Bob Tamasy: When Role Models Roll Wrong

Monday, February 17, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

The phrase may have become passé, but for quite a while we used to hear people proclaim, “That’s how I roll.” In other words, “That’s how I am,” or “That’s the way I do things.” But sometimes how you “roll” can cause problems – especially if you’re a role model.

We saw contrasting examples of this recently, leading up to and immediately after the Super Bowl. After his team defeated the San Francisco 49ers to earn the right to play in the Super Bowl, Richard Sherman, a talented defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks, went on a post-game rant that prompted extensive debate over the following days.

Sherman used no profanity, but his contentious comments reminded some viewers of the antics of professional wrestlers. Frankly, my first thought was the NFL had merged with the WWE. Apparently his competitive juices were still flowing after the final seconds had ticked away. The problem was, prior to his game-clinching defensive play and subsequent in-your-face commentary, many watching the game outside of Seattle hardly knew him. And as they say, first impressions are lasting.

Then there were the measured, sportsmanlike reactions of Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning after his team was soundly thrashed by Sherman’s Seahawks in the Super Bowl, 43-8. Although clearly disappointed, his demeanor reflected the image Manning has cultivated as one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.

So is Manning a better role model than Sherman? Who knows? Whether it’s right or not, we build pedestals for people – entertainers, athletes, politicians, even spiritual leaders – who seem larger than life. But is their public persona real or fabricated? Genuine – or the product of crafty marketing and packaging? Do we really know “how they roll”?

Even the best, most appealing role models stumble. No one’s perfect, right? Whether it’s someone whose name rates front-page or evening news coverage, or some lesser known person we admire at work, church or in our community, if we probe deeply enough, we’ll find feet of clay. So what are we to do when our role models decide to roll wrongly?

In the Bible Jesus instructed His followers, “Judge not, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). This might seem hard to apply, especially when considering persons like the reigning queen and king of chaos, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, but it’s true – we really don’t know them, or what makes them do the crazy things they do.

We also need to realize, whether we asked for the assignment or not, we’re probably someone else’s role model. It might be a colleague or coworker, child or grandchild, or someone you interact with at church or a volunteer organization where you serve. People are watching, and unwittingly we can become examples for good or ill.

Finally, we need to recognize there is only one role model truly worthy of following, only one that will never disappoint or disillusion us with bad behavior: Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Earlier in the same book we’re told to be looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

And the apostle Paul, whose writings were known for profound theology, summed it up when he stated: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

There’s nothing wrong with appreciating and admiring someone’s skills and talents, whatever they might be. But there’s a danger of turning role models into idols – little gods. And God clearly declared, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). At those times when we don’t like how our role models “roll,” we need to maintain our focus on the One that never fails.

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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.


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