I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I recently Googled the Goethe quote above so I would get it exactly right. I wanted to write a post about empowering others and how my friends online have empowered me to be a more honest and kinder person. I came across a post Jenny Blake wrote in December about seeing the best in others. I thought this was serendipitous. OK, sure her post was listed under My Social Circle, but STILL.
Live well. Be real. Be kind. Be fearless. Those words seem so simple, so why is it so difficult for humans to empower one another and to live with kindness and empathy?
It is important for me to live my life now as if it were the only chance I have. For me, the only life I will ever have is happening now. The only relationships I will ever have are taking place now. Even if there is an afterlife of some kind, I do not believe I will be aware of it. This is my only chance at life, at love, at peace. I want to do it up right, yo.
I have not always lived a life of which I could be proud. I have not always been kind to others or to myself. I have said and done things I have only recently forgiven in myself so I can move forward and let go of the past. I try not to let the past control me, but sometimes it sneaks up on me when I least expect it. It sneaks up on me in my relationships most of all. A few times online I have said something positive and received the following responses: “You are way too nice” and “You give me too much credit.” Really? Am I too nice? Do I give you too much credit for something you accomplished? Probably not. I think to myself, “Just say thank you. If I didn’t believe what I was saying was true, I would not say it.” But then I think, “Wait, if someone said something nice about me, would I embrace it or hide from it or feel uncomfortable?” I guess it is still easier for me to give than to receive kindness. I think others are also better able to be kind than accept kindness.
Such self-doubt follows me everywhere no matter how hard I fight against it. Before I moved to Virginia almost two years ago, I made a conscious decision to burn old bridges and make new ones. I needed to surround myself with people who had my best interest at heart and no longer interact with takers or users or abusers. Then I decided to start blogging again after a long break. I remember thinking, “What could I possibly contribute to the Blogosphere?” “Who would even read my blog?” Doni said anyone who wears multiple hats or juggles many things at once will want to read my blog. Michelle and Chris also pushed me to take the leap to resurrect the blogger in me. I knew I would be a different blogger than I was for so long. But I did not know what to expect from my new life online with a new blog and a Twitter account. I did not expect for so many bloggers around the globe to embrace me. To become real friends offline. To cheer me on when times were great. To send me hugs when I was down. To laugh at my bad jokes. I certainly did not expect in any given day to have 20 to 600 hits on my blog. I did not expect myself to reach out to others as much as I did. I did not expect myself to reach out, make new friends and take risks with them. I realized recently that you all make me want to be a better woman. I want to genuinely be myself. I hope you’ll stick around. I will do my best to be there for you, too.
When you take action or use your words online, those words and actions are out there for all the world to see. There is no hiding from yourself. There is no hiding from it… whatever it is. Wouldn’t you rather put your light out into the world than hide in darkness? Or to project darkness?
I know I would. And that is what I try to do.