“What a great thing that could've been for the world to have. Too many times, a gifted person comes along, and we automatically make them a role model. Inevitably, they end up doing something to let us down. The truth is, though, that those were never the role models we needed. The role models we need are the people who let us down first, and then show the strength and character to fight back from that.I am sick and tired of hearing about Tiger Woods. Refreshingly the quote above was not particularly about Tiger Woods but about the untimely death of Chris Henry, the 26 year old wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sooner or later, we're all going to let somebody down. We're all going to screw up. But life is about how you come back from it, how you learn from it and how you use it to make yourself a better, stronger person.” –Matthew J. Darnell, sports blog writer Shut Down Corner (Yahoo Sports Blog)
I know nothing about the young man except that for most of his life right up to this year, he was a rogue and everything but a role model. However, from what I've read, he was trying to get his act together and walk a different path. Whether he was actually progressing isn't really the point. And the truth is, we will never know.
Sports writer Darnell makes a well timed observation during the current circus surrounding Tiger Woods and his infidelities. To those who placed Tiger on such a pedestal and now are lining up to attack and shake their heads in disappointment: Why did you ever place him so high to begin with? Have we forgotten Magic Johnson? Or Wilt Chamberlain? Or any number of bad boy sports figures and entertainers who follow their own whims rather than society mores?
How many people react as strongly when they hear about the latest Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan escapade? Do people raise their eyebrows much when a Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie misbehave?
"Well what do you expect? They're entertainers."
Very good. So is Tiger Woods. So are all sports stars.
The problem is not so much with the bad behavior (which, don't misunderstand me: is bad behavior--I have no sympathy for Tiger's predicament: he brought it on himself) as much as it is with our mad dash to place people on pedestals so quickly. Tiger Woods is an amazing example of discipline in the area of hitting a little white ball with a stick. Why did we ever equate that with a high level of moral standards or integrity?
Our problem is our own idolization of celebrities and success.
How many of us idolize the little old man down the street who did his job every day, sent his kids to school, and remained faithful to his wife for over 50 years? How many of us idolize our fathers, or mothers, or uncles, or other significant adults who have shaped our lives in so many profound ways?
Those are the ones who belong on pedestals. Not because they looked good or became famous. But because they worked their way to the top of that column by loving the people in their lives, treating others with respect, and maintaining dignity.
Not that they were perfect. No one ever is, as Darnell so eloquently put it. But they got back up and they kept going. They got upset with their spouses, but they made up and kept going. They sometimes made great mistakes as parents, but they did the best they could and kept going.
These are our heroes, our mentors, our celebrities. They deserve it, but they are rarely recognized for it. Instead, they hear us go on about the latest sports hero or entertainer as if he was the greatest human being alive. They smile to themselves and keep on going, doing what they've always done: lived good, decent lives.
Thank you to my mentors: My 90 year old father who spent his life caring for his kids and other people and in the final years of her life, my mother. Mrs. Lillian Cohagen, my old drama coach and English teacher who showed me what excellence was and encouraged me like no other teacher. Lynn Anderson, a mentor who showed me that caring for people was more important than any success. My friend and mentor, Gary Ealy who taught me how to serve people and really study the Bible in such a way that made sense. These are just a few. There are too many to name. Who are those role models worth following in your life? If they are still alive, tell them "thank you"!