When We Mimic Others….is it always a good thing?

GetAttachment.aspx1My son first began learning the English language at seventeen months of age. He also needed to learn how to express his emotions as most children do at that age. However, as an adopted child adapting to a vastly different culture and language my son had much to catch up in comparison to American children his age. The method he chose to use was to mimic. He not only watched and mimicked facial expressions and emotions from children’s television programs but he also mimicked other children’s behaviors. He did this for years.

We would go to the grocery store and a child was acting out in an inappropriate but definitely childlike behavior and my son would copy that child. If he saw a child laughing, he laughed. If he saw a child throwing a temper tantrum he tried to throw a temper tantrum. If he saw a child well-behaved he was well-behaved. I suppose this was his way of learning but it was not always a good way.June 2009 039

In his daycare, at church, and in the neighborhood he had friends who were diagnosed with various forms of Autism. One friend in particular spent a lot of time in our home playing with my son and this child flapped his arms when excited as many with Autism do. My son flapped right along with his friend and thought nothing of it. His friend was flapping his arms so my son flapped his arms too.  He told me recently that he thought his friend was pretending to fly and he wanted to fly as well!

I paid little attention to this behavior, however his kindergarten teacher asked me one day if I thought my son was showing signs of Autism. As it happened, I was studying the condition in one of my college classes and I could see why the teacher was concerned. I knew my son did not have Autism. I knew he was a great mimic, but it was time for me to start working with my son and help him understand why he should not flap when his best friend was a flapper.

At church, during his first Sunday School program I noticed that my son was being set apart because he was not sitting still as he should have. I suppose because no one knew him very well they thought he was a “special needs” child and didn’t want to force him into doing what he was supposedly incapable of doing. I knew better and so I began to attend all of his future practices and made him sit still. I also spoke to his teachers at church and explained that he was to mind them and not roam all around the building because he was not Autistic, he was a mimic. I must tell you that in those days we sure had some struggles, he and I, but in the end Mom won and my little mimic had to learn to mimic the good behaviors and not the misbehaving behaviors. It took time and patience and a firm admonishing spirit on my part to bring him to where he needed to be behaviorally speaking.

June 2009 016If you think about it, children often learn by copying or mimicking someone else’s behavior. I think in many instances adults learn the same way. I know from my own personal experience that when I was living in Hong Kong or Germany I certainly observed local people’s behaviors and listened intently to their words. I didn’t always understand from the words I heard what the person was doing or feeling, but their body language often gave me the clues I sought. Also when I attended my very first formal dinner I didn’t really know which fork or spoon or knife to use so I observed someone who did know and I copied them. I got through the dinner without embarrassing myself. I can imagine that all of you have had similar experiences concerning such matters. Yes, we adults learn through mimicking as well as children.

June 2009 018I think that is why the Bible teaches Christians to be imitators of Christ and not of the world. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma, Ephesians 5:1-2,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

It makes sense, really, when you think about it. As parents we often are reminded of our own mistakes when we see our children mimicking, copying, and imitating us. So as a Christian, a follower of Christ, should we not imitate, copy, and mimic His son Jesus whom we say we love and obey? Of course the how is always more difficult than the words spoken.

What kind of example are you if someone else mimics your behavior? That is a good question because there is always someone watching you closely. I often think that in my life I must live in a glass house because so many people know all about me, all about my life story, all the good, the sordid, and the bad…or at the very least they think they know. Have I been a good example for them to follow? I certainly am not perfect and I have children who have lived with me that will confirm that statement as truth. I have a son living with me now that can tell you his Mom is not perfect by any means. That being said, I have often asked myself if am living out my life in such a way that leaves no doubt to anyone that I am a true Christian. Do I imitate God? Do I act as one of God’s beloved? Do I walk in love? Do I by my life make a fragrant smell or aroma before God?

Those are some hard questions for me to answer. Do I smell good to God or do I just stink like the rest of the world? I do use deodorant but somehow I doubt that God really cares about my bodily habits of cleanliness. I believe the key in all of this being an imitator of God is the word “love.”

Jesus teaches in the Bible in Matthew 24 starting at verse ten about the end times, where people will become selfish and will hate each other and so forth. You can read this passage to get the full meaning of what Jesus was saying but what I want to hone into here is the end of verse twelve: …most people’s love will grow cold, (NSAB). The next verse states that those who “endure to the end” will be saved. I believe that proof of our endurance to the end of our lives or the end of the world as we know it is going to be our love toward others. Our love to our family must be evident. Our love to our fellow Christians must be intact. But I think what sets Christians apart from the world of non-Christians is our capacity to love.  We understand what love is and where our power source for plugging into is and that is of course God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We have God’s love residing in us because we have the Holy Spirit in residence within our bodies because Jesus Christ died for us. Remember our body is the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19)!210

Love covers a multitude of sins…or to be precise, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins,” 1 Peter 4:8, (NASB). Oh what a wonderful verse to memorize. Love can do so much. God’s love for me brought me to His saving grace. God’s love helps me to forgive others. God’s love helps me to love with a better purpose than my own desires. God’s love hides forever my sins. God’s love is waiting for you too, can you feel it? Jesus Christ came to show mercy to gentiles and Jews alike when He did His death and resurrection thing! I am so glad that He did, aren’t you?

Getting my son to mimic God is the best gift I can give him because God is love and love is sorely lacking in our world today. I want my life to be a testament to God’s love, don’t you? I want my family to know they are loved. I want my friends and church family to know they are loved. I want you to know you are loved. Go and mimic God’s love and not me! Let’s get out there in this love-less world and show everyone in our path how wonderful God’s love is for us and can be for them as well. Let’s be nice, be courteous, be kind, be patient, be forgiving, be full of grace and mercy…let’s show God’s love!

Until next time……Katherine

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