“My son, if you will receive my words, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding…” Proverbs 2:1
The book of Proverbs is a recorded book of practical life truths that were spoken. Originally, the context was a royal court setting. Solomon, among other sages, gave his instruction as a teacher to students, sitting together on marble benches or strolling about the lush courtyards, dispelling his learned wisdom with stories and dicta. The whole idea was to pass the wisdom of the existing leadership to the up and coming future leaders.
Other times, this mentoring occurred in the home, as a father gently speaking wisdom to his sons.
Proponents of business success understand the benefits of mentoring. Managers and high-level officers provide their business wisdom to their trainees in training sessions, internships, and conferences. The methods used to nurture young recruits in the business world are countless, and they can be found everywhere, online and in classrooms.
Most of the great athletes today have personal mentors. Pick any sport and look at the top players; you will find all of them make use of a personal coach or mentor to help refine their football catching, golf swing, or tennis serve. Many hire mentors to build their confidence and mental toughness even more than their physical skill.
It is far less common to see mentoring in spiritual matters or in matters of wise living. This is unfortunate. Surely men need mentors in their spiritual life more than any other area of life.
Solomon had this great gift from God – wisdom beyond all who had ever lived and would ever live, and he did the right thing with it: he passed it on. His love of sharing wisdom is why we have the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Solomon did not let his failures keep him from sharing what he knew to be true. Trust me, Solomon had lots of failures. As does every man.
Men tend to think that because they have failed in life, they have no right to teach others what they know. When a man looks at his life and ponders his divorce, he may think he could never tell another man how to have a good marriage. Or he might think that because he has experienced some major losses due to his addictions, he could never tell another man how to avoid things that strive to control him.
The truth is these men have every reason to share what they know!
We have all failed. And sometimes the things we have failed at the most are the very things we understand best.
I once went through bankruptcy. It was one of the toughest things I have ever experienced. For a guy who prided himself on paying every debt he ever owed early and working insanely hard all the time (even when everyone else was playing), going bankrupt and being as broke as an old clay pot was absolutely devastating.
But now I know what it feels like. I understand how making decisions before doing any extensive research is a paved road to failure. I understand how foolish pride can compel an otherwise intelligent man to do some crazy stupid things. And I also know that there are some circumstances for which there are no solutions, and no matter how hard a man can try, sometimes he just cannot fix things.
I know these things because I made enough stupid mistakes to go completely bankrupt and lose everything I had worked two decades to achieve.
But now I know.
And when I meet a guy who is facing financial disaster I can speak to him with wisdom. Wisdom from the realty of experience, not theoretical, pious talk. I can speak to that man’s heart.
Recently I encouraged a younger friend of mine to sell a completely unnecessary item he had purchased. He argued with me. He told me it made good sense to keep it.
Because I had been in his shoes before, I knew he needed to sell that thing. I absolutely knew it and I told him several times. He finally acquiesced and sold it.
Fast forward a couple months and he got into a situation where he needed extra money and he was so glad he had sold that unnecessary, very expensive thing.
Though I would never tell him, I have had the tremendous satisfaction of watching him take my advice and escape the trouble that I had already been through! Wow, that is so cool.
Not only do students benefit tremendously from mentoring, but mentors experience the benefits of mentoring in a completely different way. It is hugely satisfying.
Mentoring is one way older or more experienced men can take younger, less experienced men under their wing and point them in the right direction. Solomon did this, and how blessed were those he counseled. He understood the benefits of mentoring.
If you are young, then I can tell you one of the best things you can do is find a mentor. Find one! Don’t stop until you do. Make sure this man is someone you admire for the right reasons. Make certain he has integrity, has lived fully, and has a sincere faith in God.
If you are an older man, and have lived enough years to experience the highs and lows of life, you’ve hit a lot of debris in the road but found your way through it, you’ve taken some wrong turns but endured the trials of getting back on the right track, and have kept the Word of God as your guidebook through it all, then do someone a massive favor and find a young man who is in need of direction. Give him some of your life. Spend time showing him how to make decisions, how to recover from serious mistakes, and how to make his life better than before… and you will have lived for a higher purpose.
The benefits of mentoring are vast, and one of life’s greatest blessings, for the receiver and the giver.