Why the heck do we need role models? Can’t everyone just think for him or herself and make decisions about right and wrong and choices of action without somebody on a philosophical runway modeling what they could or should be?
Possibly…but role models alert us to POSSIBILITIES, in addition to serving as INSPIRATION.
Angry rappers role model distrust, rage, anti-social notions and actions: killing, raping, hating.
Stupid “stars” role model self-indulgence and excess, self-importance: self self self
Successful people who “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” role model perseverance, giving up a “victim mentality,” optimism and plain hard work.
Heroic types (military, police, firemen, and caring bystanders) who put themselves on the line of life and death role model taking care of others.
and so it goes.
These days, however, good role models are few and far between. Pastor Bill Shuler, of Capital Life Church in Arlington Virginia, pointed the way in his recent essay: 10 Reasons Why we Are Losing Good Role Models.
What follows is my paraphrasing of his list:
1. Honorable people are attacked for taking a stand for morality and values
The favorite attack here usually takes the form of being called either a “hater” or a “hypocrite.” If a person disagrees with you, you can say that they simply hate you or your stand, or that they once (usually decades ago) behaved contrary to their own words so therefore, they have no moral ground on which to defend their position. I don’t have to explain how ugly, stupid, and dangerous those approaches are to the well being of a civilized society.
2. High profile scandals in sports politics and religion have caused us to become jaded.
Yup – it’s hard to believe that a moral high ground even exists if the people you looked up to don’t respect what they have and the responsibility it gives them.
3. Fewer dads are present in the home.
Soon, most children won’t come from intact homes where they see a dad providing and protecting and teaching them how to be decent men and women.
4. Success has been defined as fame, fortune, and power.
We used to have the word “infamous” to describe people well known for skuzzy behaviors…now it’s all just “famous.” “Octo-mom” Nadya Suleman now has a television show because she’s famous for showing incredible insensitivity and irresponsibility in having 16 children with no dad or intact married family. If someone is rich (no matter how they got there), they have admirers.
5. Image often supersedes character.
Bad boys and bad girls reign supreme in our media-drenched culture. The more stupid and horrid their behavior, the more important they are to the media.
6. Indulgence replaces sacrifice.
Just think daycare.
7. The practice of self-discipline is losing ground.
If you “feel it” you have license to “do it” is today’s mantra. Consideration of consequences to others, as well as one’s own future, became secondary.
8. Seeking of “self,” on the other hand, is an over-practiced art.”
If I hear one more person excuse stupid, cruel, or self-indulgent behavior on the basis of “low self-esteem” or “I guess I have to learn to love MYSELF,” I think I’ll scream.
9. Family values have become a political issue rather than an ideal to be embraced.
The responsibility and obligation to spouse and children outweighs feelings and urges, which are temporary and often foolhardy.
10. Good people with deep convictions remain silent when they should speak up.
I have said it quite differently: way too often, good people are “wusses;” they are afraid to stand up (not without good reason…see #1), because they want to be liked. I have gotten myself into all sorts of trouble by “standing up,” so I know what it takes.
“Being beautiful, uninhibited or rich has become a cheap substitute for courage, decency and selflessness,” writes the Pastor. And he is so very correct. That’s why I often ask people to project themselves 20 years into the future, and then look back on themselves at this very moment. I ask them to tell me what they would need to do in order to be proud of themselves. It’s funny how they always know what’s right when looked at from that perspective.