Role Models – “Good” vs “Bad”

January 16, 2007

What makes a “good” role model and what makes a “bad” role model?

If someone is “generally a bad person,” but has one good quality, should that person be a role model for that single trait?

//Discussion prompted by comments on Get Out of the Dirt


  1. A single trait can not be taken out of context of that person and focused on. Though people try this all the time, the rest of the person influences that one trait, so even though in theory it should work, technically it won’t, b/c you can’t just pull a trait from one person and expect it not to be tainted by the rest of that person.

  2. Hmmmm… I might disagree with Lady. While it is true that a person’s traits do affect one another, that doesn’t mean that a person can’t be generally vile but have a very good quality. Take Herod (the baby killing Herod of Jesus’ time). He was a vile, murdering, power-hungry person, but he had the quality of being extremely generous. Although he had mostly bad qualities, his generosity was renown.

    It’s also good to point out that if we can’t role-model-ify people who have bad qualities but also good qualities, than we can’t use anyone as a role-model. Of course Jesus is the number one role-model, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use other people as role-models.

  3. I have to disagree with Lady and agree with Freshman.

    You have a picture of Hitler up there. He had tons of great qualties. He was one of the most powerful orators of all time, extremely charismatic, and actually rather faithful/dedicated. He’s one of the few people in political history to make a ton of almost impossible promises and keep them all.

    Am I fan? As far as his remarkable ability to get people to bind together behind a dream and lead – sure.

    But besides that, of course not. He was mentally insane, paranoid, and somewhat lazy. He ordered millions of people tortured and executed. He was, as they say, an evil man.

    I think everyone is a role model. Of what to do, and what not do to. What is possible, the heights you can acheieve and the twisted horrible thing you can become without Christ. The only difference between me and Hitler, was a God-Man named Jesus. Otherwise, I’d be *just as bad* as he was.

  4. I agree with the posters Freshman and Andrew, it is possible for a mature person to see good qualities in others and act upon those instead of their bad qualities. But, children and sometimes including myself, once we see the bad characteristics of someone began to act upon them subconsciously. That’s the best I can put it into words, hopefully it is understandable.

  5. But… (Like Lady said) The bad traits he has an effect on any good qualities he has! So if someone has many “bad” qualities/personality traits, then his few “good” traits would be tainted.
    It’s a little dangerous to use someone like that as a role model… So why mess with it?

  6. What makes a good role model? To me, what makes a good role model is someone who displays the character of Christ throughout his/her life. A role model is, after all, someone one models one’s life after..in many areas. You are, in effect, modeling his/her “role”, or the way he/ she lives life. But I think we must separate the imitating of a particular character trait from the using of the person with that trait as a role model. Relating to the example Andrew used of Hitler, one can observe and learn from Hitler’s ability to lead, but that doesn’t mean Hitler becomes one’s role model. One constantly observes other people and their actions, consciously or not. One is constantly learning what to imitate and what to not imitate. I differ with Andrew on his point that everyone is a role model in that I think everyone is an example, but not necessarily a role model. A role model, to me, is someone you can imitate in *most* areas of life, not just one or two.

  7. Role Model:
    a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others

    It seems that it depends on whether a role model is someone you emulate totally or just one or two aspects.
    So define Role Model in your own words.

  8. I agree with the spirit of what D’Nae said. I used the word “role model” in my post to mean “example”. Obviously, there are much fewer people who you can model most of your life after.

    Difference of definition = greatest hindrance to clear communication besides not communicating directly.

  9. Quote from Andrew, “Difference of definition = greatest hindrance to clear communication besides not communicating directly.”

    Hey, I knew I liked logic class for some reason. I learned that in there!


    Now there’s a buzzword: role model. Let’s look to the NBA. From David Robinson to Dennis Rodman, young men are influenced by role models … some good ones, some bad. Of course, some, like Charles Barkley, refuse to accept the responsibility of being a role model. But, nonetheless, people look up to a certain kind of person. They want to … “be like Mike.” And that’s the key. People want to mimic the behavior of their role models.

    So how do we define role model? Webster says: somebody who is regarded as somebody to look up to and often as an example to emulate.

    The bottom line, we look to these role models to set a good example. Whether a professional athlete, movie star, rock star, the President of the United States, or … Dad, a good role model will help youth as they grow. A bad one, on the other hand, will also help them grow … in the wrong direction.

  11. That’s true Jeff, which brings up a point that I’ve long had strong thoughts about – people expecting too much of professional athletes. It annoys me to no end when I tell people that I think Tiki Barber is a good role model and they tell me that they don’t like him because one time he said that his team wasn’t doing their share of the work in a game.

    Do they honestly expect these players to be perfect? To never to something wrong? To never mess up? There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t make a bunch of mistakes. The only difference in a professional athletes case is that every move he makes will be scrutinized by millions of people.

    Sorry to rant… I felt like it, 😛

  12. Put up a discussion about the President’s last speech regarding the war on terror and the situation in Iraq. We need some discussion about it.


    Following the Last Supper, we see that Jesus modeled for his disciples by setting an example. In the book of John, verse 13:5:

    After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

    Jesus didn’t explain what he was up to. He just set the example for them to follow. Without an explanation, Peter was uncomfortable about his Lord serving him in such a way. Peter resisted because he didn’t understand.
    So the Teacher explained his actions. John 13:14-15:

    Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. (italics mine)

    O.K. Peter, you can’t argue with that.


    I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)

  14. What do Halo, Jesus, and Hitler have in common?

  15. I think the interesting thing about a “role model” is that people don’t always necessarily even WANT “good” role models. I think a lot of people look up to basketball players and such because they have what people want – fame, fortune, and lots of physical ability. So yeah these guys aren’t really setting a good example with their on- and off-court behavior, but sadly that’s what the public wants these days. It’s a lot harder nowadays to find a news story about some guy who (as they say in Worldview) is truly meek and humble, than it is to find a story praising a sports star for his “attitude.”

    So basically what I’m saying is, I think of a role model as someone who exemplifies the qualities that a person (or persons) desires in life. And since our society places very little importance on qualities like humility, dignity, and generosity, etc, you will be hard pressed now to find someone who publicly displays these things.

  16. The term “role model” is really cliched anyways. Sometimes we use it so much we forget what it means. Everyone could be a role model to someone else. But then no one is a role model, just because everyone is. “Role models” if you will, have to special, certain individuals who stand above the crowd. And if a role model is one who exemplifies the qualities that a person desires, Brad Pitt is definetly my role model, because all the ladies love him (well, you know how i am. jk lol) So the definition is too broad.

    And i totally was kidding about the Brad Pitt thing. Hehe

  17. Again:

    Role Model: a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others

    Don’t let the world define your terms.

    A Role model is not only somone who could be emulated, but should be emulated.
    Choose your role models carefully. Only choose role models who have good quality traits and will be benificial to your life.

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