We all should have spiritual mentors in our lives. Spiritual mentors are people who are invested in our spiritual health, personal growth, and in us reaching our fullest potential. They may help us learn new skills or knowledge, provide guidance and wisdom for decision-making, or hold us accountable in the ways we engage with ourselves and the world around us.
Spiritual mentors are not perfect people. They do not have to be without faults. They do not have to be elders or ordained members of a community. But they should surpass you in spiritual maturity and challenge you in your growth. They should be warm, loving, authentic, encouraging, and approachable. They should also be accessible and willing to provide mentorship. There are many things you can consider when choosing a mentor. Depending on your personal beliefs and values, there may be specific areas that are of most concern to you. Here are a few things to get you started.
1. Do their beliefs and values compliment and challenge yours?
What are their beliefs about spirituality? Religion? Church? Culture? Politics? Are these beliefs similar to yours? Your spiritual mentor does not have to have the exact views and beliefs as you, but there should be similar core values and their beliefs should positively challenge you to think critically about your own.
2. Do they exhibit humility?
Being able to admit wrongdoing, ignorance, shortcomings, or that their accomplishments are not theirs alone, is important. It is also important that a spiritual mentor views humility as an essential strength, not burdensome weakness.
3. Does their life reflect a mature relationship with personal challenges and hardships?
This does not mean that they do not experience hardships, breakdowns, or make mistakes, or that they are “positive” all the time. It does mean that ultimately they view challenges in life as important defining moments. It also means they are able to recover, heal and learn from challenges. Overall they live a life defined by assurance, not persistent spiritual suffering.
4. Do they contribute to the enhancement of the communities they are apart of?
Is their home, job, church, neighborhood, or organization better because they are there, and are they concerned about the condition of these communities? Vertical spiritual wellness should reflect horizontally, and vice versa. Apathy and disconnect from suffering around them suggests a lack of understanding of our interrelatedness and the significance of justice and balance in the universe.
5. Do they have a strong sense of self-worth and integrity?
One of the biggest challenges in society, especially for Black people, is we are constantly confronted with the idea that we are not enough. This leaves us constantly looking outside ourselves for validation and leaves us dependent on the external world for direction on who we should be. A good spiritual mentor should know who they are and who they are becoming, and should strive to be that person, regardless of the actions of others or the situation.
6. Do they have a spiritual mentor themselves?
This is important to ensure that they are getting fed and have support in continuing to grow in their spiritual wellness. Spirituality is about process, not outcomes. A potential mentor that doesn't have mentors themselves might erroneously believe that they have "arrived".
7. Do they spend their time on things that grow and support themselves and others, or on things that are depleting?
Time is the one thing that we can never get back or acquire more of. Once a second is gone, it is gone. Does the person spend hours on Facebook criticizing others or in their community supporting others? How a potential spiritual mentor spends their time, reflects what they value, and how they will spend their time with you.
8. Are they always looking outside themselves for answers or direction?
A potential spiritual mentor should be mature in their ability to trust what is within them and to utilize wisdom to make decisions and navigate their life. This does not mean they never seek guidance or support from others, but constant self-doubt and need for reassurance from others is a sign they might struggle in mentoring you.
9. Can you see their spiritual practice in their daily lives?
This might look like fasting, prayer, use of an altar, yoga practice, meditation, church involvement, engagement with sacred text, divination practice, nature walks, offerings etc. Whatever it is, there should be multiple forms, they should be clearly present, regularly practiced, and an integrated part of their lives.
10. Do they already support you in gaining greater knowledge of self and growing closer to truth?
Remember, spiritual mentors are not perfect people and regardless of your answers to the questions on this list, you must be spiritually led to who is best fit to give you guidance. Sometimes the most obvious question is the most important one.
Jamari White is a blessed visionary, social worker, mental health therapist, and self-coined black liberation healer. His work and interests unfold at the intersections of Black liberation, mental health, spirituality, healthy relationships, social institutions and systemic change. He received his Western education and training from The University of Chicago and The Ohio State University College of Social Work. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and at his online community The Fireline.