Even the most confident among us have them – physical traits, characteristics, and aspects of our upbringings that we have tried to wish away. Most of us only confess our biggest insecurities – the ones whose public disclosure might send us to an early grave – to our closest confidants. However, I’ve noticed something disturbing lately: several ladies sharing with virtual strangers (sometimes without solicitation) lesser unflattering details about themselves – and then apologizing for it.
Case in point: a recent business meeting in which an experienced executive described an earlier meeting she had with a woman tapped to work on an important project for her. The executive said that when the woman introduced herself during the meeting, “she apologized for looking 12-years-old.”
It was a funny remark, until I realized that it wasn’t. As a fellow baby-faced professional, I could certainly feel this young lady’s pain. In fact, I had surveyed the room at the beginning of this particular meeting and was pretty sure that I looked out of place. However, I forced myself to dismiss the thought, remembering that no one was as concerned about it as me.
That’s typically how insecurities work. All you can think of is what’s wrong with you or how you don’t fit in. However, if other people notice it, they hardly ever dwell on it to the same extent that you do. While this young lady probably did look especially youthful, she was clearly an adult if she was working in that position. Though she may have wanted to assure people that she had the knowledge and experience necessary to do the job, why not show them through her work and the way she conducted business rather than volunteering unsolicited information and then apologizing for that which she could not help?
Perhaps this also bothered me because it reminded me of similar conversations I had with other young women. On two separate occasions I watched young ladies, during their first encounter with a new colleague, respond awkwardly to the simple question of “where are you from?” They named their hometowns and regretfully added on: “it’s not a very good area.”
Both times I heard it, I was taken aback. I could see admitting this fact if the asker mentioned the negative reputation first. But quickly offering unfavorable information about the place where you were raised? As the only description for it? Practically apologizing for where you come from rather than proudly announcing that you made it out? Pardon my slang, but… where they do that at?
I don’t know why I was surprised, though. This is common for women. We list our flaws like badges of honor. ‘I hate my legs/hips/butt/smile/teeth/cheeks/ears/eyes/nose/hair/eyebrows/entire existence.’ Perhaps to point them out before someone else does? We give disclaimers for our brilliance. We downplay our beauty by drawing attention to what’s wrong rather than celebrating what’s right. Sometimes we even mention our flaws just to prove our humility. I have no idea when in life we pick up this habit, but I firmly believe we’ll be better off if we unlearn it. You should not be ashamed of where you come from, and you need not apologize for your imperfections. One has made you stronger and the other makes you human.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Why would you want yours to be the picture of self-doubt? People may not consciously hold your self-slight against you, but I think that it does more harm than good and is usually hard to forget. Additionally, if by chance this impression is shared with others, as in my meeting, other strangers will associate you with a quality that you don’t like before they even meet you.
This ‘hey-everybody-look-at-what’s-wrong-with-me’ habit is particularly bothersome to me because I realize that I rarely see men practice it. They are often the picture of bravado in the workplace. Occasionally you may find a man cracking jokes at his own expense like the aforementioned 12-year-old-looking young woman, but it rarely happens with introductions. Overall, I just don’t think public announcements of one’s faults are nearly as prevalent among men as women.
I’ve said it before, but words are powerful. Our internal dialogue should continually remind us to treat ourselves with kindness and care; then our external dialogue should train other people to do the same.
I’m a fan of transparency, but there is a time, place, and audience for every transparent thought. There are safe places for our vulnerability. First encounters with colleagues are not among them.
Ladies, there’s something to that old adage ‘put your best foot forward.’ Sometimes that means simply disguising your limp.
One of my coworkers has a new addition to her family. A group of us oohed and ahhhed as she told us about the little bundle of joy.
Our excitement turned to confusion when she said that her mother and father were pulling overnight shifts to stay up with the newborn. While that might be normal for most babies, this situation was different. The ‘baby’ we were discussing is a canine.
My coworker’s parents own show dogs, so we would expect them to give their puppies additional care, but wasn’t this over the top?
My coworker explained that the birth did not go as planned. Since the unborn pup was so large, the veterinarian recommended a C-section. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it presented some post-labor complications. Because Mama Dog didn’t naturally birth Baby Dog, her maternal instincts failed to kick in. Since she didn’t recognize the puppy as her own, she did not nurse it. My coworker’s parents were alternating shifts feeding the new puppy so that it would not starve. They were also watching to ensure Mama Dog, who felt no attachment to the pooch, didn’t eat her own child.
Wow? Yeah, that’s what we said.
Hearing this story made me think of the dreams and desires we have for our lives. Though we may want them to materialize overnight with minimal effort, maybe there is a reason why many of us will need to birth them ‘naturally,’ grunting, sweating, and pushing the entire time: so we know what to do with them when they arrive.
If our birthing process was too easy – if dreams, jobs, and loves simply fell into our laps without us ever having worked or suffered for them – maybe like my coworker’s dog, we would be unable to care for them. In addition to the ‘natural’ instincts we have to cultivate our dreams, we also need those learned ‘in labor’ as we working toward goals we have yet to realize. The experience gained through our labor pains will give us the insight to properly nourish and grow the dream when it is eventually born. How devastating would it be to birth a dream after little or no hard work, and then ‘starve’ it because you never learned how to care for it during the ‘labor’ process?
Even worse than inadvertently starving your beautiful dream, is the possibility of intentionally killing it. My coworker’s parents were watching Mama Dog to ensure that she didn’t eat her pup. The baby that came from her was not safe with her because she had no attachment to it. Not only did she not recognize it, but she resented it. Likewise, you and I can be a danger to things which we desire but never earn. We may not appreciate them and may resent the amount of work they require. Failing to recognize our dreams’ beauty and promise, we who should nurture and protect them might be the very ones to bring them harm. How tragic.
It all boils down to trust. How much work is required on your end before God can trust you with the dream? See, I left out one minor detail about my coworker’s parents and this new puppy: they bred their dog specifically to birth another show dog. So while Mama Dog had little attachment to her pup, all of their hopes and dreams for future dog shows were wrapped up in Baby Dog. Sadly, the vehicle they used to birth their dream was not emotionally invested.
God, in His infinite wisdom, prefers not to have a situation like that. Therefore, the Lord places the dreams in our hearts in the first place. He knows that without a passion for them, we will never care for the dreams that He plans to birth through us. While we have a desire for a dream at conception, the ‘labor’ process helps us realize just how badly we want it. Once we have labored, He knows the dream is safe in our hands.
In our low moments, we might think that we’re slaving away pursuing some dream because God has not favored us. We may think He has forgotten us. We may even think we’re indefinitely put on hold because the Lord enjoys hearing us beg. We are mistaken.
God has favored you. He’s not on some power trip by making you wait. And if He’s like most parents, He does not at all enjoy listening to you whine. The truth is He loves you too much to let you squander the blessing. The manifestation of your dream would benefit too many people for Him to allow you to kill it simply because you don’t see its greater purpose. The one surefire way He has to ensure you respect, nurture, and use your dream appropriately, is to hold your hand as you birth it the old-fashioned way – through much blood, sweat, and tears.
The devil was beating his wife the other day.
It is an old wives tale, that whenever a rain shower fails to chase the sun from the sky, the devil is supposedly abusing his better half.
I don’t recall the rationale behind this silly theory, but it was the first thing I thought of last week as I marveled at sunbeams stubbornly shining through a slow, steady rain. Downpours are typically accompanied by dark clouds and gloomy skies, and sunshine by fluffy white clouds set against a light blue backdrop. Yet here were those two opposites, sharing one sky.
Christians often relate difficult seasons to storms. When they rage in our lives, these storms cast darkness over our situations and blow our emotions to and fro. We seek an anchor in God through Jesus. Sometimes, the storms can be so violent, and our life skies can become so black, that we have difficulty seeing God. We fumble around blindly in the dark, wondering if He has forgotten us.
We tend to think of God as residing on the other side of our storms, resting at the proverbial finish line and cheering us into a season of sunny tranquility. However, the Christian walk is an intimate one – with Jesus matching us stride for stride, every step of the way. That rainy day as I watched the sun twinkling in the sky, I remembered that God is everywhere, even in the storm.
We obviously give moments of torrential downpour much of our attention. They are impossible to ignore and change the entire landscape of our souls. We also try to remind ourselves to cherish the bright times in which there is not a cloud in the sky. However, I want to challenge us to be more cognizant of the less severe storms in which the sun and the rain are both present. Those trying times in which raindrops pelt mercilessly on our minds and hearts, but in which we can still visibly see the Son shining. Those beautiful moments in which our entire beings ache, yet we can somehow still feel His comforting embrace. Those instances when He reminds us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Those blessed occasions when we don’t have to wait for the rain to end in order to see the sun.
Interestingly enough, though Christians often doubt and worry, darkness never forgets that light is present. After all, why do you think the devil is beating his wife? I don’t mean to make light of domestic violence, but those who are guilty of it unfairly take out their frustrations on their significant other. It is not the victim’s fault, and not the result of something that s/he has done. Instead, it is the abuser’s attempt to control someone after realizing how much s/he does not control.
I think the old folks said the sun shining through the rain was evidence of the devil beating his wife because they knew that it infuriates the devil to realize that, though he may have succeeded in raining on our life’s parade, he has little permanent impact because the sun is still shining. He can send a downpour to intimidate and depress us, but the Son is still shining, brightening our situations and filling us with an inexplicable joy in spite of current conditions. So the devil does what losers do – he takes it out on someone who can’t defend themselves, in this case his wife.
I can’t verify the wellbeing of the devil’s wife, but I think the sun shining through the rain is God’s way of brushing his shoulder off, declaring to the devil, and reminding us: “if you don’t know, now you know…”
If we take the time to notice God in the moments in which He is boldly shining through the rain, if we take comfort in that reminder of His presence even in difficult situations, we will be less likely to doubt His presence in the darker, more torrential downpours. And on those rare occasions when we can’t see Him, recalling how He shined through a previous problem, we’ll find the faith to carry on.
Words are complex lovers.
When you give voice to them.
After you’ve left the warmth of their embrace,
They can unknowingly betray you.
Despite the best intentions,
Their mere utterance
Makes your heart a social experiment,
Your emotions fodder for curious conversation,
And your thoughts
The very rocks the crowd will later use to stone you.
In the interest of self-preservation,
I take unspoken words that have swelled
Into a massive tumor on my tongue
And shove them back down my throat,
An attempt to choke
The feeling out of them.
Rather than call it what it is,
Determined to starve the subject
Until the point is moot,
I press mute.
Many unexpressed words, lacking purpose,
Are destined to perish.
A Higher Voice will verbalize their truth.
Yet other muted words do neither.
Those tortured, silenced remarks
Gnaw at your insides,
And by His grace,
If they bear any healing or redemptive power,
Those words will stubbornly break free.
He will give them a platform to breathe.
And your muted, anguished soul
Will finally be at liberty
When boxer Cassius Clay changed his name in 1964 after converting to Islam, it took some time for ‘Muhammad Ali’ to stick. As I toured the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., last week, I watched footage of old media interviews in which he demanded that reporters and fans use his new name. For many, it took some convincing. Even 20 years later, it was still up for debate, as most of us can recall this classic line from the beloved comedy Coming to America: “his mama named him Clay, I’m ‘a call him Clay.”
However, while the public may have needed coaxing to comply with the boxer’s request to be called Ali, there is one name he gave himself that they seemed to take to with ease: The Greatest. Known as the Louisville Lip, Ali had a way with words, using rhymes to boast his skills, flaunt his good looks, and taunt his opponents. In the midst of his trash talking, one phrase rang the loudest: “I am the greatest.”
Not being much of a boxing fan, I really had no idea when the nickname “The Greatest” originated. My visit to the Center revealed that his use of the name occurred earlier than I would have thought. One of the exhibits read: “Early on, Muhammad Ali called himself ‘The Greatest.’ He later earned the title through talent, hard work, and excellence in the ring.”
So Ali called himself The Greatest before he actually was the greatest? Prior to earning the title Heavyweight Champion of the World? Interesting.
I used to think it was pretty arrogant to crown oneself The Greatest. It seemed like the type of thing you should wait for someone else to say about you. That kind of bold confidence is generally frowned upon. Yet here was this man – this Black man, in the 1960’s, at that – floating across boxing rings, calling himself The Greatest.
It’s easy to brush Ali’s comments off as nothing more than bragging about how good he was. However, upon further consideration, I think there was more to it. I believe that he gave himself that nickname not only to inform the world that he was The Greatest, but also to convince himself. You can’t become what you have not first conceived. Other people may see it in you, and believe it for you – but it will never come to fruition if you don’t first believe that you’re capable of making it happen.
Proverbs 18:21 says “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Your words can speak life into your dreams or slaughter them. Words really are that powerful. In the beginning, God called everything He created ‘good.’ I think ‘good’ in that instance did not refer solely to what His hands had just done, or the state that each of His creations were already in. ‘Good’ was also prophetic; sure, He was saying that everything was good in that moment, but He was also speaking life, declaring that His creations would be good in the future. And then, even for those other matters in which our human frailties have caused things to be less than good, God still sees their potential, as He “calls those things which are not as though they were.”(Romans 4:17) The power of words.
Ali called himself The Greatest as if he already was. Then he put in the work necessary to back it up. He believed in himself and then the entire world followed suit.
Stop waiting for someone to be your hype man. Don’t press pause on your dreams because you think you need another person to tell you how great you can be. Muhammad Ali is living proof that you can do that yourself.
But will you? Do you have the courage to declare who you are and who you are determined to become? Do you have the drive to find The Greatest in you?
Photos taken at the Muhammad Ali Center. On the left, I was trying my hand at the speed bag.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., I dragged myself into the gym and plopped down on a bench in the ladies’ dressing room.
As I was coming, another woman was going. She pulled on her jacket and peered across the room at me. I was still holding down the bench, pulling my change of clothes from my bag ever so slowly.
“It’s okay,” she said. “You made it here.”
I laughed. Was my dread that obvious?
Maybe there was an entire day’s worth of frustration etched across my forehead. Or maybe I wore the shame of someone who had eaten healthy all day only to waste it on an all-fried-everything Chick-fil-a dinner. Perhaps I sighed aloud rather than in my head as I wondered whether that heavy meal would hold me back once I stepped on the treadmill.
I don’t know what prompted her to say it. Regardless whether she associated my defeated body language with the day that lay behind me or the workout before me, I’m glad she said those words: “it’s okay, you made it here.”
She was right. Although I tapped into some emotions today that made me want to curl up under my covers, I made it to the gym. Even though I ate something I immediately regretted, I still made it to the gym. Whether I felt like I could pull off a good workout or not, I had made it to the gym. That alone should encourage me.
And it did. Greasy dinner aside, I went hard at the gym. In fact, I think I tried to right that fast food wrong by exercising harder than I would have if I had eaten a healthy dinner. Fueled by my diet failure, I set a new personal record.
But it didn’t stop there. Her words and my adrenaline rush talked me out of an earlier decision not to post to the blog this week. My brain was spent and I didn’t have it in me to tackle any of the topics in my head. However, my time at the gym gave me just enough energy to come home and place my fingers across my laptop’s home row keys just long enough to type this simple post.
If you are anything like me, sometimes you can let your failures weigh you down. You’re dragging through today because you’re still dwelling on the mistake you made yesterday. And you’re so consumed with that one misstep that you assume it has thrown off your next move.
However, as that woman told me, it’s okay, you made it here. You may have messed up back there, but you made it here. Showing up, or stepping into a new headspace in order to make a better decision, is half the battle. Pat yourself on the back for that small achievement. Understand that what you did then can only hold you back now if you allow it to do so. Use that previous failure to motivate you to achieve your next success. You have something to prove now – that you can bounce back. So let the mistake push you further than you would have otherwise gone.
Don’t allow the present and future to be clouded by your past failures. You may have screwed up, and you probably can’t take it back. But it’s okay, you made it here, to this moment, with intentions to do better. So move forward.
Workplace greetings typically fall in to one of a few tried and true categories. Some say ‘hi,’ other’s ‘hey.’ The more formal offer a ‘hello.’ For the naturally sullen or caffeine-delayed, it may be an inaudible grunt. Many give a pleasant ‘good morning’ with a smile. And from the impossibly cheerful, you may receive any combination of these followed by full blown conversation.
But a certain coworker’s greeting is distinct: “happy day.” Morning or afternoon. First encounter of the day or fifth. Always, “happy day.”
At first I thought this unique phrase was the result of his Central American upbringing. Perhaps “happy day” was Spanglish for “have a nice day.” However, my translation made little sense when I realized that sometimes he says “happy day” as a greeting, has a short conversation, and then says “happy day” again in closing.
After a couple of years sensing the general spirit of his words without knowing their literal meaning, I have decided to interpret my coworker’s catch phrase precisely as it is stated: happy day.
I think ‘happy day’ is first and foremost a declaration. Today is a happy day. We are alive, loved by some, tolerated by many, doing the mundane or the exciting – thus, living. A happy day indeed.
I also believe ‘happy day’ is a statement of intent. It is a public announcement of a personal decision to be happy regardless of how the day unfolds. We tell people to have a good day with the understanding that they do not have total control of that outcome. Evil may tap them on the shoulder; foolishness may repeat their name with the same crass, annoying tone as that chick in that one Madea movie. They may come face to face with misfortune as they round life’s next corner. Yet, no matter what the day holds, they can still choose to be happy. Sure, life throws us curve balls and even has the nerve to send fastballs crashing into our chests from time to time. However, for the most part, on most days, we can choose to be happy.
I wonder how much richer our lives would be if we started each day not with the intention to be great, or the desire for awesome things to happen to us, but simply choosing a happy disposition. What if we rose each morning with plans to fix those things that prevent us from achieving happiness, to banish those thoughts that threaten our joy? Imagine if we declared to ourselves and the world that this day, regardless of yesterday, and not investing too much hope in tomorrow, we will be cheerful. Today we will be happy.
Finally, I believe my coworker’s ‘happy day’ is a wish. That others might view the day as he does: as an opportunity, a gift to be unwrapped with excitement. An infectious hope that those who cross his path are welcome to catch if they refuse to allow life’s hardships and heartbreaks to make them immune.
Today I’m simply spreading that hope, publicly declaring to readers that today is happy, and announcing to the universe my intent to remain happy in spite of it all. Won’t you join me?
Did I ever tell y’all about the stranger I let hold my hand?
*In my golden girl Sophia Petrillo voice* Picture it: Washington, D.C., 200X.
It was a beautiful summer night. My girls and I had been keeping vigil inside a dead nightclub with the hopes that the scene would find its pulse again. But ready to ‘call it,’ I abruptly pulled the plug, chucked the deuces, and rolled out solo.
It was late, but since I was in a good part of town and the streets were sprinkled with other party goers and deserters, I felt safe. I took my time strolling to my car, thankful to breathe in air that wasn’t first filtered through a roomful of lungs. And just as I adjusted to no longer feeling the club’s stereo system vibrating in my chest, something else set my heart racing.
It was a hand. Masculine. And swiftly, expertly enveloping my own. Its owner had snuck up behind me, taken my hand, and matched my stride before I even noticed him. I turned toward this crazy man, prepared to reclaim my hand and reprimand him for invading my personal space.
But I didn’t. He was smiling, a gorgeous grin that made you forget why you were angry in the first place. His eyes were soft, but they boldly dared me to pull away.
Now, I usually reserve public displays of affection, particularly prolonged PDA, for men that I really like – or shoot, at least know. But here was this strange man holding my hand, and here I was, letting him. Though I’ve had no problem pulling my hand away from men I’ve actually dated, I was comfortable and content to stroll hand in hand for blocks with this beautiful stranger.
Fineness aside, there was something about this man’s grasp that kept me holding on. His grip was firm, but not threatening; disarming yet strong; comforting and confident. It said, ‘I’m not letting you go, but I won’t stop you if you want to break free.’ It was perfect.
Recently, I recalled that brief walk holding hands with a stranger. The trigger was a Kelly Price song. Though it was three minutes long, I decided that the lyrics’ last seven words – about holding hands – were the most important.
It’s a gospel tune, one in which the songwriter confesses a list of unknowns, specifically what tomorrow will bring. But that’s okay, she sings, because “I know Who holds the future, and I know Who holds my hand.” The first part of that sentence is usually enough to help me sleep at night. But that conjunction? Maybe it’s my current station in life, but the conjunction seals the deal.
I’ve held hands with a few men in my day. I’ve even loved a couple. But I have a million other memories with them that overpower those spent simply holding hands. Therefore, it was this brief encounter with the stranger who only held my hand, and perfectly at that, which reminded me how much weight that can carry if done properly, and if appreciated sufficiently.
The perfect hand-hold demands nothing but vulnerability, and gives a world of strength, peace, and comfort in return. It guides rather than tugs. It is a reminder of someone’s presence, and a promise that you don’t have to walk alone. It gives you courage to venture where you ordinarily would not go. It is a steady grip when your steps falter. It gives you the freedom to let go, but the encouragement to hold on. It is perfect.
So many of us only focus on the fact that God holds the future. We look to Him for clues of what the next day will bring while steadily laying a heap of problems at His feet. However, maybe God wants us to value the fact that He holds our hand as much as, if not more than, the fact that He holds the future.
Perhaps what God wants most from us is vulnerability, and enough trust in Him, to let Him hold our hand. Even when we haven’t known Him very long. No matter who’s watching. Regardless of where He leads us. Maybe He beams each time we choose not to pull away.
There are so many places God wants to take us and so many miracles He wants to perform. Yet sometimes He approaches us like that handsome stranger did me, only offering a hand to hold. Something so simple that He hopes we’ll come to realize, is so incredibly powerful.
P.S. Menfolk, don’t try this at home
There are few things antsier than my right pointer finger as it flies across my car’s radio console. Trying to find the best song, it presses buttons for over a dozen pre-programmed stations, one after the other, giving each channel only a couple of seconds to state its case. A few times, my finger has gotten so carried away that it moves on to a new station before I even realize that I liked the song the previous channel was playing.
Modern technology has only enabled my incorrigible rapid-fire finger. Now that radio consoles display both the song title and artist alongside the station name, I don’t have to wait for a familiar lyric or beat before I can name that tune. The car does it for me.
It’s a beautiful thing. But there’s just one catch: sometimes the timing is a few seconds off.
I was recently flipping through stations when my eyes landed on Jodeci’s oldie-but-goodie “Stay.” Naturally, I decided to stick with that channel. However, there was a disconnect between what I saw and what I heard. The display read “Jodeci,” but my ears registered a less enthralling modern R&B hit. Then, within seconds, the correct song title and artist appeared. Jodeci was nowhere in sight. Ugh.
Since the song seemed to be winding down, I decided to stay with that station… for a little while.
My waiting was not in vain. After a few moments, K-Ci, Jo Jo, Dalvin, and DeVante made their entrance as my real-time listening caught up with the projected programming. Good thing I hadn’t changed the channel.
I think that sometimes the decisions we make in life can be as hasty as my music choices. We give jobs, situations, places, and people only a moment to prove themselves worthy of our attention. We’re sifting through options so quickly that we don’t get a definitive read on them. We fail to realize that sometimes what is playing out in real-time before our eyes will soon phase out.
However, God, in His infinite wisdom and supreme patience, knows that we make rash decisions with limited knowledge. He predicts that we will try to change the channel so quickly that we miss the next blessing on the line-up. So sometimes, He graciously gives us a glimpse of what is to come in order to keep us in the right place.
It’s in those moments, when God has provided a clue of what lies ahead, that He asks us not to touch that dial. He knows that though we grow impatient, only a moment separates the present from the future. So He encourages us, allowing us to glimpse future greatness in hopes that we won’t change course. He promises it will get better. Then like Jodeci, He asks, “Won’t you just stay… for a little while?”
To what channel is your life tuned today? Don’t make the same mistake my antsy fingers sometimes do. Make sure you know what’s playing before you make a decision. And who knows? God just might let you take a peek at His play list.
Easy listening, my friends. And happy living.
“I found my everything in you.”
That Mary J. Blige lyric ranks up there with Jerry McGuire’s “you complete me” as one of the most swoon-worthy phrases one could – but should not – say. It is romantic and flattering. It is what many of us have dreamt of hearing since we read our first fairytale or were introduced to romantic comedies. But is it a wise, or even realistic, expectation?
A while back I wrote a post about our tendency to fear love and marriage because of past heartbreak and relatively high divorce rates. When a reader posted my piece on Facebook, I got into an interesting conversation with one of her male friends. He said, “I would love to be married but don’t imagine how I can be successful meeting most, if not all, of the daily needs of someone else… that level of accountability is uncomfortable for me.”
He explained that in his previous relationships, he had fallen short of the man that his woman needed him to be. He possessed several attributes that most ladies want in a man – hardworking, taking care of traditionally ‘manly’ household chores, good credit, etc. However, among the ladies’ complaints about him (in my words): lack of sensitivity, inflexibility, not being romantic enough, and being too possessive.
Since I can respect a man who not only takes his responsibility as a husband seriously, but also tries to do everything in his power to keep his woman happy, I wanted to let this issue marinate in my brain and my heart.
Months later, my thoughts are well seasoned. And I wanted to cook up a post because though the afore-mentioned song is one of my favorite MJB tunes, unfortunately it is indicative of the problematic views we have about love and marriage.
My unsolicited take?
We shouldn’t expect to find someone who is everything we want. Our culture prefers to acquire things ready-made. No assembly required, no additional parts needed, no fuss, no wait, no problems. This is fine for products, but people don’t work that way. What are the chances that someone with a different personality, upbringing, and life experience will be everything that you want and need in a mate the moment you lock eyes? Slim. But maybe they can grow into being as close as possible, and vice versa. Perhaps it’s more realistic to find someone who meets the major criteria that you know you cannot live without, and then jointly commit to growing together in order to love the other as s/he desires.
(Considering that the list of ‘problems’ this man provided fall in line with complaints women typically have about men in general, I wonder if both genders don’t have basic differences to accept, and years of social conditioning to undo, before we can truly relate to one another in the first place.)
No person should be your everything. Everything? That means without you, I have and am nothing. That means that you, a human being capable of changing and making mistakes, are solely responsible for my happiness. Truthfully, I don’t even want to be my own everything. I let myself down, I’m indecisive, I keep bringing up old stuff… As a human, I’m incapable of meeting the standard. But I know a divine being who can. Listen to Tye Tribbett’s “Everything” and set your sights higher.
Ego won’t allow you to be less than someone’s everything. Ego says ‘this is who I am; take it or leave it.’ While I fully support the essence of the ‘take me as I am’ mantra, we all must admit that we could be better. No matter how great we believe ourselves to be, there are some aspects of our personalities and our lovin’ that can be improved. A man may have to practice a little more emotional intelligence than usual to be with me, but perhaps that will make him more kind-hearted and better able to relate to others. Conversely, sometimes I am, ahem, overly emotional. Maybe the future Mr. will help me take fewer things to heart. If we’re not so defensive about the areas in which we fall short, if we don’ expect the other person to simply ‘deal with it,’ and instead are willing to take the time and energy to improve, maybe we can have healthier relationships. Is it easy? No. But if you’re not ready to be challenged, you’re not ready to love.
We should be looking to other people for some things. While I’ve mentioned that you risk being disappointed when you expect someone to be your everything, let’s also consider that being your everything is an overwhelming responsibility for your significant other. I’d dare say it’s a burden. When you constantly tell someone how they don’t measure up, they will feel inadequate. Plus, I can’t help but wonder if we’re always using a fair measuring stick.
I recently decided I wanted to do something, but I knew there was a good chance that no one in my regular crew would want to join me. I was temporarily blown – until I thought of another friend outside of that circle. We’re good friends, but just don’t have as many opportunities to hang out. I hit her up and she was immediately down to go! It was wrong for me to be disappointed my regular crew wouldn’t want to attend this event. Though we enjoy many of the same things, it’s unfair for me to expect them to like everything that I like. That’s why I have other friends.
Though there are clearly some things you will need your boo to do with you or certain conversations you need to feel comfortable having with them, and while this doesn’t get anyone off the hook for developing certain attributes as a person, I wonder if there are times we could take the pressure off of certain people in our lives simply by occasionally turning to others. This is not an invitation to cozy up to other members of the opposite sex. It is simply a suggestion to take advantage of all the beautiful relationships and friendships you’ve currently been blessed with, particularly the same sex ones, rather than consistently draining the primary one.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be everything my future hubby has ever desired in a woman. But since I’m working on having more realistic expectations, the most I can hope for is coming pretty close to the woman of his dreams – and then committing to spend a lifetime trying to close the gap. I pray he’ll do the same.