In everything, truth surpasses the imitation and copy – Marcus Tullius Cicero
After chasing away revelers and hecklers at one of the many concerts held during the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, security guard Richard Jewell noticed a suspicious package next to a bench. After alerting the police, a bomb expert confirmed the bag contained a bomb. This early alert by Jewell led to the saving of many lives. The police moved the crowd away from the bomb before it exploded. Jewell was hailed a hero and was instantly recognized by many in Atlanta. Then everything changed. The FBI made Jewell the prime suspect and primary target of their investigation. The media pounced on the story and Jewell, the hero, turned to Jewell, the terrorist. Eventually, Jewell was cleared of all charges but only after his name was tarnished. The media, eager to report without any fact-finding, further propagated the wrongful accusation of Jewell causing him and his mum unexplainable trauma. This experience by Jewell is a reminder that we should be careful what or who we copy. Instead of seeking truth, the media copied the branding of Jewell as a terrorist and spread it like wildfire.
In a time of tweets, posts, and likes, we ought to watch the models and examples we are copying in our lives. Often many people read a post and repost it without verifying and authenticating the source or the contents of the message. Fiction is easily interpreted as fact when the truth is not sought first. A recent article, citing the damaging effects of Instagram on teens, highlights how copying wrong or false models and images causes grave damage to teens who at their age and stage battle with identity. The danger begins with unhealthy comparisons. The article reveals that features in Instagram allow filtering of images that cloak reality. Teenagers who see this try to copy the image they see. Unable to do so, they are left with low self-esteem and life satisfaction. This not only applies to teens but adults as well. We struggle to copy filtered images and end up frustrated. This unhealthy comparison leads us to see ourselves as less than how God created us. The dissatisfaction from attempting to copy false images we see colludes with our true selves.
Finding A Better Image
A genuinely caring person, Richard Jewell did not acquiesce to the copy of a criminal that the FBI was trying to force on him. Neither should we lose ourselves under the guise of copying an image we were never meant to bear. Becoming your best self starts with retrospection, not imitation. A focus on imitation alone creates self-imposed limitations. The less we know about ourselves, the more likely we are to copy a wrong image. And with every wrong copy adopted, the quality of life drops. When our desperation is for likes more than truth, we end up copying posts that look and sound good but are riddled with falsehood. The vicious cycle of frustration and depression is furthered as we copy a culture that filters everything and presents it as real. How do we find a better image?
Gravitate to Truth
Don’t get me wrong, copying is part and parcel of life; it’s how children learn. They repeat what they see and hear. Most of what we know and do is caught, copied, and pasted. I can attest to copying from my parents some of the parenting skills I apply with my children. If copying is part of growth, then the question we should ask ourselves is, “How can I be a good example?” We don’t need more excuses, we need better examples. From the annals of government to the spaces in our homes, schools, and workplaces, we should aspire to be examples worth following by giving attention to the truth first and foremost. Without truth, we are like a car without a functional dashboard. How will we know the fuel tank is empty? How will we know we are over the speed limit? The truth is our life’s dashboard, keeping us in check at every stage of life. Truth, Elvis Presley once said, “is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” When we choose to live a life of truth, integrity, kindness, and appreciation of others, we set the tone for being an example. If we always excuse our bad habits as “simply being human,” our relationships remain dysfunctional. Richard Jewell stood with the truth of his innocence even under immense pressure from the FBI to confess. I hope teenagers stand with the truth that they are uniquely created and have a purpose so they won’t copy an image to fit in; while losing their identity. Example setting comes by intentionality, not accident. Our attention should gravitate towards those who are setting an example daily and being role models with lives lived well.
Final Thought: We leave what we live. How do you want to be remembered? While most people think of growing their resume, few think of building their eulogy. While your resume talks about your skills, your eulogy will reflect your character. Remember this simple truth, you write your resume, but others will write your eulogy. By being a good example, you ensure a legacy that is worth celebrating and copying.
Keep on Keeping on