Role models, not Idols

By Yousuf Ali, Staff Columnist

Last week, a man who I looked up to as a religious and spiritual role model was accused of sexual misconduct. Naturally, these accusations have stirred quite a storm on anti-social media with people already deciding whether or not he is guilty and determining his punishment from the comfort of their armchairs. I shall not be doing this. Rather, this article shall provide constructive suggestions to readers on how to avoid the drama that inevitably follows when people find out that their idols are capable of less-than-angelic behaviour. With that, I provide you with the following advice:

Be a follower not a fanboy/girl:

  • There is nothing wrong with having people to look up. Indeed, we should learn from great people. At the same time, we must be sure to not let our love of these people blind us to the faults that we will inevitably find in their lives. Rather, we should objectively analyze their lives and learn from the good while acknowledging the bad that we will inevitably find.

Maximize the dead-to-living ratio amongst your role models:

  • As depressing as this may seem, this is the most effective way to ensure that the people who we admire do not fall from grace. The dead have already had their chance to err in their lives giving us the ability to cooly analyze their mistakes in hopes of never falling into them. When it comes to the living, they have all too much time left to commit mistakes, breaking the hearts of those close to them or producing defensiveness from amongst their followers who cannot fathom the possibility that their idol could have done anything wrong.

Don’t restrict yourself to one role model:

  • One of the several signs of a cult of personality is when its members refuse to even listen to other points of view. This is an error that we see all too often amongst the admirers of religious or political leaders. Though we admire those who have achieved heights in these fields, the reason for our admiration must be genuine search for truth as opposed to personality worship. Indeed, genuine religious and political leaders discourage such sycophantism amongst their followers because they understand that it serves no beneficial purpose. Truly successful people know to diversify their sources of inspiration, as to prevent themselves from falling into stupidity of personality worship.

When it comes to choosing role models, we must be careful to pick people who have not only set a good example but will do so in the future. This is something which is done when we become objective seekers of truth as opposed to secondary considerations like fame and fortune. To do this, we should seek to learn from many people as opposed to worshiping them. Furthermore, we should maximize the dead role models as they no longer have the chance to mess up. When this is done, blind imitation will become almost impossible as our role models will become examples to learn from as opposed to idols. Consequently, when they inevitably mess up, we will not be amongst the sycophantic fanboys/girls who reflexively defend everything that their idols do.