“Whitney Houston is dead,” my god sister said Saturday after scrolling through a text message from her brother. “No she isn’t.” I immediately dismissed it, shaming Twitter for causing yet another death hoax. It was nearly 10 p.m. and we had been without cellphone service for several hours as we enjoyed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center. But now that we were walking out to catch a cab, our phones were buzzing.
“It’s true! My brother just told me and he’s not even on Twitter!” I looked down at my own phone, and read the same words in my own inbox, “Whitney Houston is dead.” I shook my head no. “Don’t believe it. I want to see the receipts!” I said, referencing Whitney’s infamous interview with Diane Sawyer back in 2002.
But, she was dead. She is dead. And the world is heart-broken.
As cliched as it sounds, the fact remains that Whitney Houston sang the soundtrack to our lives. And like many others, I had Whitney on retainer. During all of my major lifetime achievements — graduating from school, winning awards, or the time I explained legal theories to T.I. in preparation for trial — Whitney was there, softly singing “One Moment in Time,” in my head, so I’d really understand that something significant was happening that I should appreciate.
But Whitney was more than a phenomenal and literal voice of a generation, more than an icon, more than a diva, and more than a beauty. She was a mother, a daughter, a cousin, a mentor, a protege, a friend, and a lover. She reached the highest heights and plunged to the lowest depths, and we were there to watch it all. And she lived it all. She was beautifully human. So while I understand the impulse to ignore everything bad and focus only on the good and beautiful in Whitney now that she has passed away, I think we do her legacy — and ourselves — a disservice.
In fact, I believe a significant portion of her downfall stemmed from the fact that the public consistently denied her the right to be a three-dimensional human being who lived a life nowhere near as perfect as the pitch in her voice. She taught us lessons in both the bitter and the sweet of her life. By ignoring the very real addictions she struggled with, we render her death a vanity. So let’s not do that. Instead:
1) Let’s STOP being “yes” people and enablers of our loved ones’ dangerous behavior. We may feel we are doing our loved ones a favor by not being “judgmental,” but in the end, when we find our loved ones underwater while we’ve sat on our hands, we are the ones who will be judged. Though an addict is the only one who can choose to make a change, we can do everything in our power to help our loved ones reach that goal.
In order to fully love someone, we have to be able to completely put ourselves aside. That means, we have to lose our fear of being unpopular. When we are free from our desire to be “liked,” we have the ability to love people enough to speak truth to them, no matter the consequences. If you or a loved one is struggling with the illness of addiction, please go to addict-help.com to find more information and to locate a treatment center near you.
2) Let’s STOP surrounding ourselves with “yes” people, as well; they don’t love you! If all your friends do is co-sign your absolute foolishness they do not love you, they just want to stay in your good graces and reap their own benefit. We need accountability and we need true friends who will hold us accountable and help us recognize when we are on the wrong track and guide us back towards the right one. The sooner in life we become accountable for our actions and have a circle of friends who keep us accountable, the sooner we will mature, make better decisions and enjoy the fullness of life that God has intended for us to have.
3) Let’s STOP tearing people down and START building people up. I am definitely guilty of laughing at Whitney’s 2002 “Crack is Wack” interview. I was disturbed by it, but laughing felt better than processing what was happening to my beloved Queen of the Night. I’ve quoted her in that interview for years, and even in my disbelief at the news of her passing. But had I prayed for her? When I saw the pictures of her leaving a club all sweaty and haggard last week, had I prayed for her? I really don’t recall. If you took 5 minutes right now, I am certain you can come up with a list of people who are in desperate need of prayer. What if that became the habit, instead of partaking in the tragedy? What if our instant response to the madness we witness was to pray for the people involved, in the name of Jesus? How the world would change — how we would change! Let’s start by praying for Whitney’s poor daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and all of her family.
The Bible compels us in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Let’s start discussing the uncomfortable and inconvenient truths about the problems we and our loved ones are facing, get them out into the open and deal with them using every tool at our disposal. By sharing the burden and helping others to reach their God-ordained destiny, we inevitably reach our own.
It’s too late for any of us to change what we did or didn’t do for Whitney, and it’s too late for Whitney to change. But while we still have breath in our bodies, we can.
How will your life change because of Whitney’s life and death?
Watch Wendy Williams Share Her Heart-Wrenching Story About her Drug Addiction and Whitney Houston’s impact on her life: