Recently, I walk into a group mentoring session thinking I have “big” things to teach others. After all, it is a topic for which I have considerable expertise. I am excited to share what I know with a group that needs to learn from me so they can use the information to benefit others in their organization. I am expecting to deepen their knowledge regarding certain topics.
I begin sharing and making space for others to speak. I want to create an opening for learning through well-framed questions. I wait for a response and get nothing. I try again using one of my most evoking questions and still get no response. The great silence descends. It is like running into a wall. What I came to share is not what they are ready to receive at this moment in time.
I am immediately drawn into the tension of opposites. At first, I want to ride roughshod over their dissenting voices so they will not confound my learning objectives. I somehow find patience and endurance to hold the tension until something larger can appear. Gradually, their individual stories containing the truths of their particular experience begin to emerge. I can no longer avoid their suffering as I stand in the gap. I know if I do the tensions that are coming my way will just go under -ground and multiply. This is what creates dividedness.
My eyes and heart begin to open to their individual “little” stories that contain truths that begin to overshadow my intended “big” story. I abandon the pretense that I know what is best for another person. I realize that my effectiveness is as dependent on the people I am mentoring, as they are on me for their success. I allow the “big” knowledge that came in the door with me to be absorbed in the truth of their individual “small” stories. The strength of community and connectedness begins to wrap itself around me and the struggling group. Soon the “big” and “little” stories are all one with an obvious greater possibility for learning. We could now move forward.