Imitate What Is Good
Children are great imitators. Their imaginative minds pretend that they are adults when they play at keeping house or do other things they see adults do. This imitative tendency can be either good or bad, depending upon the examples they choose to imitate. Certainly the movie gangsters and other bad men that many of them watch on television and movie screens with avid interest are not good examples for them. The fact that some children have imitated men of this type has contributed to the rise of juvenile gangsters, whose depredations and acts of violence in cities all over the world are notorious. How much better it would be for them if their parents directed their imitative tendency toward good examples! This, of course, requires supervision of the entertainment the children view on television and in movie theaters. It requires supervision of their choice of playmates or companions, and it requires a good example to be set by the parents themselves.
More often than not, children imitate the conduct and manner of speech of their parents. Parents that use foul language usually have children that use foul language. Parents that smoke usually have children that smoke. Parents that are dishonest usually have children that are dishonest. Parents that make a practice of lying usually have children that are habitual liars. By setting a good example in speech and conduct parents can direct that imitative tendency in a wholesome way, which will be for the ultimate good of the children.
There are other influences, such as the opinions popular with other children, that can cause one’s children to imitate prominent persons in the world who are known for their sensuously tight clothing or extreme hair styles, but alert parents can help them to avoid making this serious mistake. Teaching them to respect the good counsel of God’s written Word provides a means by which parents can persuade their children to reject the bad and imitate what is good. From an early age their thinking needs to be molded by their parents so they will hold in high respect that which is good.
Like children, adults can fall into the pitfall of popular opinion and be swept along with the crowd as it copies the thinking and actions of certain prominent individuals. Thus adults, too, are imitators, but their imitating of others is not necessarily as obvious as with children. The person who does something because “everyone else is doing it” or because certain persons regarded as being at the top of the social ladder do it is an imitator, but is he an imitator of what is good?
The person that has become very successful in business, perhaps at the expense of other people, is often admired by persons who envy his success. So they strive to imitate him in hopes of achieving the riches and prominence he has attained, and they proceed to copy his ruthless business tactics. Chances are they will not get what they imagine they will by imitating a bad example, but what they do get is a deteriorated standard of morals that can ruin them for the rest of their life.
It is with good reason that the Holy Bible warns: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Imitating the bad example set by another person is a result of keeping bad associations. If parents can see that the morals of their children are endangered by bad companions or the admiring of immoral persons of prominence, they should be able to appreciate the foolhardiness of imitating such persons themselves in order to be accepted by the crowd.
The tendency to imitate needs to be controlled in adults just as much as in children. It is a force that has to be recognized and shaped in a way that is for an individual’s best interests. With a knowledge of the good principles and moral standards of God’s Word a person is able to shape it wisely. He is able to distinguish clearly an example worthy of imitation from one that is not. With its aid he is able to resist the foolishness of being swept along with the crowd.
How much better it is to imitate persons who love what is righteous! The apostles of Jesus Christ were such examples. When writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul said: “You yourselves know the way you ought to imitate us, because we did not behave disorderly among you.” (2 Thess. 3:7) Also, in his letter to the Christian Hebrews he wrote: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.”—Heb. 13:7.
The conduct of the apostles and the others taking the lead among the early Christians was good. It was in harmony with Scriptural laws and good morality. It was beneficial to the people who associated with them. They were better examples for the people to imitate than the prominent entertainers, military chiefs and public officials of the Roman world who lived profligate lives.
The finest example of what is good that anyone could choose to imitate is God himself. Despite the waywardness of mankind, he has been long-suffering, showing mankind undeserved kindness. He has always loved what is righteous and hated what is bad, yet he has been forgiving. His willingness to forgive even wicked persons if they are sincerely repentant reveals his goodness in a very striking manner. Describing some of his qualities, he states: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Ex. 34:6, 7) There is no better example a man could imitate or that children could be taught to copy.
Many other good examples can be found in the Bible that can be safely looked to and imitated rather than persons of the world whose moral conduct and attitudes serve to expand the moral wasteland of this age. It is the course of wisdom to heed the Scriptural admonition: “Beloved one, be an imitator, not of what is bad, but of what is good.”—3 John 11.