About This ArticleThis is a sample from dozens of questions submitted by our newsletter subscribers that we've answered. In each issue we entertain one question from subscribers and answer it to the best of our ability. This is in addition to the Webmaster's Q & A column.
The questions, as the title of the column implies, can be about anything. Most subscribers use it as an opportunity to ask personal questions or questions about life in general, although other kinds of questions have found their way into this column as well.
As a member, you'll have access to the entire archive of past Ask Anything questions and answers.
Ask Anything Q & A SampleQuestion: I used to look up to my neighbor. He seemed wise, often offering valuable advise, and I thought he had it all together. Then I found out he is an ex-convict, having once embezzled from a former employer years ago. That shattered my thinking, and now I question everything he ever told me that I thought was good. I know I can't trust him now, but can I trust any mentor ever again?
- Submitted by Janet M.
Answer: To start with, you shouldn't think of a mentor as an infallible paragon of virtue. Each of us—your neighbor, your family, your friends, and you and I alike—are all human and make mistakes. It's nice when a mentor lives a life worth emulating, but often we come to that place of wisdom through the mistakes we've made.
Try not to idolize any mentor, but to consider the ideas he or she expresses for their own value. I know I can talk a better game than I am able to live. My writings reveal some of the ideals I strive to live up to, but that doesn't mean I can live up to all my ideals at all times. Whom among us could be that perfect? The main thing is to at least try.
Because I sometimes fall short of my own ideals, does that mean all my words are empty and worthless? If that were the case, there would be no mentors worth listening to because any person that's ever said a wise thing has also done and said some unwise things. Wisdom can be found in everyone, from the worst of us to the best of us. I would even suggest if a person can live up to every ideal he or she values, that person needs to aim for higher ideals.
Your neighbor may have made a mistake, a big mistake, but before you found out about it you found value in his words. Perhaps his words are no less valuable now than before your discovery, perhaps only the pedestal you placed him on has been devalued. I would deem that a good thing.
Whenever we place someone on a pedestal there is a high probability he or she will disappoint us sooner or later. Humans were not made to be idolized by other humans. We are all as one, none too great, none too small. I understand your disappointment, but perhaps this sudden awakening is your most valuable lesson from him yet . . . that of not building your own house of wisdom upon the character and foundation of another person.
Keep the wisdom you have gained, but don't make it dependent upon the shifting behavior of others. Faith, wisdom, and values must be built upon our own foundation. If we do that, fallen idols cannot destroy our house of wisdom.