An article in Harvard Business Review said that Michelangelo approached the craft of sculpting with the humble conviction that a unique and beautiful piece of art already existed within the stone, and his job was only to release it. The article suggested that the best mentors approach mentoring in the same way. Termed the “Michelangelo phenomenon”, a mentor is a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner who is committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form.
I believe to do this, mentors will need to practice the three A’s ie. Availability, Acceptance, and Affirmation.
Elizabeth in her relationship to Mary (mother of Jesus) is a perfect example of the 3 A’s being practiced. She made her home and herself lovingly available to Mary, accepted her pregnant cousin without judgment and affirmed the wondrous privilege Mary hadof being chosen by God to bear His son. She made herself and her time available to others, accepted them exactly where they are in their journey and affirmed what God was doing in their lives.
This includes making your life available, your home, your people, your testimony, your wisdom and your understanding. It includes living an honest and transparent life that encourages trust and creates an environment for a relationship to flourish. A good mentor focuses on being available for a relationship, knowing and understanding that God works in relationships.
It is the person who will make time to listen and hear what is being said. A person who generously shares all they have (time, energy and resources) making it available for the good of another. Setting aside their agenda, for God’s agenda in another’s life. A person who will make themselves available to pray for the needs of another.
Acceptance of someone does not judge sin but does not preclude the need for change. Many want to be accepted just the way they are and then get angry when they are expected to change their behavior, their attitudes, their thinking. Many people demand that acceptance include the acceptance of the continuance of the sin.
In our relationship with the Lord, there is acceptance as we are, but it does not mean we are left to stay as we are. The work in us will continue as we leave the old person behind, and embrace the new person we are in Christ. He that has started the work in us, in salvation, will continue the work until we are reunited with the Lord in heaven. (Phil 1:6).
A good mentor will listen to the one no-one else will listen to. A mentor does not try and make the mentee a mirror image of themselves but encourages a mentee to be the person God has called them to be. A mentor accepts today’s status but has a vision for the future of the mentee in faith.
Good mentors affirm and encourage character development in their mentees. Especially the development and consolidation of the character of Christ in Christ likeness. They not only affirm the growth and insight that is already in their lives, but they also encourage them by communicating and demonstrating faith in the person they are becoming. They affirm what God is doing in the life of their mentee, but also awaken and affirm Godly dreams in their lives. It is not an exercise in finding an error, or putting down, but rather a call to the excellence of Christ’s nature and reaching their full potential.
Affirmation fosters faith, vision and greater confidence in God and themselves. It adjusts unrealistic expectations and aspirations and finds ways to build and foster a new vision and determination in the mentee. The mentor is the coach and cheerleader for the future.
The Harvard article suggested and I agree, that thoughtful sculptors will use the tools of patient listening, good questioning, unconditional acceptance, and generous affirmation to help draw forth godly dreams, naming them out loud, and then set about championing the mentee’s efforts to reach their full potential.