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Moment Of Clarity

Perception v. Reality: Dealing with Disappointment

Bill Cosby

Well, Ebony done did it now.

Some African Americans feel the cover of Ebony Magazine, featuring a shattered image of the Huxtable family, has gone too far. Others feel that it’s time we talk about what happens in real life.

The truth is that a lot of people do terrible things for a number of reasons. The question becomes, does an individual’s personal transgression take away from their contribution to the greater good as a whole?

The irony of Ebony’s cover is that they are doing what Cosby once proudly did, calling out Black America in public. What I find notable in this situation is that healthy conversations are being had about discernment, which we will get to in a moment.

For months now, I’ve heard conversations about what Dr. Huxtable’s character meant to African-Americans: hope, pride, respect, and intelligence. In all of the conversations, it was clear that many people experienced Bill Cosby and Dr. Huxtable as the same person in real life and in fiction.

Herein lies the problem: Bill Cosby is not Dr. Huxtable.

Dr. Huxtable is a fictional character that doesn’t exist in our world. He is simply a figment of our collective imagination. He was someone we needed to help us see in ourselves what we could not yet realize until it was consistently reflected to us – even if it was only on a television screen.

On the other hand, Bill Cosby, the man, is a mere mortal with all of his wonderful qualities and imperfections, just like the rest of us. He is just like the rest of us. And, how disappointing is that?

The God honest truth is this: we don’t really care about Bill Cosby and his indiscretions. We are disappointed in how his indiscretions interrupted our fantasy.

So, let’s rephrase the question: How disappointing is it to know that the one man (family) that showed us how amazing and wonderful we could be for several years isn’t real? It’s reasonable for one to wonder that if he isn’t real and is just a fantasy, if our ability as African-Americans to be successful, create our own happiness, hold onto hope, and excel academically is just a fantasy, too.

This is where discernment comes in.

In broad terms, discernment is the ability to judge well. It is the ability to go in and subtly weigh all of the information and qualities of what is with wisdom. Ultimately, one’s ability for discernment will evolve into grace as the ability to sit with the paradoxes of life increases.

When we are able to discern what is real and best for us, we can allow contradictory impressions to exist with equal dignity. The ability to sit with paradoxes such as the one given by Cosby allows people to develop a depth of understanding and insight that serves them better than living in conflict and shame. Through this, one is able to develop “perspective” and know what is best for them in action and thought.

In the end, the Cosby Show’s fate is the same as 7th Heaven’s because both lead actors’ immoral scandals were unforgivable. Why are their scandals unforgivable? Those two shows featured families with moral compasses that handled conflict with wisdom, love, and strength. When the lead adult in the show allegedly does something immoral, the fantasy of the show is undermined and people become disillusioned.

In the end, we want to believe that it is possible to live a perfect moral life, and that is where we set ourselves up to be disappointed. There is no perfect life. There is only the life we create in all of its beauty and imperfections.

So, how does one develop the discernment needed to separate Bill Cosby, the man, from Dr. Huxtable, the character, without destroying or erasing all of the good that the character has done for so many people?

1) Understand that one is real and the other is not. A fictional character is just that, fictional. Someone created them from their mind and we fill in the rest with our fantasy. On the other hand, actors are real people who have a life outside of their character with their own challenges and shadows to carry. It’s wise to not project your fantasies onto people because you will always be disappointed in their humanness.

2) Realize that whatever The Cosby Show meant to you was a reflection of what you have the power to become. All is not lost. Whatever good resonated within you as a result of the show is real! You could only feel good about being successful, graceful, wise, and happy only if you had the capacity to be those things. Continue to pursue those things that bring you the feelings that made you see yourself for all that you are and your effort will not be in vain.

3) Allow Bill Cosby to be human. He is a man for goodness sake, so let him live with what he’s created, both good and bad. Bill allegedly made choices, some really bad ones, and he will have to deal with those before long. It is not our job to make excuses for his behavior or ask for a pass because he is Black. This is a lesson for each of us as well. We will have to answer for what we choose to do, so choose wisely.

4) Allow Dr. Huxtable to remain a part of your fantasy. The Huxtable family is officially a part of modern fantasy and lives in our inner world. It stands next to our fantasies of Princesses being carried of by Princes and winning the lottery. There’s no harm in daydreaming about the life you’d love to create for yourself. And, while we may be unable to re-create the entire fantasy in our life, we can in fact create pieces that actually work for and complement us.

5) Become the hero of your own story. If anything is to be taken away from the Cosby scandal, it is be your own hero. It’s completely normal to look up to others for guidance and wisdom, however, at some point you look to yourself and realize that everything you admired in others already existed in you. You just needed to see it first and to become familiar with it. It is your responsibility to discover what you can do to become successful, to create happiness, and to experience love. Each of us has the capacity to be and experience all of those wonderful things.

While Bill Cosby might have been unable to live up to the moral standards of Dr. Huxtable, the good doctor lives on in the minds and hearts of millions. Dr. Huxtable came at the perfect time in Black history and allowed us people to see what each of us could become, the life we could create for ourselves, and how to handle conflict with wisdom and grace.

Keeping our fantasies separate from our reality is key to developing discernment and living a life that is true to who we are. Remember, we are love and no one man can take that away.

With love and light, I wish you all pleasant journeys.

Jinnie

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in clinical and spiritual psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, Yhandi and RoHun.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter, join her on Facebook and Twitter, or view her self-help books!