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What Would [Role Model] Do?

DSC09441I’ve been getting annoyed more than usual the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been dealing with some difficult people (maybe) or I’ve just been in a place that I’m more easily annoyed (maybe), but the result is the same. I’m uncharitable in my assumptions. So when I get a discourteous email from a stranger, I don’t think, “Wow he must be having a rough day,” I think, “What an a$%hole!”

And why does it matter which assumption I make? It really doesn’t, to him. We will remain strangers either way. But for me, choosing compassionate energy is much is better for my overall mental state, long after the email is gone. I really like how I feel when I understand how someone reacts to something or when I’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the phrase, “What would So-and-So do?”

I’m pretty sure it’s because I read a book recently with an idealized, but unrealistic main character. She moved about her world sprinkling joy and connection everywhere she went and most remarkably to me, when she met someone who was a jerk, she made it her goal to make them smile. This read as ridiculous as it sounds, but for the past few days, when I want to make an unhelpful assumption, I have found myself asking, “How would Xxxx respond?”

And you know what? It’s helped me step back and look at situations more objectively. And this is the goal—not to have a unrealistic version of things or to let people treat us badly. But taking a step back, remembering a time when we may have behaved the same way just might help us be present when we need to be. And being present is always better for defending ourselves, anyway.

In the late 1800’s Charles Spurgeon coined the phrase What Would Jesus Do? The principle was that when making a moral decision—you know, should I steal that money—ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?” and in the book the result for every participant was a happy, fulfilled life.

I don’t think the role model needs to be a deity. Obviously, I don’t think they have to be a real person, but they certainly can be. They can even be the better version of us: “How would the person I would like to be respond?”

And if you keep responding like that person, guess what? You’re already there.

What Would [Role Model] Do?

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2015). What Would [Role Model] Do?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jun 2015
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