According to Merriam-Webster, a life teacher, or what is more commonly known as a mentor, is “a trusted counselor or guide.” I have had the fortunate experience of having had many mentors throughout my life. I would love to be a mentor myself to others too. Though I believe we can learn something from everyone, here are some life teachers that have profoundly shaped my life, besides God (Who has provided these teachers and therefore is the Ultimate Teacher, or Mentor) and some of what they taught me:
- My mom and dad—They have taught me so much about life, not only because they are my parents but also for the example that they give me. They have both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They both emphasize and follow this ethic themselves. My mom has worked tirelessly serve her family, and my dad has worked many hours at his job to provide for his family. It was my dad who actually told me that it is better to try your very best and fail than to do moderately good, but the work you did was not your very best. I try to apply that to my own life, especially at my job. Even when some of the people around me may not be up to doing their best work at my job all the time, I still strive to do my best because of my parents’ example and because I want to serve my God in the best way possible.
- J—Ever since I met her, she has been a great mentor to me. She taught me to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and believe in myself and the abilities that God has given to me. She also taught me how to overcome my fears and anxieties, and not be too comfortable with the norm, because “the norm” will never get one anywhere in life. When I wanted to give up on myself, J urged me on. For instance, when I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a good job, she helped and encouraged me to get the resources available to me in order to be able to find a job that suited my abilities and interests, which I never thought I’d be able to access. Best of all, even when no one else had believed in me, she did!
- My friend Barbara*–I met Barbara at my previous church eleven years ago. Although we don’t get to see each other much anymore, she still has had a profound impact in my life. She helped me see things realistically, instead of just through my own emotional lenses, which often turns out to be wrong or distorted in ways. She taught me how to be a better Christian and how to trust God more. The lessons that she has taught me has helped me to resolve conflicts quicker and to get out of my own stubborn shell to be able to see things as they really are, instead of just through my distorted lens.
- My former pastor Frank Taylor—Pastor Frank became the pastor at my previous church seven years ago. Though he has since been called to a different church, the impact that he had on me while still at my previous church was profound. He was the pastor that first taught me the value of humility. One example of him teaching this value to the congregation at the time was when people were complaining about him saying something that they felt was offensive. Many pastors I know would just profusely defend themselves and never apologize. Yes, Pastor Frank did also explain himself, but he almost immediately wrote a formal letter of apology to the congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Not a lot of people in his position of power I know would go to such lengths to apologize. He also openly preaches about the struggles he has had in life, and how he learned from them, instead of trying to hide them from others.
- My current pastor David Shoaf—Pastor Shoaf, as he is often called, has also had a profound impact on my current life. He has also taught me important lessons on humility. Not only is he careful not to talk too much about himself, he also preaches in such a way that we can adequately reflect on what he is saying. He has said that he wants his messages to be such that people are forced to look in the mirror of their lives to make sure their lives are matching up with what they say they believe. Not only are his messages always relevant to my life, but the way he lives also accentuates his messages! He has faithfully served my current church for over 40 years! In the way he lives, he has taught me gratitude (He profusely thanked us when we had a party in honor of him and his birthday this past summer.), faithfulness (He has faithfully served this church for many years and has been married for about the same time as well.) , humility (He doesn’t like to draw too much attention to himself), and kindness (He always tries to get to know how people in the church are doing and tries to talk to each new guest that attends our church for the first time.).
- my manager Chris*–Although I have only known him for about a year and a half, he has taught me a lot about myself and life. In a previous post, I discuss some of the things he has taught me. See this link for more information. One of the other things that I didn’t emphasize in the previous post is that he has taught me patience and the value of service. He taught me through the good he has done for others that doing good is always worth it even if you don’t get rewarded right away. He has taught me to be less self-centered and more others-centered. He has also taught me how to be patient. Though I still struggle with patience, I have learned that I can wait for certain things and not be anxious about it. For instance, I needed to talk to one of my managers about something, but was told that I had to wait. Ordinarily, if it was even remotely important, I might be anywhere from slightly annoyed to throwing an anxious fit about it due to my anxiety issues! However, this time I was able to let it go and decided to talk to her about that thing the next time I see her.
- my friend Holly*–My friend Holly, though I haven’t met her in person, has taught me so much. One of the most important things she has taught me is the importance of validation. Validation is so lacking in this world, but she gives it like the food we need to eat. Her encouragement has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life and has helped lifted me in times where I was depressed and despondent in life. Through her, I have learned to judge less, and encourage and love more. I also learned from her that everyone has a story, and to have more compassion and love for those who may not have the same privileges that I do. She has further taught me not to take anything for granted.
- my current manager I—My current manager I has taught me, like my parents have, the value of hard work and dedication. She has also taught me the value of believing in others because she has believed in me. When other managers were simply too busy to teach me department manager stuff (no fault with them though), she took the time out of her busy schedule to teach me some things. In that not only did I help her get some managerial things done, but she has helped me to know some of the things department managers have to do.
- My manager Tom*–My manager Tom has been a godsend to my company. For more information on him, see this. He has taught me the value of humor and of integrity. He doesn’t pretend to be someone who he’s not. For instance, when someone asks how he is doing, he won’t just mumble fine when he is feeling terrible, he will actually tell you that he feels terrible. This is not so you will feel sorry for him, but to show his genuine character. He also makes others laugh. For instance, he knew one time that I straighten the aisles very well, but joked to one of my other supervisors that I only do things “half-way.” I was there too, and when I heard him say it and pointed to him, he knew that I “got” his joke and he and I started laughing.
- My friend Laura*–My friend Laura has helped me through many things. She has taught me how to be generous and thoughtful to others. Every time it is my birthday and for Christmas, she sends me a card even when I forget to send one to her. She was also my teacher in school, and Laura has sacrificed eating her lunch at times to help students. She has a true servant’s heart, and through her example, has taught me to be more like her.
These are the life teachers that have shaped my life the most today. I have learned so much from all of these people, and I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from them. Who has taught you the most in your life? What have they taught you, and why is it so important to you? Please feel free to discuss in comments.
*=pseudonyms, not their real names to protect privacy