‘I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.’
I ran across this Michael Jordan quote this morning while trying to clean-up my email box. So many times we receive messages, glance at them and then either delete them or leave them to be read at some future time. Fortunately I revisited this one and saw it in a whole new light. Reading this quote seems pretty straight-forward and easy enough to comprehend, but at the same time, as I allowed it to flow through my mind in order to grasp the full idea of the quote, the little “voice” went off in my mind like a blast. It pealed out one word, and that word was “GUILT’. It was so distinct that my mind immediately went into over-drive in search of all the possible relationships between Guilt and Michael’s quote. Several minutes later, I had a perfect picture before me of their relationship, and it led to profound truth.
When we think about it, we have been raised, almost from the time we let out our first sign of life in the form of a crying-out objection to being slapped on our butts. Not too long after this life-giving episode, we are gradually introduced to the “Consequence/Guilt Syndrome”. It usually begins with something dealing with our not particularly liking the food we are being served. Some of us have tried this same “baby food” as adults when feeding an infant, and we still don’t like it, even though we put on the phony “yummy smile” act to try to convince the infant how good it tastes. Sound familiar? We have all tried, in one form or another, to persuade others to do what we want them to do by utilizing this same phony “yummy smile” to give something our implied seal of approval, even though it usually only benefits our desires without benefiting the other person’s in any way. At this level of interaction, the other person usually surfaces from our manipulation attempts rather safely and at worst slightly humiliated for falling for a “silly bunny trick”. However, there is a problematic “next level” of human interaction that inflicts far more damage that follows us through life.
This next level begins after we have tried to sell others through our manipulative efforts, but the other people don’t fall for the bait. There begins what is called, a struggle of wills, and out of this arises the arch-enemies of mankind, CONSEQUENCE AND GUILT! The idea is that when people don’t comply with our wishes or demands, this can result in “hell being paid” in the form of various invisible Consequences, ie., threats, being snubbed, mocked, stereotypical labels, made to feel Guilty for not being a “team-player”, etc.. In revisiting our “infant” model, and the beginnings of C&G, we all have suffered the Consequence of being “force-fed” to get us to eat the veggies that would help us grow strong. Or we were subjected, as adolescents, to the stories of the “starving children” someplace in the world that would gladly have just a morsel of what we are not wanting to eat. CONSEQUENCE – GUILT – CONSEQUENCE -GUILT – CONSEQUENCE – GUILT!!!
Okay, so we tend to laugh, now that we are farther along in life, at our memories of these episodes that were so uncomfortable when they were actually taking place, which brings us up to now. Where has all these experiences led us in our quest to achieve our goals and dreams? Have our efforts been stymied by both the intentional and largely innocent efforts by those in charge of our lives, to shape our lives into a form based on their ideals? Just who was responsible for “kneading” Consequence and Guilt into our conscious and sub-conscious minds allowing the most destructive enemy of all to enter, FEAR?
Before I go any further in my attempt to sort all this out, I must take care in making sure we understand that we are not talking about Positive Reinforcement where we are taught such things as not touching a hot stove or not sticking our fingers in an electrical socket, which all could lead to harmful and severe consequences. Rather, we are referring to unhelpful and unhealthy Negative Reinforcement, where we utilize C & G manipulative means to try and force others to see it our way, which usually serves our purpose as opposed to the betterment of the other person.
So now we have introduced yet another highly negative element into the C & G grid, FEAR! An infant is born into this world possessing a natural Fear of Falling, which is one of the very few positive fears rightly introduced into our lives. But, aside from these few life-saving fears, fear is the primary culprit of our failures and the dismantling of our dreams. Fear of not pleasing others, fear of being called a “nut”, fear of losing that which we have gained, fear of hostile responses, and the list is never-ending. In Michael’s quotation, he is very accurately stating that if he were to go onto the Basketball court Fearing the Consequences of NOT making the mark, which would undoubtedly result in feelings of Guilt, he could never have achieved the stature he has rightly been awarded for, rewarded for, and undisputedly acknowledged for, without anyone’s hesitation or question. He is a history maker, social model, advertising king, a clear and undisputed Champion.
Just how did this Hero of Sports get to be where he is? I would imagine that it all started at home. Could it be that those sharing responsibility for raising him from childhood knew a better way than Consequence, Guilt and Fear to gain Michael’s cooperation, trust, respect and attentiveness, while at the same time instilling discipline into his up-bringing? I have to confess that a am not an authority of Michael Jordan history, but the things that I have read regarding his life have all contained over and over one governing factor, and that is LOVE! The things that I have read constantly mention Michael’s deep and profound Love for his Father. The picture that comes to my mind is that during the course of his growing into manhood, there was a wisdom employed in allowing Michael to be FREE of things that would instill fear into his Psyche. Just imagine if he was constantly told Not To Jump because he might hurt himself, which would cost the family money to pay for hospital bills. Or if he was told not to Dunk the basketball because he might damage the Rim or break the Backboard, leaving the parents having to pay for the damage. Or if they had told him not to trust certain people because of whatever THEY, his developers, were taught to fear. And what about the almost always present pleasant smile that Michael is known for? Just imagine if he had been constantly told to NOT smile so much because others might think that he was trying to be a wise-guy or people might think of him as being weak or even worse, “retarded”. You see folks, how differently Michael’s life might have turned out if such negative reinforcement had been served up to him throughout his developing years? His Free-Spiritedness and reputation for being a Pleasant and Peaceful Gentleman could have been severely compromised as well as his Self-Confidence. And furthermore, just imagine if he had been taught that he should NOT always WIN because others might think that he is a ‘bully” or a “show-off”! CONSEQUENCE – GUILT – FEAR = FAILURE!
Through the “Michael Jordan Model” we can see how so many of us have been affected by Negative Reinforcements as opposed to the wisdom of instilling Love without compromise. Nowadays we are surrounded by these negative elements. They exist in almost every aspect of our lives, at home, at work, at social activities, even in some Churches where we are taught that we can go to hell for the very least infraction. How we view these obstacles to our well-being, courage and self-confidence makes all the difference in the world as to how we are able to work around and through them. If we were constantly peppered with consequence, guilt and fear indoctrination, I would bet that we would have huge problems navigating through life or enduring the hardships that rear their ugly heads. We would just fall apart at every challenge. Just think of some of the challenges that so many of us are faced with in these times we live in. We have had to adjust to a bombardment of uncertain times, and if we have not been properly taught to endure, have faith, and not allow fear to take hold, then we are left to chanch, outright failure, instead of confidence to overcome.
Could the steep increase in attempted and successful suicides be attributable to errors in the reinforcements of one’s up-bringing. I am led to believe so. The infusion of “Overachiever Expectations” is very hard to ignore, but even harder to face up to by those in charge of our lives. We are made to feel Guilty and suffer the consequences for not living up to the expectations of others, and then we hide in Fear, having lost confidence, thinking that we are no longer Loved or Trusted. We could spend the rest of our lives composing a list of all the damage that can be had by the Guilt Trip Syndrome, but it would be better and wiser for us to instead stay focused on remembering these lessons of hardships and failures. Love is the exacting authority in combating the negative reinforcements so deeply rooted in our souls. Man must have the fair and appropriate Freedom to live his life to the fullest extent he is capable without the unnecessary clouding of his mental faculties. The burdens of Consequence, Guilt and Fear only lead to his down-fall and under-achievement and even in too many cases, death to himself and/or others. I know that Michael Jordan is thankful this wasn’t the case in his life.