LIGHT Always wins out the Dark!

candle in the dark

Life is inherently complicated, and sometimes it’s easy to get into your groove and forget that it’s still a daily struggle. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen various topics that have sparked my interest, and I wanted to get in on the conversation. As many of you may know, this past week there was yet another Mass shooting. It feels like yet another cognitive distortion. Before Sandy Hook, we probably thought that no one would go into a school and deliberately kill young innocent children. History has thought us that we were wrong about that. For me there’s always been this type of respect for the sanctuary that is a church, at least hear in the United States. That it takes a certain kind of vile hatred to intentionally harm those at worship.

Regardless of what our Race relations look like today, there’s just a kind of un-spoke rule. That at least in your place of worship you’re free from that type of persecution. I too was wrong, hate doesn’t have boundaries. Hate is so vile it will cross any boundary to get it’s point across.

I must admit that because I haven’t directly experienced any kind of overt racism, I sometimes like to pretend that it’s not as serious a problem as some may make it. While I recognize that as a black male I have to be a bit cognizant, in recognizing that I could be the victim of racism. That people will and are judging me based on the color of my skin. I always find myself evaluating my own blackness.

What does it mean to be black? Does my skin color mean I’m predestined to act a certain way? That I’m inherently more dangerous than some people? That I’m some how a lesser educated and unambitious person that the rest?

These are questions I ask myself often, but I don’t get bogged down by the answers. I’m more focused on writing my own story and not letting society or even the color of my skin dictate who I’m to be. I’d never really thought about this before but race isn’t a genetic construct, it’s a social construct designed to help put people into broad easily recognizable categories. It’s not something necessarily designed by nature. While your DNA can tell you where you’re ancestral background has likely roots (Europe, Asia, Africa…) There is no exact biological way to determine a person’s race. This is such a surprising finding, because you hear about forensics determining the race and gender of a victim. The reality is that their answers are just statistical approximations. Yet we place so much emphasis on a person’s race.

Interestingly even for siblings who grew up in the same household, it doesn’t mean that they will have the same personalities. If we’re not guaranteed to have the same personality of people we’re directly genetically related to. Then why is it acceptable to believe that we will share similarities to those we’re not genetically related to? These attributes make the concept of race so interesting yet unnerving. The color of my skin doesn’t tell you much about me, just as you can sometimes never tell who your siblings are.

The tragedy in Charleston, SC has forced me to re-evaluate my understanding of the presence of racism in today’s world. There are many still alive today who went through the racial turmoil of the 1960s era. So the concept of racism isn’t that far removed from my lifetime. I think for us to not acknowledge that is dangerous. By remembering the past and our mistakes, we keep a constant reminder of our capacity for darkness and hatred. If we pretend that racism doesn’t exist anymore, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Science has show that we ALL posses an unconscious bias, that is part of the way our brain processes information. We must remember that just a few decades ago our government was the perpetrators of injustice. I don’t say this to be offensive, but rather to show how deep hatred and racism can go if unchecked. While we live in a society where our government isn’t usually the sponsors of racial attitudes, it’s not that far in our past that it has been eradicated.Desmond Tutu

I’m reminded a few lessons from the tragic events from Charleston. It’s not good for good people to always stay silent, because evil is always looking for a stronghold. If good people don’t stand up for what is right, evil will fill that vacuum. Secondly I’ve learnt that while we can feel a whole host of emotions during tragedy, LOVE should always be our focal point. My faith has thought me this important lesson about love:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Cor 13.1-7. NLT

I’m happy to see the outpouring of love from the community in Charleston, which is much different from the riots and the violence that we’ve seen in others that were faced with injustice. There are many aspects of love, one of which is forgiveness for wrongs. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you won’t be angry or upset when they’ve wronged you. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you won’t set boundaries to ensure you’re not taken advantage of. I think many people get the concept of love wrong. I’ll acknowledge that I’m also continuing to evolve in my own views.
I would like to encourage ALL  who read this to take a stand towards injustice. Without your voice hate will continue to thrive. Have you ever notice what happens when you light a candle in the dark? How the light seems to dispel the dark, that no matter how small the light, it can illuminate even the darkest space. How the light seem to bring a kind of peace to any situation. So I encourage everyone to let YOUR light shine in the dark spaces, to let LOVE win over hate.

Lessons I’ve learnt from not having a Plan!

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I’ve been a bit quite in the past months, while I’ve wanted to write, I instead took time to be a bit introspective. For the past 2 years I’ve been single, and have decided to be a bit more intentional about getting a better understanding of my personality. I’ve learnt so much, and I’m also very excited to see what comes next. I’ve always been the type of person who has a plan (5 yr, 10 yr, 15 yr…). Despite my best plans my life hasn’t worked out how I thought it would. With a bit of a mix of frustration and wanting to change things, I decided to forgo any new plans, and just live and see what happens. In the past that would have scared me to death, not having a plan is going against every fiber of my being. What’s remarkable is that first of all I’m still here, I haven’t succumbed to failure, and I’ve also learnt a lot more about myself and have rediscovered my faith along the way.

What is SUCCESS!

Everyone talks about being successful, yet we all have varying meanings for what success looks like to us. At it’s root success is a kind of a Social Agreement, in order for you to be successful, it doesn’t just depend on your definition; others have to agree with you. For me my success is tied to my childhood, and family upbringing. Although I consider myself as someone who follows his own decisions. My past also determines what I see as success, the messages I’ve heard as a child back home in Guyana play a big role in my definition. Despite what I may say, having a family of my own, having a stable career, are all tied into what I consider successful. For the past several years it’s been a bit of cognitive dissonance, I know what I want, but despite my best efforts I can’t seem to quite get there. For the first time in a long time, I feel as though I may finally have the tools and drive I need to push ahead.

Fear of Failure my Nemesis

I’ve been recently reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. In one of the chapters Brene talks about how shame and fear can hijack us. Sometimes it seems that my greatest enemy isn’t others, but how I think of myself. In my mind sometimes I ask “what will others think if…” That shame of letting others seem ME is sometimes paralyzing. Of course the other thought is “will they like or approve of what I have to say?” There’s a hidden danger to that type of thinking. For example when I first started this blog, it was because I saw how my words could encourage those close to me. So I thought that if I reach a larger audience, I can help and impact more people. Somewhere along the way I became more focused on whether I received any likes, or if anyone read or commented to my posts. So I stopped writing for a bit, at least until I can write based on my initial motive. I will admit that I’m not immune to other’s impression of me. I’m learning to not attach my self-worth to what others think, that seems a quick way to end up down the negative self-talk and depression roads. Sharing something that is special to me with others without regard for whether they like it is a way to be more authentic. I have to learn how to not let my worth be dictated by how others perceive me.

Not everyone will like or agree with you!

I tend to be a bit more logical in my thinking, I’m an INTJ on the Myers/Briggs if you follow those types of Personality Inventories. Making decisions based on emotional appeals doesn’t usually work on me. As a result I can seem a bit stubborn to most people, where others may have a strong emotional connection to a decision; I tend to be more logical and practical. With each passing moment and day, I think carefully about decisions I make. I decide what is best for me, and I know that others will disagree with me. I’m ok with that, afterall I’m making the best decisions for my life, while they’re doing what’s best for them. Of course the hope is that with those close to you those decisions will overlap.

(It was a few weeks since I originally started writing this post) I’d like to end with another quote from Daring Greatly

Perfection is the enemy of done.”

For me that means that regardless of whether I think this post is good enough, I should post it. I got the opportunity to visit New York for my lil sister’s Graduation, it’s funny that I still think of her as a little kid, but she’s a grown woman. Being back in New York, served several purposes. Of course the most important was to see my sister Graduate College. I also had a few brief moments where I was able to relish in the thought that, I’m at a stage in my life where I can take off for a few weeks to go to New York. Despite what I may think of myself, or my lack of career progress, I still have the time, energy, and resources to take trips like that. For that I’m grateful and feel blessed.

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How do I get there from here?

Getting there

The past few months I’ve been a bit more silent when it comes to my blog. I’ve been a bit more introspective in my writing. Today instead of getting caught up with the daily ebb and flow of life, I decided to put the remote down, and open my laptop. Like many of you I doubt myself a lot, have I done the right things? Have I taken the right steps to accomplish my future? While I do write about positive things, I too struggle with many of those same topics, and this past few months have’t been any different.

How is fear controlling me?

I listen to quite a few TEDtalks and similar programs, my newest obsession is Invisibilia on NPR. On a recent episode Fearless they explore various ways in which fear influences us. They talked about the way our brains and our physiology reacts to fear, and how our brains can’t distinguish between real or perceived fear. What does any of this mean? A simple way to put it is that if your fear is perceived, you don’t feel any differently about it. That leads me to ask the question, “Is fear stopping me from achieving the kind of future I’d like?” What messages am I telling myself, is my attitude a bigger contributor to my success or failure? A part of me definitely believes that  with a better attitude I’ll be happier. Many people believe that with happiness comes gratefulness, but I learnt in another TEDtalk; it’s more gratefulness that leads to a happier life. So now my mission is to be more grateful for everyday experiences, like the ability to get out and walk around in this beautiful place I live in. In the conclusion of the Invisibilia episode on Fear, one of the hosts Lulu Miller gives her formula on overcoming fear, and I’m willing to share that with you. Fear = Thinking + Time, if you take away either thinking or time you don’t have fear.

Haunted by Past Relationships!

My last relationship was over 2 years ago, so fell free to think “hey this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I should discredit EVERYTHING he says.” Before you completely write me off, I ask that you at least consider some of the points I’m making about my own journey, and ask if there’s any similarities with yours? Yes I know 2 years is a long time, and at the expense of sounding like some people in my life, yes I understand that’s a LONG time to be single; lol that’s a discussion for another post. I find that I’ve been thinking a lot about my last relationship, and whether it was the right decision to end it. But that’s the fallacy isn’t it, at the time it’s not like I said ‘hey I can make a stupid decision, or I can carefully consider things, I’m going to go with the stupid decision.’ Things we’ve done in our past, for the most part we’ve carefully considered them. Knowing what we know now, we can see that things could have played out quite differently. While I do still deal with the consequences of my decisions, I can’t think of it in terms of what I know now. I think it’s interesting that sometimes when we think of the past we seem to remember mostly either the bad or the good. My latest thought is that while I’m remembering the good aspects of that relationship, for other reasons it didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean that I can’t look for those qualities from someone new. Isn’t that the point of life, to learn from our past mistakes, and to not repeat our bad behaviors. Instead of focusing on the past, I could devote my energy to the present, and being intentional about the future I want.

How has my Faith helped or hindered me?

Being Christian isn’t easy, there’s many aspect that some might consider “fun” that I don’t indulge in. Without specifics, I’ve chosen to embrace a certain life, because when it comes down to it, it’s part of my nature, my upbringing. I had a conversation with my mom a few months back about some of the aspects that are central to my life, and I realized now why I’m the way I am. I was raised christian so many of those values have been en-grained into me. When I was younger I had a lot of misconceptions about what I could and couldn’t do as a christian. Without getting into any specific debates, I’d say that there were certain thing that never appealed to me. While it was fun to indulge myself for a time, that indulgence didn’t make me any happier about myself. In many cases I turned to destructive ways both mentally and physically, that weren’t any more fulfilling in the end. Especially here in my blog, I don’t specifically talk about my Christian Faith. I’m finding it hard to spread a message of Peace, Love, and Acceptance. Especially when others who share my faith, especially the most vocal ones are especially hateful to others. They preach a message of hate, ignorance, and otherness. I find it interesting that Jesus our greatest example as a Christian, when asked what’s the greatest commandment said:

… A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39 NLT

To us the term neighbor is simple, but to the people of that time, a neighbor wasn’t just the person in close proximity. A neighbor also meant people who don’t share your religion, ethnicity, or even a mortal enemy. For me that means that even though you may not share my faith, showing you love isn’t conditional, showing you love doesn’t mean that you have to share my beliefs. My central question still remains “how do I spread a message of love and understanding” when others are saying that if we don’t share the same faith, I should hate you?

My life today is different from my dreams!

Why is it that what most of us imagined our lives being, isn’t the way it is today! Remember when you were a kid and wanted to be a Doctor, a Nurse, Lawyer, Celebrity? Why is it that many of our lives are vastly different? I was talking to a friend a last week, and she shared the same sentiment. The truth though is that while some of us aren’t the things we aspired to be, we’re happy with who we’ve become. I would say that the past few years have been more about appreciating who I’ve become, and to stop obsessing about what I’ve not accomplished. Life has a way of throwing you those curve balls doesn’t it? My view today has changed, on most days I believe that “I’m exactly where I need to be” I believe that each of our lives plays out in a way that helps to orient us towards our most beneficial self. Of course we also have choices, each day we make a choice to go one direction over another. Living my life believing that I’m where I’m needed frees me up to see opportunities that my presence can help fulfill. Not in a selfish grandiose way, but I believe that there are things each of us are uniquely qualified to handle. A changing view of life means that I also no longer hold on to the idea of a Perfect Relationship. I imagined that there’s a person out there that you won’t have to face certain issues with. Imagine a continuum if you will, where there’s a certain threshold that you don’t go below, but the truth is the person isn’t a determining factor whether certain relationships will have to deal with certain issues. In some ways conflict is a necessary part of all relationships, no relationship is devoid of conflict. As Gary Thomas recently put it in a recent article “Singles: Your feelings don’t matter half as much as this” he said:

Your future partner’s ability to handle conflict will have far more impact on your satisfaction in marriage that your current level of feelings.

Realizing that there is not really a Perfect Relationship, and that it matters more how much work you put in, my views continue to evolve. I believe that this fits with other aspects of life too. Sometimes challenges or conflict highlights our deficiencies. When faced with those deficiencies do we run or give up, or do we stick around and try to overcome them. For me I believe the latter is what leads to a successful relationship, it’s not that you’re not going to have conflict, or tumultuous times. It’s learning to work through them, it’s being committed to working with the other person. This should be one of the most important tenants of any relationship..

Stop trying to do God’s job

I can honestly say that I agree whole heartedly with these statements. I’ve been wondering this question myself; if I don’t agree with your perspective, does that mean that you are wrong? If I don’t agree with someone’s perspective does that mean I can’t show them love, grace, or mercy. I intentionally don’t talk about my faith, because I don’t want to be judged by my religious beliefs, but instead by the way I live my life. Unless you specifically ask me, I won’t tell you about my faith, with a few exceptions of course.
It saddens me to hear some of the vile and hateful comments uttered by some people, it makes me ashamed to be a fellow human. It’s equally disappointing that many of those people who say those things, are also quoting scripture. Then they seem to forget one thing, when asked what’s the greatest commandment, Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself.” In that context, the word neighbor didn’t mean just the person physically proximal to you, but also included the Gentiles. As some of you may know, Jews and Gentiles in those days weren’t on speaking terms. What’s also interesting about that command, is what’s also not said. It only said to love them as yourself, there was no caveat to that love.
Furthermore no where in the bible does it say that you have to share the same perspective with others. Instead it talks a lot about living strangers, and especially those with different views. While the buble talks about judging those in the Church, it specifically forbids judging unbelievers. Interestingly this is the part many Christians seem to read incorrectly. I’m a more logical minded person, and it boggles my mind how we get that concept so wrong, when the bibles intentions are so clearly stated. Then again there are many other things about the bible that I’ve interpreted wrong over the years, perhaps this could be one of those too, if that’s the case then I digress. Even if I’m wrong though, it seems loving others, even those with differing beliefs, is the right thing to do.

Chris Martin Writes

I want to apologize up front if this post comes across a little stronger than usual. Time is short. People are dying. As a Church, we need to take a long, hard look into the mirror, and figure out real quick-like how we are representing the word, Christian.

It’s not our job to change people. Let’s start with that.

We sow seeds. Sometimes, we get the amazing opportunity to water those seeds. God brings the increase. God, through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, brings conviction into people’s hearts. He brings change.

We’ve got to stop thinking everyone is wrong if they don’t believe exactly as we do. To put it quite simply…that doesn’t matter at all.

We need to stop debating with atheists, agnostics, and Mormons. We need to stop boycotting every single business that supports gay marriage. We need to stop pointing out everyone’s faults.

And we…

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I thought 2014 was my year, maybe it’s 2015!

2015It’s the time of the year when most people make their New Years Resolutions, then just a few weeks later, they’re off the wagon already. Instead of doing that, last year I looked at things I was doing well at the end of the year, and worked on doing better in the new year. Looking back, 2014 was a good year, and I’ve come so much further today than I was last year. Word Press sent me the stats of my blogs this year, and showed me what you my readers were most interested in. I’m going to be a bit selfish and highlight a few of the post that inspired me the most. This was quite a long list, so I’ll try to keep it short.

Lessons from Criticisms! 

One of the posts that effected me the most was “Lessons I learnt from Criticism” While my feelings were hurt initially, this really made me stop and ask myself “How is my view of the world and myself different from what others see?” While criticism is mostly meant to hurt, I also asked myself if there was truth hidden in there too. Sometimes people are hurting, and whether it’s intentional or not, they want others to hurt too. I’m willing to recognize that you and I may not see things the same way, it’s not beneficial for me to prove you wrong. Instead of proving you wrong, I can spend the time finding out what’s driving your emotions, instead of sympathy, I can show empathy for you.

What’s your Mix-Tape!

While it may not have seemed like it, I had fun writing “What’s your MIx-Tape” All too often we get caught up with the daily rigors of life, whether it’s work, school, family, girlfriend/boyfriend, bills etc. Life is hard and sometimes getting a moment to collect our thoughts are rare. While you’re not actively thinking, your mind is still subconsciously feeding you messages. With so many medias these days, it’s easy to get caught up, and to not realize that you’re hearing subconscious messages. Lol and I’m not saying that you’re hearing voices, or that aliens are talking to you. I mean you’re always hearing about a new product to make you better, more beautiful, smarter, more money … If you’re not conscious you end up feeling like you’re not enough, and you need that NEW and IMPROVED THING that will make your life better! In addition to all those messages, if you’re telling yourself that you’re not smart, beautiful, or worthy. If you’re also having a lot of negative self-talk, that can be a lot on your confidence. Instead of your thought being held captive by whatever new thing is playing, why not be kind, loving and gracious to yourself. Make it a point to consciously feed your mind positive messages about yourself.

As one season Ends…!

The title “As one Season ends, so another Begins” mostly explains itself. Aside from changes in my own life, 2014 was a year of changes for many of the people around me, and it’s important to remember that life is for but a season. There are times when you’re in your Harvest Season, and other your Sowing season. You might not see the benefits of what you’re going through now (either good or bad) until another season. Advance warning, I’m going to get Biblical for a bit here.

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 – NLT

Time and time again, whether you’re a person of faith or not, you hear someone say “WHY God, why did this happen to ME?” This is just one example, but what this passage doesn’t say is that God only lets good things happen, it doesn’t even say anything about the BAD. It actually omits that word, and it does say that God causes everything to work together for the good… I’m probably going to make some people upset by saying this, but the world is full of good and bad, and while someone dying is a tragedy. That tragedy can cause a chain of events that work for good. Sometimes even in bad circumstances there could be opportunities for good. As we go through the seasons in our life, it’s important to remember that even in the worst of situations, there could be a opportunity for you to show, love, grace or kindness or comfort to someone who’s hurting.

My masculinity is a Gift!

Through a series of posts ending with “What does it mean to be a Strong Man?” I embarked on a journey to understand what it means to be a Man. As a man I’ve been lead to believe that:

  • Good men are strong and powerful.
  • REAL men don’t cry or show emotions.
  • The Man is supposed to be the provider.
  • The Man is supposed to be a hero, to come in on his white horse to save the damsel in distress.

What makes me a man, is it because of what society tells me? Am I a man because of the ‘THINGS’ I’ve amassed. Do I just live by my carnal desires, and allow myself to be controlled by my sexual desires? We get bombarded my so many messages, and sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s real or not. In many cases we’re not thought healthy ways to deal with stress or our emotions. Through this post I was thought to stop and recognize that I have male energy, and how to behave around female energy, and some healthy strategies to handle stress and life. I’m learning to live with intention, I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’m however learning to ask questions, and to recognize my short comings, and most importantly to deal with them in healthy ways.

The Meaning of Life Quotes:

One of my all-time favorite comedians is Jim Carrey, it wasn’t until I heard a commencement speech he gave to a group of College graduates did I realize how smart he also was. For the full post check out “The Meaning of Living-According to Jim Carrey” Here are a few of my favorite quotes from that speech:

  • You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you Love
  • Live your life asking how can I have an effect on the world while I’m here?
  • Ask how can my gift change the world, not what can the world do for me.
  • What if people see me without my mask! 
  • To find peace you first have to let the Armour go. 
  • Our need for acceptance, can also make you invisible. 
  • To find Peace we must let our Light shine through, and take the risk to let ourselves be seen.
  • Don’t let Wealth, Fame, Prestige … distract you from your true purpose in life, which is to let your Light shine through!!
  • There should be nothing more important in this world than you. 
  • Don’t let your EGO(the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough)fool you, know that you already possess everything you want, believe it and it will come to pass.
  • Stop worrying about how your dreams will come through, just believe, and don’t get caught up on what the vessel looks like. If you miss your chance, the Universe will find a way to bring it back around again.

I’m an Extroverted Introvert!

While I didn’t cover it in any specific post, I learnt quite a bit more about being Introverted. I’m learning to embrace myself in a more loving way, to be kind to my emotions and quirks. There are times when I don’t mind being social, but at some point I’ll need to be alone, that’s how I re-energize myself. I’m learning how to be unapologetic about needing quiet time for myself. I also learnt that in my quiet times, that’s when I’m actually much more creative, I need time to process my thoughts

When it’s all said and done, while these are the things that mean a lot to me. What I’m learning to do is to not put my stock in things such as money, possessions, or things that are temporary. There are things in life that despite our best efforts, we don’t have control over them, and life itself could be gone in but a moment. Instead of focusing on things that are fleeting, I’m going to spend this year focusing on things that are eternal, such as love, grace and kindness. I’m going to spend my time trying to make an impact on the world in a way that can make my story last for eternity. The reality is that one day I too will pass on, and how the world remembers me is far more important than money, or THINGS!