First, Do No Harm

Actions Have Consequences

8/7/20232 min read

I reposted an essay I wrote ten years back a few days ago. I posted the article on all my platforms, as I do all my writing. I posted the essay because it was a funny story that happened to me back then. While I didn’t think it was funny then, I have mellowed and realized that the story was amusing after all these years. That was why I posted it to my platforms.

I failed to realize that the article mentioned a few family members, and while I thought it funny, they might not. Had I thought of this before publishing, I would have changed the people to non-existent relatives or friends. But I didn’t.

Before she passed away, my sister, my greatest champion, always told me to write what I knew about. I have followed that advice in the three novels I have published. The first two were written by placing life lessons into a fictional account. The third was writing a made-up story based on a town I grew up in to give credence to small-town life and politics. My essays are usually about things or people who have touched me somehow. Like a comedian will tell stories about family members, I always assumed that the stories were exaggerated for comedic effect. I didn’t believe a man would tell jokes about his wife, making her look bad and still be married to her. At least, not married to her for long.

Creative license is what this is called. Taking a thing with a small grain of truth and then embellishing that to tell a story. However, care must be taken to balance the story with reality not to hurt other people. In my books, I managed that by fictionalizing the people who I drew inspiration from. I changed the names of people and places or invented them from my imagination. In this account, I alluded to family members saying or doing things. I did not imagine people would actually think it was an actual event from my family because it is my job as a writer to tell stories. This was a mistake. Because of this mistake, the people alluded to in the story actually took it as if I was intentionally making fun of them rather than making fun of myself and the actions I took. However unintentional, the slight, I hurt someone I care very deeply about.

There are four ethical principles: Respect, Justice, Nonmaleficence, and Beneficence. These are included in the ethical principles of many professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, etc. In the Hippocratic Oath, nonmaleficence is described as “First, do no harm.” It means not to harm intentionally. My harm to my family was intentional, but I still harmed someone I love. While I am deeply repentant, I can’t unring that bell. The best I can hope for is that one day, they will forgive me and not repeat the same mistake.

As a writer, I learn from my mistakes and adapt to the changes to make myself a better writer. As a human, I must do the same to grow as a human being and as a member of my immediate community.