This past Saturday night, my family and I watched the American Classics special on Johnny Carson. It was a pretty riveting tale. As it turns out, Carson was the ultimate clown with sadness to hide. For most of the documentary, Carson’s mother, Ruth, was pitted as the core of all of his problems. When he was a child, Ruth showed a visible preference for her daughter. As Carson achieved one amazing thing after another, his mother remained unmoved. In an interview with a magazine, after watching one of Johnny’s monologues, Ruth said, “That wasn’t funny,” then got up and left. When he won a major award for all of his achievements in television he called her and all she said was, “Well, I guess they know what they’re doing.” Biographers interviewed for the documentary said Johnny may have womanized because he was looking for some kind of female approval in the absence of his mother’s support.
Then, towards the end of the documentary, Ruth’s death was discussed. As her possessions were being sorted, a box was found that contained newspaper and magazine clippings dating all the way to the beginning of Johnny’s career. It was noted that Johnny kept that box for the rest of his life.
This story infuriated me. All that time, Ruth Carson couldn’t bring herself to offer any positive word to her son. She must have known how much he craved it. Forget about saying she was proud of him – she couldn’t even say congratulations. All that time, when a kind word from her would have meant so much, she held back.
Would Johnny Carson’s life have been totally different if he had gotten positive reinforcement from his mom? I kind of doubt it, but I bet he would have been at least a bit more content.
I think we often assume that people just know stuff. People KNOW we love them. People KNOW we think they did a great job. People KNOW that if we offer criticism it’s only for their own good. Right? I mean, you’ve gotta know I care. It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Here’s a challenge for you for today, and I want to hear how it goes. I want you to tell one person something you THINK they know but that you’ve never actually said to them. Have you admired the way they dress for a long time? Do you admire their smarts? Do you think they did a great job leading a project? Do you love them? Just go ahead and say it. If you’re so certain they know already, it can’t do any harm, right? On the other hand, if they might not know, you could make a huge difference in their day. Heck – you could make a huge difference in their life.
That’s worth a small verbalized statement, don’t you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovelornpoets/6214449310/ via Creative Commons