Role Models, Mentors and Good Friends

I am fortunate to have had good role models during my life, and here I count my parents and grandparents foremost. Their lives are and were journeys toward a distant goal, without either map or sense of direction. This is the the nature of my journey too, and it cannot be any other way – there can be no map, because both the mind and the world are ever changing territories.

Some things are however constant and coupled with the human condition. As humans, we go through crises, we experience loss of relations and property, we grow old, we are hurt and go through illness.

We do however also form relationships, with friends, family, and a partner. We experience joy together with people who matter to us, and share music, dance, and laughter. And in ones orienting through the wilderness of the mapless mind, the told and experienced stories of your role models are not only valuable, but most necessary assets. They do not provide one with a map, but convey knowledge about marshes to avoid, and hills with great views that are not to be missed.

Through my professional life, I have experienced formal mentorships which have been important to me and my development as a physician. I do tend to be a difficult apprentice though, since I am never fully satisfied with only the professional advice I get. I am also curious about how my mentors live their lives, and some are generous in telling me, some are not, making it clear that I have ventured into an area marked as private.

My dream has been to find a mentor in life, in all aspects corresponding to an authority in humanship, as previously written about in this blog. Now, how does one find such a person?

For nearly fifteen years of my life I made no new friends. During that time I started a family with my wife, and we had two of our three children. At work I had acquaintances, people who I talked to on a daily basis, but who I never made a bond of friendship with. I had even surrendered to the fact that this was how life was going to be. I had the friends I already had, even though they were becoming estranged to me because of my lack of interest in keeping in contact with them. I thought that my wife and my kids could be my friends, and perhaps I did not need any other?

Loneliness is however the inevitable companion of friendlessness, and however much I loved my wife and children, they could not serve as a full substitute for friends. The problem was of course one of my own making. If you do not trust, do not help, do not accept favours, and do not confide in your fellow humans, they will distance themselves from you. My loneliness was a direct consequence of my own personal goals of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and freedom.

This all changed when my family and I moved to Älvsund, and Lennart, my nowadays very good friend and neighbour, adopted himself into our family. Lennart is a man in his early seventies who lives, and has lived his whole life, on a farm neighbouring ours. He is modest, both in his appearance and his ways, and has a wonderful, witty, sense of humour, loving to tell jokes and make word-puns.

Image above: Lennart’s and Kethy’s farm to the right as seen from our front door.

Lennart never asked if my family and I needed help, knowing that we had probably refused it, instead just helping when he saw we needed help. Not having lived in a small rural community before, we needed help with a lot, both practical and spiritual matters. When we moved to Älvsund, I did not even own a pair of boots!

Lennart does not count the favours he provides, which confronted my with my own rigid and impractical views on favours. He tought me to accept his services, provide him and his family with the help they needed from me, and not to keep count.

My family and I were generously welcomed into Lennart’s, and his wife Kethy’s family, and became recipients of their unconditional neighbourly love. For the first time in many years, I had made friends.

Now Lennart is not only a friend to me. During hour-long walks with our dogs in the forests surrounding Älvsund we have also gotten the opportunity to mix our discussions about local history and geography, and the people of the village, present and past, with talks about the errors we have made in our lives, the misgivings we have experienced, and the happy times we have lived through.

Lennart is not just generous in practical matters and in love, but also with himself, not shying away from the stories about the mistakes he has made in his life. This of course is most valuable for me, hopefully meaning that I will not be making the same mistakes in mine. This way, Lennart became a mentor in life for me, although officially not accepting this honorary position because of his modest nature.

Much because of Lennart’s generosity and attitude towards life, I rediscovered friendship as a necessity in life, and my wife and I are now very happy to count many of our neighbours in Älvsund as our good friends.

As you have probably understood by now, I find making friends in early middle-aged life quite a challenge. For me, being an introvert, immersing myself into rural village life was a clear advantage. The villagers in Älvsund know each other well, being acquainted with both each others good and bad aspects, but still care for their neighbourly relations. In the end it is quite simple: We need eachother. When one is stuck with ones car in a snowfilled ditch during winter, one needs help, and therefore you help others who are stuck.

Modern life offers many opportunities for establishing contacts with other human beings, and for creating large professional and interest based networks. Today it is probably simpler than ever before to make acquaintances, and this is good, but paradoxically, it is probably harder than ever before to make friends.

The very pace of our social evolution and the accelerating velocity of our electronical interactions make relationships of depth seem inefficient and time-consuming. And they can be in the short term of the daily lives we are preoccupied with. In the long run however, caring for ones family, friends, and neighbours, getting to know the people around you, are valuable investments in ones own personal growth.

Gathering around the kitchen table for coffee or food with good friends, speaking ones mind, and sharing whatever stories from present and past that come to my mind, and listening to the stories told by friends are nowadays a part of my life. It is a source of both pleasure, gratitude and compassion, all of which are necessities for living a good life.

63 reaktioner till “Role Models, Mentors and Good Friends

  1. I suspect you are the kind of doctor for whom I have long searched. Sadly, the way medicine is developing — at least in this country and I’m sure elsewhere too — everything has become so specialized, doctors have no breadth to ”get to know” patients. Nor the time, either.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! Getting to know fellow humans, over coffee at my kitchen table, or over conversations over the desk at my practice, is what I value most in life, and just like me, many doctors do. Keep searching! You will find your match!

      1. Kristofer, this is almost worthy of a quote! ”Getting to know fellow humans, over coffee at my kitchen table, or over conversations over the desk at my practice, is what I value most in life,” I’ve had a similar journey and used to have a a community of friends like your ”village.” I’m seeking my next ”village” of important social connections. Thanks for inspiring me to keep searching.

      2. Thank you very much for your comment! I am convinced that relationships encompassing all aspects of the included human beings, good and bad are more important than ever! Many of us have known family members like that, but in the future this might not be possible any more, and we will have to search for a ”family” in our surroundings. Good luck to you in your quest for a new ”village”, with generosity, compassion, and gratitude in your heart and mind, you will most certainly find one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Det var en fin text som jag kände igen mig mycket i. Jag flyttade också till en liten by, långt från gamla vänner, och trodde nog det skulle ordna sig med nya. Det hade ju gått så lätt tidigare, men för mig blev det svårt. Efter tjugo år i samma by har jag ännu inga vänner. Vi har huset var, men jag ser inte fram emot en återflytt, mycket beroende på isoleringen jag kände där. Här i Nairobi har det gått bättre. Roligt att du och din familj lyckats komma in er i er by. Det behövs nog en ”Lennart” som an visa vägen.


    1. Tack för din trevliga kommentar Johnny! Jag beklagar din upplevelse. Varje by har sin kultur. Lennart var och är mycket viktig som katalysator och jag tackar honom för att det gått så bra som det gjort. Tyvärr finns det inte så många Lennartar, och många av oss andra är för upptagna för att få in den typen av generositet i vardagen. Jag har ännu inte hälsat på vår nyaste granne, vilket nog säger en hel del om mig tyvärr. De flesta är nog mycket avvaktande i början. Roligt att ni trivs i Nairobi! Ligger er by i norra Sverige?

    2. Aha, Västmanland eller hur? I vilket fall som helst är ni välkomna att hälsa på oss om ni vill när ni kommer hem. Det bryter ju inte den dagliga isoleringen, men kunde kanske vara ett roligt inslag? Jag gillar tyvärr inte fotboll, i alla fall inte medan det går dåligt för IFK Malmö, och det har det ju gjort de senaste femtio åren!

      1. Ja, i västmannland men nära Dalarna. För mig som är från norra Småland ligger vår by i Norrland ;), väldigt nära i alla fall.

        Jo, vi är nog för försiktiga i Sverige. Man är nog rädd för att tränga sig på. När man bott in sig, eller varit på en arbetsplats ett tag är det anske dags att försöka göra en Lennart. Det kan betyda mycket för någon annan, tror jag.

        Fotboll är livet, vet du väl…men det finns mycket annat som är viktigt också, till exempel curling…

        Om du håller på ett sånt gäng som IFK Malmö beror det kanske på att du är från Malmö? Då åker du väl nästan förbi oss om du far hemåt någon gång. Nu är vi ju inte hemma i Sverige, mer än några vecor i sommar, men nästa år flyttar vi nog hem, då är du välkommen om du har vägarna förbi.


      2. Jag tackar ödmjukast för denna inbjudan och kommer att dyka upp nästa år.

  3. This beautiful article points out one of the most fundamental advantages of living in a community. Once, most of humanity lived in communities, and helped their neighbors to make it through the difficulties of life. Today, city life has upset the standards by which people used to live, and we are just beginning to learn how to deal with the problems of the technological age. It was a great pleasure reading your writing.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! My idea is not that everyone should move to the countryside, even it had been positive i som did. Instead I am trying to emphasize the great benefits of belonging to a community, as you so eloquently pointed out. Social media and modern communication technology are good compliments to our modern lives, but can never, and must never, be thought of as a substitute. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

  4. This is such a beautiful article, Kristofer, filled with insight and wisdom. I can imagine you one day taking on the role that Lennart holds for you now, and in turn ’mentoring’ others in that natural and unassuming manner that Lennart has adopted. It’s also a very timely piece for me personally. We chose to move to a rural spot, leaving friends and family to do so. We are not so very far away, but I am very conscious of the lack of community and we have been talking about how to meet this lack. As introverts – as you point out – it’s not always easy to join clubs and societies. Perhaps I shall find a Lennart of my own!

    1. Thank you very much for your comment and your thoughts on this text! Clubs and societies are good, but if one is unlucky as an introvert, they can cement one in ones loneliness, rather than the opposite. There is few things worse than being lonely in the company of others. For me the path ahead has been very much about daring to be ”weak” according to my own previous standards, asking for help and advice, acknowledging my need for the company of my friends. I wish you all the luck finding your Lennart! He might be next door!

  5. You are of course, absolutely right, Kristofer: ”they can cement one in ones loneliness”. Who knows where my Lennart might be! I’m sure I’ll find him one day soon 🙂

  6. A human needs friends and family. Through this well written article, it is clear that you are in the perfect place. We don’t even know our neighbours….we live behind high walls and security gates! Really a pity and we are always anxious and looking over our shoulders, waiting to be robbed or murdered. Having told you this, we have adapted to this kind of lifestyle and we make the best of it and try to be positive. We still have a lot of fun and joy out of everyday life…just in a different way.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! It saddens me to hear about your situation. The village or community you choose to belong to does not have to be bound by geography, the most important thing is that it exists in ones heart. It’s all about the people you decide to share your life with.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! I think the challenge, and thereby the potential opportunity, comes from being a Lennart oneself.

  7. Great post to happen upon! I am currently on assignment to find a mentor and it is so hard. I am naturally an introvert and happy to be on my own, comfortable in my own opinions. But I need the benefits that come from someone older and wiser. I wish I could just happen upon someone like your friend Lennert, but I know that is something that I would have to allow to develop and won’t just find in one encounter. But a good reminder that they are out there!

    1. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts! Good luck to you finding your mentor, the people of importance in your life do seem to turn up at the oddest occasions of time and place! Don’t be afraid to venture in to the unknown.

  8. I enjoyed reading a couple of your posts. Your words gives me hope that in the midst of the lack of humanity around the world, there are also human beings who care about making a difference. One of my cousins in South America who is a psychiatrist was my childhood playmate. I haven’t seen him since I was 7 years old. We connected via Facebook and I was delighted to see him post spiritual (but non-religious) messages that most science oriented professionals would raise an eyebrow. I have heard he is very compassionate with his patients, and I assume you are this way too.

    Thank you for the follow. 🙂

  9. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kristofer. You have an engaging manner expressed in admirably clear English. Thank you for visiting Under Western Skies.

  10. People seem to be very insular today. I also find it difficult to make deep and abiding friendships. We moved often in a24-year military career and although I’ve made many friends it’s hard to keep them up when distance separates. We’ve recently moved again in retirement and hope to develop good friends as we try to be good neighbors. Yesterday my husband overheard our neighbor say his lawnmower was broken. Today while the neighbor was at work my husband spent 3 hours mowing his lawn for him with our mower. I married a good man and a great role model for me!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Gail! ”I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” JRR Tolkien

  11. At 34 I know exactly what you mean about lonliness even with a wife and family. I to drove many relationships away. Hopefully like you I will one day make that friend/mentor. Grrat post.

    1. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your thoughts! I’ve been thinking it might be problem related to our age and life situation, just as you write. Sadly, explaining it doesn’t make the lonelyness go away. I hope and believe that you too will be as lucky as I have been.

  12. Friendships are the ”tie that bonds” us in the ability to live life with joy and freedom and hope. Friendships are indispensable. What a wonderful post you write here.

  13. We are not created to be alone. And yet loneliness in our modern world is on rise. Thank you for addressing our human need for relationships and mentors. I also want to thank you for following my blog.

    I look forward to reading more from you.

    God bless you and yours!

  14. I can relate to this post a lot, I’m an introvert as well and living in a foreign country. I have been open to make new friends, I love to feel part of a community, but repeated experiences of people wanting to befriend me to gain something in return have made me less eager to welcome new friendships. I can’t wait to read more of your experiences and findings on humanship! 😀

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! The issue you raise here is very important: By making oneself available for friendship, one also exposes ones vulnerability, and one might get used or even hurt emotionally, sometimes in really bad way! This happened to me with my first ever amorous relationship, and it took a very long time for me to get over it fully. For some reason, I would call it a drive, I persisted in my search for love, and a few months later met my wife who, I have now been married to for soon to be 12 years. Sadly, getting emotionally hurt is a part of life, just like getting bruised as a child when learning to walk, run, and ride a bicycle. In my work people often try to use me, but I have the principle of giving every one of my patient one fair chance, and often a second, but never a third.

      1. I’m happy I dared to comment because you got me thinking about it in a new perspective. You are right, hurt is part of life and as Dory said:
        ”Well you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. ” (reference to Finding Nemo) 😊

  15. What a wonderful post.
    Friendships (true, deep ones – not the people who call themselves friends but are really just leaches) are priceless and most of us will count them on one hand.
    The people who listen to us. Not offer a solution, but just listen and stay present in a non-judgemental way. There’s an art to being a good friend. Most don’t have it. 🌸

  16. Its very difficult to find genuine friends .Mostly here in India people are judgemental ,competitive and materialistic .Nice to know you got a friendly neighbour.

  17. I loved this post!

    There really are no maps – just our lives to be lived – as you say. (I wish that I had understood this truth earlier in my life)

    ”This is the the nature of my journey too, and it cannot be any other way – there can be no map, because both the mind and the world are ever changing territories.”

    Your honesty about developing genuine friendships moves me as does your story of developing one friendship and the importance of mentors in our lives… My family story is not a happy one, so developing meaningful friendship is a kind of hunger I carry to this day. Fortunately, I have been graced with animals and plants who have been both best friends and mentors – some special people followed… teachers are everywhere if we keep our hearts open.

    1. Thank you so very much for your comment, Sara, thank you also for encouraging words and for sharing your story!

  18. love your story and the defining moment and the courage to accept the truth… my take away from tour story is: it’s not important until it is important…be wise and learn to do before the issue becomes you….Thanks for your testimony and insight.

  19. Right on about the acquaintance/true friend paradox. I hypothesize the beam of the technological age radiating through the minds of the masses diminishes for many the ability to tip-toe through the depths of mystery; philosophy; the history of from where we came; ponderance as to where we may be headed as a whole; and more importantly, to truly appreciate other souls and value time, to be in the moment and not be consumed with ill-intent and judgements.

  20. About favors: Some years ago, a friend said that not accepting favors was selfish–it kept others from giving. It strikes me as a different way of saying what you’ve said here about trading favors.