“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~ Marianne Williamson
As a child I was raised with the expectation that no matter what, I would always do my best. That gave me a work ethic that demanded that any job I was doing, I should always give it 100%. Later on, when I worked as a Nursing Supervisor, I realized that the culture in America required that managers do more stroking, more appreciating and encouraging of the workforce. I had a hard time rewarding you for doing the work that was expected of you. If you went over and above, that was a different matter.
Perhaps it was the Florence in me. One of Nightingale’s famous quotes is “I attribute my success to this, I never gave or took any excuse.” This was a woman who was ahead of her time on many fronts. She recognized the importance of a healthy environment and collected data on the deaths in the Crimea caused by contagious pathogens and not from the wounds of war. She then presented her data, displayed in creative graphics to gain the attention of the men in the British government. She also designed the nursing curriculum to be taught by nurses, not physicians, recognizing that nursing was a profession of its own, nurses were not to be a subsidiary or handmaiden of the doctors.
At times it is appropriate to be coddled and encouraged, we need mentoring, the tender touch. At other times we just need some tough love, reminders that the things we are obsessing on today are holding us back from the person we ought to be. This week I heard the story of a man who was conscious but locked inside an unresponsive body for 12 years. As a teenager meningitis had left him comatose, and when he started to wake up he was unable to move or respond. His family continued to care for him thinking he was in a vegetative state. Despite being aware and totally unable to communicate or move, he found the inner strength to survive and eventually recover (though not completely).
There are many examples of people who have every excuse to give up, to accept the fate that life has handed them. But some inner resilience, some core of steel makes them refuse to be defeated by their circumstances. The people from whom we can learn the most have taken dire circumstances and turned them into springboards, propelling them forwards. We can think of that inspiring young woman Malala who refused to let a cowardly terrorist attack stop her from speaking out. She said “We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.” And today she speaks for those who continue to be oppressed and terrorized.
We are living in some serious times, but there are many who face much worse things on a daily basis. We have the power to bring about change in our world. Unfortunately many of us are happy with the status quo, as long as my family and I are not in immediate threat, why should I care what happens far away? Unfortunately, we can no longer be sure that terror threats, war, disease and poverty will stay over there somewhere. Globalization guarantees that Ebola can be on our doorstep; a terrorist act can take place anywhere; and poverty is already in our midst. What is our excuse for not being involved? How can we do more than ‘share’ distressing news on facebook?
I had planned to call this FMM “I write what I like” in honor of the slain activist Steve Biko (the title of his book). We have been reminded these past few weeks of the power of the pen. But words without action are empty. Where is the outrage over 2000 slain in Nigeria? Where are the protests? We the people have the power to make change in this world, but we have to be prepared to stand up for what we believe in.
What’s your excuse? What’s my excuse? We allow ourselves to become comfortable, complacent, and think: let someone else take on those struggles, we are not the ones who have the ability, the courage, the talents to bring about change. But if not me, then who?
The quote by Marianne Williamson about our potential to be powerful beyond measure has often been attributed to Nelson Mandela. It is reported that he included it in his inauguration speech (although it is not to be found in any transcript of the speech). Men like Mandela, Gandhi and MLK Jr discovered how powerful they were. But they probably started out not wanting to be the one that stuck their head out, risking all manner of discomfort up to and including imprisonment and death.
What if we all tried to be the best that we could be, if we all refused to settle for merely getting through life, feeding our families? What if we all refused to hide behind our commitments and our daily grind? What if we all allowed ourselves to be the most powerful instrument for change in this world? What could we accomplish? Why not me? Why not you?
On this Friday morning, I hope you and your family do not know fear, do not have to risk life or death situations merely to get through the day. But it is time that we stopped giving and taking excuses for not making this world a place where every child, every man and woman can live free from fear.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!