We are all examples. When we are simply being ourselves, we're doing something I call exampling-that is, setting an example. How we act and what we say influence what others do and say as well. One saying that comes up at our house when someone isn't being quite as good as he or she could be is "Be a good example."
The other night we took our children to swimming lessons. Part of the activity was to jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool and have an instructor catch you as you came up out of the water. But one of our daughters was really afraid. She cried. She whined. She mumbled. It appeared that there was nothing that was going to get her to jump, including encouraging her that she could do it and reasoning with her that it was safe to do it.
Then suddenly, her little sister, who is in a beginning swim class, said she wanted to jump off. She climbed up on the diving board, walked happily to the end, and jumped. She even came up with a smile. What a great example! And it didn't take two seconds before her sister stopped crying and said she wanted to do it, too. And she did, happily.
Setting a good example encourages people. In turn, they can see how to be good examples. And if there are times when you feel like doing something you know is wrong, it's good to ask yourself what kind of example you'll be giving to others. If it won't be the best example, then considering its influence on people besides just yourself can give a good reason for acting differently. Your right example may be what helps others gain the strength and courage they need as well.
But there's more, because much more is needed than just holding back when you're tempted to do something that isn't right. What has helped me most is following the example and teachings of someone who proved that we're safe and secure when we put ourselves under God's direction. You may already know I'm talking about Christ Jesus. His life is so often regarded as a good example to follow that many people refer to him as their Exemplar or Master. His life is a pattern, or model, for them.
People from all over the globe have chosen Jesus as their Exemplar not only because of what he taught but also because of what he did: He forgave. He loved. He healed. And in addition to setting his own example, he helped others learn how to do these things themselves by giving them instruction. He said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
To let your light shine you have to understand who you really are and then be who you really are. Jesus taught that you and I and everyone-all of us-are really God's good and perfect children. Expressing the good qualities of God, like honesty, joyousness, courage, strength (and many more), is letting your light shine. When you express these qualities, you begin to understand your true, God-given identity, and you feel it and show it. You are being true to who you really are. It's an identity that is spiritual-of God, who is Spirit. Being a good example in this way, you can't help but know that you were created to be and do and feel good. To help and to love and to forgive. And this is good exampling.
Mary Baker Eddy, someone who was very dedicated to understanding Jesus' teachings, tried to follow his example in all she did. She wrote the Christian Science textbook to help others do the same. It's called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In this book, on page 37, you'll find this statement: "It is possible,-yea, it is the duty and privilege of every child, man, and woman,-to follow in some degree the example of the Master by the demonstration of Truth and Life, of health and holiness." We are all privileged to follow the example of Jesus and to grow into being better examples in the world.
Brethren, be followers
together of me, and
mark them which walk
so as ye have us
for an ensample.