The message you desire to post, deliver, and/or share is first for you. Be sure you live your message through your words and actions. Embrace and practice the content of your posts and shares before attempting to convey that content to others. I’m often amused at things people post and share on social media because their words and actions don’t reflect the messages of their posts and shares. Although some of your sycophants will cheer your posts and shares, most folks who know you comprehend how ironic your messages are. Most recognize your social media façade. Therefore, save your posts and shares for a time when you’re ready to own your truths.
When you have someone’s contact information, communicate directly with him or her—instead of sending subliminal messages like a coward. Don’t floss and say, “I’m grown,”—only to proceed with childish actions. If you’re “grown,” stop wasting time posting and sharing messages you don’t dare to discuss directly.
Although it may seem cynical, I view most people as folks constantly assessing how they can benefit from others. As I have grown older, this view has become more pronounced. The moment most resolve they cannot benefit from you or benefit any longer from you, the moment they disregard you, or devalue what you have done and/or are doing for them. One such ungrateful person told me my contribution was not enough. Keep in mind, I didn’t/don’t owe any contribution to this person; my giving was an act of kindness. To have my contribution devalued, therefore, in a sophomoric assessment of it, angered me. Such an assessment buttresses my position that most don’t think what you do for them is enough.
Recently, I gave a detailed account to an individual about what I did to address her immediate needs. Guess what? Without any semblance of gratitude and acknowledgment, she proceeded to list many other things she needs me to do—never acknowledging what I have already done. Really? Are you kidding me? This selfishness is hurtful—no matter how tough one is. I don’t want to become a cold and isolated person unwilling to do anything for others, but it’s too many instances like this that suggest I may need to adopt a form of this “cold and isolated person.”
Critical Self-Reflection Exercise
Take a moment right now and engage in critical self-reflection. Do you primarily associate with most people to gain some benefit from them? For those you benefit from, do you often think about ways to show them how much you appreciate them? Recognize that a “thank you” is vacuous and insufficient at some point.
Learning from “Write-to-Learn” Exercise
As a writing scholar and instructor, I study the concept and practice of “write-to-learn.” “Write-to-learn” centers on how it is often necessary for us to engage in the critical thinking writing affords us to comprehend what we really think about an issue. I like to assign write-to-learn exercises to my students. If I contend these exercises are useful for my student writers, then I must use these exercises, too.
From the critical thinking this exercise supplied, I determined I will give to and invest in a select few who show their genuine gratitude for the serious contributions I have made to their lives. To be frank, it’s just a few people out of the many folks I have given to and invested in substantially. That’s sad, but it’s the unvarnished, unadulterated truth.
I realize I shouldn’t stop contributing to others; I must limit my contributions to those few who demonstrate they truly value what I do for them.
Also, I notice that once some people receive such significant help from me and they no longer need my help, I never hear from them—unless I initiate contact. By no means do I feel they should contact me each day; however, I believe they should contact me periodically—even if it’s nothing but to see how I am doing and to let me know how they are doing. A quick text message, phone call, private/direct message on social media platforms, and/or etc.
Ultimately, you must do what makes you happy and what gives you joy. That’s what I’ve decided to do from this point on: do what makes me happy and what gives me joy.
Although you may be an unfiltered person, one who holds nothing back, takes no prisoners, add one powerful tool to your arsenal: restraint. Even though it may seem counterintuitive, take some opportunities to exercise restraint when folks will not expect you to filter yourself or remain silent. If something is said, especially if well-planned, orchestrated by one or more individuals, that would normally ignite your metaphorical fire, shock people occasionally by responding to their mean-spirited, intentionally injurious words with silence or a filtered, understated retort. When you’re known for bringing the metaphorical heat, you can keep your opponents dazed and confused by sometimes responding in ways much less vigorous than is typical. Don’t let people easily anticipate you and your response; add some mystery, some deeper nuance, some extra layers to you and your reactions.
Trust me, I understand how difficult this can be. Recently, I was reminded how challenging this is for someone who doesn’t “play no games,” but, after robust reflection, I saw how my restraint confounded my adversaries. Even if your detractors think they have defeated you with their well-designed takedown, one analogous to those Vice President Kamala Harris deftly delivers, withhold your raw response—at least temporarily.
Let them wonder when you will bring the heat to them. I know you’re probably saying, “My enemies will think their comments went over my head.” That’s okay; let them think this. Let them think you’re not as tough as once thought. Wait until the opportune time, especially a time when they are no longer thinking about what they said, and then verbally annihilate them.
To employ this strategy, you must see the beauty of restraint. Restraint doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be slaughtered. Not at all! You’re actually bamboozling and hoodwinking them. They will not discover it until it’s too late.
If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, then this strategy will not work. In fact, you will not even take a necessary leap of faith to employ it.
Take a leap of faith. Strengthen your metaphorical firepower with occasional restraint. Win more battles and wars—win them more decisively.
Yesterday, March 27, 2021, was my 40th birthday. To live this long, I am grateful, grateful for God’s grace. Without God’s grace, I wouldn’t have made it to see my 40th birthday. This pandemic has reaffirmed how important it is to value your life, to see how precious it is, to see how much of a blessing it is.
We have a responsibility to God to steward the time He has bestowed. For 40 years, I tried to make the most of my time. Unfortunately, I haven’t been flawless in this endeavor. Why? Because I permitted other people, people unworthy of holding space with, unworthy of occupying my time, to rob me of the power of maximizing each minute, each moment. I want to acknowledge the missteps and the poor choices I’ve made regarding using my time. Why? To make change happen, one must first recognize and then analyze his or her past mistakes, mistakes that prevented optimal progress.
After ruminating about past mistakes, imprudent decisions, one must focus on life ahead of him or her. That’s what I’m determined to do. Too many of us choose to be consumed by regret and to wallow in past misfortunes. To be frank, though, if we’re going to live in the past, then we don’t really have any use for the present. By dwelling in and on the past, we’re making the same deleterious mistake of the past that haunts our present: we’re wasting our time.
Don’t waste your time. Your time is sacred; God has given it to you.
I will not waste another minute, another moment, on people and things that shouldn’t occupy my time and space. I promise myself and God that, from this day forward, I will use every minute on living, loving, learning, growing, and doing the work.
For so many of my past 40 years, I couldn’t distinguish between helping people and self-mutilation. How did I finally recognize that my “helping” of some unworthy people was self-mutilation? I finally realized and admitted that my scars and wounds bear their names.
Scars don’t magically disappear; wounds don’t magically heal. What can change immediately, however, is your relationship to those scars and wounds. You can refuse to be defined by those scars and wounds, and you can refuse to remain in those dark places where they originated.
The scars and wounds have strengthened me, and I am ready to live in the power of the possibilities available to me.
When trying to lead a righteous movement or advocate for a noble cause, one must have an authentic commitment to truth and justice. You cannot have a genuine commitment to justice if you’re not willing to tell the whole truth, which includes the whole truth about yourself—not just the whole truth about others. It’s easy to tell the truth about others, to expose others, but never forget to give a full account of your truth. Although in this moment of “alternative facts” it may seem that truth and truth-telling don’t matter, they still do. In fact, they’re more important than ever. Those calling themselves leaders and social justice activists have an obligation to tell those they’re leading the whole truth—even when it’s unsettling.
One way to know if someone has integrity is to learn what he or she does in private. Most of the time, of course, we cannot know what people do in private. When they engage in corruption in private, however, that corruption has a way of telling the truth on them in public. Once we discover their corruption, we shouldn’t immediately attempt to justify them and/or their corruption. We have to hold our leaders and social justice activists accountable.
Never deify a human being.
Before you place too much investment in leaders and social justice activists, do the work necessary to gain an understanding of who they really are. Don’t just listen to a few of their speeches. Don’t just attend a few of their rallies. Don’t just look at their nice physical appearance. Research them, ask them probing questions, and discern their values and principles.
Yes, no man or woman is perfect, but do your due diligence to discover if a leader and/or activist you support truly aligns with your values and principles.
If you find out that a leader or activist you support has a record of committing fraudulent acts, will you continue to trust this person? Yes, the person may have engaged in these acts years ago, but was he or she honest with you about past wrongs? When people have committed certain wrongs, no matter how long ago they happened, those misdeeds may warrant reassessing your connection to them. You can value their productive work, but when you continue to lend your support to corrupt people—and “stand by your man or woman”—you become complicit in their corruption.
Integrity is telling the truth when it hurts. Integrity is telling the truth when it may cast you in an undesirable light. Integrity is not misleading people about who you are. Integrity is not permitting people to advertise you as someone you aren’t.
Understand this: If a person does not have integrity, he or she isn’t committed to justice. Why? Because integrity and justice are inextricably linked.
We all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable to honoring truth and justice. We all fail truth and justice when we allow people we have exalted, placed on a pedestal, to trample on truth and justice. If we’re willing to let these people lie to us, then we have to question our own commitment to truth and justice.
Ethical principles should reign supreme over unhealthy ties to people.
Closely examine the leaders and social justice activists you support and determine if they’re holding firmly to the values and principles you desire them to maintain. If you discover they aren’t who you thought they were, and aren’t principled individuals, then don’t foolishly continue to lend your support to them.
Make wise decisions about who and what you elect to champion.
If someone jokes around with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is seeking an intimate relationship with you—even if the jokes are sexual. When an individual gives you a compliment, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she desires an intimate relationship with you. People helping you out of the goodness of their heart aren’t looking for sexual favors in return; in fact, when they’re truly doing it out of the goodness of their heart, they’re not looking for anything in return. When someone shows you some attention, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she wants you. If you believe any attention shown to you means someone wants you, then you need a serious wake-up call: you’re not irresistible. Don’t flatter yourself.
People can be so vain. Before you think someone is seriously flirting with you or pursuing you, ask him or her. If his or her jokes, playful flirting, compliments, and/or general interactions with you make you feel uncomfortable, tell him or her.
You should, however, gain a proper understanding of why you feel uncomfortable in the first place. Could you feel uncomfortable because you actually like what the person is saying and/or doing and you don’t know what to do with your own feelings? Try to understand your own feelings before you attempt to comprehend someone else’s.
Yes, people can employ jokes, playful flirting, compliments, and their general helpfulness to mask their true intentions. Even if they are doing this, are you being harmed? If you feel they are creepy, then let them know you want them to stop. You have that right.
Don’t make a big fuss about nothing, though. Stop creating problems where no problems exist.
Trying to fool people you’re happy when you’re not is a self-sabotaging practice; you’re deceiving nobody and denying yourself time, space, and opportunities to heal and grow. Ostentatious displays of imaginary “happiness,” especially following tragedy or heartbreak, does not reveal true happiness: it exposes your cowardice, your unwillingness to sit with the pain, the heartache you’re confronting.
Even though the pain of tragedy or heartbreak is unsettling, one should never resort to facades, misrepresentations. Sit with your pain in private first, and when you’ve given yourself the proper time, space, and opportunities to heal and grow, then you can publicly share your authentic happiness or demonstrable progress towards it.
Loss, betrayal, dishonesty—all dimensions of the human condition we face. How we respond to them determines how we emerge from them. Do you want to emerge more liberated, more empowered from them, or do you want to live imprisoned in self-doubt, eternally vexed by your toxic response to them?
Fake it until you make it—a vain, otiose philosophy—spoils any chance you have to advance beyond unhappiness. In fact, this fallacious and disingenuous philosophy is rooted in unhappiness.
You cannot experience emancipation when you’re committed to shackling yourself to unhappiness. The previous sentence evokes Audre Lorde’s powerful statement of resistance to enslaving one’s self to the control of an enemy: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Unhappiness cannot be eradicated with the tools of unhappiness.
In the midst of your storm, find hope, hope in what’s possible beyond the storm. The storm can be ephemeral; the storm can be surprisingly enriching. Your commitment to truth in the storm will lead you safely on the other side of it. On the side of the storm is joy, peace, and gratitude.
Joy is enduring and more fulfilling than happiness. To arrive usher in happiness, one must begin a serious gratitude praxis, a praxis that ultimately leads to joy.
When you embrace gratitude, a life of gratitude, you enjoy the beauty of life: you savor victories and effectively process disappointments. Disappointments are natural human experiences, but we should never live in fear of disappointments; we should live in expectation of one thing—the good.
A spirit that expects the good, found in the heart of a person committed to permitting herself or himself to receive the fruits of truth, love, and justice, is necessary to maintain joy and peace.
Allow nobody or anything to displace you from joy and peace.
Always remain honest with yourself.
Although in this late stage of capitalism, where Guy Debord’s notion of “the society of the spectacle” is decidedly more pronounced, you may feel compelled to project a phony public image, which leads you to becoming nothing more than a spectacle, love yourself enough to give the world your truth. If you’re not happy, then don’t display a happy facade.
Give the world your best—even if your best is a temporary period of unhappiness. The world knows you’re human; don’t try to be a robot, falling prey to self-deceit.
Disappointment is a natural part of the human experience; take time to learn from it—never hide from what it invites you to confront. One grows stronger when he or she learns to discover what disappointment offers, but fear causes people to attempt to bury the initial pain and restlessness it materializes. The pain indicates an undesirable, yet necessary pressing against love residing in you; the restlessness, love striving toward healing. Given a chance to run their natural course, pain and restlessness buttress your interior life: they engender resiliency, crucial to surviving and thriving in an often callous world.
Resisting the perception of vulnerability as weakness, a chink in your spiritual armor, inadequate emotional intelligence necessitates courage. To be fearless in the face of adversity, fill yourself up on faith and hope, joy and thanksgiving, rest and gratitude. Doubt, failing to develop a critical reflective praxis, denying vulnerability time and space to speak—all stifle your progress. Extracting value from disappointment requires one to use her or his organic processing tools—reading, writing, and meditating—leading to a higher, more enlightened self.
After reading yourself through disappointment, after writing yourself through heartache, and after meditating yourself through the unpleasant experience, you birth essential knowledge about resistance, resistance to malevolent forces aiming to destroy you. This knowledge of resistance grants you power to shine light into darkness, power to bring tranquility to tottering people and places—and regimes on the brink of ruin.
When you offer peace to chaotic people and places, two guiding principles are important to maintain: stay focused on the mission and understand that you will face opposition—often formidable opposition. Recognize that your opponents, those trying to thwart your continuous progress, suffer from brokenness, requiring someone like you, someone committed to truth, love, and justice, to move them from a barren place to a fecund place.
Misunderstood by many, disappointment torments people. Frightened, they become docile bodies held captive by it. At some point, however, these docile bodies must shatter the manacles of oppression and depression disappointment imposes.
Bondage, it’s dreadful. The more one surrenders to subjugation, the more she or he will accept it. What subjugated people fail to resist, they fail to comprehend.
Mentally and spiritually enslaved people, blinded by ignorance, face inevitable destruction—unless liberators come to their rescue. Resistance can crush bondage. But how? By unseating the false authority granted to bondage.
You have the power to dethrone disappointment’s reign of terror in your life.
When you transition to living a life free from allowing folks to take advantage of you, it’s a liberating experience. It’s not about revenge against those individuals who have used you; it’s about giving yourself a chance to be, to live, to breathe. If you’re living a life where you’re constantly serving every beck and call of others, then it’s time to stop. In fact, it has been time for you to end such an unhealthy, unproductive lifestyle.
Recognize that people will continue to take advantage of you as long as you allow them. You must muster the will and courage to stop doing this to yourself. After all, those people who have used you could only do what you permitted.
Once you close the door to users ever being able to use you again, leave that door closed forever.
When you’ve truly given yourself an opportunity to live free from leeches, folks always with their hands out looking for what you can do for them, it’s time for you to celebrate. Celebrate what? Celebrate your newfound freedom, or the rediscovering of such freedom. You deserve it!
You don’t have to announce you’ve closed that door to those individuals forever. Let your actions inform them. When they see your actions speaking, they will see your new liberated self.
People will start to realize they need to give you something before you continue to pour into their lives. This new liberated self isn’t about embracing selfishness—it’s about granting yourself the right to experience personal equity and justice. One shouldn’t passionately fight for equity and justice for others and not extend that same equity and justice to herself or himself.
Yes, those who have used you will begin to make some of the following comments: “You’re acting funny now,” “You’re acting brand new now,” “You weren’t really for me in the first place,” and “You weren’t doing things for me out of the kindness of your heart; you were always looking for something in return.” That last comment really strives to make you feel guilty and compel you to return to a life of bondage.
Never taste the sweet nectar of freedom and then revert to bondage.
Fight for you; fight for your freedom.
If people who have only taken from you want something now, respond to them by inquiring about what they plan to do for you in exchange for what they desire. This dramatically changes the power dynamics: it moves you from being a pushover to the person who holds all the cards.
When you understand that you hold all the cards, you will exercise your power to thwart attempts to victimize you.
Although you may hold a position that you are not willing to do something someone wants you to do to obtain something you desire, you may want to consider making a sacrifice for it. Yes, this defies conventional wisdom: don’t sacrifice your values; don’t sacrifice who you are for anyone and anything. Is what you need to do to receive what you want really forcing you to sacrifice your values and/or who you are? Face this reality: Successful people take risks and make sacrifices.
Don’t do nothing to risk your life or health, however.
In our present reality, you have to give something to receive something. Although during the impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump the notion of quid pro quo, “a favor for a favor,” has become a dirty term, a quid pro quo in many contexts is fair. As long as the favor on one side is equal to the favor on the other side, a quid pro quo shouldn’t be viewed as a problem; in fact, it’s fair.
Too many folks want something for nothing. While I am a philanthropist and give much of my time to charitable causes and helping others, I understand how damaging it can be to one’s life when your giving and receiving are in a chaotic imbalance. You cannot pour from an empty vessel. When you are constantly giving and never receiving anything, you’re not taking care of yourself. Unfortunately, when you need something from the same folks you have helped, most of those folks will not be there to help you.
For over 32 years, I have been a person who has given and given to people—with little being received in return. It’s time for me and others like me to stop feeling guilty about asking people to give us something in return for what they want from us. You’re not a criminal for looking for something in return from others who want huge favors from you. Be kind to yourself by treating yourself justly and demanding others to treat you justly.