From Seneca:

“Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach.” – Seneca

Part 1: Associate with people that will make you a better man.

If you need to lose weight, look for athletes that have a great build. Go to the gym and get a personal trainer. If you know somebody that is a fitness fanatic, ask him/her if you can train with them. Be proactive—don’t expect happiness to come knocking on your door. You have to search for self-improvement.

Every great man has a mentor. Aristotle was a mentor to Alexander the Great; Ralph Waldo Emerson was a mentor to Henry David Thoreau; Albert Einstein had Max Talmey. These men were able to grow under the guidance of a great teacher. History was shaped by mentorships. Without these interactions, the world would be a paltry place.

talmey
Max Talmey, a Polish ophthalmologist, was the mentor Albert Einstein

Do you have a great mentor in your life? You need to find one if you don’t.

I’m afraid that women are handicapped in this regard. In today’s America, young women have a difficult time finding mentors. That’s because too many older women have petty jealousy, insecurity, etc. These older women will steer young ones in a poor direction – this is especially true in the secular world, where women are encouraged to behave in ways that denigrate their character.

Years ago, I overheard a conversation between several women. Two of them were counseling a younger one. They were encouraging the young girl to cheat on her boyfriend, telling her to follow her “emotions” and “feelings.” This kind of mentorship is not helpful, and is actually more of a poison than anything. It’s about two jealous women, trying to destroy the happiness of a “frenemy.”

What’s the solution? Well, I recommend that women seek mentorship from the Church. They’re more likely to find other women there that have a faith in God, as well as the desire to help others. These Christian women are more likely to give them advice on how to strengthen a family. Of course, the optimal place for a woman to receive mentorship is from her family. But not every young woman has this option: some come from weak or broken families, for example. So women must seek counsel in other arenas and, at this moment, the Church is the best of these options.

pretty-church
A good place for a woman to find female mentorship.

Part 2: Welcome Those Who You Can Improve

Mentorship is a two-way street; it’s about giving, as well as receiving. We get better by helping others, by sharing our experiences with the world. Note that there are a variety of professional mentorships available. But also, partnerships can be created from the people you meet.

Find young people with talent. Every now and then, you come across a young person with great potential. How can you help him? How can you guide him? Try to steer the youngster in a positive direction if possible. Remember that you were young at one time – how would you have benefited from advice, from the counsel of a wise elder? Personally, I would have benefited greatly.

mentor
You can give back to others

A simple reminder: people only care about what you can do for them. Your music is great if it tells their story, your novel is great if it glorifies their life. People are inherently selfish, but there’s nothing wrong with that; we’re all locked into our bodies, trapped in our own “movie.” It’s hard for us to step into the shoes of another, to understand the totality of their life.

Remember that people don’t care about “you,” per se; they care about what you can do for them. But once you do for them, they will be forever grateful. They will speak of you in glowing terms, writing your name in the appendix of their lives. You will become an idol of sorts, an individual that lit a fire beneath them. Their selfishness is not a curse, but an avenue for opportunity.

Conclusion

The wisdom of Seneca is a gift that keeps giving. And his words on mentorship are telling. We should seek out the advice of others, and we should look to uplift those in need of guidance. It’s a beautiful reciprocity of existence – a circle that will improve our lives.

For more on Seneca, see the following link: Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

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2 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Seneca: On Mentorship

  1. Whilst I agree with your sentiment of mentoring I would not have chosen Seneca as my role model. As a professional mentor during mr work as an organisation psychologist then as a direct necessity growing a group of young women as teacher trainers in Nepal I can agree entirely with the notion of reciprocity. The more I mentored directors of companies or young teacher trainers, the more I learned personally. My own role model? Socrates, the questioner, the challenger, …… the mentor!

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