~ I was sitting at coffee with a couple acquaintances the other day and one of them was practically in tears,
“I just feel so overwhelmed. It seems like I’m never able to get ahead” he said
Sadly, I have heard this same thing said by a torrent of people throughout my travels. Feeling “overwhelmed” sucks. The problems in the Western World are immense, and my little blog has been a three year experience in trying to identify the common threads that weave through Western Society and make up the various phenomena which you and I both see; people being stressed out, depressed, lonely, or feeling overwhelmed are among the most common themes that people discuss.
Many of my articles have been written to discuss what the cause of those feelings are; working too much, spending too much time alone, not enough face-to-face connectivity with friends and family, etc. The list is virtually endless when it comes to how much Western Culture has changed and the manner in which our lives no longer look the way people lived hundreds of years ago.
However stepping away from the subject of cause for a moment, what is the solution to these problems that so many people face? What do you think?
We know that people are relational creatures. We were built to be in communion with other humans. Yet technology, the Internet, our jobs, automobiles, and a whole host of other things end up disconnecting us from each other….so what do we do?
If someone is lonely, merely telling them, “Hey buddy, you just need to spend more time with other people” can come off as being trite and insensitive. Many people don’t even know how to spend time with other people apart from using cell phones and the Internet. Many people don’t know how to have a back-and-forth conversation.
If someone tells us they feel “overwhelmed”, what can they really do to change their life for the better? Most likely, they are not in a position to change their job, to move, or to entirely uproot their life and exchange it for another way of life. Most often, when people feel overwhelmed, those feelings are rooted in the reality that they do not have a lot of control over their life.
I’m always weary of armchair counselors who think they can solve another person’s problem by merely giving them their advice. This is why I’m no longer a big fan of professional counseling and psychotherapy. Real life problems are often much more complex and can’t be truly addressed in a 45 minute counseling session.
Ideally, counselors (mentors) would spend time with their mentee within the confines of the person’s day-to-day life. Instead of creating a box in which the counselor meets with them apart from their life, it would make more sense for a counselor to hang out with the mentee at their house, at their vocation, around their friends, and in numerous situations which would allow the mentor the opportunity to mentor them in much more dynamic ways.
Of course, my little ideal world doesn’t really exist……though it did exist for me. You see, my mentor, a retired therapist and part time minister, got coffee with me every Saturday morning from the time I was 16 years old to when he died (I was 35 when he died). Not only did we have coffee together every weekend, he also would call me up and invite me to dinner occasionally, he would drop in unannounced at my house every month or so, and he would also invite me to go to various events he thought I might be interested in.
You see, my mentor looked for all sorts of opportunities to interact with me in real life situations….outside of the confines of our weekly coffee meetings.
If you had the opportunity to have met my mentor, he would have told you that “Kenneth, is one of my closest friends and he has been a great inspiration and influence on my life”. It was remarkable to me that he believed that about me…..because he was more than forty years older than me, and I was just a young punk kid, what could I add to his life?
But that is how a mentor and mentee relationship works. Even though the younger person is gaining so much out of the relationship with the mentor; the mentor themselves gets a lot out of the relationship as well.
One of the by-products of those nineteen years I spent with my mentor, is my hesitancy to give people advice. Because I remember being someone who struggled with depression and constantly feeling overwhelmed. I remember people all around me who believed they knew it all, and who were constantly trying to tell me what to do.
Yet it was this much older man, a retired therapist, who took the time to simply hang out with me, to sip coffee with me each week that influenced me the most. It was his faithfulness and friendship which ministered to me more than all the various advice that others gave me.
It is easy to tell someone what we think they should do. It is much harder to be their friend, and it is even harder still to be faithful in our friendship to them over the long haul.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society