Oprah interviews Maya Angelou
- Oprah: Earlier you were telling me that your life is defined by principles. And one principle you have taught me is that we can’t allow ourselves to be “pecked to death by ducks.”
- Maya: That’s true. Some people don’t have the nerve to just reach up and grab your throat, so they just take….
- Oprah: Little pieces of you—with their rude comments.
- Maya: That’s right.
- Oprah: They try to demean you.
- Maya: Reduce your humanity through what Jules Feiffer called little murders. The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that person means to have my life. And I will not give it to them.
- Oprah: It’s an assassination attempt by a coward.
- Maya: Yes. Some people don’t have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said “Boom!”—well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it.” But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.
- Oprah: What about when a person makes a mistake and says, “I need a second chance?” Do you give them a second chance?
- Maya: Well, I have to say yes.
- Oprah: But when people show you who they are, believe them!
- Maya: Now mind you, some men have told me, “Maya, you always take it to the max.” But if someone tells me, “Oh, I like your slacks,” and the man I’m with says, “I don’t. I wish she wouldn’t have worn them,” I say, “Oh, my dear—here are your keys.”
- Oprah: Because you see rudeness as a little murder.
- Maya: Yes.
- Oprah: And you also don’t allow anybody to say anything negative about anybody while in your home.
- Maya: That’s right.
- Oprah: I’ve seen you put people out of your house for telling a racist joke! And you are not the least bit embarrassed about disrupting the whole room.
- Maya: I believe that a negative statement is poison. The air between you and me is filled with sounds and images. If that were not so, how is it that I can turn on a television right now and see what’s happening in New York? That means sounds and images are in the air, crowded, jammed up like bats. And Oprah, I’m convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. So when the rude or cruel thing is said—the lambasting, the gay bashing, the hate—I say, “Take it all out of my house!” Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.
LESSON 1 “PECKED TO DEATH BY DUCKS”
This lesson should probably be a blog post of its own. Like Oprah said, people will peck at you with little rude underhanded comments in order to demean you. All in effort to reduce your humanity by committing little murders. People who are generally unhappy with themselves seek to cause little murders or death inside the lives of others. Don’t surround yourself with people who will peck at you until you are naked in effort to expose or shame you. Don’t shrink back or dim your light when you find yourself surrounded by pecking and pestering ducks. Simply fly over them like the eagle or peacock ( I love their pretty feathers) that you are!
LESSON 2 “WHEN PEOPLE SHOW OR TELL YOU WHO THEY ARE THE FIRST TIME BELIEVE THEM”
I believe this as if Jesus said it himself and it was in red print in the Bible! The operative word is “first”, and this is not to say that people don’t deserve a second chance. However, we all need to be aware of life’s whispers. There’s always a warning before destruction hits. I know this because I’ve banged my head up against the wall too many times not believing people when they tell me who they are! It’s as if I think I know them better than they know themselves. Take the whispers and don’t wait for the brick wall to fall on your head!
LESSON 3 “NEGATIVE ENERGY HAS POWER”
I talk a lot about energy because I believe everything is energy. Whether negative or positive everything carries energy within it. However, it’s up to all of us to decide how we will use the unlimited amount of energy available to us. We have to be responsible and accountable for the energy we bring into our lives and into the lives of others.