Celebrity crushes are nothing new. In the ’80s, I could not determine the color of the walls in some of my friends’ rooms because posters of The New Kids on the Block and other celebrities covered every square inch. The names have changed, and posters have been replaced by websites and digital magazines, but the core behavior for today’s teens is exactly the same.
Who are your heroes?
This is the question that Allan Bloom, author of Closing of the American Mind, would ask his students. The reply: “There is usually silence, and most frequently nothing follows. … As it now stands, students have powerful images of what a perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing.”
The crux of the issue is that the young are trained to look toward the beautiful, the strong and possibly even the talented as heroes; they are not, however, taught to look to men and women of character. Where bygone eras might have looked up to Theodore Roosevelt or Queen Victoria, the modern age is far more likely to look to LeBron James or Jennifer Lawrence, replacing warriors with basketball players and royalty with actresses.
To scale a mountain or conquer a treacherous journey will still gain a certain amount of recognition—but no modern youth could name the men who have done it. To be a general in the army might hold the respect of the young, but what youth could name a general from the last 20 years, much less tell us tales of their mighty exploits?
To whom will you look? To the singer who tells of their tragically broken heart, or to those charged with teaching you to lead a virtuous life?
There is nothing wrong with admiring the dedication and hard work an athlete puts in to his chosen sport, or with admiring a great musician, or even an actor—but you add value to your life by how you choose your mentors, the people you will emulate as you grow up, the people who will teach you lessons of character and greatness that will propel you to success in life.
Consider the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong. It’s striking to compare the men he considered mentors to those a young man might look to today. He talks extensively about the life-changing effect his employers had, the wisdom he received from his Uncle Frank, the inspiration he received from a triple reading of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and other encounters with greatness.
In the February 2009 Philadelphia News, Pastor General Gerald Flurry talked about how important that sort of contact was in his own life: “At Ambassador College, I would have done anything to spend more time with Mr. Armstrong! I knew that spending time with those who knew the most about the Family of God was critical to my education.” If it was critical for our pastor general to spend time with those who knew more about God, it is certainly critical for all of us as well.
Mr. Flurry recollected an event where he did not get to spend as much time with the AC students as he would have liked and commented on how critical it is for young people talk to those who can teach them about God: “Nobody plans to hide out, but if we are not careful, we can all get into the habit of drifting along. We can fall into a carnal comfort zone. More mature people can help to lift immature people out of that zone. … At times we have to be corrected and do things better. We may have fears, but we must overcome them!”
The way both Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flurry selected their mentors was rooted in the advice King David gave to his son Solomon at the beginning of Proverbs:
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” (Proverbs 1:1-5).
Remember the wisdom of King David, and look to those who will provide you with critical guidance in your life: your parents, the ministry, your teachers, and the truly great men with outstanding characteristics, whether you meet them through books, documentaries or in the flesh. If you do, in just a few short years, you will be able to look back and see the power of a mentor in your life.