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The Dilemma of Progress

the dilemma of progress

Is there anyone out there who does not like to make progress? To sit back and say, “I accomplished that. What a great use of my time.” is a beautiful feeling to experience. It feels good to be productive. I love it when my efficiency and effectiveness allow me to check the box.

At the same time, nothing is more infuriating than a lack of progress. It’s like spinning your tires in mud; you’re working hard and trying to go fast but not moving an inch. Negative phrases pop into my head, such as “What a waste of time!” and “This is so frustrating!” It is the worst.

We live in a world that values progress, efficiency, and effectiveness. I try to get the most bang for my buck in most situations. I’m all about streamlining processes and getting as much done as possible in as little time as possible. Days when I get a lot done are days when I go home a happy man. While that perspective may help me professionally, I wonder how much it can hinder me in my mentoring relationships.

No one likes spending time with their mentee and walking away, questioning if it was a good use of time. Raise your hand if, after another awkward mentoring experience, you have wondered if your mentee enjoys spending time with you. Often I have walked away from a mentoring outing, saying to myself, “Well, that was a total waste of time.”

The truth is mentoring is a slow, thankless job. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t see much fruit, especially in the short term. Growth is hard to notice, and it takes a while to mature.

If we judge the quality of our mentoring relationship by the amount of progress our mentee makes, I am afraid that we will walk away disappointed often. While progress may be the name of the game at work, perseverance is what is needed to excel in mentoring relationships. While I wish my mentee would open up to me and listen to my wisdom, expecting that of them is probably unfair. They are children, after all.

In your relationship with your mentee, what are you focusing on today? Progress, which is totally out of your control, or perseverance? Will you operate in conditional love, only sticking around if they have their stuff together, or will you show up no matter what?

I pray that we would mentor like Jesus, the one who never gives up on us and gets frustrated when we aren’t improving as fast as we think we should. How often have you fallen asleep in prayer or missed a quiet time simply because you didn’t feel like it? Praise the Lord that God is patient with us. His grace gives us chance after chance, and he is perfectly ok waiting for when we are ready to engage. He doesn’t judge us but instead is there waiting for us with open arms and a smile on his face.

May we be the same with our mentee today.


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