Role Model vs. Mentor: Blurred Lines

Posted: August 5, 2013 in Life Lessons
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is the fundamental reason why I started writing this blog. Do we (Society) really understand the difference between a role model and a mentor. Webster.com defines a role model as “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others”. A mentor is described as “a trusted counselor or guide.” We should not confuse the two. They are distinct and very different, but could be one in the same.

In my opinion, celebrities / athletes can be viewed as role models, but as parents we should not blur the lines to confuse them with being a mentor to our children. I kinda spoke of this in a couple blogs in the past, but in the wake of the A Rod-on-every-channel-saga, I felt compelled to vent again.

I have heard people and news reporters say, “what about the children” and rightfully so. However, my hope is that the parent(s) would stand up and be the “mentor” who will counsel and guide their children to understand that if all that is alleged is true, that he may not be a person whose behavior in a particular role we should imitate (role model).”

I am not naive. I do understand that not all children can differentiate between roles and characteristics of a person…and as they study their role, negative seeds from their character has the potential to seep out and invade their hearts, minds, and spirits of the youth. I get it!

Growing up, Michael Jordan was my role model. I watched and studied how he played basketball, but I knew nothing about him as a person. Because I did not know him or trust him, he could not be considered my mentor, who would guide and counsel me. I remember my mother talking to me about how he appeared to be “arrogant” and that is not something that she liked about him. “Thanks for sharing,” but I did not care about who he was off the court. I was interested in how he turned and dunked on Patrick Ewing along the baseline. I did run around singing “Like Mike…if I could be like Mike” (wanna be…wanna be like Miiiikkkkeee…Sorry, got lost for a sec). However, for me, it was with a basketball in hand.

This further proves my point. Corporations blur the lines by using celebrities in “real life” situations to help sell their products. Endorsement deals take celebrities and athletes out of their “role” and humanize them. With the addition of social media, we have 24 / 7 access to the people that we historically called role models. Now we know where they are, what they think, what they eat, who they hang out with, where they shop, where they took their kids, need I go on. But, we still do not “know” them. In the same way we would not read a book about a person and feel like we know them enough to marry them, we can not allow our children to “follow” people who we can not confirm if they have the same morals, values, beliefs, and judgements that we do. They may have made a decision that appears to be in alignment with what we believe, but we do not understand the context or why they came to that conclusion, which matters.

Sorry, I ramble. I am not saying that the Lance Armstrong’s, Tiger Woods, and A-Rods (to name a few) of the world are right, but I am saying we (parents and media) unfairly crucify and condemn them because we place unrealistic expectations on them to be the mentors of our youth. News flash, we are not perfect, either. If a camera followed us around 24 / 7 what would be exposed about who we are and what we did? Again, I think that “they” must be held accountable, just not cast out because of a mistake they made and for being in a position that we placed them in. I know, i know! To who much is given, much is required. Grace.

Bottom line…the original “mentors” are the parents. Our role is to guide and counsel our children. It is great if we can also be their role model. If not, we should find a suitable role model for them and not allow them to default to who the world highlights as a poster child in a particular role. Once we find a person, explain (counsel) why we selected that person(s), and constantly monitor so if they ever exhibit behaviors contrary, we will know it is time to find another role model (guide).

I am theoriginalmentor and so are you. Declare It. “I am The Original Mentor!”

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Comments
  1. I heard a woman say of her Mother, “You were my god before I knew who God was.” THAT was a very powerful statement – one that I intend to blog about at some point. I interpreted what she said as the entity she initially looked to for everything was her Mother. As an infant and young child, we look to our parents as our everything … parents being the original mentor for their children. What they instill – positive or not so positive – will take hold and have lasting impacts. Powerful!

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