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How do you know if someone needs encouragement?

Updated: Sep 6

I got a call the other day from a mentor who was having some issues with his mentee. The problems weren’t anything out of the ordinary, just a mentor feeling ineffective because he felt his mentee didn’t like spending time with him. Not long into the conversation, it became clear to me that he was discouraged, and the best way I could serve him was to listen to him vent.

That’s when one of my favorite sayings popped into my head.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement?”

“If they are breathing.”

Mentoring is hard. Anyone who has mentored for a long time knows that awkward moments, feelings of insecurity, and sporadic communication with your mentee is just part of the process. Fruit is hard to see, and oftentimes it feels like you are not making any progress at all.

This is especially hard when you remember how you started your volunteer mentoring. If you are anything like me, you started your mentoring relationship thinking that you would help your mentee change the world and become the best version of himself. After each meeting, I expected my mentee to turn to me and say, “Thank you so much for investing your free time in me. I really appreciate your sacrifice and will for sure do everything that you told me to do. You’re the best mentor ever.” Needless to say, I’ve never heard those words come out of my mentee’s mouth.

Affirmations and gratitude from your mentee don’t come very often. In fact, in its place, the enemy likes to plant lies to keep you from engaging with your mentee. Feeling like you are not making an impact and walking in discouragement is pretty standard as a mentor. No one likes feeling like they are useless and ineffective. It takes a lot of mental work to fight the lies that come.

The antidote to the enemy’s lies is to replace them with truth. The answer to getting rid of discouragement is to substitute it with encouragement.

If you are a mentor, I encourage you to encourage yourself today. Identify the lies of the enemy and replace them with truth.

“It is working. God is faithful, and he is moving. I am not wasting my time.” Repeat those phrases often.

If you are leading a group of volunteer mentors or a non-profit staff, give them a shot of encouragement today. If a mentor is breathing, you know they need encouragement.

Someone once said, “To encourage someone is to open up their chest and to insert courage.” We all know it takes a ton of courage to continually show up and invest in a mentee, especially a mentee who has a tough outer shell and doesn’t give you much positive feedback.

Go give someone courage. Your words matter and might be the fuel needed to help a mentor continue their journey today. After all, you can never give someone too much encouragement.

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