When We Say We Can, Everyone Benefits

By Don Nekrosius

The world is not a dichotomous place. Life is not an either/or experience, there being an almost infinite number of points along the continuum from Alpha to Omega, from birth to death.

Still, there’s an intriguing idea behind the statements, “Either you say you can, or you say you can’t.” In each case you’re right. We govern ourselves by an interior perception of self that is determined by the stories we tell, narratives that we believe represent the genuine self.

I am brave.
I am smart.
I am useful.
I am clever.
I am good.

Imagine, if you will, a self that constantly says “I can’t do it.” “I can’t solve that problem.” “I can’t meet anyone who will love me.” I can’t provide for my family.” “I can’t find food.”

What kind of life might that be that begins in self-negation and ends in fulfillment of the impossibility of positive action? What does the world look like to a self that sees success at most anything beyond one’s capabilities?

To those who say “I can”, those who say “I can’t” probably don’t make much sense. Why couldn’t someone figure out that to have a friend, one has to be a friend? Or that a smile is every bit as contagious as a frown? That every problem’s solution begins by trying something, anything to bring about the hoped for change?

It may well be that we wrap ourselves in a mind game of positive or negative outlook. If I’m unhappy and there’s no organic or somatic cause, I can’t figure out why and so I’ll stay that way.

Or that person who is always upbeat, energetic, seemingly lucky in everything the person tries, how wonderful it must be to be that person.

Or that poor soul whose clothes are worn, whose gait is labored, whose posture is downcast and much burdened - what could have happened in that person’s life to lead to such a state?

Do we have a choice about how we see the world or is it the whim of fate that leads us to the conditions we’re in? Can we read a statement like “either we say we can or we say we can’t” as an unchangeable state of being?

Let’s hope not.

Let’s rather look at the world as full of possibilities that we can affect, that we can have an influenced on to make things better than they are. There are many people around us who expect rude treatment and who when met with a smile and a kind word change into their own version of a pleasant self when so engaged. Perhaps that is the burden each of us bears, to meet the people around us as possibilities, as potential wayfarers through the vicissitudes of life.

When we open the story of our own self to the narrative of another, we grow in the possible, in the surprising, in the creation of hope for a better reality. If we can say we can’t, someone else has to say we can.

When we say we can, everyone benefits.