We always need to tweak our standards to see if a certain person should be a model for our teens. One star, Miley Cyrus, just “twerked” most people’s perception of her. However, I saw red flags back when she first started as Hannah Montana.
Hollywood and the movie industry seems to pump out some new starlet who seems oh so sweet. Then, a few years later we have a disaster. The Spice Girls and Brittany Spears are 2 other clear examples. These and other examples such as Macaulay Culkin had me raising red flags for Hannah Montana. These teens seem so perfect yet there never seems to be a deeper meaning (read: God or some kind of faith) to back it up. There is obviously some dirty work to make these transformations but let’s leave that to the side.
Society keeps putting these girls up as role models for younger girls. It seems to be teasing us to ask who we can trust as a role model. Teens, especially younger ones, need role models.
What makes a role model?
- They need to be an enduring example. This is why canonized saints are such good role models, they endured enough to be canonized. There are more saints uncanonized saints in heaven but canonization proves that they have been a role model.
- They need to put others first. Here’s where many of the classic singers and actors fail. Even in sports we can see this: Wayne Gretzky was probably the best Hockey player ever and one of his signs of greatness was that he would get way more assists than goals. (Note: this is coming from a Calgarian so it’s like a Bostonian praising a Yankee.)
- They need to have all the virtues. Most role models stand out in one virtue or another; but unless they have at least the baseline for other virtues, I doubt we can set them up as role models for teens. For instance some sports stars have great teamwork but can’t keep their pants on after the game.
- They need to have a deeper base for their virtues. Authentic Christians base their virtue on Christ. There can be other bases such as YHWH for a Jew but without some transcendent base, two problems arise. First, virtue will not last which is exactly what happened with Miss Cyrus. Second, we need to teach teens proper motives and not just virtue alone.
We don’t need to be paranoid and watch out for every possible mistake but should direct teens towards good role models like the saints. If a teen likes a sports star who happens to get drunk once, don’t necessarily throw that role model away. No role model, beyond Jesus and Mary, is going to be 100% perfect.
I find that very often family role models are often the best. Dad, Grandma or an older cousin is often a positive and accurate role model.
So who are my role models? First, in my family I would have to say my maternal Grandpa; I love my dad but realize I take after mom’s family as far as talents and preferences. Second, three priests: Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, Bl. John Paul II, and St. John Bosco. When all the bad news regarding Fr Marcial came out (the historical founder of my religious community who lived a double life), I decided I needed to find models of priesthood and after thinking about it a while I settled on these three. I don’t think everyone in my community would agree although many do use JP2 and Don Bosco as models.
It is tough to judge if new stars will be good role models when they first appear but I hope this post and all the incidents you’ve seen help you have a more discerning eye.
Who are your role models? And what Role models do you present to teens?