I’m not a very confrontational guy by nature. This is especially true when it comes to people I don’t know. But I’ll share with you two examples where I did confront people I didn’t know, and then I’ll get to my point.
One evening as the sun was disappearing in the western sky, I was driving down a relatively major street on my way to my church for a rehearsal. Because it was a densely populated part of town, the street was four lanes wide, and cars were known to drive rather fast up and down it. About 50 yards from the light-controlled intersection, a woman and her small child were crossing the street from the grocery store, across the four lanes, to the apartments on the other side. They had gotten as far as two lanes, and she stopped in the middle of this busy street because cars were zipping around the corner from an even busier street. Had she just gone down to the corner, she could have pressed the button and crossed in the crosswalk, controlled by a light. But no. With child in tow, she decided to play real life Frogger. I was driving down one of the lanes she had already crossed. I slowed down, rolled down my window and gave her a firm drive-by lecture. If you’re going to be stupid with your own life, that’s one thing. But when you endanger a child, that’s absolutely criminal.
The next story was again involving my being in my car. I was circling a parking lot outside a very crowded movie theater. I noticed some people were getting in their car to leave, so I patiently waited for them to back out. They were to my left, so I stopped and put on my left turn blinker. I waited a minute or so. Just before they began backing out, another car was approaching from the opposite direction, facing me. As the parked car began backing out, it became clear they wanted to go the same direction I was going, so they were backing out in front of me. As they did so, I was effectively screened out from being able to move into the spot until after they put it in Drive to move forward. The car that had just showed up had a free shot at the newly vacated parking stall, so he took it. He was there long enough and without obstruction to see that I was there first, with my turn signal activated. Yet, he took the spot and violated parking lot etiquette. I sat there stunned. I waited for him to get out of the car, when I noticed he had a little girl with him. I said to him, “Nice. You’ve set a real nice example for your little girl.”
I have a real problem with people who take lightly their responsibility as a role model. Kids, whether they’re your own or just children you know, are watching you. I recently saw an exchange on Facebook where a woman from a large church had updated her status to communicate, “Let the drinking begin”, followed by another which indicated how much she was needing “lots of drinks”. That could mean anything, but the following back and forth comments made it clear she meant adult beverages because she was stressed out. Then, a teenager from the church, her son’s age, innocently, perhaps naively, asked if she meant energy drinks.
Whether we like it or not, we live our lives in front of an audience. Facebook, Twitter and all that only make the world smaller, and our influence greater. What are we communicating to those who are watching us? Are we sending mixed signals? Are we one way when we see people in church, but something very different when we think no one is looking? Or when we forget that they can see us?
As an adult, I understand we all have the desire and the freedom to cut loose on occasion. But we need to be mindful of the message we are sending to those who see us as role models. Are the things we are doing consistent with the message we preach? If you want to get a little wild and crazy with your own life, that’s between you and God. But if you do it in plain view of children who look up to you, the stakes are higher.