Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Type of Role Model are You; The False Dichotomy of Role Models

It’s been a quiet month for The Dialect of Praxis, but many thoughts have been brewing, and it’s about to get a little louder. Among the percolating questions, who are role models, why do so many Christians misunderstand mental illness, and Sanctification; what happens after Justification? Today’s post, “What type of role model are you; The False Dichotomy of Role Models” (we’ll get to the other questions another day).

Everybody is a role model. But, not everyone is the same type of role model and maybe some people shouldn’t be afforded the title. Everyone’s a role model, but not everyone wants the job.

“I'm not a role model... Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids” (Charles Barkley).

“I would like to be called an inspiration to people, not a role model - because I make mistakes like everybody else. When I'm offstage, I'm just like everybody else” (Britney Spears).

“I’m not a “Role Model,” I don’t wanna babysit kids…” (Eminem).

The previously quoted celebrities claim they are not role models and I feel sorry for them. Few people choose or feel called to be role models, but it’s not that simple. It used to be, parents, teachers, ministers, and prominent public figures that were bestowed the title of role model. Thanks, in large part, to the internet, no one is exempt from the title. If you come into contact with other human beings, you are a role model, but what type of role model are you?

To be a role model is an arduous task and all have been designated with the job, but not all share the same responsibility. NBA super-stars, like Barkley, may be an example to kids and/or admirers, but their examples may not be what parents want for their kids; that’s why celebrities and public figures are generic-role-models. The difference between celebs, parents, and people like me, job description defines what kind of role model responsibilities come with the position.

Public figures, like celebrities, teachers, and ministers have two things in common: first, they are not primary-role-models; second, if they don’t want to be criticized for their influence they’re in for a bumpy ride. Hence, this is where I let celebrities off the responsibility train. Their example (intended or otherwise) is one of a generic-role-model and their job description is only the technical definition of “role model.”

Teachers and ministers make a decision or fill a calling; as a result, they are secondary-role-models.  A secondary-role-model has more responsibility than celebrities (who are generic-role-models). Teachers and ministers were hired (professionally and voluntarily) to fill an, intentionally, influential position. As secondary-role-models, they will receive more critical reviews. As a Ministry Worker (and a human being) I don’t enjoy heavy criticisms of what I say or do, but it comes with the job description. Thus, the difference for secondary-role-models (like me) and generic-role-models­ (like celebrities and public figures) is we have a greater responsibility to respond to our critics. This reality does not give us primary responsibility.

Parents are the primary-role-models. It is a parent’s job description to raise their children in the ways they think best and they have the most responsibility for the behavior they want their children to emulate. If parents want their kids to be educated, it is on them to foster good work habits and environments, it is up to them to work with teachers, and it is up to them to be the primary example of learning for their children. If a parent wants their child to have lifelong faith discipleship, then a parent has to model the example of faith that they hope their children will live out. As a Youth Minister, I will teach young people the scriptures and foster orthodoxy to the best of my abilities, and encourage orthopraxy, but the job of faith discipleship starts with the parent.

Bottom line, all people are role models, but parents are primary-role-models, educators and ministers are secondary-role-models, and celebrities and public figures are generic-role-models. No one is exempt (thank you Social Media, Internet, and human communication). All aforementioned role models fail and God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus, the Role Model of Role Models, died for all of us role models (called humans) out of grace for our imperfect modeling; may we look to the cross in humility, as none of us has been afforded our positions as role models, without the work of God.


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