“But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of \ one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.’” Sonia Sotomayor
A young woman in her twenties becomes the monarch for the United Kingdom.
An African American couple become the President and First Lady of the United States.
A young man whose family comes from a very challenging life situation becomes one of the world’s best tennis players.
As their status changes one of their first comments is something along the lines, “Who would have thought…” And shortly thereafter is the acknowledgment by virtue of their accomplishment that they inherently know they now bear the responsibility of being a role model for others.
Role model: A person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate (Wordnik).
One of the greatest blessings of my life is the number of people who have and continue to serve as role models. Parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, employers and just other fine human beings. Folks who inspired me by both their words and actions. Many who verbally encouraged and affirmed, and others whose navigation of situations and circumstances was nothing short of inspirational.
And, like the examples I offered above, each had a keen awareness for the importance of acknowledging how their accomplishments not only impacted themselves but countless others as well. As such, they owned the responsibility that comes with being a role model for others.
One clearly does not need to be a monarch, president or world class athlete to be a role model. The reality is each of us have young people in our lives, those we formally or informally lead, those who seek our counsel or direction, whose lives are influenced by our words and actions.
Basketball great Charles Barkley, who used to be known for his outlandish behavior once proclaimed, “I’m not a role model…Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids!” Yet by the very fact of his athletic accomplishments he was a role model for many young aspiring basketball players. Acknowledged or not, he was a role model for others. Unfortunately for a time in his career much of what he was modeling was negative behavior. And as legendary basketball player Michael Jordan commented, “I never thought a role model should be negative.”
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more (Luke 12:48). It is important to acknowledge that others are looking to us. Helpful reminder for all of us: Let our life speak and always remember others are listening…watching. What are we saying with our words and actions?