“Mentor” was the name of the man that Odysseus placed in charge of his son, Telemachus, when he went off to fight the Trojan wars. The very fact that he saw such a need created the role and the name.
A mentor has a mature sense of himself or herself. A true mentor has inner authority that gives confidence to others. She or he possesses a certain “magnanimity” of soul—a generosity of heart that makes others know they will not be abandoned. Basically, they must have the care and the capacity for simple friendship, not domination or merely supervision.
If a mentor is not free to talk about going “down” as well as going up they are not a true mentor. They must have the courage to tell you that you must be in the cellar for a while, and they will show you how you can stay there and not die!
I've had a lot of wonderful women and men in my life who have contributed to my development and maturation. Many have been good friends to me, and I learned something from all of them. I'm deeply grateful for that.
But something I have only rarely gotten a glance of is true mentorship. Not very many people - even so-called grown ups - have a real "mature sense of himself or herself." Sadly, even more rare is that "generosity of heart that makes others know they will not be abandoned." I don't want to dramatize, or make myself into a victim. I've said before, few bad things have ever really happened to me. But I haven't known very many people who had that generosity of heart. I have felt abandoned on more than one occasion, by more than one person I had fancied a "mentor." Most people - in fairness I should say most of "us" - are too insecure to give ourselves entirely without the selfish need for personal gain. Life is too busy, too hard, and perhaps too short for us to truly give ourselves unselfishly to someone else who covets our time, our attention, our experience or wisdom. Well, that is: life is too busy/hard/short to do it easily.
True mentorship is not easy because it asks so much of the mentor. Maybe this is why I've had such a difficult time finding one. Or maybe I'm simply ungrateful, and don't recognize the blessing I have already had in relationships. Either way, I hope I have the opportunity (someday, not now, I'm not mature or qualified) to contribute to breaking the cycle, and offering genuine, committed, selfless mentorship.