Remember this Nike ad of Charles Barkley?

Barkley went on:

I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe parents should be role models…. It’s not like it was when I was growing up. My mom and my grandmother told me how it was going to be. If I didn’t like it, they said, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.” Parents have to take better control.

This past winter, Portland’s honeymoon phase with its first openly gay mayor came to a trainwreck of an ending when the news broke (on Inauguration Day) that Adams lied about his sexual relationship with an 18 year old legislative intern.

Today it’s Edwards and his affairs. it seems each month, even week, there is another fallen angel, a politician, athlete, actor, celebrity, CEO, or person in a leadership position tumbling from a great height.

And usually at some point in the endless discussion, someone raises the point that he or she was a role model, and has greatly disappointed people.

I don’buy into this role model business. Whether or not you’re a role model is in the eye of the beholder. In which case, anyone can be a role model and not know it. if someone looks up to you, whether you are aware of it or not, you’re a role model for someone. Does that then stand to reason that you have a responsibility to uphold that person’s s image of you? Definitely not.

Maybe it’s my background in psychology but I don’t see it as the role model’s responsibility for not disappointing the one who looks up to him or her. Maturity, in my mind, requires the ability to be able to love or admire someone in their humanness, not in their super-humanness. We will inevitably be disappointed by our parents, our loved ones, a mentor. Are they at fault for not being perfect, or is it our responsibility to grapple with the fact of human complexity?