A mentor is an experienced and trusted teacher, advisor, or counselor; they often lead us to the deeper truths of who we are. Ideally a mentor demonstrates the ability to hold both masculine and feminine energies. They are able to balance:
Doing with being
Aggression with surrender
Analytical thought with intuition
The concrete with the abstract
Controlling with allowing behaviors
Striving with nurturing
Many are aware of the example of Oprah Winfrey. According to Variety Magazine (January 7, 2018) Oprah spoke of how her fourth grade teacher, Miss Duncan, was a mentor, stating that because of her: “I realized I wanted to be a teacher—and at my core I am a teacher.” Today Oprah teaches in many ways—through media, TV, guest appearances, movies, etc.—and often specifically mentors regarding black and female equality and rights, in the service of many.
I feel fortunate to have had numerous mentors in my life—including my oldest sister, Marge, a registered nurse who encouraged me to follow that route and to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the nursing field. Beyond modeling independence and professionalism, she guided me to a greater acceptance of death. Marge, though a non-smoker, unfortunately was diagnosed with lung cancer. In the last year of her life she was paralyzed from her breasts down due to metastases to her spine. When I traveled to see her in the final days of her illness, she spoke very candidly about dying. Even though she was a devout Catholic, she understood and accepted I was no longer aligned with that religion. She even asked me to pray for her from whatever spiritual perspective I had. In those final hours, we enjoyed a deep connection and love for each other. This is an expression of the receptive, nurturing aspect of feminine energy and how it can heal. Marge indeed mentored me in the most positive ways regarding both death and being open minded to all spiritual perspectives and practices.
Not all mentors have a beneficial influence though, as news reports daily recount. A person in a mentoring or supervisory role who withholds or shares inappropriate information—as well as someone who exhibits inappropriate and domineering behaviors—is not a true mentor. For example, when I was a graduate student studying psychology, I was aware of a certain professor who was married and seduced female students. This is a complete violation of ethics and an especially egregious abuse of power. In terms of the feminine and masculine, such behaviors represent a total imbalance of energies and result in harm to the mentee.
A common challenge people face in efforts to balance female and male energies is fear that they cannot do so and don't know where to begin. Readers will discover a number of ways to achieve that balance in my upcoming book, The Paradoxical Return of the Feminine: Journeys to Raise Awareness and Create Peace.
In what ways have you experienced mentors and their energies—either personally or culturally? In what ways are you now a mentor to others? After giving these questions thought, please share your experiences by writing a comment below.