The Power of Example
Last updated 4/2/2019 at 6:11pm
A famous photo, featured in psychology textbooks, shows a lineup of infant ducklings following a baby elephant around a barnyard. The phenomenon is called "imprinting" – the tendency in fowls, within hours of being hatched, to follow the first moving object and regard it as their mother.
Scientists have long attempted to determine to what extent the imprinting principle can be extraplated to the experience of human beings. It is widely felt, for instance, that adolescence is a special hero-worship period and also a stage of life when the individual is peculiarly susceptible to peer pressures. In actual fact, however, few people ever manage in their entire lifetimes to outgrow these mimicking tendencies.
During World War II a popular women's magazine came out with a picture of the movie actress, Veronica Lake, on the front cover, showing a big lock of hair virtually covering her right eye. In the inside feature article she casually mentioned that this was the style fashionable American women were following. By the droves, women across the country soon were showing up for work in defense plants and elsewhere like imprinted ducklings, barely able to see out of one eye.
As a result, accidents galore occurred until factory managers across the country implored the actress to do something to save the situation. She obliged by appearing in a subsequent issue, sporting an upsweet hairstyle, and advocating that her fans again imitate her example. For the most part they accommodated her by falling into line, and everyone seemed happier.
Talking about Hollywood, vast numbers of people subconsciously adopt the behavioral standards set by some of the so-called stars. As a result of incessant exposure to unrestrained violence and shoddy moral values portrayed on the screen, the rising generation has suffered an alarming toll in the form of skyrocketing crime rates, illegitimacy, and terrifying social disease.
The dupes who mindlessly follow the hedonists, hippies and mammon-worshippers down the primrose path to oblivion deserve both our revulsion and our pity.
The Bible recognizes the deadly dangers inherent in the game of "follow the leader," and urges us to be non-conformists. Conformity to patterns of situational ethics can only result in the destruction of the national character and tragedy in the individual life.
St. Paul was not unaware of the natural tendency to hero-worship, noting that there were many in the congregation at Corinth who were saying, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Peter."
Indeed, the Apostle regarded it with some apprehension because, although it is always better to follow good examples than bad examples, where human nature is concerned, the possibility that the best of people could disappoint us is always present.
Thereupon he said in so many words, "If you insist upon following my example, then do so, but only insofar as I myself follow the example of Christ, for He alone is worthy of our highest adoration."
Wade B. Jakeway, an educator, preacher, artist and poet began working at Warner Southern College, now Warner University, in 1971. He was an associate professor of philosophy, history and political science. He previously was a full-time evangelist in most of the states and several countries, conducting more than 500 series of evangelistic campaigns, in addition to holding pastorates in California and Ohio. He died in October, 2013, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and son, Ron. Jakeway was a prolific writer, and we are pleased to publish some of his essays from his book, "Over the Cracker Barrel."