Share this story

 | By Tim Ryan

You Are Both Student and Mentor

Early in my career, I worked closely with an older friend named Pete. At the time, he was in his mid-40s and I was in my mid-20s. My wife, Dawn, and I just had our first child and I remember clearly Pete’s advice to me. He warned me about not spending enough time with my family. He regretted how much time he spent at work while his two grown sons were young, saying, “I can’t pull them up on to my lap anymore and give them a hug.” That thought has remained with me all these years. I took it to heart, and I thank Pete for that. But this also pointed out to me my responsibility as I get older and gain seniority in the workplace. As older Christians – excuse me, “experienced” Christians – we have a responsibility to set a good example for those who are younger, not just in terms of job-related concerns, but in terms of life as well. Each of us at times plays the role of student, and at other times we play the role of teacher. We need to be aware of our responsibility in either case:

As students:

Be open to the guidance of your seniors. Respect their wisdom and experience.

Don’t just wait for guidance. Actively seek out the wisdom of your seniors.

Remember that not everyone is a good role model. Trust your heart as to who you should consider as the standard for moral leadership.

As teachers or mentors:

Be aware of the affect you have on those younger than you. Your actions have more influence than you probably realize on the lives of younger workers.

Take your mission as a guide seriously, both personally and professionally. Be proactive in your efforts to help others.

Unless you are actively involved in a family business, it may be difficult to see how the Fourth Commandment applies to your work life. Yet, the Catechism states that the commandment to honor one’s father and mother also “extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders ... ” At the same time, “this commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers and leaders.” (2199) Therefore, it is in our best interest as pupils in the workplace to respectfully take heed of and consider the guidance of our teachers. Likewise, it is our responsibility as teachers in the workplace to earn the respect of our pupils by being good role models both professionally and personally.