The Hero and the Mentor

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

When I was 8 years old, my dad let me watch Star Wars for the first time. I vividly remember being glued to the screen as I watched Luke Skywalker destroy the Death Star. I remember the shock at the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke's father. I remember the joy and sadness of Vader's redemption and death. As a young kid, I didn't know why those characters captured my imagination. The only thing I knew was that they were awesome!

For as long as I can remember, I have loved stories. My mom used to read the parables of Jesus to me from an old children's book, and I would have her read it over and over again until one day the binding finally fell off. I was the kid who always had a book in his bag. I would read every day at lunch, in the car, and at night before bed. In college I filled every elective class I had with classes on film, literature, or writing.

In one of my classes, I was introduced to a concept known as the Campbellian Archetypes. Taken from the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, the archetypes describe certain types of characters that have consistently appeared in popular stories for thousands of years. Everything from Homer's Odyssey to Star Wars follows some variation of this model.

While I think we can all agree that there wouldn’t be much of a story without a hero, another character that caught my attention was the mentor. Nearly every story I can think of has a character who guides the hero towards their destiny. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what an important role the mentor plays. Without a mentor, the hero wouldn’t learn the skills or knowledge required to overcome their adversaries. In some cases, the hero might never have begun their journey in the first place unless their mentor gave them a little nudge out of the door.

Mentors play an important role not just in the stories we love, but in our everyday lives as well. They serve as coaches and teachers. They invest in our lives and want to see us grow to our full potential. Sometimes our mentors tell us things we may not want to hear. They help us discover our own humanity and challenge us to own it so we can truly grow.

We are each the heroes of our own stories, but we cannot do it alone. We all need a teacher, someone who has walked the path before us and can show us the right way to go. Not everyone is qualified to be a mentor. There are plenty of people out there with opinions, but finding someone who can guide you, who is equipped to help the way that you need, and has your best interests at heart is one of the greatest gifts you can receive.


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by Doug Guernsey

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