This is the one that gets all the poems and love songs. Who do you love? Whose happiness do you consider integral to your own? This is the person you go to for a connection to the world.
Who explains what it’s all about to you? When you have a deep spiritual crisis, wondering why we’re even born, and why bad things happen to good people, and whether there’s anyone at the helm or maybe God is just, like, an insecure pissy drunk… that’s when you approach your guru, it’s your source for advice about what’s right and wrong.

It’s distinct from mentor, though similar, because gurus operate on a larger, more abstract and sometimes mystical level. Your mentor tells you how to do something, while your guru tells you why. This is the person you go to when things don’t add up.
Who do you look at with admiration? Who’s your aspirational figure? Who do you look at and think “Wow, _________ really has it wired together tight. I’d be better off if I could only be more like ________”? If the name in that blank is someone in your cell phone directory whom you see often enough, you can consider that person your mentor.

A mentor is similar to a guru, but where a guru is more concerned with big picture questions and morality, mentors work on pragmatics. What should your next move be? What’s smart and what’s foolish? If you’re stuck on principles, call a guru. If your problem is with process, call your mentor. “I feel like no one will ever love me!” — talk to your guru. “Should I sell my Nabisco shares?” — ask your mentor.
Somewhere there is someone you have to care for. It could be someone you owe, big time. Maybe you acted badly — abominably even — or maybe this person just doesn’t have anyone else, regardless of their needs. It could be your child, or your elderly parent, or your sister who’s in a bad spot. Or maybe you prospered on someone’s back, the cake got cut and you got all the frosting, and now you feel ashamed and want to make that right.Either you know what you did, or you know what you have to do.

You could love your responsibility, but it’s not the fun kind of dizzying affection you have for your favorite. But, given how unhappy they can make you, it may be hard to feel anything other than sickly obligation.
There’s someone who looks up to you — or, at least, someone you think looks up to you, or should. Someone you can guide and help and, if not exactly shape, certainly influence. Positively! Someone who treats you as their guru or mentor, really.

Like your responsibility, this is someone to whom you give and give. Unlike your responsibility, you give to your protégé because you want to, without obligation.


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