At last, we are on the fourth and final deck of our role play: the Help Deck. Like the previous cards, this deck yields one of two options: SOLITARY or MENTOR.
If you are assigned “solitary,” it does not mean you are isolated or restricted from interacting with other players. It means that you get to choose your game play and strategy to suit yourself and your motives. You know your power, your weakness, your resist factor, your intent and your mode of operation – and you get to be executive producer of it all. No matter what happens, you are only answerable to you. If you are pleased with how your game is going, you smile to yourself and think, “I’ve got a good handle on this.” If you’re not pleased… well, you still have all the skills you’re used to using, so maybe you can take a deep breath and try a little harder. If you’re unsure of yourself, improvise as best you can. Maybe you can watch and mimic what some of the other, more successful players are doing. Maybe the fact that it’s a role play will give you a burst of courage to try something you’ve never done before. Rest easily – you are free to be your own cheerleader or your own worst critic. Best of all, nobody will ever know if you are highly skilled or just winging it. That’s between you and… you.
The “mentor” card allows you – in fact, obligates you – to seek and accept another player as your mentor. You are free to pick and choose, even perhaps even interview other players before settling on your mentor. What counts is that you have someone consistently and actively engaging with you to help you have a successful gaming experience.
This is where your other cards really start to come into play.
As you begin the search for your mentor, are you stronger with giving, or receiving? Do you have a high resist factor? Those elements help determine how easily you approach, and well you will benefit, from being mentored.
Do you have a material orientation? You’re probably going to expect your mentor to measure your progress or tally your “correct” choices. If you instead have a spiritual orientation, you’re more likely to look at the quality of your interactions. You may consider how it feels to act sincerely, or how you feel during your interactions, or how others react to you.
How about mode of operation? Your willingness to be mentored will be vastly different if you are open versus self-preserving. What happens when your mentor tells you something in your game is not working, or worse, is coming across as hurtful? An open mode will permit you to discern the helpful elements from that feedback. A self-preserving mode will find you ready to dismiss or oppose anything that questions your competency or hints that you might need help – because help shackles you in dependency on others, and once you start accepting help, you’ll never be able to speak your own mind without having to worry about pleasing everyone. In that case, you might think it expedient to cut ties and find a new mentor.
Wow. This is a lot of work. Isn’t a “mentor” someone who makes things easier?
No. Which brings us to an important point. We chose that term, “mentor,” very deliberately. A mentor is someone who imparts wisdom to you for your benefit. They are, by definition, benefactors. We could have dubbed this person your “helper,” leaving their disposition up to chance, but we explicitly created this role to have benevolent intent. There is no chance your mentor will sabotage you or want anything for you other than your best interests.
Sometimes, the things in your best interest are those which challenge you the hardest.
Sometimes, one person will care enough to step up and tell you a difficult truth for the sake of helping you grow, or helping you see a pitfall before you stumble. THAT is a mentor. You are fortunate indeed if that mentor also happens to be a friend or a family member.
To be sure, you are only likely to click with a certain few people in this kind of relationship. Mentors are people, after all, and not all personalities are compatible. Connecting is all the more difficult when we realize that the best growth happens when we are most vulnerable. How hard it is to find the right person with whom we can be our most vulnerable selves!
How will you know who to seek as your mentor? Should you consider their card profile, their propensities, their modes of operation? Can a player with a “solitary” disposition be your mentor? (In game play, yes, any other player can be your mentor. They themselves must rely on their own resources, but they are still free to be a resource to you).
Resource. That’s a great way to put it.
A mentor is not an accountability partner who agrees to keep you on track while you push yourself outside your comfort zone. Neither is a mentor strictly a friend, or a master to an apprentice. A mentor is a resource: Someone who fills a need. And, as with natural resources, sometimes that which you need from that person is hidden in plain sight, or requires cultivating, or will only be evident after a good amount of sifting, observing, and sifting some more. Get to know the stories of the people around you, and you may discover that they possess information and empathy in areas you never knew would help. You will find exquisite treasure particularly among those who have struggled, have failed previously, or even now are experiencing great pain. Do not limit your search to only those who profess expertise. It is the difference between reading a brief encyclopedia entry or a poignant memoir.
Expertise is good. Please, do not get us wrong. But most of us are not experts. Most of us would do better to have the manual on how to get back up again, not how to get there without falling.
Jesus fell. Three times, in fact. Literally.
If anyone could write a handbook on how to cope with being misunderstood, dealing with rejection, living with betrayal, handling unjust treatment and going forward when everything you have built collapses… He can.
It is a shame that Jesus is not in our game.
If two or more are playing together, in a shared spirit of gaining insights together… that activates Matthew 18:20… bringing Jesus into the room with us.
In fact, He is right there. Across from you. Beside you.
Hoping to greet you.
And, what if you are feeling alone as you hold your “solitary” card?
Remember: All that means is that you are going it alone, without being mentored.
If you find yourself in that situation, and you want to connect with Jesus… go and mentor someone else. Matthew 18:20 works both ways.
Our game is set up at last. Time to play. Next week, we will look back on the experience and see how it applies to real life.
PRAY: Sacred Scripture writers make excellent mentors. One of our favorites is Saint Paul. For this week, our prayer is to read Philippians 4:12-14 and imagine Saint Paul saying this to you after you have approached him with a hard question in your life.
CONTEMPLATE: Think how Saint Paul’s words, “It was kind of you to share my trouble” echo to our themes of voluntary humility and caritas. In his context in particular, our word, “need,” can be well substituted for his word, “trouble.” In what circumstances does it seem burdensome when you have shared in someone’s need?
RELATE: Think on the people in your life who are mentors to you, and then, those to whom you act as a mentor. Do you simply share expertise, or do you share your very stories with one another?
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak