This morning while going through my getting-ready routine I heard a commercial I had heard many times before, but that for some reason resonated with me in an entirely new way. It is that commercial where an obviously heartbroken mother speaks out against prescription drugs… citing it as the culprit in her son Christopher’s death. I quote, “Prescription drugs killed my son…” In the event this commercial is not one you are familiar with, this woman’s son was in an auto accident, hurt his back and was given prescribed drugs by his doctor for his injuries. He abused their use. He died at the age of twenty-two. Tragic.
What stuck out at me this morning for the first time however is the way this mother phrased her statement – “Prescription drugs killed my son…” and made me immediately wonder whether that was the whole truth. You see she is correct, an overdose of the prescribed drugs did kill Christopher; but very much as if someone picks up a gun and shoots someone else, the bullet did end life, but the person directing that bullet is the killer. One is the cause of death, the other the reason for death. A slight difference. But a pertinent one.
Naturally this catapulted me headlong into one of my favorite topics and a trait I am immensely and intensely passionate about… a sense of responsibility. That annoying and illuminating characteristic that says we are to accept the consequences for our actions and not deflect the responsibility elsewhere. In no way am I attempting to minimize the grief this mother must be facing… losing a child is unthinkable. But I have a sister who is a doctor, she legally and with the best of intentions afforded her profession, prescribes drugs. If she does so for me (she can’t; but work with me here…) and I ignore the prescribed dosage and abuse their usage, which then leads to my addiction, which then tragically leads to my injury or death, did my sister kill me? No. Did the drugs? Yes. They were unquestionably the reason for my death. But the cause? Me. My weakness. My addiction. My abuse.
Listen… before yall jump down my throat, I recognize and understand addiction. So much so that I am unable to minimize either its potency or its threat. I empathize with and will continue to support anyone who struggles with it in any form. But I am an even greater supporter of accountability and the recognition that change or recovery of any sort can only begin and be effective when one is willing to stand up, raise their hand and say, “I…”
In wrapping up I will say this – for as beautiful as our world is, for all our very many opportunities and blessings, for many of us instead of moving through it displaying the gratitude we should, we stomp through with an entitlement that demands more. Sadly many of us raise our children from the outside-in; concentrating on what they get as opposed to who they are. Ensuring they are beneficiaries of the latest gadgets, accessories and big-ticket experiences, while disregarding they owe something back to the world. That there is a cost to humanity. An accountability.
Okay. Everything… without fail, everything we do has an effect. In fact Isaac Newton says it eloquently, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…” (just about my only argument with this statement is that oftentimes the reaction is not always “equal”). But the point here is that we all, each and every one of us will be called upon to deal with the manifestations of our actions. It may not happen right away or even in the way we envisioned or liked. But happen it will.
A well-honed sense of responsibility and accountability will mark the difference between whether our statement begins with, “He/she/it/that” or “I”.
Yesterday someone who does not know me very well, in an effort to “peg” me called me an ‘instigator’.
I admit my first reaction was to “go off” in that way that any self-respecting black Trini grown-up woman can. Instead however, I took the time to calmly correct her mistake. Because see… many things I am – honest, direct, no-nonsense, outspoken, bold; but instigator I am not.
Since then I have been thinking about the fact that so very many of us suffer and succumb to verbal and mental lethargy; that thing that gives us permission to quickly flip through the words we have most probably just heard and regurgitate them. More importantly however, I am struck by the potential damage our lethargy and carelessness can do to someone’s esteem and their reputation.
Words. I enjoy them. And because I do, I have taken the time to fully appreciate, when strung together carefully, how beautifully they can make someone feel, or how they can paint the most explicit of visual pictures. How when flung around carelessly, they can hurt or destroy. Yesterday’s choice of word neither hurt or destroyed… the speaker did not have that much influence over my emotions. But, it was thought-provoking. And, as I continue to think about the encounter, I admit that substituting ‘provocateur’ for ‘instigator’ would have been a much more apt choice.
This post is about esteem. Both of the ‘self’ and the ‘regard’ variety. Because we are a people of selfishness, let me begin with ‘self’. Every self-help book we have ever read speaks about how our having an intact and healthy self-esteem stands us in great stead to conquer the world. (Okay… perhaps just our portion of it). Conversely, if our self-esteem has been in any way compromised, all hell is liable to break loose! An intact sense of who we are, our value and worth affords us the ability to walk through this world with enough confidence to dream and believe we can achieve those dreams. The self-help gurus insist this, an ingrained sense of our worth is infinitely more valuable than how we look.
Okay. Got that?
Let’s now look at ‘esteem’ as it relates to your regard for someone. ‘Esteem’ as it is projected outward, not inward. Simply put – what self-esteem does for you, regard does for the universe. And here is where I would like to linger… most of us possess too much of the former and none, or not nearly enough of the latter. Some have read too many books and have deluded oneself into believing that it is an either-or situation. I either care about me – self, or I care about you – regard.
Why the conversation?
I am always careful in choosing my words. So, when I use just one word, string them together so beautifully they sparkle or craft a sentence filled with negative epithets, trust that each was deliberately chosen. I make little mistakes in my English language usage. To me, this shows my respect for you. The obvious thought we level at any situation marks the difference between regard or not. Off-handed, careless words or actions say more (or, is it less?) about the speaker/doer than they do about the recipient.
This may seem silly to you; you may very well be wondering what I’m going on about, or why. Let’s address this. Wars have been waged because of the ill-use or misuse of words. Murders have words as their offending weapons. Marriages have been dissolved as a result of a careless word here or not enough words there. Careers have ended. Children’s futures derailed.
Shit. Perhaps I am an “instigator”. After all… not settling for mediocrity and expecting people to raise their standards is quite obnoxious of me!