Topic: Personal Reflection
In my early years I was taught a memorable rhyme. It went like this: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
What a joyful refrain! From these words we gained the confidence to deal with whatever petty verbal aggression might confront us on the playground or in our school’s hallways.
Many from my generation will fondly remember the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme. Many benefited from the attitude implicit in those words, not just as children, but as adults later in life. Hurtful words? Ignore them. They are too trivial to warrant response.
So where are we today? Unfortunately, the notion that words cannot hurt us has been pushed aside in favor of a kind of self-victimization. We no longer rely on a natural confidence in our own identity to shield us from harsh or hurtful words. No, just the opposite. Today, we are being told that we are victims, that we should be offended by hurtful words. Being a victim is preferable to being a secure and confident individual. Poor baby!
More troubling, individual victimhood has morphed to include collective victimhood. This is rapidly becoming a problem of national proportions.
Look at me, for example. The hypothetical pain that I might have suffered could easily be adopted by a whole class of individuals. How so? I am an Average White Man. As such, it is conceivable that I ought to be offended by the rock band called Average White Band. Oh, woe is me! Will there be a class action lawsuit to compensation me and other average white men for the devastating hurt that we have collectively suffered?
What about sports teams? Many have names that are said to have caused irreparable damage to certain groups of people.
Statues commemorating long departed American figures are said to offend. Streets named for historic icons somehow cause emotional harm.
How did this happen? How did we move from a jovial sense of self-reliance and pride to a culture of victimhood? How did we get to this place where mere words cause so much pain?
For answers, look closely at instances where victimhood has flourished. Two trends emerge. First, in today’s world, victimhood is easy. We are encouraged to seek offense from a long list of supposedly hurtful words or phrases. The message is clear. It is cool to be a victim. Furthermore, social media allow us to broadcast our pain to friends and to the world beyond.
Second, being a victim can be profitable. In a lawsuit filed against the Central Lee Community School District, the parents of a student alleged that “The threats of C.M. (the alleged bully) to H.S. (their child, the alleged victim) have become so severe and ongoing that H.S. is [in] fear of [their] safety every day. This includes riding the bus as well as while at school. The threats and harm perpetrated upon H.S. have begun to affect ability to concentrate at school and properly complete [their] school work. The threats and harm perpetrated upon H.S. now affect H.S’s ability to obtain an education.” The parents are asking the court “to permanently prohibit the two students from having any contact with each other as well as any other relief the court might deem just and equitable” (emphasis added).
Go ahead, tally the dollars skimmed by Trial Lawyers. That total would probably exceed the national debt.
The profit motive could easily be applied to non-monetary interests, as well.
Want to discredit a politician or a political appointee? All you need to do is dig into his past,
select a few words or phrases out of context and broadcast them to the world. Doesn’t even have to be factual. Once it is out there, it’s out there.
We were once impervious to trivial slights. We did not feel compelled to tweet every time someone had a bad word to say about us. We could ignore meaningless jabs and not get sucked into retaliatory name calling. Are those days gone forever?
Do we just totter off into the sunset and accept these damaging trends, asking other generations to deal with them? Or do we re-assert ourselves and reject the notion that mere words can hurt us? Which would you choose? It is within your power to set a positive example for others who might be inclined to choose victimhood. Next time you hear that so-and-so’s words are offensive, laugh and say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
(As much as I would like to claim credit, I am not the one who originated this rhyme. In fact, they first appeared in The Christian Recorder, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. That happened in March of 1862. Yeah, I am old but not that old.)
You get plenty of emails, right? To manage the daily onslaught, you have identified many originators as frivolous producers of unwanted solicitation. Those are sent to directly to your spam folder and are never seen by you.
You just received a new email with “Deadline” in the subject box. You open this email and the text reads, “You will die next Wednesday at 1130.” This one did not go to Spam because the originator was God. What do you do?
Before you can answer that question, you go through a series of emotions.
Disbelief. “This must be a mistake. I am too young. I go to church on Christmas and, usually, on Easter Sunday. It must have been meant for someone else. I am not ready.”
But you check the addressee. Yup, that is your name. No change. It was, indeed, meant for you.
Next, sorrow and grief. “Oh noooo. I like it here. What will my dog think? Who will take him for walks and feed him. He will miss me and I will not have been able to explain my absence.”
You cry. Your grief is overwhelming. But your tears change nothing.
Then the final emotion: anger. “This is not fair. I don’t deserve this. This should be happening to someone else, not me.”
You kick the door, you pound the wall. Your anger changes nothing.
Exhausted, you are forced to accept the veracity of God’s email. You will die next Wednesday at 1130.
Back to the original question. You have been given a deadline (pun intended). What do you do?
First, you recognize that your time is limited. There are dozens of things that you would like to do; but you are forced to identify the two or three most important, the things that absolutely must be done before Wednesday. You prioritize.
As you do that, you realize how many meaningless things are on your list. The reality of your deadline forces you shed those irrelevant and trivial things. You focus on what matters.
There is a lesson here. Just because we have not received God’s email, it doesn’t mean that our time is endless. Our time is, in fact, limited. We need to set goals and continually monitor our progress if we are to achieve our true potential. (See the letters “G” and “V” in the Youth Version of my Responsibility Workbook Series).
Use your time wisely. You never know when you will get that email.
1) Leap out of bed each morning before 0600
Then, before breakfast:
2) Run five miles
3) Do 200 sit ups
4) Read the New York Times & Wall Street Journal from cover to cover
5) Solve Global Warming
6) Negotiate peace for at least one war or two regional conflicts
7-A) Raise $200K for President Trump’s re-election campaign
7-B) Raise $200K for the Sanders, Warren, or Clinton (2nd) campaign
(take your pick)
8) Loose ten pounds
9) Compose a symphony
10) Write another chapter in the Great American Novel
11) Leap a tall building in a single bound
Finally, at the end of the day:
12) Not feel guilty if I fail to fulfill my New Year’s Resolutions
What is your definition of Personal Responsibility? Being responsible can mean many different things, depending on your circumstances and your world perspective. Is your world centered on a desperate street where more is spent on drugs than on food? Or, maybe, your world revolves around high finance, board room politics and country club society. Where you come from does not matter. What matters is how you see your world and what you want to achieve in that world. That will define your sense of Personal Responsibility.
Born in poverty with no family structure to guide you through your early years? Struggling to survive where gangs rule and violence is the norm? What you choose to do can mean the difference between escaping to a better place or drowning in the desperation that surrounds you. Your choices can send you in one direction or the other. Own your choices and you might, just might, make it to that better place. Taking Personal Responsibility for your choices will give you a decent shot at success.
Wealthy parents, elite education, surrounded by comfort and privilege? Sounds good on paper but what are you going to do with it? Make smart choices and a productive and fulfilling life can be yours. More important, you will have an opportunity to be of positive benefit to others, either by supporting programs that help the less fortunate or by being a role model for someone who has not yet developed positive habits. Did I say, “opportunity?” No, it is an “obligation.”
Make bad choices, however, and all that you have been given will melt away to nothing. The traps are out there. A heavy party scene and an indulgent life style, can lead to physical deterioration and decline. Even worse, it is easy to become complacent and let each day slide by without goals and direction (see the letter “G” in our Workbooks). This lack of motivation all but guarantees failure and mediocrity. Who wants that?
The details will differ but there is one common theme: your choices have consequences. If you live in a wealthy community and have all the security and comfort that comes with that life, your choices are no less consequential than those of someone living in back alleys, scratching for food every day.
Do you know who you are?
You are not what you say
Do you really know who you are?
You are what you do
Who are you?
I looked in the mirror
and saw myself
You looked at me
and saw someone else
You saw what you wanted to see
but what you saw wasn’t me
Am I going to tell you what ideals to live by? No ….. not my job. It is your life; so you pick the ideals.
What I can do, however, is suggest how to use your chosen ideals to guide you throughout your day. After all, what good are ideals if you don’t live them?
This is not complicated. Try these four simple steps.
First, pick two or three ideals that have meaning to you. There are many to choose from. Think of things that you might want to be known for: honesty, integrity, kindness, trustworthiness … the list is very long, indeed.
Second, tag each of your ideals with a person or a character. This could be a relative, a celebrity, an heroic figure, or even an animal that in some way has inspired you. For example, if you had chosen “Compassion” as an ideal, you might tag that ideal to Mother Theresa. Or, if you felt that “Determination” was an important ideal, you might tag that one to Winston Churchill
Third, identify something that you do at the start of your day. It can be a simple act that you perform every day …. stretching when you first get out of bed, brushing your teeth, pouring your first cup of coffee. The act itself does not matter, as long as you do it consistently at the start of each day. This will be your trigger point to activate the process.
The fourth, and final, step is where you bring it all together. Let’s say that you have decided to use the moment when you pour your first cup of coffee as your trigger point. As you pour that first cup, say the words, “Mother Theresa is Compassion. Winston Churchill is Determination.” This will bring your ideals to the forefront of your mind.
Follow these four steps and there is a good chance that your chosen ideals will be there to guide you throughout your day.