I think this lack of ideals leaves modern boys, and I suspect also modern girls quite a awash when it comes to knowing how to behave. A lot of boys I suppose look up to footy heroes or similar - but it must become obvious to them that such characters are flawed - Ben Cousins is just one example. Girls I presume look up to Beyonce or perhaps Princess fantasies. But to be honest who girls seek as role models I am not sure, what I am sure of is that they - like the boys - lack an infallible ideal.
I say modern boys and girls suffer this lack, because it is a modern lack. Until recently there were such ideals. For boys the ideal was Christ and for girls Mary, the Madonna. In fact the extent of the confusion is perhaps evident in that one of the modern role models has the name of the traditional Madonna but with characteristics that are completely opposite.
Now I suspect that many women will reproach me for putting forward Mary the Virgin Mother as a role model. The sorts of claims I have heard in the past include arguments that she does not represent all women, not all women are mothers, there is a great diversity of women, etc. I think these are important points, and I intend to address them by drawing on the ideas of C.S Lewis and G.K Chesterton. But rather than start with Mary as a role model I will start with Jesus.
C.S Lewis argues that when one seeks to become like Jesus, he does not lose his individuality, rather he becomes much freer to become who he really is. Lewis explains it is like adding salt to meat; one would expect that the strong taste of salt would smother the taste of everything else i.e make everything seasoned with salt taste like salt. But in fact the reverse happens- it actually brings out the flavour of the meat even more strongly. And such is the effect of adopting Christ as your role model, the more like Christ you become the more your own individuality shines; the more yourself you become. Chesterton makes a similar point, saying for example that the personalities of the Saints are wide and varied, and even the more so the closer they came to Christ. He compares the variety of the Saints to the varieties of flowers in the fields. Each radiant with its own individual beauty. Chesterton adds that it is the varieties of things that bring joy and beauty to world.
So here is my reply to those who say that Christ, or Mary for that matter, is too limiting a role model. I say that one should not be considering that one needs the exact personality that they imagine Jesus or Mary had, but rather try and adopt the spiritual qualities which anyone can make their own. In seeking to adopt these the person is guided on a path of how to really become themselves, and ceases oscillating from one ideal to another. Whoever does this now has a clear goal and guide on how to behave in life, ie. by seeking the Christian spiritual qualities of meekness, forgiveness, patience, mercy, etc. Can anyone say - for example - that they would not be improved by trying to become more patient?
The alternative to having a clear, perfect ideal for people to aim for is to instead have what what we have in modernity: that is an attempt to cater for multiple role models, to many different types of people. The trouble is, if you take this to its logical extreme of saying that everyone is different, then you end up with as many role models as there are people - ie. each person should have their own unique role model suited to their own unique personality. In effect, everyone would need to be their own role model, which is the same as having no role model at all. Even if you did limit the number of possible role models, you still have the problem of which is right for you?
Thus it is my belief that only Jesus (and perhaps those who have also made his qualities their own, such as the Saints, including Mary) provides a universal role model. Christ as a model caters to each unique personality by providing an example of the universal spiritual attributes of God, which anyone can adopt as their own. In this way one can be freed of the anxiety of wondering what are the right types of behaviours one should seek to emulate. Then like, a flower basking in the sunlight, each of us can allow his or her own unique personality to bloom.