The title of this article is taken from a saying my Senior Pastor uses when teaching about how we model actions and behaviors. Others, especially younger generations, watch our actions and behaviors and often, make them their own. Remember the saying, "Do as I say, not as I Do"? There is great wisdom in that. My wonderful wife often reminds me that as the father of 6 awesome children, I have strong influence on them and of how my actions and behaviors will help to shape them in how they act and behave as they grow up. I am grateful for the words of my wife because they keep me aware of the example I am setting...my children are trusting me that I am giving them a good example.
As adults, we have been given a charge to set good examples for those younger than us. Matthew 18:6 gives us a clear understanding of how big a responsibility this is: "If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea".
Not long ago I was walking at a nearby lake and I stopped to watch a family of Canada geese that had caught my eye. With one parent in front, the goslings in a line following and one parent bringing up the rear, they would run along the bank and flap their wings, then turn around and head back the other way doing the same thing time and time again. The goslings trusted their mother and father that what they were doing was of some value, that this was "good behavior", behavior that would help them in life. What they were doing was teaching their young ones the steps that go into taking flight. I was recently back at that lake and this time I noticed there were many families of geese successfully taking flight, making short trips from water to land and going back and forth. I trust the family I described to you above was one of them I was watching.
This illustration depicts how important it is as adults, parents, athletes and coaches to set examples of good behavioral practices for those generations that come behind us. We may not always know it, but we can rest assured some set of young eyes is always on us, somewhere, watching what we do and then trying to decide if they should adopt the same behavior(s) for themselves. That's why having strong character and integrity in our lives is so important. Integrity says you'll do the right thing, even when no one is watching (or we're not aware they are)...Someone is always watching-whether it is God or a person we don't see.
Actions and behaviors include how we speak, the language we use and the way we treat other people. They include the way we are in private and in public; do we claim to be one way and act in the opposite? All these things have influence and shape the way others will act and behave; we will all be held to give an account for our actions and behaviors one day.
In the fall of the 2010 College Football Season, I saw an image that burned in my mind and broke my heart. A particular team was not having the kind of success they were predicted or expected to have. Frustrations on the part of the players and coaches were quite noticeable, especially as the season went on. Much became made in the media and social settings about the level of anger the head coach displayed and the actions and behaviors that came with it. In one late season evening game, this particular team was favored to beat a team they were visiting but instead, were being dominated by them. As the game went on the frustrations grew and they made many mistakes which led to being further dominated. Momentum and control of the game was clearly in the favor of the opponent. It was late in the 4th quarter and a questionable call by the officials occurred and it went to the benefit of the opponent team. The head coach of the losing team erupted in to a full display of rage; it was to the point he nearly had to be restrained. He charged onto the field, red-faced and his finger in the face of the official and his rage grew and grew. What gripped me and broke my heart was that standing next to the coach the whole time was a young boy holding the wires to his headset, standing motionless and with no expression, watching the coach the entire time. He wasn't interested in the official and how he reacted and wasn't paying attention to anything else. He had his gaze fixed on the head coach of a major college football program and he took in every emotion, word, action and behavior that coach was displaying in his rage.
Sports news casts are airing stories of athletes and coaches at all levels who are caught breaking the law, be it driving drunk, involved in a domestic abuse situation, arrested with drugs, etc, at an increasingly alarming rate. These are often athletes and coaches who are saying a "good" message to young people on how to behave in commercials and public service announcements, but they themselves are behaving the exact opposite (do as I say...not as I do)...Athletes and coaches have an elevated platform that gives them instant credibility with the public. Young people will often take what they say to be truth and interpret the way they act and behave to be "the right way". Many times they'll act the way athletes and coaches do because they want to be like them. The question becomes, "what type of example are we/you going to knowingly or unknowingly set for that that look up to [us]"?
I am not in the camp that believes one or two negative stories or examples we hear and see spoils the perception of athletes and coaches as a whole, but I do believe they have a stronger, more lasting impact on the younger generations that are watching. The aim of this article is to challenge and encourage myself and everyone reading, to be aware of the example our behaviors and actions are setting for others and to commit to displaying actions and behaviors that are good for a younger generation to adopt and make for themselves. As the picture of the little boy watching the raging coach reminds us, we have influence and we are being watched...