Gratitude

Don’t Be Easily Broken: Develop an Indomitable Spirit

Image result for A Black Woman Crying

Although everyone experiences challenges and problems in this present world, one has to make a decision whether he or she will allow those challenges and problems to defeat him or her. Life will continue to present one challenge, one problem, after another; this is an unavoidable fact of life. Understanding this reality, it’s unacceptable to perceive every challenge or problem that emerges as a crisis. You can talk about “you don’t know my story” and “you don’t know the things I’ve gone through,” but, at some point, you must be frank with yourself: these statements have become self-defeating crutches. By no means am I lacking empathy and undervaluing “your story” and the “things you’ve gone through.” Here’s my question: when are you going to stop using your past in ways that inhibit your growth?

And I mean true growth.

Growth is not waking up one morning with optimism and the next with pessimism; optimism the following morning and pessimism the next—a truly depressing vicious cycle. Real growth begins when you truly start holding yourself accountable for your part in why you’re not progressing and your part in why you’re breaking or broken. Stop focusing on what others are and aren’t doing to and for you. Just concentrate on what you need to heal and grow. In fact, authentic self-care commences when one discontinues investing time in critiquing others and invests more time in developing an indomitable spirit.

How are you engaging in authentic self-care and you’re worried about everyone else? Worried about what everyone else is or isn’t doing to and for you. That’s not self-care—that’s being undisciplined.  

You know you’re on a path to developing an indomitable spirit when you no longer feel it necessary to concern yourself with how others are doing and have done you wrong. One gives himself or herself a chance to operate with an indomitable spirit when he or she takes ownership of what is necessary to own, and when he or she focuses on what is essential to be the best version of himself or herself and what is essential to achieve one’s dreams and aspirations.

If everything defeats you, if every challenge or problem overwhelms you, then you’re going to have to face a harsh truth: you’re going to continue to operate with a defeated spirit until you’ve truly had enough of it.                

One of the most effective ways of overcoming a defeated spirit is to first acknowledge that you have one, and then start living a life of real gratitude. Living a life of true gratitude begins by appreciating every moment and finding the goodness in every moment. An indomitable spirit is rooted in gratitude. When certain thoughts arise and when you start to make certain comments, ask yourself a critical question: are these thoughts and/or comments rooted in gratitude?

Liberate yourself from a defeated spirit by resolving to live a life centered on gratitude. When you’re intentional about living a life centered on gratitude, you’re well on your way to an indomitable spirit.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Self-aggrandizing Help

Selfishness

(Photo Credit: The Cheap Place)

Even though we’re still early in the 21st century, it’s increasingly becoming a century saturated with pervasive selfishness.  One of the most frustrating things about the great selfishness I’ve witnessed in the present century is how many people will “help” people just to get people to praise them.  Numerous people pretend to provide others with genuine help but they’re really camouflaging their real dominant motivation: self-aggrandizement.  How can one tell when someone isn’t genuine about the help they offer to others?  One of the ostensible ways to discern deceitful help is to take an opportunity to witness a person in action assisting others.  When a person isn’t truly committed to helping others, he or she will pass off much of the work to others to help the people he or she is supposed to aid—while taking full credit for the results and the work itself.

Too often people are more interested in posting on Facebook and Twitter what they do for people than they are in investing the necessary time to improve the people they’re aiding.  Most authentic providers of support don’t even privately and publicly promulgate what they do for others.  When you’re a natural supporter of people, you don’t need any public credit.  The appreciation and gratitude you receive from those you help should always be sufficient.

One of the primary reasons why I love the 1950s – 1970s is these are decades in the 20th century where people were truly committed to helping one another.  They understood the conditions of Jim Crow demanded they work together to assist one another in engendering the change necessary to break the back of Jim Crow.  I’m not nostalgic about these aforementioned decades—just pointing out that my true selfless spirit is a more apt fit for those decades than it is for this century’s reckless selfishness.

Those who are phony supporters and helpers of others will try to defend themselves against those who are willing to expose their treachery by arguing that the exposers are really the ones who don’t provide authentic support and aid to others.  True providers of authentic help and support have people who are willing to express their gratitude about their help and support.   They don’t have to go to others to complete the unfinished work that phony supporters and helpers didn’t desire to do.  You will, therefore, never be able to mar the record of a genuine helper.

The bible addresses those who give for the wrong reasons as being purposeless and unrewarded by God.  The only people feeling empty about their giving are the ones who aren’t committed to being real givers.  If you’re going to help others, help them.  Don’t waste people’s time by using them as just statistics you parade around to glorify yourself.  One of the chief reasons why self-aggrandizing people want others to see them as true givers is they’re overcompensating for myriad things they lack.  Being falsely perceived as a true giver is a way to blind people from the reality that one isn’t what he or she presents himself or herself to be.

Remove all of the facades and genuinely help people.  Resist the growing impulse in the 21 century to be recklessly selfish.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison                

An Analysis of Fantasia’s “Without Me”

One of the most significant messages in Fantasia Barrino’s “Without Me,” a track from her latest album Side Effects of You (2013), is to never forget the important people in your life who helped you to achieve what you’ve accomplished.  In the lives of most successful people, there are individuals who were instrumental to their success.  When successful people begin to act “brand new” and fail to show gratitude to those who are largely responsible for their success, Fantasia asks a powerful rhetorical question in the song: “What would you be without me?”  While one may give himself or herself too much credit for a person’s success by saying, “I made you,” what “Without Me” communicates is you wouldn’t be the exact person you are today without me.  The song forces the listener to reflect on the people who have been significant in aiding him or her in the evolution of the person he or she is today.

In the opening verse, Fantasia sings, “You gonna make me expose you for exactly what you are, (you are).”  One can understand the frustration this verse conveys with those who have benefited from the help of someone, only to have to witness the person going around pretending like that assistance was not crucial to his or her current success.  When people begin to act like the things you did for them weren’t important, then you should, at some point, “expose” them for exactly “what” they are.  What’s ultimately responsible for a person acting “brand new” and ungrateful is reckless arrogance.  For example, you could have bought a guy the fancy house, clothes, shoes, car and etc. he has, but this same guy may start flossin’ like he bought those things and start looking down on you because you don’t have them and the lifestyle he has.  This type of person fails to pay homage to the sacrifices you made so that he or she can have those things and the lifestyle you made possible.  When you threaten to expose the person or actually expose him or her, the individual thinks you’ve done him or her wrong.

Fantasia Barrino(Photo Credit: Vibe)

Fantasia states, “And as hard as you try to hide reality, while we know the truth, so act brand new if you want to.”  A person who wants to sham like you didn’t play a tremendous part in their achievements doesn’t want you to expose him or her.  The individual prefers for you to leave the truth hidden.  The reckless arrogance that has consumed the person causes him or her to have resentment toward you because he or she knows the truth: without you he or she wouldn’t have many or most of the achievements he or she cherishes.

Although many will interpret Fantasia’s song as only applying to an intimate relationship between a male and female, this limited interpretation results in one missing its wider applicability.

Never take what people have done and do for you for granted.  Learn how to show people the gratitude they deserve.  Your unchecked ego may be leading you to try to hurt someone who is highly responsible for what you have accomplished simply because you don’t want to give him or her the proper credit that has been earned.

Be very careful about how you treat those who have been vital to your success—you never know when you’re going to need them.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Open Letter to All Ungrateful Parents

Black Family

Dear Ungrateful Parents:

When you have children who are going great things and you never give them any praise, you deserve to be called ungrateful parents.  You should show your children who are doing wonderful things how much you appreciate them.  You could have children who have dropped out of school, on drugs, selling drugs and/or etc. but they are not.  Don’t simply say the reason they‘re not doing unbecoming things is you reared them effectively.  While you may have done an excellent job rearing your children, this does not mean that they had to make good decisions.  They had free will to make horrible decisions and live a life that would bring you shame.

Too often children who always get into trouble receive the most attention from their parents—while the children who are doing honorable things are overlooked.  This shouldn’t be a reality in many homes.  Take time to show your children you love them and are thankful for the positive things they do.  When your children see you’re not going to give them any special recognition and attention for the noteworthy things they do, then they can turn to doing negative things as a means of getting your attention.  Children know poor behavior gains attention from their parents.  Your children want to know they have your attention.

Don’t work your children like they are your slaves.  Your children are not your slaves!  When they do things around the house to make a valuable contribution to the workload, let them know you appreciate what they do and do something special for them from time to time to prove your appreciation.

When your children bring home good or great grades, this is a big deal and you need to show them this is a big deal.  Don’t simply act like getting good or great grades is what they’re expected to do without truly rewarding them for their grades.  Classroom demands are increasing for students and their great work needs to be acknowledged and rewarded.  Everyone likes to be acknowledged and rewarded at some point.  It’s quite understandable for a child to want to receive praise and incentives for the great work they do at school and home.

Learn to listen to your children before it’s too late.  Your child can be considering suicide and you not even know because you’re too busy fussing and/or cussing at him or her about some inane matter(s).  When you talk to your children, you can learn about their problems, fears, dreams, and etc., which can help you to be better able to lead them on a path to success and aid them in proper development.

After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut that left many young children dead, this should reveal to you how important it is to treasure each moment with your children.  When your child goes to school and you’re at work, it’s not guaranteed that he or she will return.  Every opportunity you have to love on your child should be seized.

Sincerely,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

End One-Way Street Relationships

I hate to be the one to tell you but you’re not going to be able to fool people forever. A person does not have to be the most intellectually sophisticated individual to recognize a pattern of being used by you. People will eventually recognize when you only communicate with them when you want something from them. Folks will start to notice that you only respond back to their text messages, Facebook messages, tweets, emails, and phone calls when you want something. In due time, people will see that you make everything about yourself. Many people who like to try to get over on people will only be upbeat around them when they are planning to ask them to do something for them.

It’s amazing how people will become your best friend when they want you to give them money and/or sex. It’s just a harsh reality that some people will be in your life just for what they can get out of you and from you. Now, I’ve written about these people who try to use you in Don’t Be A Leech!, and told you that you have to get rid of people who don’t value you in Spring Clean, but we need to explore why we continue to maintain relationships with people who just use us.

What is it about us that allows us to maintain relationships with people who use us? For the purposes of this article, when I refer to the word “relationships,” I mean relationships of all types, including friendships, marriages, intimate relationships, family relationships, business relationships, and etc. One of the dominant reasons why many of us, in my opinion, continue to maintain relationships with people who just use us is we are just selfless. This selflessness, however, can lead us to blindness for a certain period of time. The blindness that we experience for a certain period of time can cause us to intentionally or unintentionally overlook deliberate attempts by people to use us.

There’s a clear difference between people receiving from you because they are in need of your help, but that’s completely different from people who just are taking advantage of your selflessness and willingness to help them because they know the vulnerabilities of your selflessness.

When you are selflessly giving to people, make sure that you get something in return from them—that something can be as simple as a “thank you” or acts and/or words that evince gratitude.

Lately, I’ve witnessed how I will do substantial things for people and will not even receive any responses from them, not even responses that tell me “thank you” or that they received what I sent them. Some people seem to think that it’s my job to help them, and when I try to see if they received what I’ve sent them, I will not even get a reply from them via text message, email and/or telephone. Now, I want you to bear in mind that many of the substantial things that I have done for them involved me staying up all night to complete. I very much appreciate these people for giving me an education that I could have never obtained through my undergraduate and graduate training.

What I’ve learned is that you cannot allow yourself to become a blind giver. You have to be a wise giver. When you allow yourself to become a reckless giver, you open yourself to allowing others to exploit you. I’ve learned from those who have used me that you have to do a simple evaluation of everyone who you help. If these people are not giving you at least a sincere “thank you” in return for what you do for them, then please disassociate yourself from them. You don’t have to have a major altercation with them. All you need to do is don’t answer their phone calls, text messages, emails, and etc.—much in the same way that they have done to you for certain periods of time until they needed something else from you.

Don’t you just love when people try to act like they didn’t get your text message, Facebook message, direct message on Twitter, phone call, and/or email, but you see that they have tweeted several times since you contacted them and/or have updated their Facebook status after you have contacted them?

I urge you to discontinue relationships with people where they are just using you. These types of relationships simply bring you down inevitably. Don’t let your great selflessness turn into unintentional or intentional blindness. When people fail to demonstrate how appreciative they are of you when you clearly deserve appreciation, then remove these people from your life. At the end of the day, you cannot let your selflessness turn into stupidity.

For those readers who know me and you think this article is addressing you, it probably is. If I don’t tell you first, just ask me and I will let you know. I don’t do third person—never have and never will. When have you known me to hold back anything that I have to say to you and/or about you? Exactly!

Love responsibly. Give responsibly. Help responsibly. Be responsible.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Spring Clean Some Human Beings Right Out of Your Life

As I approach 30 years of life, it really just hit me: I’m responsible for how I continue to allow people to treat me. There comes a point when you have to get fed up with the things that people do to you. It’s only when you acknowledge that enough is enough that you will truly reclaim full dominion over your life. At the very minimum, you must demand people to treat you with basic respect. If people are not willing to treat you with respect, then take a stand against them. Cast those who are not willing to respect you out of your life. Do it right now! I had to come to the realization that if people are not going to do anything else they are going to respect me. I have recognized that I have the power to not allow disrespectful people to occupy space in my life. As long as you accept disrespectful people in your life, you need to own full responsibility for their treatment of you. It’s not their fault—it’s your fault. You keep allowing it so go ahead and own what you are doing to yourself.

Many of the people in our lives are disposable, but we keep them around like they are necessities. In essence, many people are optional but we let them stay around us like we don’t have a choice. When they keep mistreating and disrespecting you, look right in the mirror at the person who should be held completely responsible for this mistreatment and disrespect. You begin to press yourself smaller and smaller when you give people the constant authority to devalue you. Your mother and father did not conceive you to sit up there and let people persist to push you around and do you any way they want. You have the power right now to stop this from happening.

What’s really sad is many of us are not able to even understand when people are constantly disrespecting and mistreating us. We have allowed disrespect and mistreatment to become such the norm in our lives that we don’t see them as needing to be eradicated from our lives. Open your eyes and see what’s really going on around you. You deserve to be valued. The things that are important to you deserve to be respected.

I want you to think critically about the people in your life and give them a comprehensive evaluation. Are there any people who really do not value you as a person? Are there people who do not value your education, business, responsibilities, time, and/or etc.? Are there people who don’t show you appreciation for the things you do for them? Are there people who don’t evince their gratitude to you? If you have people like this in your life, then you need to dismiss them right now. It really is that simple when you truly love yourself.

Are you in a “serious” relationship with a person who only values you for the sexual intercourse? If so, eliminate this person from your life. Do you have “friends” who only come around you when they want something? Cast these people out of your life! Are there people in your life who only want to talk to you about themselves all the time and everything is always about them? Get rid of them right now.

We need to start appreciating and valuing ourselves more. Love yourself enough to get rid of the people in your life who are not good for you. The right time for some Spring cleaning is right now. Get busy!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ungratefulness is Not a Good Look

When someone does something for you, you should have the decency to thank him or her. Now, you don’t have to thank people everyday for something they have done for you, but you should be eternally grateful for what they have done for you. When someone has helped you to get to the mountaintop, don’t look at them while you’re on the mountaintop like “who are you?” Reality check: This is the same person who was on the mountaintop before he or she threw you a rope to help you get on the mountaintop. Don’t ever forget this!

You can be on the mountaintop today and in the dark abyss tomorrow. You better start appreciating those people who have demonstrated nothing but a willing to help you. When someone who has proven to be a person who can and will help you, don’t get an attitude with him or her the moment he or she is unable to assist you. To get an attitude with someone who has proven time and time again to be a selfless giver to you, this manifests your true ungratefulness. Ungratefulness has its provenance in selfishness. You may be able to call me many things, but ungrateful is one thing that you cannot truthfully call me.

In no way am I asserting that you need to become a slave to the people who help you. You shouldn’t be a slave for any person! What you should be is an appreciative person who acknowledges the things that others have done and do for you. People often don’t take the time to reflect on how much others are helping them. They simply take for granted the help that others are constantly providing them. I encourage you to never take for granted the help that people give you. What are you going to do when you no longer receive the help that you so desperately need to continue to receive? You can sit back and act like you will survive without it. You probably will survive without their help but you certainly will be significantly impacted by this loss of help over time.

Those who give to others should not hold their generosity over the heads of others either. If you are going to be a true giver, don’t look for people to have a banquet in your honor each time you evince your selflessness. It’s more than reasonable for you to expect a simple thank you each time that you do something for others, however. You are well within reason to expect people to show gratitude for the things you do for them. Just don’t be the type of person who uses his or her abilities as ways to make people do what you want them to do. Moreover, I encourage you to not be the type of person who constantly reminds people of everything you have done and do for them. When you do this, it comes across as you have done and do those things for them for sheer recognition. You can be selfish in the way in which you give too—acknowledge that!

It’s just right to do right!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison