I can remember the first time I heard a Whitney Houston song. Picture it. Alabama. 1985. I was nine years old. The song was How Will I Know. My mom was a girl’s softball coach and I was being babysat by one of her softball players, Marie. I thought the moon rose and set with Ree, as she was called and that night my opinion of her further skyrocketed. She introduced me to MTVand this young black woman singing a fun, new song. Still today, I can remember the crazy 80’s hair Whitney sported and the words to that song.
Like many others, I was shocked and hurt by Whitney’s untimely death. I felt like I knew her and I was always rooting for her to get back on top. Although many consider her a tragic figure, I think she was greatly misunderstood and I think we can learn some valuable lessons from her life:
1. You have to know your own strength. Whitney’s last album I Look to You features a song called “I Didn’t Know my own Strength”. Was that an understatement or what? Most of us are strong beyond our belief. One of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves is find out who we are and what we believe in. Knowing those two things will serve us greatly in our lives. Without them, we tend to wonder through life letting things happen around us instead of commanding greatness from our lives.
2. Don’t Ever play yourself small! In Whitney’s 2009 interview with Oprah, she admitted she played small so she wouldn’t make her then husband, Bobby Brown upset with her success. Don’t ever do this, for ANYBODY! I often quote Marianne Williamson in saying:
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
Anybody who truly loves you, loves you enough to let you be yourself and grow into the person you were meant to be without requiring you to shrink so they can shine.
3. There’s nothing like a mother’s love. Whitney’s mother, Cissy Houston, has been known as a fierce protector of her daughter who held on to Whitney when everyone else was giving up on her. Whitney admitted that her mother once showed up at her house with police and a court injunction in hand and told her “I’m not losing you to the world…I want my daughter back”. Only a mother will help you even when she’s facing the possibility of you cutting her out of your life. That’s love. We’ve heard of countless celebrities who fall because nobody will tell them no due to the fear they’d be cut out or replaced. Cissy didn’t care about that. She just wanted what was best for her child. Three years ago, I didn’t quite understand that type of determination but today as the mother of two little ones, I know it well. A mother will give it all to protect her babies.
4. The people who matter know the REAL you. Most of the reports we’ve seen since Whitney’s death have focused on her drug use and tumultuous marriage while very few have shown the gentle and very generous side of the star. In an interview with one of Whitney’s former back-up singers the reporter learned that Whitney paid for all of the singer’s cancer treatments. A New Jersey father wrote of Whitney’s generosity to his dying daughter in his local newspaper and similar testimonies can be found simply by googling her name and the word kindness.
There’s a song I remember my grandmother singing as a child that says “may the work I’ve done speak for me”. In the end it’s about what we leave behind. Whitney left us great music, memories and kindness.
I’m sure there are other lessons we can take from Whitney Houston’s life. These are just a few that came up to me as I’ve watched coverage of her death and subsequent funeral. I’ll do my best to keep them at the forefront of my mind.
What about you? What’s your favorite Whitney song or memory?
p.s. Check back soon for my first before and after blog post!