A trip to Monticello as a young girl led me to years of fascination with Thomas Jefferson. In the elementary education version of his life, Jefferson was a hero. A man who not only penned the Declaration of Independence, became President of the United States and greatly increased the size of our country, but also was well read, an inventor and travelled to places I dreamed of seeing. I wrote many a paper in my school years about his life.
As an adult, I had access to more of the story of the life of Thomas Jefferson. While he did indeed do many wonderful things, he had many personal issues. From uncontrolled spending and debt to hidden affairs to writing his own version of the Bible omitting any parts he didn’t like (and I won’t even discuss how a graduate of WIlliam and Mary could start UVa!), Jefferson was not the most godly example of how to live your life.
That’s the problem with human role models. In the end, they are still human and sinful. Many a person has had their faith shattered because their faith in a person was destroyed when their hidden (or not so hidden) sins came to life. Yet as a parent, you want to point your child to people who have made godly decisions in today’s world. It helps our kids understand how to put biblical concepts into practice in their lives. So how do you give your child the positive aspects of having role models without exposing them to situations which could later shake their faith?
I think perhaps the answer is not focusing on any specific person, but on the specific examples of godly and wise things many people do. The new book, It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are: Life Lessons from Winners by Pat Williams & Jim Denney is a good tool for beginning to do just that.
For those of you who are marginal sports fans (like myself), Pat Williams is currently Senior VP of the NBA team, the Orlando Magic. Starting in baseball decades ago, he has managed teams and met many famous people along the way. This book contains some of his favorite inspirational stories from the people he met and admired.
The book groups the stories under five basic categories: Success, Leadership, Family and Friends, Impact and Influence and Becoming a Person of Excellence. There are about 140 stories within the pages of this book. All are short and very easy to read. Each story has usually one take away practical lesson which can be learned from it.
I love the fact the author did not shy away from mentioning his faith repeatedly and sharing stories of how faith has helped other people. While the advice may follow many godly themes, Williams does not attempt to tie every story to God or the Bible. In fact, the majority of the faith sharing comes under one category and doesn’t mention specific scriptures.
This book would be great for parents and teachers to use and read one story to their students daily. Each story could spark discussions on why that characteristic is important and how to put it into action in their own lives. Young people with a decent command of reading can also easily read this book themselves.
I appreciated the author for recognizing people, who many would consider a controversial choice, may still have wise or godly things to share. Depending upon your political leanings or favorite teams, coaches and athletes, you may find more questionable people than others might. The little theology mentioned is non-controversial, with the exception of the how some people were converted (no baptisms are mentioned).
Personally, I think this is a wise lesson to teach your children. Pick an article from someone like Michael Jordan who has made some questionable life choices in recent years. Discuss the story and the wisdom contained in it. Then discuss his life choices. Teach your children everyone may have something to teach us that is important, but no one is perfect. They need to make their life choices filtered through the Bible and not by blinding copying or admiring another person.
My only other caution for using the book is that many of the people mentioned would be totally unknown to many kids and teens. If you have a child who isn’t interested in sports or sports history, the list of recognizable names shrinks drastically. It doesn’t detract any from the wisdom contained in the stories, but it may not have the same emotional impact on your teen as if it were given by someone they know and admire.
Whether you decide to use this book or another resource, make sure you teach your children how to separate the message from the messenger. It can help strengthen their faith when their role model stumbles from that pedestal.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. The affiliate link in this post is for your convenience.