RIP Stephen Sutton / A lesson for us all

Today is a sad day, because it is the day that Stephen Sutton – the inspirational 19 year old who raised more than £3 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust whilst battling the disease himself – finally lost his fight and passed away.

What Stephen achieved in the short time he had far exceeded what most people achieve in a lifetime. Instead of turning his back on life as his body marched inexorably towards its tragic and untimely demise, Stephen made sure he squeezed every last drop out of the time he had left. Not only that, he turned his plight on its head and used it to help others in the same position. How many 19 year olds have the maturity and drive to do something like that? In fact, how many people of any age do? He also ignored the ignorant trolls who came forward when he was released from hospital after showing signs of improvement and accused him of being a ‘fake’ and lying about the seriousness of his condition – refusing to rise to their vicious bait about giving people their money back (something I for one would certainly have handled far less graciously).

Stephen’s story has got me thinking about selflessness and self-awareness; two qualities Stephen had in abundance but which so many people lack. You only have to look around a busy London office or commuter train to see people complaining – about their lot in life, or about the behaviour of other people and how it’s negatively impacted on them. True, everyone needs to let off steam once in a while, but in such moments it would do us all good to take a leaf out of Stephen’s book, think about how our negative behaviour and attitudes impact upon others – instead of the other way around – and realise that we all have a choice: To stay bogged down in our daily problems without bothering to raise our heads above the selfish parapets we inhabit, or to stand up, be counted and make the changes we want to see in ourselves and those around us. Thanks to people like Stephen Sutton, I know which I plan to do.

RIP Stephen: Wherever you now are please know that your legacy will live on in the lives of all the many people you have helped and inspired xxxx

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What’s MY problem? My only problem is YOU!

The older I get the more I come to realise the virtues of self-awareness. I should preface this post by acknowledging that I’m far from perfect myself, but I do – for the most part at least – have a fairly competent radar for detecting when I’m being a bore and/or getting on someone else’s nerves. Some people, however, seem to have been born without such radar capabilities and are therefore able to spend vast swathes of their daily lives in a state of blithe obliviousness as to just how many of their fellow human beings they are driving to the brink of insanity with their behaviour.

The most maddening type of un-self-aware person is the person who gets constantly upset by other peoples’ behaviour without making any connection whatsoever between others’ behaviour and their own. In other words, the cause and effect principle is so completely lost on them that even if you held up flash cards to highlight that they, in fact, were the root cause of your irritation they would merely tell you that you were being ridiculous and heap insult upon your character (or, more likely still, accuse you of heaping insult upon their character, as a sneaky means of deflection from the true problem – which is, ostensibly to everyone but themselves, actually them).

As such people are prone to having delicate sensibilities, it’s often hard to know whether to grin and bear the extreme irritation their mere presence evokes or to attempt in some way to address the issue and tell them their behaviour is unacceptable. Whichever option you choose will have consequences, and possibly far-reaching ones at that. Remember the rule of cause and effect? Well, that. Ultimately this is a battle of your sanity against theirs, and only a brave man (or woman) will risk toppling the house of cards that is a fragile person’s entire personality. You have been warned.