It’s become a predictable but all too common phenomenon: A beloved celebrity dies, and the social media blame games begin. As news of a celebrity death spreads across our screens, most people act, well, as decent human beings.
We experience the shared grief and sadness at a life lost too soon or celebrate a long life lived well. As the comments, tweets and remembrances roll in, most people express sadness, kindness, and loss with respect.
Without failure, however, every ninth or tenth post points out that this particular celebrity struggled with addiction or had HIV or was known to struggle with depression as if these “facts” somehow lessens the impact of their death.
These types of comments break my heart. I have been friends with and am related to flawed people. Flawed people that passed too soon. I am flawed. To a greater or lesser degree, we all are.
Then why are we so mean-spirited when someone dies a careless death?
I believe it’s about control. These deaths hit a nerve and playing the blame game offers the illusion of control. Our minds search for a rhyme or reason to this death because we are scared. Scared that if this thing can happen to a celebrity, then they can happen to anyone—even us.
Listen, I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in the need to address the societal issues of addiction, mental illness, diabetes, and mass incarceration. As Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” We can learn from others’ mistakes. But shaming them or making their lives less important or meaningful feels cheap and spiteful to me.
Why must one negative aspect of a life negate the rest of his or her achievements?
Some of us act as if we were perfect. Do you know anyone who is? I don’t. Even among the people I admire most, there are flaws. Where one person is an addict, another is obese. Some struggle with smoking while others are depressed. For every risk-taker, there is a lonely soul suffering in silence. Some believe in a religion that forbids medical care. Another person is thrilled traveling in dangerous countries. All of these behaviors potentially can be connected to shorter life spans.
Do their deaths matter less? We are all human, damaged and fragile beings. Let’s address the issues, please.
Our world will never be risk-free and sterile. Nor are sterility and safety the best ways to navigate life. We can’t avoid all things dangerous. I would caution that if we try too hard for security, we miss out on life entirely.
The last time my family flew, my 10-year-old daughter expressed her fear of flying. I remember telling her that lots of people who fly feel nervous (me included). That flying is not a risky endeavor and science and years of experience have shown flying is safe.
I then asked, “Do you want to miss out on the experiences of seeing places far away because of fear?” Of course, she didn’t and neither should you. We need to question our fears, so we embrace life not avoid it.
We must also embrace the people in our life, flaws and all. Remember that our friends and loved ones will not adhere to perfect diets, drink only one drink, wash their hands every time or be assured of moderation at any cost. We may want them to and pray, cajole and nag that they do, but they are like us—perfectly imperfect.
We must lovingly understand that others—be it a celebrity, child or coworker—will make different choices than we do. We must have humility and, even more importantly, compassion that we will not always make the best choices. Our flaws and bad choices don’t make them us any less wonderful, loving or forgettable.
So can we do this? Can we have compassion for others and our struggles in life? Who among us WANTS to die young? Who among us WANTS to be an addict? Most importantly, who among is perfect? I am not. No one I am related to is. I guess you aren’t either.
And if we admit this, we might write nicer comments on Facebook. We might not put our nose up at others imperfections. We might end up liking and accepting ourselves more easily and with grace. We might just make ourselves content with doing the best we can by seeing others around us are doing the same.
Nicole C Weiss LCSW
- Phone: 619-318-5012
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