Today Ralph Waite died. Here is an article I wrote about him a while back:
I’m a pastor. I’m always trying to inspire and motivate people to change. I’m forever helping people who want to change—change. Let me teach you one of the most valuable things I have learned about how to want to change and how to change. If you want to change, change the way you act. If you want to change the way you feel, change the way you act. Act the way you want to be. Act the way you want to feel.
This is true in the natural. It’s just wired into our God-given design, but the Bible teaches that in the life of a believer this is “super-charged.” It is supernaturally enabled by the Holy Spirit. You can read all about it in Romans 6:15-23. For now though let me give you an interesting example that I stumbled on recently.
Ralph Waite had a problem with alcohol. He had a troubled marriage. He was not the father he wanted to be. At one time he had been a Presyterian minister. He studied at Bucknell and Yale Divinity School, but his nine-year-old daughter died of leukemia and he left the ministry. Now his faith was lapsed and he was estranged from his church, but something happened that changed his life.
Acting Like a Good Dad
He began to act like a good, loving dad. When I say “act” I mean it quite literally. He began to act every day like a patient, loving, caring, understanding father. He began to act for hours every day like a loving husband and a kind, thoughtful loving son to aging parents. How did that happen? He landed a job as an actor and he played the part of John Walton on a popular television series that ran from 1972 to 1981. He became the Father on a television program that captured America’s heart for nine years.
For nine years Ralph Waite was paid 10,000.00 dollars a week to act like a good dad. Here is the amazing thing. During that time he became a good dad. Here is what one article said:
“Waite — now 38 years sober — was an alcoholic when he first began shooting “The Waltons.” It didn’t take long for Waite to realize he was living a life contradictory to the role of the hardworking, reliable father he was playing on TV. “I was a caring, responsible father to all of these kids,” he said. “But I was drinking the night before and being a drunk on the side. I found a way to get sober. Hollywood changed my life,” he said. “It turned me into a human being.”
These nine years happened to be the exact nine years of my youth. Every Thursday night of the world from the time I was 12 to the time I was 21 I watched the Waltons if I could. I do not doubt that the show had a significant influence on my life.
Every Waltons episode began with the voice of Earl Hamner setting up the story and ended with a shot of the Walton’s home at night and the sound of the family saying good-night to one another.
Still today, many years later, the characters of the show all say when people recognize them they will almost universally say; “Good night John-boy.”
Next time you see a re-run remind yourself of the truth that Ralph Waite learned: “If you want to change, change the way you act.”
Writing from Lafayette, Indiana
February 11, 2013