Back in 1967, a song was released by a group called Buffalo Springfield. It was a great song in its time and certainly relevant in the American society that existed back in the day. I’m not going to rehash the entire song, but one line came to my mind as I was listening to a Classic Rock station the other day. That line:
“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
makes me think about how things have changed since the late 60’s. Now to be honest, the song, therefore the line from the song, was written a bit before I was old enough to understand it. As I reached my 20’s, in the 1980’s, I began to see it for what it was. I was voting, we had a president that had nearly been impeached and resigned from office a few years before, and I had lived a pretty radical life as a teen of the ‘70s.
The song was a recollection of the author, Stephen Stills, and probably a number of his friends who happened to be in the midst of a protest one night on Sunset Strip. Their band was playing in one of the clubs in that area when the protest broke out. In the protests of that time, it was difficult to make out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys because of the emotional upheaval at those events. I can see that being the reason for the line in the song I mentioned above. Watching the protests of that day, even from the news on TV, was ugly. Many of the people protesting got mean, and the police got mean. Yet, there was a real battle for things worth fighting for.
People believed in things, I mean really believed in things! The world changes for the good when people believe in things and stand behind what they believe. However, Stills was right – Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Each of our lives consist of wrong and right. We are wrong sometimes and right others. How do we know that? By the standards we set. The standards we must set. AND the basis of those standards. If we stop being a moral society, we stop being a society at all.
Today, the mantra would go something like this – Nobody’s wrong if everybody’s right. In a society where this type of thinking is prominent, there are victimless crimes – or worse – the transgressor AND the one transgressed upon are both considered victims. A father can beat his children or his wife unmercifully because he has “anger issues”. A rapist goes free because the woman was provocative and he couldn’t help himself. A man can “date” a 13-year old boy because the boy “has rights”. An addict can be allowed to steal from others because the poor woman has an opium problem. Good people speaking out about right and wrong are considered haters and are harassed or worse.
Trust me, I have my own problems, so this is not about judgement. As the familiar saying goes, “There but by the grace of God go I.” My point is that if there is no wrong, then everyone is right to do whatever they feel they want or “need” to do. As Mentors, we must have standards or morals, if you will. Without them, we have nothing to offer. If we are to mentor children or teens, that is especially true. If “everything goes”, then we’re definitely either setting them up to fail or to simply rationalize anything and everything they do. As Mentors, we do so many things right because we know we must be good examples. If everyone doing anything is a good example, what are Mentors needed for?
My challenge to every Mentor out there reading this is to examine your own heart and your own mind first. Ask the question, “Where am I wrong in my life – right now, today?”. I suggest that if you want to be a great Mentor, you will think about where you’ve failed to do the right thing over and over again. Yet, you continue to do that because you’ve rationalized it every time it comes up. Where have you accepted an addiction or simply a bad habit as normal because you feel that “you can’t stop” or “you’re not hurting anyone else”? Many times we stay in this condition because we’re afraid of doing something different. So that you don’t pass this mentality on to those you mentor, I challenge you, each time that temptation comes, to ask yourself, “What if I didn’t – this time?”. I believe that when you ask yourself often enough, you won’t.
Think about it – to help someone overcome a particular fear, we would ask those we mentor to step out in courage one time. We would advise them, and wisely so, to ask the question, “What if I did – this time?”. Repeating that builds confidence. We know that! As a trusted Mentor, you will find your mentees telling you about the things that they know they should not do. Something inside them knows that they are captive to whatever it is that enslaves them. A tiny step of courage will help them start to break free from the thing that they have believed they would never be free from. A wise Mentor would suggest that the mentee ask themselves,
“What if I didn’t – this time?”.