.
- Watch. Once you have an idea or two, before you even approach a person, watch her. Learn about her. How does she act, what’s her “vibe” like? Do you like what you see? The standard question I ask myself is, “Do I want what she has?” Don’t jump the gun here, it’s important that you like and respect what you see/know about this person. If you rush into something, you might have awkwardness later on.
- Where do you need support? It’s good to have an idea of what you hope to get from this relationship. Are you looking for someone who can mentor you in marriage? Professionally? Spiritually? As a parent? Make sure your potential mentor understands what you are looking for.
- Connection. It’s important to connect with this person regularly. Does that look like a weekly phone call? Coffee once a month? Both? Have an idea and see what the two of you can work out.
- Just ask. I think the asking is the hardest part. It feels so awkward, almost like asking someone on a date, but the fear of this rejection can feel so much bigger. STILL ASK. Open the door. If she says no, remember that it’s not about you. She may have a lot going on at the moment and might not be able to give you what you are asking for. However, my hope is, if you’ve found the right person, you can work something out.
For the Mentor
As a person who’s been on the “sponsor” side of the relationship many times, I want to relieve a little pressure. Serving in this role isn’t complicated. We are simply to share our experience, strength and hope in ways that will support our mentee. Because they will lay out some hopes and expectations, those will be your guide. You were selected because of who you are, so just be you. And lastly, I will tell you, I always gain more from this relationship than the person I’m serving. Always.
We’re in this together
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had the thought “Who left me in charge here anyway?!” For me, having someone to run things by, even if just to make sure things make sense, takes the pressure away of “being in charge.” Because no one is meant to feel that much stress. So let’s help each other out and encourage mentorship all around us. Everyone benefits!
I really hope you’ve been encouraged to find someone to serve as a mentor in your life. There’s no reason why we should be ashamed of doing this, as I once was. Only growth will come from a thriving mentorship. As always, I’d love to hear your experiences whether mentorship is brand new to you or you’ve been doing it for years. Since we are in this together, let’s share our wisdom and support one another by sharing truth in love.