12/8/14, Courage and Accountability
You’re probably running around as I am right now, trying to get organized for the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful, and I was very grateful that all my children came home, flew home, and so did I, so we could be together, only for a couple of days, but seeing them was a great gift, and always is.
I love reading your comments and responses to my blog too. It was interesting to see that one reader was very upset that several people died at the beginning of my book “Winners”, and another reader responded to her. (I wish I could respond to everyone, but it’s hard to do, but I am grateful for everything you say, and take it to heart). It was unfortunate that the unhappy reader didn’t read on through the book. The whole point of that book is that we can be faced with some incredibly tough situations, hang on, and persevere through them, and triumph in the end. It’s not easy to do, and it takes a great deal of courage. In ‘Winners”, all the main characters in the book have suffered some kind of really tough blow or loss. The central character, a young girl on the Olympic ski team suffers a spinal cord injury in an accident and becomes a paraplegic, which ends her dreams of ‘winning the gold’. The surgeon who operates on her loses her husband the night she operates on the young skier. Another character is a breast cancer survivor and her husband divorced her while she was going through treatment. And another character has lost his career, his money, and his wife (his wife leaves him when his professional life falls apart). And ALL of these people find strength in one way or another, inspired by the courage of the young skier, as she faces her challenges and wins remarkably in the end (and there are many brave people like her in real life). In many ways, it’s a very inspiring book by the end, so I’m sorry that the discontented reader didn’t persevere and get to the uplifting part, which is the whole point of the book. Sometimes the good things in life come at a high price. And I have always liked a quote that I have framed on my wall behind my desk. “Courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them”. And another quote I love “Courage is the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good”. The woman who originally said that is Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist in Germany in the 1930’s right before the war. I try very hard to ENcourage people with what I write, not DIScourage them. We get enough of that, and can all use encouragement to face the tough stuff in our lives. Sometimes you have to keep reading, keep going and keep living to get to better times!!! And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up!!!” which is an inspiration too. I was very fortunate to know Christopher Reeves, the actor who suffered a terrible horseback riding accident, and had a severe spinal cord injury as a result. (He played Superman in the movies). He was one of the bravest, most inspiring, most extraordinary people I ever met, and an amazing example of what people can do, faced with terrible challenges. He was gracious, upbeat, and totally remarkable, and was wonderful even after his accident. And people like him, and others I know, inspired my book “Winners”. The people in the book really are winners, and each one finds a way to triumph in the end.
I was thinking about something today which is what I was going to write to you about, because it was on my mind. Accountability. Being accountable for our actions. It always amazes me how some people just aren’t. And we are half of that equation if we don’t hold people accountable, and don’t expect them to be responsible for what they do. I am always torn by a contradiction on that subject, because I’m religious, and I think forgiveness is important. Not forgiving those who hurt us, whether or not we keep them in our lives, is a heavy burden to carry. And in the Bible when someone asked “how many times must we forgive someone?” the response is 70 times 7. Yikes!!! That’s 490 times. Do I really have to forgive someone 490 times??? That’s a tall order. But I have leaned more toward forgiving people in my life than making them accountable for their actions. You don’t have to stay mad, and shouldn’t, but people really do need to be responsible for their actions. And some people appear to be oblivious to any kind of accountability for what they do to others. There is someone in my life who hurt me very badly many years ago, and I chose the route of forgiveness, and took the higher road. But quite amazingly that same person surfaces from time to time, even regularly, wanting favors from me. I debate about it, and have often decided to be generous about it, and lend a hand. And damn if that person doesn’t take advantage of me EVERY time. Maybe some people just can’t help it. I don’t make an issue of it, but I wind up mad at myself for giving that person another chance they just don’t deserve. They just surfaced again, wanting me to do something I really didn’t want to do, and FINALLY, I just said no. I explained why, nicely, but I’m not going to be taken advantage again. It really is time to set firm boundaries in that case and say no. And predictably, they were furious at me, and quite incensed. I’ve been a good sport for too long, and I think it was a shock to finally hear me say no, I wasn’t going to play that game anymore, where I wind up being and feeling used and taken advantage of. And people who do that seem to be quite shameless about it; it’s all about them and what they want. I thought about it after my firm no, and wondered if I was being unkind or uncharitable, and suddenly realized that no, I finally made that person accountable for their actions of the past. It was long, long overdue, and in the end it was a good feeling. I needed to respect and protect myself. Some people do not improve with time, and if we don’t stop them, they use us again and again and again. I was very proud of myself for making them accountable, not angrily, not meanly, but it was the appropriate response. It has taken me a long time to get there. Some of us learn that lesson slower than others. Accountability is really important in any situation and relationship. We’re all sloppy about that at times, no one is perfect, but we need to be accountable for our actions, and expect the same from others. It was actually a REALLY good feeling, not to let someone take advantage of me again!!! And all it took was a simple, firm, heartfelt No. I wish I’d learned that lesson sooner!!!
And as you go along in these busy weeks, getting ready for the holidays, if you celebrate them—–I hope that all is going well for you!!! I’m always aware that it’s not an easy time of year, but I hope these holidays will be gentle for you!!!
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I have a family member like that, unfortunately. She always “need” help and we used to help her. One day, we decide that it was time for her to take care of herself and she was furious and went on a rampage on social media and kept posting things like “Its better to be alone and have no family than to have one that never support you”
We were like ” NEVER”???
I’m a fan of you from China. Today, I read a lot about your great achievements in literature. I learned that you are such a gifted and hardworking writer and you also have such a loving family. Congratulations!
I’m a long time fan. I love this blog. Thank you for posting and sharing your insights. The part about accountability certainly got me thinking. It is especially appropriate as the holiday closes in, because we will find ourselves thinking about our relationships as we spend time with friends and family.
You were right to say ‘no.’ Self-care is never a selfish act. It is so important because it allows us to put our best self out there in the world.
All the best,
You are VERY encouraging by what you write. One of my all-time favorite books you have penned will now be “Message From Nam,” just because I identified so much with what the storyline covered.
Thank you for writing the book and for sharing your wonderful gift of writing.
BTW, Lieutenant Calley wasn’t the only one guilty of what happened in Viet Nam. His orders came from someone higher up.
Such a lovely and pertinent post! The Holidays bring the happiness of family being together, of the houses decorated in bright colors and lights, the pleasure of offering gifts for those who are dear to us, and even, if they are neglected in the rest of the year, to share with those less fortunate.
On the other side, the Holidays can bring the darker parts of us to the surface. On starts asking to many answers and sometimes getting little answers. Life is complicated, really hard at times, and often we start wondering if all the fuss about Christmas is worth it, if we’re focusing on the right things, and so on.
I think we just have to keep paying attention because, actually, the answers to our questions are not so little we just are not open to them, that’s the problem. The lyrics to most Christmas songs are very inspiring, to see how the ugliest parts of town look good under the Christmas’ lights, how our house looks warmer and cozy with the decorations. The smells of the Christmas delicacies, the way people are more willing to smile and the way a perfect stranger wishes you a “Merry Christmas”, isn’t it magic?
I hate people saying Christmas is meant to children or that is just about stores selling more. No, Christmas allow us to see the best of the human beings and even it after Christmas we still have the hardships of life to deal it, we should face them knowing that there’s hope to better things and better people, because we just saw it during the Holidays.
Actually, we all should be held accountable for not extending the kindness and joy of the Holidays throughout the year: if we smile, people smile back at us, if you say something nice, you will hear something nice; if you help somebody life will be better for all, and even if the Christmas lights are off you can bright a place with your presence…
Ms. Steel’s books give me hope and joy, and that strengths me to deal with life.
I wish all of the readers and Ms. Steel in particular a very happy Holidays!
You did the right thing by saying, “no.” I think when we give in too often to selfish or manipulative people we can become enablers. It’s like giving money or crack to a crack addict. And by giving a firm “no,” you might have planted a kernel of misgiving that could grow in his conscience. You can only hope! But bravo for standing up for yourself. It sounds as if it was time.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!
Well….December is always hard for me (too many meneroies), but it seems that I so much better can overcome it this year.
I am very happy EVERYTIME I read ur books. Its like being taken into another world when I read them. Its just a shame, that it takes time for the books to get into Danish 🙁
While I believe forgiveness is essential for healing, do not believe it means you have to make yourself a doormat on which people trample.
Forgive the immoral act, don’t carry a grudge, and move on…..there are a lot of folks out there who won’t take advantage of your kindness and generosity–stick with them.
hi Danielle..i am from the Phiilippines and i am a big fan of yours…well,as we usher in the holidays..just wanna wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New year..keep the books coming..take care.
Danielle, I love all your books and have read almost all of them. Just found your blog, and what a great post this was. I too have helped a certain person more times than I probably should have, and the last time I did it really caught up with me. I allowed them to stay with me for what was to be a short time because they had had their heat turned off, and had a little teacup dog that I could not bear to think of being cold. Well, they cleaned me out while I was sleeping. Hard way to learn a lesson, but I will not be so indulgent ever again. I am glad you found your voice to say NO.
I am so glad you shared the part about forgiveness. I myself forgive because of what it says in the bible. It doesn’t mean you find certain behaviors acceptable but it means you don’t keep the anger and hurt which only seems to grow the more you think about it. It doesn’t benefit the other person yet then again when someone hurts or offends you the offending person isn’t the one to suffer, it’s you. Therefore by forgiving it is your own heart who benefits in a positive way