Yesterday (before I sat down to write this post, in fact), I decided to take a quick break and sit outside in our garden. Idly, I grabbed a copy of our neighbourhood magazine to thumb through while I sat on our backyard swing, enjoying the spring day.
Right in the middle pages of the magazine was an interview of a pretty prominent Houston newscaster. As she recounted some of the highlights of her career, she mentioned that in her youth, she had exchanged letters with former congresswoman and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan. In her letter, Jordan told her the following:
“You can do anything you want to do. Just make it honourable.”
I’ve been thinking about these words ever since I read them. At first blush, it seems like simply great advice from a leader to a young girl who had yet to make a decision on what she wanted to be when she grew up. And in truth, this is what we’re always told we should strive for, right? This is what our parents, grandparents and kindergarten teachers encouraged us to work for all our lives: Help make the world a better place, they would plead. Be honourable. And so, we tried: we dreamt of being doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers. You know, honourable.
But digging deeper, it seems to me that Jordan’s statement is applicable even now, even after I’ve already finished my education and chosen my profession. As an adult, every waking minute of every day, I make tons of decisions:
- how I’m going to deal with my family as we face the morning rush
- how I prioritize my work schedule, and how I deal with clients and colleagues
- how I deal with bad news, bad luck, bad behaviour and other setbacks
- how I share of myself, my family and my friends online
- how I choose to comment, react, respond to things I read, hear, experience
- how I decide what to tweet, retweet, “pin,” “like,” “+1″ and otherwise share and communicate on the internet.
And ever day, when I make these decisions, consciously or not, I choose to do each one of them honourably or … not.
Here’s the thing: these days, “honourable” doesn’t sell magazines, or advertising, or television air time. Honourable doesn’t get you fame and fortune, or heck, even massive pageviews. Honourable doesn’t bring you cash. Honourable just isn’t sexy.
Also? Honourable is hard.
Still, when I consider the alternative — when I choose to react, or respond, or behave in a way that I feel to be less honourable than I know I am capable of, there is just nothing worse that that uneasy feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach. You know the one: the one where the little voice inside of you says, dude, you are better than that. The one that comes dangerously close to feeling like shame.
Man, I hate that feeling. Because in my world, nothing comes in the way of my feeling gratitude like experiencing shame.
My friend Brené Brown, a researcher who studies shame, and vulnerability and courage, once shared a wonderful quote from Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” It’s a great message to remind myself before I got to sleep each night that, indeed, I live in a place and time where I can do anything I want, and I can always try again in the morning. It’s a complete relief, when you think about it.
But since reading that article in my little local magazine, I feel challenged to do more. Maybe after I’ve gone to bed with Radmacher’s words in mind, in the morning I should wake up and set my tone for the new day, with Jordan’s words at the forefront of my thoughts. Maybe, before I even get out of bed, I should make a habit of thinking, what is it that I want to stand for today?
Perhaps, as I set my future course for my career, not to mention in my roles as a wife, mother, daughter and friend, I should take Jordan’s advice: perhaps I should consider how I can consciously and intentionally make my life and what I choose to do in it honourable.
Because I suspect that while doing so might not bring me fame, fortune or heck, even massive pageviews, it will bring me a ton of gratitude.
And on that grateful note, have a wonderful weekend, friends.
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