How to be a Mentor and Not a Meddler

mentor not meddler
Patches of snow in the shade belied the balmy temperatures and blue skies as we unloaded the bus and trailer at the trailhead parking lot in Sedona. Ten students had signed up for a mountain-biking adventure on Super Bowl Sunday, and the veteran riders quickly organized themselves to unload bicycles and pass out riding gloves, water bottles and helmets.

The new riders asked the others for help adjusting helmets and seat heights, and within twenty minutes the group had left the trailhead to start our adventure. Pedro rode at the front of the troop, and I played caboose. It soon became clear that one of the riders would have problems on the trail.

I offered to help her raise her seat, so that she could have more torque going up the hills, but she quietly declined. I soon realized she wanted the seat low so that she could keep her feet on the ground any time a rock, root or incline showed up (which happened often on the moderately difficult trail).

When the incline proved to steep, she would dismount and push her bicycle. Mile after mile, I stayed behind her, offering the occasional encouragement when she braved the terrain and stayed on her bicycle over a patch with loose rocks or kept her feet on the pedals for more than a hundred feet.

Each time she pushed her bike up or down or over objects, I had a lot of time to think. When she disappeared over a crest or around a corner, I would ride at my normal pace until I saw her again. Every twenty minutes or so, when the trail forked, we would catch up to the bigger group and they would point the way before taking off again.

I knew I had several possible reactions to the situation. We could turn back—but I knew she really wanted to go on the trip. I could stop her and point out all that she was doing wrong—but I didn’t know her very well because she didn’t have any classes with me. Or I could just continue to stick with her and offer words of praise—but I knew we held up the rest of the riders who operated at a more advanced level.

The whole situation made me think of a person’s Christian walk and other Christians’ responses to their fellow travelers. She started on the journey because she wanted to—she had heard rave reviews from other students about how much fun she could have on a beautiful Sedona ride.

Once she started and realized she had bit off more than she bargained for, she could have quit or whined or complained (she didn’t do any of those things). Perhaps the fact that the other riders always cheered for her when she showed up had something to do with her great attitude (maybe we need to do a bit more cheering in our churches).

When the others elected to go on a spur trail to Chicken Point, she and I made our way slowly back to the bus, and we all arrived within about 15 minutes of each other (none of the advanced riders gave her a hard time for circling back early).

I should confess that at one point I started contemplating my own superior mountain biking skills—and about a minute later I hit the brakes too hard and lurched forward onto the handlebars, almost flipping over before I retained my balance (maybe the times WE mess up is because we’re comparing ourselves to others).

Here’s what I learned:
1. Come alongside other Christians, but remember that if they refuse your advice, it’s not about you—it’s about them and what they’re ready to hear.
2. Cheer for each other in church (ok, your pastor might freak out about this—but do celebrate progress in your fellow travelers).
3. If someone has to circle back, just keep encouraging them.
4. Eschew comparisons, or you might end up stumbling in your own walk!

Good #mentors come alongside, cheer, encourage and eschew comparisons. They don't meddle. Click To Tweet

What about you? Have you learned anything about coming alongside other Christians?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Excellent metaphor for how we can in the church! Yes, the church is not a race or to see who is better than the other, or how someone is doing it all wrong..it’s a journey with God as our guide, and we humble servants. Loved this! Visiting today from #TestimonyTuesday nextdoor!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kathy! It’s all about letting others guide our behavior (but being the take-charge kind of person, it’s taken me a long time to figure this out 😉 ).
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Do You Have a Life Plan?My Profile

  • Now I know what you were doing on Super Bowl Sunday. Thank you for sharing this beautiful lesson of mentorship and how it relates to the church. The best God moments are those where when we least expect it we hear from Him loud and strong. Your mountain biking trip sounds like one of those times. Happy week to you my friend.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…Is God the Touchdown in Your End Zone?My Profile

  • Anita you are excellent at taking life examples and using them to mentor your readers. This is a great story, and wonderful counsel.

  • Anita, what a beautiful story with a much-needed lesson. Thank you for sharing.

  • This is great — one of the things that keeps me from stepping up more than I do to the mentoring plate is the concern that I’ll be guilty of meddling, that I’ll overstep my bounds. Thanks for sharing a life lesson that gives me some food for thought.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Greet One Another with GraceMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michele. I’m a meddler by nature, and God has really had to work in me (because, paradoxically, I hate it when people meddle in MY life, but I’m so quick to meddle in other’s lives).
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Out-of-focus Caregiving Can Harm Your HealthMy Profile

  • WOW! Anita, what a great analogy. I was right there with the rider you were helping, and right there in your shoes not wanting to discourage her. What a gift it is when someone just walks along side us, like Jesus on the road to Emmaus with the two discouraged saints…that we could just unveil Jesus as we walk. Many blessings to you.

  • What a wonderful life lesson! Its sad that the comparison attitude pops up every now and then. Thanks for the reminder that we are all in this together. Good thoughts!

  • Anita, what a great analogy! You have some really good suggestions that we would all do well to follow. That comparison thing will always get us down one way or another, but to encourage one another is a beautiful thing! Blessings!
    Gayl Wright recently posted…An ImaginingMy Profile

  • Great illustration. Sometimes we have to let people find their own pace and way to handle things while we encourage them along, rather than insisting they do it the was we think best. That’s so true with raising children as well. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what we can’t budge on and what we can, but God gives wisdom. Almost had to laugh over your near-mishap – although I am sure it wasn’t funny at the time. Whenever I begin to think I am superior in any way, something like that usually happens to adjust my thinking.
    Barbara H. recently posted…Our Church Ladies’ BookletMy Profile

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