General Mentoring Helps Relationships

Redemptive Conversations

How to Bring Life Into a Mentoring Relationship

Editor’s Note: In his book, The Healing Path, author Dan Allender walks us through four key steps that foster redemptive conversations in relationships. This article takes a look at those four steps and applies them to a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is about coming alongside others in a way that speaks into the young man’s life. In many cases, a crisis confronts a young man with unresolved issues that are far larger than the crisis at hand. I’ve been called a triage disciplemaker. I take a guy in crisis and help him get stabilized. That process calls for deep dives into the soul. Helping draw connections between what’s happening in the present with the past and forecasting the future, if things don’t change.  As I read Dan Allender’s book, he walks us through four key steps in guiding a conversation in a redemptive manner.  These apply to any relationship, but for our sake, we will focus on application to mentoring.

1. Present to the Past

How we deal with things today is often directly connected to our past. When a crisis hits, our pattern of handling them comes out. Typically, it’s a flight or fight reaction.  For example, if someone is against me, I’ll either fight back with anger or flee in fear. Both have destructive patterns.  In a mentoring relationship, if your warrior comes to you with one of these reactions, the best thing to do is to empathize with them. Join with them in their pain. Seek to understand where they are coming from. If you do, they may invite you into some deeper part of their heart.

One young man I mentored had opened up about his struggle with porn. We were working through using the 24-hour rule and pre-emptive strikes.  He was turning a positive corner when one evening it all came to a crisis point. One evening, I saw I missed a call from him. Shortly after, he was banging on our front door. As I opened the door he barged in engulfed in tears. He was at the end of his rope. As we sat down on the two sofas, I leaned in to hear what was going on. His words were muffled by all the tears, but the conversation went something like this:

Warrior:  I’m done! I’ve had it! This has to stop! I don’t know where else to turn.

Me: Tell me what happened.

Warrior: I was home alone tonight, in my room. This ache came over me. I felt so lonely.                                   The next thing I knew, I was deep in porn and masturbated. I’m so sick of this! I was doing so well, what happened to me?

Me: Leaning forward, I put my hand on his shoulder.  You mentioned being lonely. Tell me more about that.

Warrior: You know, that ache that felt that no one really cares or loves me. I know, saying it out loud seems so stupid. So illogical, but that fear of abandonment, haunts me. 

Me: Perhaps you have some past experiences, even as a little kid, that you were left alone and forgotten?  How you handle that now, as a young man, is apparently by reverting to porn and masturbating. It’s giving you some temporary relief, but it’s not a long-term solution.

At that point in the conversation, there was a slowing of the tears and a bit of connection to how he was handling his loneliness.

2. Past to the Future

You’ve heard the phrase “past performance does not guarantee future results”?  In the case of our behavior past performance points to future results, unless things change. One of our struggles is in the moment, we don’t realize how our destructive behaviors from the past create patterns of how we handle a similar crisis in the future. I get angry when my expectations are thwarted. If I don’t learn healthier ways, I’ll continue to blow-up when someone tells me “NO!”.

Back to my conversation with the young warrior.

Me: Loneliness is a legitimate feeling. God made us for relationships and if we don’t have healthy ones, we can feel abandoned. That ache can drive us to do things to fill that gap. It seems you are using porn to fill that gap.  What do you think life will look like for you in ten years if you keep on the same path you are?

Warrior: Ten years from now, I’d hope to be married. Maybe even kids. 

Me: So, tell me, how do porn and masturbating fit into that?

Warrior: Yeah, come to think of it, it doesn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to my wife.

Me: So, what would happen if your wife or your boy found you doing it?

Warrior: That would be horrible. I’d be mortified. It would hurt my family so bad.

Me: So, things need to change?

Warrior: For sure!  Will you help me?

3. Future to the Present

When this young man thought about his future, he realized his current patterns of handling loneliness was not the legacy he wanted to leave for his family. 

Warrior: I want to love my future family. I want to love others and not feel lonely.

Me: To have that kind of future, where does God fit into your current situation?

Warrior:       He pondered for a few seconds.  You know, when I act out I realize I’ve pushed God out of the equation when in reality He is the one who can most love me in the moment. When I’m lonely, I feel so sorry for myself.

Me: So, when you feel lonely again, which will happen, we all feel lonely at times, how will you handle it differently?

Warrior: Call on God. Call a friend. Text you. Leave my room and go be with someone. 

Me: Show them, love?  Go jump on the couch with your brother and tell him you are glad he’s in your life

Warrior: With a grin…  Yeah!

4 Present to Eternity

As Allender says in his book, by connecting the present to eternity, many of the existential questions gnawing deep in our souls are answered in having a deeper relationship with God. Am I loved? Can I show and receive unconditional love from God and others? Does my life matter? Do I have what it takes to be a man?   How I handle today is a reflection on my view of eternity (and we each have an eternal destination. That destination is contingent on our relationship with Jesus or lack thereof).

I can’t tell you this young man’s battle with porn was solved in one crisis visit at my house, but I can tell you that was two years ago and he is now in a vastly different place both in how he handles loneliness and his massive reduction in using porn. I can also tell you the conversations we have about the issue is vastly different.

Me: So, how was your evening alone?

Warrior: Much better. Remember when I’d feel that ache and go off the deep end with porn?  I felt that same ache the other night. My mind started to go down the old path, but then something caught me. Actually, I think it was the Lord tapping on my heart. I decided to text a friend. Come to find out he was feeling that same loneliness. We ended up face timing and it helped both of us. It was so good to pray for each other!

What was it about that crisis talk a couple of years ago that turned the corner for this young man? What if the redemptive conversation never happened?  Two years ago, I hadn’t read Allender’s book, but somehow, the Lord worked in my heart to come alongside this young man in his deep struggles. 

Mentors are there to help a young warrior process life. Think about ways you can practice redemptive conversations.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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