Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thoughts on role models...

"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

In generations past, children looked up to and idolized people of worth and integrity such as: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Neil Armstrong, as well as their local police officers and fire fighters; a person was measured, not necessarily by their fame and fortune, but rather by their skill, heroism, education and moral character. In our time, children are more apt to be dazzled by and prone to emulate movie stars and recording artists, in other words, celebrities.

This shift in focus highlights an important societal trend, in my opinion: the trend towards valuing personality and charisma over character. Gone are the days when people were judged by what they are on the inside; we have created a generation of children who judge by what a person is on the outside: their physical beauty, clothes, circle of friends, even their brand of shoes or the purse they carry. How else can you explain the appeal of someone like Paris Hilton?

Personally, I think that at least part of the problem is that parents don't instill the values of moral character and personal achievement into their children. I want my kids to understand that even though a movie star may be beautiful and glamourous, with a huge bank account, the true measure of their worth as a person lies in what they do in their daily life, such as: What kind of husband/wife are they? Are they a caring parent? Are they a good friend? In a moral dilemma, do they do what is right? Are they self-centered or are others more important to them? Do they desire to improve society? While I realize that no-one is perfect, I want to teach my kids to value quality in people, not just glitz, beauty and glamour.

One of the main differences between a role model and a celebrity is that a celebrity tends to draw people to "themselves", encouraging kids to make external changes in order to be more accepted or popular. What is important to note is that external changes are always fleeting; they never last because someone more beautiful, younger or more charasmatic will always come along.

A role model is someone that a child might want to emulate and whether that means getting better grades on their schoolwork, being courageous, or serving the needy, a child will be compelled to live a better life. Pursuing goals like these creates lasting change and leads to a more fulfilling life. By encouraging my kids to wisely select role models, their lives can be impacted for many years.

---Just a side note: I asked my kids who their role models are and here are their answers:
J.R.R. Tolkein
Abraham Lincoln
Brian Jacques (author)
Tim Burton (movie director)
George Lucas
Albert Einstein
James Herriott
Saint Patrick
Johnny Depp

I think I can live with that!