On Grace, Transparency, and the Fear of Keeping it Too Real

On Grace, Transparency, and the Fear of Keeping it Too Real

For some time now,  the Lord has really been convicting me about the need to be more transparent and honest with my story. I’ve been feeling the tug, and I’ve been shrugging it off, but one of my first steps to finally responding to God’s request was creating this blog. As much as I love to write, and as much as I enjoy “keeping it real”, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a lot more private (those who follow me on Facebook are probably like “girl, bye!” lol) . But in all seriousness, I reveal what I’m comfortable with revealing. My romantic life, and other very personal stuff, you will not find on social media, because……Nah. That’s mine. All mine.

When I felt God compelling me to be more open and honest about my Christian walk, I wasn’t really feeling it. To be quite frank, I know there are certain people who are itching to find out my business to use it against me, and my patience for the gossip and news carrying is at an all. time. low. I kept telling God, “This transparency stuff sounds good in theory, but chill, you’re setting me up for drama, and I just don’t have time for it.” And you know God gathered me up real good. He made it abundantly clear that He did not give me the ability and passion to write just because He thought it’d be cute. This ability, this gift, if you will,  isn’t just for my own catharsis; it serves a purpose bigger than me. God basically said, “Ashlee, get over yourself.”

Starting this blog revealed to me just how fearful I am of transparency. It’s something I’m constantly saying the church needs more of, but here I am, in true hypocrite style, perpetuating the very thing I critique most about the church.

The other day my friend shared this post on Facebook. And it made me question and challenge my fear of transparency.

Questioning and being honest about the root of my fear of transparency  has been extremely telling, and has also proven to be the first step to overcoming it. What am I so afraid of? Is it really the judgment of others? Is it really the fear of people gossiping and carrying news about me? Or… am I really just fearful of letting people see and know just how imperfect I am? Am I fearful that once my “stuff” is out there, that will instantly put me in a position to not be in any position to judge? Why do I want to be in the “position” to judge? Am I fearful that once I confirm that yes, I am spiritually fallible, I’ll forever be forced to reckon with the real me, in private and in public ? Answering those questions honestly made me realize that I am also part of the problem I so badly want to see resolved in the church.

If I want my brothers and sisters in Christ to be transparent, I need to be transparent myself. And that means I need to work out whatever it is that’s not freeing me to be as transparent as I want other Christians to be. God has been humbling me, and showing me that It’s easy to offer critique (even when it feels hard because you feel the burden of holding folks accountable)…but it takes courage to be the one to say, “I needed this” or “I am in need of this, what can I do to address this lack?” “This is wrong, what can I do to help resolve this problem?” When I critique the church, when I am attempting to hold it accountable, I cannot forget that I am very much a part of it, so I must challenge, question and critique myself.

I am grateful that God has provided safe spaces for me to be transparent, honest and candid with other young Christians. But it is unfortunate that those spaces are few and far between, and it’s even more unfortunate that I’m afraid to share those spaces with other Christians who may benefit from them, out of fear of the space no longer feeling safe with them there.

I am praying for the day when I, and other Christians can stop trying to out-Christian one another, so we can gain strength and grow from one another’s experiences, mistakes, and victories. I am praying for the day when we stop criticizing and judging someone’s struggle to make ourselves feel less guilty about our own. I am praying for the day that we realize we are not our mistakes, and once God delivers us from something, we don’t have to carry the weight of it anymore. We all have struggled. We all have fallen short in some way, and we’re all still struggling or working on something. All that really matters is that we are trying to overcome, and the truth is, we’d be more successful trying to overcome together than we’d be trying to overcome “safely”. If sharing my story costs me my “good girl” image, but encourages another sister or brother, and helps them realize they’re not alone in their struggles, then so be it. I’m not a girl anymore anyways (lol) so who cares about that label? I’m grown. I’m a woman. A grown woman who’s still growing in her faith, and who’s very imperfect, but loves the Lord with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her mind. I’ve counted the cost, and souls are much more valuable to me than maintaining an image of a person I already know I’m not.

 

By: A. Wisdom
Twitter: @ashleewisdom
Previously posted on: http://www.GrowingIntoWisdom.squarespace.com
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5…

 

On July 31, 2011, I embarked on a journey with a woman that I was in love with…madly in love with.  When I woke up that morning, the sun was shining bright and I had time to reflect as all of my groomsmen were recovering from the night before. I decided to take a walk through downtown Hartford to clear my head, reflect on my past, and focus on my future. I understood the gravity of the step that I was about to take and I accepted that with an open mind and open heart. I received a text from Orsella Cooper-Hughes, the Officiant of our wedding, who is a trusted family member and spiritual advisor. Her message to me was simple, “keep God first little cuz, today will be a great day”, and that it was! The fine details of the wedding went as planned. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, but it was an epic event and truly one of the greatest days of my life. When the party was over, the last vendor paid, the last rounds of toasts made, and the last of the guests departed. There remained my beautiful bride and me, left to start our journey with each other and God. That day was the beginning of us as husband and wife; the start of a marriage that has faced many ups and downs, heartache and happiness, challenges and triumphs. The past five years have been full of experiences and a wide range of emotions. It has tested our faith in God, our belief in ourselves and our belief in one another.

Sacrifice is one of the first thoughts that come to mind when I consider the first five years. Sacrifice is defined by Webster Dictionary as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” Our first year of marriage was defined by sacrificing comfort, money and time in order to solidify a better future for ourselves and our family. Throughout that period of sacrifice, there were experiences and stressors that we faced that have done a lot of other relationships in. Fortunately, we were blessed to have a good foundation established by our pre-marital counseling, a strong faith in our relationship, a real friendship that was formulated prior to intimacy and God as our guide. Oh and one other big thing, we did not allow others to “peek into our blinds” by taking to social media with our issues. We were and continue to be selective in what we choose to share with the rest of the world, some things simply aren’t for everyone to see. When the times have gotten rough, we put down the electronic devices, draw closer to one another and our trusted few.

Acceptance and support have been huge in our union. When Melissa walked down that aisle, she walked into the arms of a very flawed man who was and remains a work in progress. She knew what she was getting herself into, as did I. We have accepted one another for who we are, what we bring to the table and what we lack. Though there has been a ton of acceptance, there has been very little settling. Though we have accepted the fact that the other person has flaws, we do not settle for anything but the best from one another. That means that there are difficult conversations that need to be had and many “GET IN THE CAR” moments (that’s an insider that a few of you will understand). Another aspect of acceptance is accepting the dreams of the person that you devote yourself to and supporting them in every endeavor. Anybody that knows me knows that I am an extremely active person with big dreams and lots of goals. My dreams and goals come with a price and that price is usually time. I thank God that I have someone by my side that supports my endeavors, listens to my dreams and helps me to make sense out of the best way to achieve them. As our lives have grown, so has the list of dreams, projects, and endeavors that my wife has taken on. I have tried my hardest to be intentional about reciprocating the support and encouragement that she has given to me. The balance of being each other’s biggest fan is important and necessary.

Fun is extremely important to have with your partner. Make time for one another to do the things that make you happy. Whether it’s a date night once a month, spending time with a group of friends that you both enjoy or simply finding a babysitter and having dinner without interruptions from the little ones in your life, enjoying one another’s company is helpful. It reminds you of the “magic” that led you to commit to forever with one another, it helps you to remember that in the midst of all of the curve balls that life throws, you have one another. It also provides a very necessary balance to the grind of building and securing the future of your family.

Lastly, love one another and love unconditionally. There will be good days and there will be bad. There will be disagreements, rolled eyes, raised voices and moments of “I can’t stand you right now”. During those moments, remember to love. In the midst of financial turmoil, choose love. When the doctor gives a bad report, choose love. When there’s a loss of loved ones and other forms of heartache, choose love. When your pride tells you to try to get the last word, choose love. No matter what the situation or circumstance….choose love. In order to choose love, you must remember to focus on love and what it is about the person across from you that made you fall in love. Be intentional about telling them what they do that makes you fall in love all over again and focus on making those things happen for your partner.

Remember that there will be times in which choosing love does not seem like the answer, during those times….choose to PRAY for the person that you love. I am a man that is far from perfect and what works for my relationship may not work for you. This is MY view on what has sustained the first five years of my marriage. I am blessed to have an amazing wife who has taught me what love, acceptance, support, and encouragement is. I truly cannot imagine what my life would be like without my wife. She is an amazing wife, mother, step-mother, and friend. She is goal oriented, driven and did I mention –she is drop dead gorgeous! I look forward to many more milestones with her and the growth of my family. I believe in love because of her and I believe that love always wins when you want it to.

Happy Anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world and cheers to forever!

 

Tai D. Richardson
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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Having Trouble At Work?

 

Having trouble at work? So was I.

I started at this company 2.5 years ago, when I was on the heels of a divorce and I moved 30 min. away from my core group of people. I took this job in transportation, an industry I had no experience in. Needless to say, my 1st year was miserable. People questioned me, my skills, and even my writing abilities – as a journalist, I was insulted. I had a horrible review. I had never felt so unfavored in any position.

Every day I imagined myself getting a new job and boastfully slamming a resignation letter on my boss’s desk, but that never happened. Every opportunity that was offered to me fell through for some reason – budget, resources, timing etc. So I ended up staying in this position because I needed the money.

I changed my prayers from finding a new job to changing my circumstances at my current job. I asked the people in my Bible study group to pray for me and with me. Slowly, but surely, things started to turn around.

My biggest critics were taken off my projects, and my attitude about my job started to change. I found reasons to be grateful for my job, and I started working on the things people criticized me for. My next review was amazing. It was a complete turnaround from the first one. As things got better, I continued praying. I didn’t want to go backwards.

In October, I had the unique opportunity to take a position in NYC doing exactly what I wanted to do – public relations, and I really had an opportunity to shine. To my disappointment, the assignment ended abruptly, and I feared going back to my regular assignments and having to work with the naysayers again.

I just knew my “winning” streak had ended a couple weeks ago, when I was working on a report that took me twice as long as I anticipated. When the project manager called me, I just knew he was going to let me have it, but instead he told me I did a “phenomenal” job.

I called my boss to let her know that someone actually used the word “phenomenal” on a report I worked on. To my surprise, again, she told me that she had good news too – my promotion!

I’m still growing, but prayer works and God’s grace is real. I hope this helps someone.

Stacy.

*Previously Posted on Proccessingpain.com *
Twitter:
@StacyGrahamHunt Ig:@stacyreports
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Your Infant Doesn’t Give a Sh!t About the NBA Finals… But Your Toddler Might (and some other cool history stuff)

VSoP! What’s up people?! It’s Doug again, the guy who used to be a parent of a stationary cute kid, but is now the parent of a mobile, independent cute kid. And it’s that GLORIOUS time of year again: The NBA Finals! Now I know that this year’s playoffs haven’t been as entertaining as year’s past, but who cares. It’s still the greatest sports series in the world and we’re all watching, so we will deal with it.

Anyway, you loyal VSOP readers might or might not remember from last year, that I had some problems during last year’s finals. My son was a mess, so naturally I wasn’t looking forward to this year’s finals as heavily as I did last year, but again, it’s still the finals and I shall be watching. This year the Finals started on Thursday, June 2nd. I happened to be down in the Big Easy on Thursday June 2nd. A friend was getting married and my wife and I decided to accept his invitation to watch his nuptials in person. With us? Our son, my parents, her brother and his girlfriend. JACKPOT! So many hands, so much help!

Well the wedding was on Friday, so Thursday we had all day to do everything and nothing. I would like for everyone reading to understand that all day Thursday felt like Christmas Eve. I knew goodness was happening at 8pm CST and I just had to get through the day to get to my NBA Finals presents. Luckily, on vacation, time goes by a bit (a lot) quicker than sitting at the work desk all day.

We started out the day at The Court of Two Sisters. Apparently this is a New Orleans staple. I highly suggest it. I ate way too much and enjoyed every forkful. And like every other place in the French Quarter, there was live music. Music and food and food and music; I kinda love New Orleans. Our next adventure was to drive about 50 minutes away to Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana. Evergreen is a sugarcane plantation, and it is the most intact plantation complex in the south. It has 22 original slave cabins and 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Basically there were a bunch of slaves and racists on the plantation. It was where they filmed Django Unchained, Roots, and scenes from King Bey’s Lemonade. We walked through the (small) big house (seriously, it was 3 rooms wide and one room back), we saw the kitchen (hot at HELL), we learned about the whistle walk (those racist fuqs who owned slaves made them whistle while they walked the food from the kitchen to the big house to make sure they didn’t eat bit of it), we learned a bit about the Creole culture, we learned about the story of the plantation. I think the tour guide meant well, but he wasn’t exactly forthcoming with just how difficult the slaves had it. Still a great and chilling experience. After the plantation tour, we took a left out of the gates (which for me sent a chill up my spine thinking about the fact that my ancestors couldn’t do the same) and headed to the Whitney plantation. We went on a whim, but it was an excellent decision. We missed the last tour, but we spoke to two great and knowledgeable tour guides who answered all our unanswered and half-ass answered questions that the last plantation couldn’t. I will be going back down to New Orleans and taking the real tour of Whitney Plantation. You all should too. The history of slavery, no matter how disgraceful, is important. It’s the beginning of Black American history. That’s what I have to say about that.

Anyway, after the history lesson, we made our way back to New Orleans and headed to Mannings, which is Archie, Peyton, and Eli’s restaurant. I’m sure the other Manning’s have their hand in it too, but the quarterbacks who played in the NFL are who are important here. Mannings has a legit theater in the back of the bar, with leather seats that you can reserve. It has an outdoor projection screen. It has more TVs per square foot than Buffalo Wild Wings. It has an arcade basketball hoop to shoot at for a dollar. It has pictures of Peyton and Eli everywhere. It’s dope!

Okay, 7:25 we make it to the restaurant. Its packed – dammit! I put our name on the list for 6 and a half and we find a place in the bar area to sit down and watch the pre-game. The wait is supposed to be 30 minutes, but it ends up being 25. We’re ready to be seated right after John Legend slayed the national anthem. BTW, he has been the best part of the Final’s so far, but you ain’t hear that from me. We sit down and I’m getting nervous. Why? They sat my son’s high chair right next to me, like he ain’t a terror with the Finals on. But whatever, big boy pants are on, let’s do this Reece!

7:58 – “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece

7:59 – “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece as he drops his toy.

8:00 – Orders taken, tip off soon. The whole place is buzzing. Greg Monroe came in with a buffet style selection of women to take up the theater in the bar. My son shuts up and looks. *daps*

Tip-off time – Reece is quiet. He’s watching. He’s attentive. He’s clapping. He’s cheering for both teams and all 3 refs. He’s paying attention and smiling and laughing. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The joy that was in me for the rest of the game until it started to suck was incredible. I forgot how bad the game was because my son was loving it. He was eating his food (kinda… half of it ended up on the floor. I think as a parent of a toddler, it’s a requirement to tip well), he was attentive, he wasn’t acting up, he didn’t cry, he was the perfect loud in a bar baby ever.

Cavs lost. They’ll probably lose the series. The Warriors are super sayins. Draymond’s breath is bad (c’mon, you know it is). My son loves basketball.

My toddler gives a shit about the NBA Finals, and my GOD that makes me happy!

 

By: D. Rubenstein
Twitter:@wildmanjones
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a-more-perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA….???

Donald Trump graced Connecticut with his presence and I decided for myself not to watch on television. I chose to see what the devil and his minions looks like up close and personal. Yes, I was there in the audience to hear him say absolutely nothing. I was in line with the protesters staring into the eyes of a population of Connecticut that I never saw before. At this rally, I witnessed and observed the looks in the eyes of the Trump Followers. I know what they mean when they say “Make America Great Again”. Take me to their leader.

Are you all awake yet? Is this still a laughing matter? Or are we upset that this country continues to reap what we sow? Now that I asked a bunch of questions that you probably have contemplated a few times the past couple months, how do you feel about the answer that you came up with? Matter fact, forget your answer because it doesn’t really matter when the truth remains as an open wound that we have been asked to place Mickey Mouse band-aids to cover the laceration.  

Now I am not going to pretend or act like I am an expert in analyzing political tactics or infrastructure. However, I have been a registered voter since the Bush/Kerry Election and have been an advocate of fulfilling my civic duty as an United States citizen, who has been afforded the right to cast my vote for the leader of the free world. Needless to say, I never thought that I would live to see the day that this country would allow an African American man to win the presidency. BUT IT HAPPENED; and President Obama asked for one thing from the people and that one thing was to CHANGE. Ironically, over the past eight years, my political awareness has increased. I am a father now, a husband and community leader that advocates for the progression of African Americans. With that being said, my understanding of politics has to shift. I hold myself accountable for the future of the next generation. Being mindful of whom we allow we elect in the seats of political power is the beginning of that accountability.

Now that I’ve done my best to provide a soft introduction to an extremely controversial subject matter, let me be frank; No More Mr. Nice Guy. The fact that DONALD TRUMP is the front-runner in this presidential election shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our great Constitution had to be rewritten just to amend the basic rights for everyone regardless of race, skin color, ethnicity or religion; and yet it still began with WE THE PEOPLE. Well, who are these PEOPLE? The United States of America was built on the backs of bondage, blood, sweat and tears. Where an institution of racism scribed it’s way into laws, legislation and into the hearts of the wealthy majority. Patrick Henry declared give me Liberty or Death. An old Negro spiritual songs before I am a slave I’d be buried in my grave. To understand that part of American History directly reinforces why people shouldn’t be surprised at the fact that there is a sleeping GIANT that has been waiting to emerge in this country.

We, the Black masses, don’t want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won’t follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.” Malcolm X

Donald Trump is having success because whether we like to admit it or not, his actions and tactics represent the likes of so many individuals. Who is a presidential candidate without voters and followers? This is what happens when a man who has the color, capital and connections to be able to be controversial. Watch me prove this theory.  Let’s Play A Game… Ready? Let’s pretend President Obama is getting ready to run for president of the United States of America and his opening speech goes something like this. I want to make America Great. Let’s get rid of the Jewish and Italian immigrants that are buying up all the property and establishing businesses. Let’s stop allowing foreigners to move into this country and opening up businesses in African American communities. George Bush was an idiot that did nothing for this country for the past 8 years because nobody in Washington knows what they are doing. Let’s also give him an angry approach to how he wants to focus primarily on African American issues, racism, injustice and breaking down racial political barriers. If you are having a hard time smelling what I am cooking, simply replace Obama’s campaign with Trump’s campaign and you tell me if Obama would be leading anything anywhere? We all know the answer to this question and we all know why.

When I watch Trump go on national television and say some of the things that he says, I can almost appreciate it in a weird sarcastic way. Simply because I prefer to know what the devil himself looks like than to be bitten by a snake in the grass. Politicians are great at securing votes. Their primary focus is to win elections and win the trust of the people. We all know how elections and campaigns are won and filled with so many empty action items to feed the emotions of the people. Well there is a lot of HUNGRY IGNORANT RACIST out there dying to be fed and they have a mouth piece in Donald Trump. When I turn on the television, social media, listen to music, read blogs, read memes , view certain comments on twitter/facebook, hell even while playing video games online, there is one consistent problem that I cannot escape. RACISM IS EVERYWHERE. I get called a nigger everyday while playing Call of Duty online on my Xbox. You would think by 2016 where everyone is so liberal, free spirited and every class of people are climbing the ladder to fight for equality that we would have dealt with race relations along time ago. Quite frankly this is not the case. The country that we live in his filled with a lot of Hatred and Evil stemming from racism. From mass incarceration, to gun violence/mass shootings, thriving KKK rallies, and random acts of terrorism. So is it ironic and silly to contemplate the fact that an entertainer could possibly be the face of a country that is driven by trending, controversial entertainment? These are the people we empower to program the hearts and minds of our young people.

We live in a society where everyone wants to be and has to practice political correctness. Why should we expect our president to have some sort of filter when they are speaking when we as people want the right to exercise our first amendment right? We have no problem hiring analyst, journalist and giving celebrities, entertainers, athletes and others a platform to say what they want whenever they want and we are all supposed to be free of judgment right? So why do we expect anything different from the leader that is supposed to represent the people. Truth of the matter is whether you all want to hear or accept this or not, there are a lot of racist, prejudice and socially ignorant people that feel they have to watch what they say because of fear of having a public opinion. I remember feeling like Obama really never really spoke out on certain issues, not because he didn’t want to but because he couldn’t. He played it safe and read the prompter like a good president. We all had moments where we really wanted Obama to unbutton his color and speak emotionally and “keep it real.”  Ask yourself this, do you feel comfortable speaking up and out about topics that can be extremely sensitive to public opinion?  

So while we are upset that Trump is leading the Republican Party, please understand one thing; we ARE DONALD TRUMP. The hypocrisy, racism and tyranny that corrupt this system are a direct reflection of the racist political infrastructure that still disgustingly exists. Let the record show that I am in no way endorsing Trump nor would I ever vote for Donald Trump to be my president, but I do appreciate his non political correctness and affording me the awareness to know EXACTLY what I will be getting myself into should he become president. Until we address white privilege, race relations, and we answer the call to CHANGE the wheels on the bus will continue to go round and round. So do yourself a favor and stop acting so surprised that Donald Trump could possibly be the next President of the United States like the Terminator didn’t win an election.

“If we expect the leader of the free world (that is supposed to represent the thoughts, minds and hearts of the people) to conduct himself with dignity, class and respect then the people have to CHANGE so our Leader reflects who we are.”  -MR NICE GUY

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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The Medium

According to dictionary.com, the definition of “medium” is as follows: 1. A middle state or condition; mean. 2.Something intermediate in nature or degree. There are about sixteen definitions for this word, but let’s focus on the first two as it applies to African American males in these United States of America. By now you’re probably wondering where could this possibly go, or what points are being brought up. Often times we as society tend to overlook or subconsciously not acknowledge the multiple identities of a person or a group of people. Society subconsciously or consciously, depending on who you’re talking to, depicts the African American experience in this country with only struggle/despair or living the lavish life of an entertainer/athlete, leaving no room for a “medium”. To go even further, society/media portrays the African American male experience as presented in two different lights; the successful athlete/entertainer or the drug dealer/gang-banger. Let’s categorize those “light” descriptions as “highs” and “lows”. The “high” would of course be the athlete/entertainer that promotes the lifestyle of money, sex, and drugs. Then it’s the “low” drug dealer/gang-banger  that lives the life of violence on their quest to money, sex, and drugs. But there has to be more to a black man’s life in America, right? Constantly, society feeds this dichotomous image of all black men that is absolutely inaccurate. If you are asking what are the inaccuracies, one would possible say the easier question is which one should we highlight first? (Yes, there are many.)

For the sake of an argument let’s start with examining the black man and the “medium” that is rarely highlighted for us. The images created by the media leaves those who are not familiar, or have limited interactions with black males in America as a “black” or “white,” good and bad perspective of these men. What about the gray area? There has to be some in between, right? As we examine the “medium,” a few questions come to mind. Mainly, where is the “medium”  for this African American man? What does that medium look like, and why doesn’t he have a voice?The “medium” black man is often forgotten in America. Rarely is there any recognition for his accomplishments or empathy for his struggles. However, there is constant attention given to his counterparts. Whether it’s the black male athlete/entertainer who is idolized for their glitz and glamour, or the drug dealer/gang banger that’s constantly in the newspaper or community doing something wrong.

When these are the two images that are constantly recognized by society rightly or wrongfully so, the idea of the “medium” tends to fade. Who is this “medium” black man you ask? The answer is quite simple. The medium black man is the man who wakes up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. The medium black man is the man who not only goes to college, but graduates. He is our pastor, lawyer, doctor, corrections officer, policeman, fireman, banker, social worker, teacher, principal and the successful business man all in our midst to be acknowledged. However, we rarely acknowledge him! Instead we constantly micro-aggressively compare him to his “high” and “low” counterparts. If he has an athletic stature we ask him why he isn’t playing a professional sport, or if he has a nice car, we automatically assume that he’s selling drugs or participating in illegal activities. Society loves to silence the medium black man and when he reacts we label him as angry. But why shouldn’t he be angry? He’s human too. He thinks, feels, and reacts the same way you do. Although the voice of the “medium” black man tends to be silenced at times, one could also say that he also allows his voice to be silenced. He chooses not to speak up due to the fear of being labeled. Instead he bottles it up inside and continues fighting the labels like the warrior he is. With everything that’s going on in society today, the voice of the “medium” black man is needed more than ever before.

Think about it, society fears you simply because they only know both extremes. Better yet, society knows the “highs” and are very familiar with them because of their fame. Society also knows that the “high”s have too much to lose. Which leaves society with what the media feeds them about the description of the “lows” and that’s who society fears. Because of your silence society  does not look at you for your degrees, they immediately lump you in with the “lows”. You have to speak up, make your presence felt. Let the world know that you exist and that this image they paint of you is false. Speak out on what you feel is wrong; don’t be defined by the transgressions of your counterparts. You are not a mythical creature that only exists in theory. You are real and you are in abundance. For the sake of the future, speak up because lives depend on it.

Love Triangles : The Truth Behind Cheating Part I

Okay, picture this:

A popular couple named Mary and John are in a long-term, committed relationship. To onlookers, it seems that Mary and John are happy. Friends and associates often witness public displays of affection from each partner, banter, and innocent flirting. Occasionally, Mary and John will even declare their love for one another on social media for the world to bear witness. So needless to say, it is obvious that these two individuals are in a monogamous relationship. In fact, those friends within the social circle idealize their union. That said, the fact remains that what is shown publicly is not always a true representation of what happens behind closed doors. What if I told you that despite the illusion of this great relationship, that a number of problems occur in Mary and John’s relationship? What if the reality was that John has been cheating with a woman we will call Jessica–a sexual relationship that predates Mary and John as a couple?And not surprisingly, Mary is unaware of Jessica’s identity….but oddly enough, she knows that her boo is unfaithful and may have had several affairs outside the relationship. To make matters more interesting, Jessica is very much aware that John is in a relationship, but continues on as his secret lover. Well John, Mary, and Jessica are members in love triangle.

Now, if you had a reaction of disgust towards Jessica in her role within this affair, you more than likely share the reaction of mainstream society. After all, the mistress, for one reason or another, is typically the one deemed most accountable in situations like the one described above. And more often than not, we relate with Mary, label John a “2 timing jerk,” and refer to Jessica as a “home wrecker,” or a “hoe.” And let’s face it, John is usually forgiven and given a clean slate, even after repeated offenses. Meanwhile, the”other girl’s” image is tarnished and she is devalued by both men and women alike. Being that this is a controversial topic, the voice of the “side chick” often goes unheard, in fear that she will be shamed and judged for her lack of self control. An experience far too taboo to address, leaving the mistress silenced from expressing her viewpoints and conveniently protecting the cheater’s reputation.

Love triangles are known as interactions between three individuals within a relationship system, by which each member carries out a pattern of behaviors that create an unhealthy relationship cycle. Love triangles can serve a few functions. In most systems, it is used to alleviate stress within a primary love relationship. The 3rd person in this case is used as a distraction to provide temporary relief from relationship conflicts. In other cases, the unfaithful partner may pull in a 3rd person when feeling insecure in the primary relationship (i.e.: suspicions that their partner may be cheating and therefore he or she must beat partner to the punch). The security provided by the 3rd person may also compensate for some voids within the primary love relationship. In this dynamic, the unfaithful partner may place the 3rd person on reserve as an alternate love interest (just in case the main partner breaks up with him/her). Some cheaters tend to also gain a sense of power and control through cheating. Cheating, for these people, provides a feeling of empowerment– it allows the cheater to make up for relationship failures by feeling successful in other areas of his/her life. However, simply put, cheating can be viewed as a red flag for low self esteem; a need to be desired by others as a means of gaining approval. Those individuals who cheat, even in secure relationships, utilize cheating as a way to build self-confidence. The acceptance provided by the 3rd person tells the cheater that he/she is wanted. In all, for the cheater, admiration seeking becomes addictive; a hunger that is never fully satisfied.

Now given the details of this “love” pattern, we can now ask the obvious question. Why, would a “side piece”, continue “creeping?” Here are some answers. Jessica similarly to Mary, has a co-dependent personality. A co-dependent in any unhealthy relationship, will place lower priority on his/her personal needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the dependent. In fact, co-dependents indirectly encourage cheaters to continue cheating! Prioritizing the needs of others and neglecting the self is not at all uncommon in co-dependent individuals. But what the co-dependent may not be aware of is how his/her “selfless” acts empower a person who may likely crave control, and who has become masterful at the art of manipulation. Other factors to consider are what makes the co-dependent more prone to this personality trait. Arguably, one may consider nature vs nurture; the idea that personality is formed by environmental or biological causes. In short, one develops co-dependency via their social environment (home, school, media, etc). Those individuals who have been exposed to domestic abuse, not exclusive to physical abuse, but also including mental and emotional abuse, are most vulnerable. Although, some may say that co-dependence is just natural in some personalities. Co-dependency also plays a major role in self-esteem and self-worth, as the overly selfless often learn from their environments that they are undeserving, and therefore unworthy of healthy love relationships. This trait is found at the root of all obsessive lovers and explains why co-dependents stay in love triangles. So basically, co-dependents remain as a side piece because their main objective is to keep their ‘lover’ happy by any means, perhaps in hopes that they will at some point become the main lover. This thinking is sometimes driven by manipulations of the cheater, who may give the co-dependent false hope for a future. In terms of morality however, the co-dependent becomes  ‘numb’ after having been involved in cheating cycles for so long.

To conclude, love triangles are clearly very unhealthy. They hinder growth in love relationships and cause considerable emotional damage. And cheating problems seen in love triangles are far more complicated than uncontrollable lust–they are driven by complex emotional, behavioral, and social issues.

 In the follow-up blogs, we will take a further look at the profiles of the cheater and the main partner.

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental.

By: Saylor C Brook

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental. 

You Fit The Description

 

It was a sunny day during Memorial Day weekend on the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now anyone that can relate to that time of year will instantly connect to the annual Black Bike Weekend that takes place down there. Thousands of people in one tourist area gather to show off their wheels, motorcycles and for other things to make your head turn.” I was with a group of my friends  taking a moment to unwind from our professional careers, congregated on a corner enjoying the view of beautiful women and perfect weather. It was all perfect, did not have to worry about writing reports or code switching, just a carefree atmosphere to allow my imagination to run. All was well until, I was approached by two police officers. Dressed in a long t-shirt, fitted hat, basketball shorts, Jordan sneakers and a gaudy chain I know I did not look like I was a college educated man (but what does that matter).

“Let me see your hands, and line up against the wall,” the officer shouted. In my militant but educated tone of voice, I responded to the officer asking him what the problem was. The officer began to explain that a call came in reporting that a group of black males that fit our description were soliciting narcotics in front of their store and demanded that we be removed. Now my first inclination was that there was no way I could allow this officer to search me, I did nothing and I had nothing on me that would compromise my future. However; I  still complied due to the possibilities of what could happen if I resisted. Visibly taken aback  by the accusations, the officer stated stoically “this is routine don’t make a fuss”. I immediately felt violated, infuriated and powerless all in the same moment. How can these two officers identify us accurately when everyone out there dressed very similar and fit that stereotypical description? I thought I said this in my head but somehow I blurted it out to the officers. The group of friends I was with began to argue with the police officers in my defense from a distance and refused  to keep quiet about the situation. By the grace of God, we were not shot, killed or arrested.

Let’s examine this issue more in depth. Social media has created more of a public outcry to address how police officers are conducting themselves when countless acts of injustice continue to arise. How many more black males will be gunned down in these streets by officers of the law before these issues receive the national justice that it deserves? Interesting question, however, I am not here to shed light on that question.

 

Stop Being Naïve

It’s no secret that there are still racist white males walking around with badges. Ignorance, hatred, and prejudice are everywhere and will forever be an issue in this world. There are wolves out there hunting in packs and they are looking for the perfect target. Who is the perfect target?

 

Who Fits the Description

We tend to flirt with the line of freedom of choice. How a person dresses, whether that individual wants to admit it or not, influences a person’s perception. Some people will even say “who am I to judge?” but subconsciously we all judge. Our common sense tells us when going to an interview to wear interview attire (one would hope most of us do). People at church always say, “come as you are,” but the majority of its attendees wear their Sunday’s best. When playing sports you put on certain clothing, equipment, and accessories to go along with your uniform. The same holds true when we are out in public. Police officers are targeting individuals that fit a certain description. Now whether or not media and other outlets provide that description for them is a post that will come at a later date. The way one dresses does not give a police officer the right to racially profile anyone, HOWEVER a shirt and tie rarely results in a police officer accusing a person of a crime. Again, to suggest that black males “dressed appropriately” are not profiled would be naive along of irresponsible of us to say. However; there is a quote that suggests that if you argue with a fool because from a distance you cannot identify who’s who. So do not perpetuate the stereotype.  Be intentional in your identity leave no room for mistaken identity or perceived intentions; don’t appear to be a threat.

 

Create Value for our Own Life

How do we expect authorities to value the human life when African American males are killing each other in record setting numbers? People will argue that the police should be held to a different accountability, because they are sworn to protect and serve. Well I don’t fully agree with that because as human beings it’s never okay to murder anyone whether you are a police officer or a civilian. As a black man in America it’s difficult to wage war against the police when there is war in my own community and most victims are not written in the obituary section of the newspaper because of the actions of police officers. There is value in the belief that police officers should be taught more preventative measures  instead of reactionary.

 

Comply With the Officer

We need to educate our children and adolescents how to interact with the police. We need to understand their boundaries as police officers by understanding the law. In addition, the way we communicate, whether verbally or physically can dictate the actions of the officer.  It is never ok to sass, resist, assault or threaten a police officer because you will lose that battle 100% of the time. Yes, you need to know your rights and what can/cannot be done; however all of that goes out the “window” if your are resisting.

 

Social Media

Learn the facts of a case, instead of believing  everything you see on social media. We all see a lot of videos of occurrences, shootings and other negative perceptions of what we think happened. Before we draw a conclusion of said occurrences, ask yourself if you were a police officer how do you think you would handle situations and circumstances that arise in your community. Would you trust every person that you pull over? Would you be comfortable observing someone reaching for something in a dark alley when you are only trying to question them?
Now I know there is someone that is reading this that is saying that “this sounds compromising” and that’s fine. However, I am simply a man that has a family and I believe love conquers all. I will never advocate for hate of any kind and profiling. In the same thought, all cops cannot be made out to be the bad person; it is just as wrong as being profiled for simply being a black male. Being a police officer is a job that many of us do not understand. People put their lives on the line daily. Just like everything that is meant for good in this world, the devil has infiltrated many police organizations.

I Don’t Need A Mentor

The most common mistake that young professionals make upon entering a workforce is assuming that the knowledge that they acquire in school both (both in and out of the classroom) is enough to deem them successful in their first job. From the growing number of degree holding professionals seeking employment and the limited number of jobs, we know that this is not true. There are many factors outside of the dichotomous experience of college (academic & practical) that determine your success as a young professional, some that you might have control of and some you may not even be aware of.

As young professionals we come into our new industries believing that we have been equipped with all the tools that it takes to become an effective professional because of what we learned in school. What we do not realize is that we have been taught to use so many different tools to make us successful in the field that we may not necessarily know how to appropriately use or master any one becoming as the saying goes a “jack of all trades but a master of none”. The tools that we have acquired through the education process are usually surface level and in a hypothetical setting so the experience has some value but not as rich as a professional who is immersed into the work. Over the span of  four to seven years of higher education (undergraduate and graduate) learning we are introduced to concepts and theories but there are many experiences that are outside the world of academia that can only be taught through experience. Although, internships, co-ops, practicums and fieldwork serve as great additions to the classroom experience there is still something to be said about a full-time professional who has experienced the full gamut of the position and field that you are in.

So how does one fully gain advantage in such a tough economic climate? Simple, mentorship! Well maybe not simple but it is definitely easier than struggling or being stuck in your entry level  or current position. It is said that young professionals who have mentors are more likely to succeed in their industry as opposed to those who do not. Realistically, that kind of makes sense, right? Think of mentorship as professional parenting. The role of most parents is to make sure that their children have a guided but not restricted experience throughout life. The parent serves as a resource for the child to tap into when they face dilemmas or difficult decision making situations. The ideal parent allows their child to make mistakes but still advises and shields them from the dangers of the world. In event that the child’s parents does not have the answers or advice that the child needs the parent may tap into a larger resource which is the familiar structure (grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins) to find the appropriate answers. Think of mentorship the same way! Having a mentor allows you to not only get one on one advice and guidance but it grants you the opportunity to tap into your mentors professional network so that you can have your questions answered or be advised in the right direction.

Even though its ideal to have a mentor, the whole process of acquiring one can be very intimidating. We’ve made a “how-to” list which, will serve as a guide as you begin to seek a suitable mentor:

1. Identifying a desirable mentor
2. Approaching your possible mentor
3. Create a plan with your mentor
4. Scheduling frequent meetings
5. Asking for new challenges/ways to grow

Be on the look out as we begin to break down each component of our list to fully equip you in your quest for mentorship. Share your thoughts on the benefits of having a mentor or your personal stories highlighting your personal journey in receiving mentorship in your professional lives.

Now there’s only one question #AreYouVSOP?

 

Living with a purpose

Young professionals face a number of different challenges in their journey. Whether it is trying to establish a family, career or just figuring out who you are, it is inevitable that you will be challenged. You get one chance at life, so live it to the best of your abilities and most importantly, treat each day as an opportunity to define your legacy. When you leave this earth you will not be defined by the kind of car you drove, the clothes you wore, or how much money was in your bank account; but rather, the impact that you had on those around you. Now please don’t get my wrong, I like nice clothes, I appreciate nice cars and I love money, so if you can acquire those things while living a fruitful and productive life, by all means please do so.

The first point that I want you to consider is that instant gratification only leads to temporary elation. Do not allow yourself to be tricked into taking the easy way out in your quest for success. We live in a society in which we are used to things readily available. Because of this, we can fall into the trap that success should come without struggle. This brings me to another rule to live by; things just don’t happen, people make things happen. If you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, a hair stylist, or a master electrician, you must be willing to put in the work in order to see that dream come true. You must be willing to go through some periods in life that are downright uncomfortable and lonely because you may have to give up some temporary things AND people in order to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself. You must get rid of the old way of thinking that good things come to those who wait and replace it with the notion that good things come to those who WORK. Anything worth having is worth working for, and if my talents, skills and dedication can’t get it for me, then I probably don’t need it. When you work meticulously to be a master of your craft then you position yourself to be lucky. Now I know that I may have thrown some of you for a loop, I just rambled on about not taking the easy way out, working hard to accomplish your goals and now I’m talking about luck? When I talk about luck, I am not talking about Mohegan Sun on a Friday night at the roulette table, but instead the words that were spoken by the Roman Philosopher and Politician, Seneca who stated that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. The truth of the matter is that we are never fully aware of when an opportunity is going to come our way, so we must always be on top of our game and prepared to show that we are worthy of what is put before us. So we’ve spoken a little bit about being the best that you can be as far as goal setting is concerned, however that is only half the battle. You have gotten where you are today because you have shown a willingness to work hard to achieve whatever personal goals you want to achieve. Now comes the fun part, going out into the world and making things happen. Each person in the world has something to contribute, whether good or bad, whether big or small, we all make a contribution to society as a whole. The challenge is to identify what you are currently contributing to society and to assess if your contribution is having the impact that you want it to have. You should know what your best is and you should know what your limitations are, if you allow society to determine these things for you, you are bound to be lost, unsatisfied, angry, depressed and unproductive. Here are three things to consider as you attempt to fulfill your purpose in life

 

  1. See thing as they are but not worse than they are– simply put be real with yourself and those that are looking to you for guidance, when placed in a situation it is important to view it at face value. Over exaggeration is not necessary, never make a situation more than it needs to be. You will spend your entire life putting out fires so don’t add unnecessary drama to any circumstance that you are facing.

  2. Have a true and genuine care for the well being of others– part of your charge moving forward is to help improve the quality of life for all humans, not just for yourself. In your pursuit of the “American Dream”, carve out some time to serve your community in some way, shape or form. I have come to realize that I have gained a greater sense of my purpose in life and career interests through the work that I have done for and with others.

  3. Identify one thing that you are really good at and become great at it- We live in a world where many people are ‘Jacks of all trades and masters of nothing”. Instead, identify something that you truly want to be great at and seek out opportunities to build your skill set in that area.

These are just a few steps to consider as you establish yourself and your purpose in life. Stay tuned for our next installment of Around the Water Cooler. Be blessed!

WHAT IS YOUR MISSION

 

-In My Humble Opinion