Mentoring, wisdom and the book of Proverbs

by Bill Hampton

Bill Hampton, Director of Resourcing, SIL ILS

Mentoring may not be such a new idea. If you consider the encouragement and teachings contained in the Book of Proverbs, you may be surprised by the parallels between current mentoring thought and the timeless encouragement and instruction found there. Attributed to King Solomon, this ancient book begins, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel, for gaining wisdom.” (Proverbs 1: 1, 2, NIV) There are many verses where a father is teaching his son, and many verses that illustrate the need for the encouragement and shaping of others. In fact, the first four chapters of Proverbs contain special narratives focusing on gaining wisdom. Solomon’s words paint a picture of the need for wisdom in all areas of life, as well as in the work space.

Wisdom, in Solomon’s understanding, comes from guided and ongoing reflection on the combination of gained knowledge and life experience. This is surely a picture of mentoring. As a person gains knowledge through learning, and experience through doing, someone who has “been there” before them can impart deeper understanding. They can share past experience in ways that instruct. Through a listening ear, a mentor can encourage discernment, and help their mentee become wise. As Solomon’s picture of wisdom is a combination of life and lessons learned, so mentoring is the opportunity for someone to participate in the life of a willing mentee and help them gain understanding as they reflect together on the mentee’s experiences. These shared discussions help the mentee set more effective long term directions in life and work. That is, after all, a key desire for mentoring: helping the one being mentored understand, set better directions, make more effective decisions, and gain from growing wisdom. Author Timothy Keller writes:

“The way of wisdom is not the way of quick fixes and dramatic turnarounds. It is the way of long training and discipline.”

Keller. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life. New York: Viking, 2017, p34.

King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Let the wise listen, and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5, NIV)

Reflection questions:

In both the Book of Proverbs, and in current mentoring literature, the willingness of the one being mentored is crucial to the process. As you reflect on your own experiences in mentoring and being mentored, what experiences support the necessity of a willing mentee?

Gaining wisdom, like effective mentoring, is a long term prospect. How might you help mentees see the value of this process in such a results-driven world? Can you find supporting information in the Book of Proverbs?

Image by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

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