Sunday, May 15, 2016

An Appreciation of Negative Role-Models

I want to give a big, heart-felt “Thank you” to all the negative role-models who have influenced my life. The thought of doing something anti-social does occasionally occur to me, sometimes even reaching the level of “temptation.” If it weren’t for you, my accidental moral tutor, I wouldn’t have a shining example indicating “This goes on the ‘Not Do’ list.”

For example, the thought of losing my temper, yelling at my wife, and calling her stupid (all in public) would *never* occur to me. But if for some reason it did, I’d simply recall your example. I might say, “Ah, *that’s* how it would look. I’m not going for ‘boorish oaf,’ so I’ll pass.”

Suppose I were tempted to air dirty laundry about a family member or loved-one on social media. Well, I’d once again be checked by my voluminous library of negative role-models. I’d immediately think better of it. As in, “Ah, that would just make *me* look stupid. And it would backfire, because everyone would feel sympathy for them and contempt for me.” Thanks for showing us all how bad this looks so that none of us who have seen your example will ever do it!

Let’s say I wanted to post a thinly-veiled sexual innuendo to an attractive female friend’s profile-pic. Or openly discuss my vices of questionable legality on social media. Or procrastinate on an important project or decision at work while browsing the web all day (or even all week). Suppose I were to greet every stray thought that crossed my mind with, “That’s a good one! I’ll broadcast it to the world!” Suppose one day I decided, “I’ve had it backwards. I’ll drink first, *then* go to work.” Suppose I were to hit my kids, not as a controlled method carefully meted-out of discipline, but because I can’t control my temper. If I were ever to think, “I’ll just burn down this old bridge to my former employer in the most offensive way imaginable,” I’d have an easily referenced case study on exactly why that’s a terrible idea. I think my list of "things not to do" would be pretty informed by common sense and logical reasoning, but a steady stream of ugly real-world examples have made certain behaviors unthinkable. 

I have been blessed that the negative role-models in my life are distant enough from me that they do not harm me directly. The anti-social behaviors and bad decisions described above do real harm, particularly to those poor souls close to the person exhibiting these behaviors. I feel pity for their victims and for the responsible adults who have to take their shit and mop up after them, but I hope the rest of the world is with me in observing an example of what *not* to do.

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