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Rôle Models
(Who and why are you imitating?).

How many of us, I wonder, would ever admit to having a rôle model? How many of us have rôle models such as movie stars, singers, or, for people such as myself, authors? How many of us would even admit to admiring someone so much that, consciously or unconsciously, we adjust our attitudes and our decisions to match that of the rôle model's? Is having a rôle model even a good thing, or is it self-defeating since we're all unique and could never "become" another person?

Probably because of my intense and ongoing work with young people and children, and seeing the impact that can be made upon their lives, these questions weigh on my mind daily. I watch the attitudes and choices of celebrities become the actions and behaviors of the kids I work with; some good and some not good. The upsetting thing is that even if the behavior is wrong and the consequences severe, the young people are actually proud of themselves for acting in a way that resembles their chosen rôle model.

It doesn't really take much to become a rôle model in someone's eyes: if you're famous, then you have an immediate advantage. Just pick the right songs, or play in the exciting movies and someone somewhere will decide to become just like you.

In realizing this, the next important question would have to how significant a role does a role model really have on young people? For some, the significance is enormous, but for others who have a strong family background and other non-celebrities for rôle models, the significance may be dim. Either way, though, a life will be impacted. The most important and most difficult question to answer, though, is whether we're able to choose our rôle models. Of course, the obvious answer would be yes, but I don't really believe we do. I believe that somewhere, someone touches our lives: be it through a special hug, or a song that portrays your life. When our life is touched, we consciously decide to learn more about the person who touched our life. Eventually, and unconsciously, we begin to model our behaviors and attitudes toward that person.

We don't really have a choice about who influences our lives; people do kind deeds and make meaningful choices every day of our lives, and because we're human, our emotions are going to react to those choices. It's even natural, I believe, for us to want to model and imitate an action that has positively influenced our lives. The unnatural, and dangerous, part, though, is being so wrapped up in that one action or deed that we no longer see our rôle model's bad actions ! for what they are: bad actions. Instead, we come up with excuses to excuse the inexcusable. This is dangerous not only because if an action is excused in our lives, we have no moral or logical reason not to imitate it, but also because, in attempting to place this rôle model on a pedestal in our lives, we lose a part of our own identity, and our specialness and importance in life could become overshadowed by the things the rôle model does or says.

In my opinion, the consequences of treating another person as a model extensively outweigh the rewards, of which the only real one is being able to say that you can perform an action that once touched your own life, knowledge that may, for a time, lift your self esteem. Because of the importance and significance our rôle models have on us, it's important to be careful of the people we admire and always try to remember that it is the action they performed, or the song they sing, that means to so much to us, not necessarily the person.

It's also important to realize that if our rôle models are people we actually know and love, then the likelihood of being encouraged to do things that are detrimental not only to others but to ourselves is lowered. After all, most of the time, we do not act in unkind and unbefitting ways when around children because we know that children are impressionable. Children, though, are not the only ones who are impressionable. We all are, and it's up to you to be careful in choosing who we admire, and to also remember that with every breath you take, you are so important to this earth, that there is someone, somewhere, who is watching you and trying to imitate your lifestyle.

Depending upon the actions you take, you may be helping to shape either a murderer or a teacher. God wants us to be rôle models, but at the same time, I also believe that what He really wants is to do is act in ways that will bring more and more people to Him. It's Him and His grace and mercy that we should be helping others to see, and if we remember that, then I think it's easier for us to act in ways that would be acceptable to Him for others to imitate.

Every day we open our eyes, many events shape who we are, for better or worse. Likewise, with every breath we take, our actions can shape another's, for better or worse. Isn't that reason enough to want to find happiness for ourselves first, so that we may then, knowingly or not, encourage another to do the same?