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The Consequences of Our Words

My 68th birthday was just a few days ago. One of the things I love most about birthdays is receiving the good wishes and blessings of loved ones. As people reached out this week I was able to share my joy over having just received my first COVID vaccination. I described how I broke into tears of relief as the fluid flowed into my arm. I hadn't let myself realize until that moment how afraid I had been, and how ridiculously marvelous it will be to see my grandchildren again.

But when my mother heard my good news, her response was, "Oh, no! Why would you get the vaccine?" You see, Mom has always believed in servant leadership - the idea that leadership is about setting your own needs aside to do what is right for those you are responsible for. So her default position has always been trust. Even when she has been disappointed, she defaults back to trusting what our leaders tell us. So when Donald Trump told her COVID was nothing to be afraid of and we just needed to wait out the pandemic, she believed him and still does.

"There are so few doses and so many people who want it, I just can't see putting myself in line for it," she explained. She added, after all, she's healthy for a 95-year-old. She hardly ever gets the flu.

Since the inauguration, I have heard it said we just need to put the past four years behind us; that it is counterproductive to bring up the lies, the distortions, the suffering, and the violence our former president and his fake news has caused. Where is the unity? some ask.

Unity cannot exist where there is no trust, and trust is strongest when it is earned. Unity has to begin with truth-telling, with being held accountable for not telling the truth, and should sometimes even include asking for forgiveness. Words have real consequences, and those consequences will last for years to come. Our words affect people's lives - the lives of people who trust us most, and count on us to have their best interests at heart.

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