Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Proselytizing vs. Equipping

I've been thinking today about why I want to introduce mentoring and life coaching into my career path. At various points in life, I have been so taken with a practice or belief that I have wanted everyone to know about it. I wanted to win them over in a certain sense. On some level, I think now that there was some external validation to be gained from another person buying into the same things I believed. I've seen this same behavior in other people quite a bit as well, sometimes more gracefully or subtly exhibited than others.

Proselytizing now seems to be a strange way of expressing fear. Fear that what I have isn't real, that what I believe isn't true. That I have somehow been duped. If I can get collusion from someone else, then I won't feel quite so stupid. If they believe it too, it must be at least somewhat reasonable. And if someone challenges this belief, that fear of being wrong can lead right into defensiveness. "How dare you question this valuable thing that I'm trying to share with you!?"

And yet, sometimes I learn something that really is useful for other people too. It feels different when I share those things, though. Not so attached to the outcome, but excited that I know something that can benefit someone else. I don't need what I know to be validated by someone else's belief. I can believe it without anyone else's approval. And even more interesting: whether another person believes it or not, I don't need to defend anything from this space. I can be open to someone else's point of view without feeling threatened. And I can even change my mind, if I choose to do so.

So, one of my favorite types of conversations now is sharing the things that have been of benefit to me with other people when the opportunity presents itself. And being able to listen to what other people have found meaningful to them. Not so either of us can convince the other, but so we can mutually equip each other with the knowledge we have gained. At the very least, I walk away understanding a little more about someone. And that's just fun.

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