The Value of Openness

I am amazed at how much I love the people of India!  About 3 years ago, a friend asked me if we could go to India as we were preparing Christian business students to use their business skills to serve in underdeveloped cultures.  I mean, really, we could have gone to a hundred, if not a thousand, other places. We ended up in India.

After visiting India for the third time, someone said to me, “you seem to just fit in.”  I didn’t really give much thought to the comment until someone said: “when you speak, you connect with the people so easily and in such a short period of time.” At first, I didn’t think much of what was said, but later, I was reflecting and that comment came to mind.  Later in the evening, I started thinking about the comment again and as the night rolled around, and I couldn’t sleep due to all the party noise outside the hotel window, so I began to write this blog.open-arms

Have you ever met someone who says they value others but their actions tell a different story?  I think, like little babies, some people can sense if you are an authentic person or not. In fact, I think many of us can tell right away; it is something in our gut that tells us about another person. The reason we get fooled is because we allow ourselves to be fooled; we override the feelings we have about that person. I believe we have conditioned ourselves to “give the person a chance” when signals are flashing in front of us. Some people refuse to be authentic. I didn’t say they cannot be authentic, they choose not to be.

The concept of authenticity and openness are very different. Some people will say what they think others want to hear, but they don’t have the heart (openness) to learn from others. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are just people. Regardless of our status in life, we are people.

I was thinking with all my credentials and some popularity, it can be so easy to become so full of myself that I will not “hear” the heart of others. How about you? Do you guard yourself against that too? Have you had to do like me and remind yourself that you are not all that?  I didn’t say that you had to belittle yourself, simply have you stopped yourself from being or acting as the superior one in the midst of others and become the humble one?  Have you learned that regardless of what levels we reach in life, at the end of the day, we are all just people trying (I hope) to do better?

When we see the other person who may not look like us, talk like us or behave in the same manner that we are accustomed to behaving, do we look and say “I love that” and really mean it? Or do we look at that and judge that how they look, speak and behave must conform to how we see the world? Shouldn’t each of us look at others with the eyes of learning something different, yet wonderful? I think that is what openness is about. I didn’t say that one culture is superior to another. I am saying that when we embrace an “openness” attitude, we grow a little more, we accept a lot more and we love a great deal more.

Get Back At It!

no-blame-no-excuses So here we are in another year.  I did a pretty good job accomplishing my goals of 2016 and I intend to work hard to do the same this year too.  I realize that I can’t do everything and that’s why I establish priorities.  That’s what I want to share with you as January starts to fade and the year takes off.

The month of January is when we set our sights on what we want to accomplish in the year. Many cynics show up during this time too and tell us not to waste our time writing goals.  I shake my head and wonder who will we listen to; the cynic or our hearts.

As for me, I don’t listen to cynics. I hope you won’t either. However, I would like to remind you of a couple of things.  First, if you don’t set smart goals, you will end up anywhere and then you can’t complain when the things you felt you should have accomplished never got done. Second, always remember at the end of the day, you control your destiny. “It’s Your Life; Own It” is one of my mottos. Third, you can either determine the path you will take in life and get at it, or you can let someone else determine it for you. In the end, whatever happens, if you decided along the way not to be an active participant in your destiny, it’s all on you.

It’s Your Life; Own It is one of my favorite statements because every day I hear someone say something or see someone post something on social media about how someone “messed” with them.  I have listened to the comments about how they didn’t get the job or the promotion. I have read the same type of comments about how they wished this person would leave or be removed from a position of power because that person will never give them a chance. I have listened to those who can’t seem to stop saying what they “can’t do.” Or they refuse to self-assess and make changes. I have accepted invitations to mentor some and coach others. I can tell right away those who only want to complain about their situation or they want to brag about what they are doing or want to do, and those who are serious about getting “at it” to make a positive impact on their everyday lives.

The questions I have for you as we “get back at it” this year are these: Are you serious about doing something more?  Are you truly interested in achieving something you have dreamed about? Do you really want that position? That promotion? Do you really want to finish school? Do you really want to open your own business? Do you really want to write a book? Do you really want to exercise more? Pray more? Study your Bible more? Do you really want to start a Bible study group? Do you really want to travel? Do you really want to be a better parent, spouse, or friend? What do you really want to do? You see, we can always dream and imagine, but do we “really want”  what we play at wanting? Because, when I “really want” something, I do something about it.

be-relentlessI learned long ago when I wanted a promotion where I worked, I went for it. When I didn’t get it, I tried other ways. When I still didn’t get it, I tried other companies.  When I wanted to travel to Asia or Europe, when I couldn’t fly business class, I flew coach or discounted airlines and stayed in cheaper hotels until I got to the place and status in life where I could stay in better ones. When I decided to write my book and couldn’t get a publisher, I self-published. You see, there is always a way. Let me share a true story:

I always dreamed of running outside. I never did. I would work out every day doing step aerobics or some form of exercise, but I desired to run like others did. I would stop myself by saying to myself that I hated running (knowing full well that was not true). I then would say, “I couldn’t run.” After I got sick in 2012, I could do very little exercise for almost a year. The only thing I could do was walk. I began to walk every day until I was walking 5 miles. I remember when I was out walking, I would talk to God about my fears of my illness. That time turned into a spiritual time.  In 2013, somehow I emerged from my illness. I continued walking but found myself jogging a little also. I began telling myself “if you could do 3 classes of step aerobics, one right after the other, and they were advanced, why don’t you think you can run?” It was like a lightbulb came on. I began running. Today, I can run 10 miles in two hours. Every day of the week, excluding weekends, I run no less than 7 or 8 miles each morning.

Look, there will always be some excuse or blame as to why I didn’t accomplish something; I just don’t want the excuse to be me. Do you? Set your sights high. Work to make your dreams a reality. Brush off naysayers and push aside negative thoughts. Stop telling yourself what you can’t accomplish and start affirming yourself daily, hourly or even by the minute. Just don’t stop….

 

 

Embrace the Future!

beach-blue-embrace-future-jetty-favim-com-1820722016 was a tough year; A roller coaster ride may describe it for many of us. In fact, it was probably one of the most passionate and volatile times of my life.

I, like many of you, read the combative and impassioned pleas on social media regarding the elections. I listened to report after report on the news. I heard the warnings of friends and foes just like you. Was it just me or wasn’t there lots of negativity throughout the year? Many times I felt that I should disengage from social media. Social media was not so social throughout the year.

Can you recall any positives?

Think, You see, if we aren’t careful, all we will recall will be all the negatives. Stop. Think. Reflect. Weren’t there some positives? Of course, there were.  You see, again, if we are not careful, all we will do is focus on the negatives. We will allow the negative to drown out the positives.

Yes, that’s what I said, the positives. Didn’t you experience positive things in 2016? Even if you had a challenging year physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, I bet if you would focus, you will find that you have probably had many positives threaded throughout the year.

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is what we as Believers should focus on; not on the problems in the world. The Word of God tells us the He has overcome these things. Do you believe Him? I do!

Regardless of what negatives may have happened over the last year, are you going to trust God? Are you going to choose to believe that He has plans for you? Are you going to focus on him and not on the things other people do or say?

When we let the voices of others overtake the voice of God, fear enters the picture.

f-e-a-rFEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. When people say things, always remember, they are speaking from their perspective. That perspective is shaped by their life’s experiences, just as my perspective is shaped by mine.  We can mean well, but the truth is, what has happened in our lives will color how we see things. If my environment has painted my mind to look at everything with a critical view, anytime I face something out of what’s familiar, I will experience anxiety. Fear feeds that anxiety, and if the people I listen to only sees the negative, that’s what I will see also.

1 Timothy 1:7 says, “God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

See, He has given us all that we need. We just need to trust Him to work out whatever it is that we have to face. God has your back. He has mine too. He has been dealing with the issues that people have struggled with for centuries; he’s more equipped to handle them than we are.

Do You Have Heart Issues Like Me?

heartsDo you ever deal with “heart” issues?

I have been dealing with heart issues lately. My heart and my head are working overtime trying to figure out myself and my motives while trying not to worry about the motives of others.

I observe people. I am a people-watcher. More than anything, I listen to people, even when they don’t think I am. I watch for signs of superiority and insincerity. These traits will show up in various ways.  All you need to do is wait.

Anyway, I don’t like the way I have been feeling lately. Like you, I have seen the best of folks and the worst. I told myself that it’s time to stop and reevaluate my surroundings; not my inner circle, they are cool, but some of my associations and occasional acquaintances. If I, or you, are not careful, these associations can become more frequent and more influential in our thought patterns. You see, we sometimes hear from these acquaintances more than from our inner circle and before we know it, their voices are in our heads and spills over into our hearts. This is the time to find our inner circle!

My inner circle is people who are more than just trustworthy; they are authentic!  They are positive, going somewhere people who energize me.  We don’t always agree, but we respect each other.

friendship-starts-in-loving-heartWe value the opinions of each other, and we trust that each one of us is intelligent and bright enough to have an opinion worth hearing. I love my inner circle because we believe in treating others well whether others are like us or not. We don’t insult others or treat people in a nasty way. We are proud and open-minded and we recognize that we don’t have all the answers, nor do we know the mind of God, but we trust God with the answer.

I am reminding myself lately to be careful to check my heart. I don’t want it to become dark and distrusting of others. I ask you to do the same.  With all that is going on in the world, we have to guard our hearts and our attitudes. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into negativity and pessimism. It’s too easy to do.  One way to ensure that does not happen is to step away from social media (which isn’t so social anymore) and read your Bible.  Stop listening to the crowd for a while, rather, sit, reflect and wait to hear from God.

The Word of God says in Lamentations 3:22-23 that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ends. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.; great is your faithfulness.”

I know that God loves me. He loves you too, but He also loves the world. The world doesn’t look the same to everyone; I get that. However, the world and all that is in it belongs to God (Psalms 24:1).

I have told myself that instead of being frustrated with what I have seen lately, I will trust God. He has always taken care of me and I trust He will continue to do so. He mends the brokenhearted and He cares about the things that bother us.  I  believe that the God I love is probably a whole lot more tolerant and accepting of those that are not like me. I don’t know, but I do believe that one day I will.

Keep It To Yourself….

keep it to yourself.2Like others, I am bothered whenI hear things like “that person doesn’t like you” or “she has a problem with you.” Look, Whatever!  Yes, I will admit it, it bothers me. I have learned to push back when someone tells me that someone feel that way about me. I push back when I have felt the animosity from a person first hand also.

You see we all have someone who do not like us. Wow, you thought everyone you met like you? Well, they don’t. What a revelation, but it is true.  The most popular people have folks that find something wrong with them. The most unpopular do too.  What makes the world go round is to recognize early if you can that we are all different and we may not like the same things nor can stomach some of the people we have to interact with.  That’s just reality and it’s okay.  My problem is with my friends and pseudo-friends.  I love you but….let me tell you a couple of things. You probably think you are doing me a favor by making sure I know that someone does not like me.  I get it.  However, please do me a favor.  Keep it to yourself.

That’s right, keep it to yourself. You are not helping the situation at all and if it bothers me to hear, I can imagine how it might destroy someone who is not as confident as I am.

You may think that you are just saying something either to help me (or to be mean to me pretending to help) but don’t. My life is full, filled with happiness and joy and on a positive trajectory. I am winning.  I don’t want to be brought into a negative space.  Honestly, I don’t believe that is your intention at all; at least I hope not. But that’s what happens when hurtful words are used even when those words are no intended to be used as such.

keep it to yourselfLook, even the best people who are positive and optimistic can be brought down, albeit for a little while, with those comments or opinions you are passing on.  Now let me ask you something. Do you feel good about yourself when you pass on that “stuff?” I bet not.

Okay, so maybe you didn’t know this. Soooooo now you know. Also know this, “Haters gonna hate.” That’s just a fact of life. I have always believed and stated when a person is focused on me, they probably want to be just like me. Of course the hater will say that’s not true. But to all my haters, yes it is.  I can’t say that I blame you though.  If I were you, I would want to be just like me too!

Haters Gonna Hate!

haters gonna hateThe first time I heard the term “Haters gonna hate” I laughed out loud.  I had to think about what the phrase really meant.  You know what I mean? Sometimes we hear these catchy phrases and begin repeating them without really knowing what they mean.

“Haters gonna hate” does not mean that they truly hate others. On the contrary, what the phrase means is people who are jealous or insecure, will always have something critical to say or imply about someone else. The term really only means that if one is a negative person, all they do is find fault, be critical or just plain and simple, have nothing good to offer. I chalk it up to them having low self-esteem. They will never admit it, but I bet they are always comparing themselves to others. Just think about it.  A “hater” has deep insecurity. They put on pretenses that they are confident and strong, when in fact, they are not.  Many times what’s lurking right under the surface is the question “Am I good enough?”  They may be really good at many things, but they seem to zone in on what someone else is good at or what someone else is getting credit for, and it bothers them. Just watch someone who you think may fit these descriptions: They brag to show what they have. They evaluate their clothing, hair, car, home, my goodness, anything to someone they are secretly competing with. The person may not even know that they are in a competition, but the hater knows. Actually, it takes too much energy for me to deal with haters, so I choose not to do so. Why? I can’t change them and neither can you. So, you should not waste your time trying. In fact, you should not give your haters a second thought. I am not joking with you!

karmaLook, haters want you off your game! The truth is they want to be just like you but they will never admit it. They want to look like you, be popular like you, be your size, do the things you do and be good at it like you are.  They may smile in your face and say all the right things to seemingly show support, but all the while, in the back of their minds, they resent you for some reason.  No worries though. I am going to tell you how to deal with them. Because if you would recognize who you are dealing with up front, you can head off your shock when they finally reveal their true colors to you. Here is my advice:

  1. Don’t watch for them, they will show up.
  2. When they show up, don’t be in shock. Tell yourself, LaSharnda said they exist.
  3. Do not waste your time with them. Be kind, professional, and aware, but do not hang out with them. Don’t be fooled into a sense of security with them. They only want something from you because they are not your friend.
  4. Always speak well of them. Even when they are not speaking well of you.
  5. When they do something to undermine you, don’t get even. Laugh.  I am serious. Laugh at the situation.  If you get bogged down thinking about what they did, they win.  You are now distracted, unfocused and vulnerable. You are not winning!  The reason they secretly resent you is because they see you as a winner.

vengenance is mineMy grandmother always said “what’s done in the dark, will come to light.” I couldn’t stand it when she said that. However, she was right.  Whatever it is that someone succeeds at doing to you or even if they try to do something to you, just remember, you don’t have to worry. If you are a Believer, the Bible says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”(Romans 12:19)..

If you are a non-believer, (I wish you were a Believer), but this is for you, Karma is a B—- and remember, “What goes around, comes around.”

 

 

Have You Tuned Out?

I don’t know about Encourage-One-Another1you, but if I don’t watch it, I can easily find myself criticizing everything.

How about you? Can you get on a roll if you don’t like something? Me too.  I  have listened to myself get on a roll if something irritated me.  To think of it,   when I start, I can just keep going and going and going. I think that’s why the word, “whiner” came about.  We just keep whining and whining until no one wants to listen. In fact, I know that’s why kids, spouses and others close to us learn to tune us out.

If you think about it, when we whine, our emotions are not “good feeling” emotions. They are stressful emotions.. They come in the form of irritation, anger, frustration, fatigue, being unforgiving, intolerable or just down right —I want to be nasty today.   I used to tell myself if people would hear how they sound, they would stop, but I am not so sure anymore. I am convinced there are those who love experiencing negativity; they just like to complain or condemn and discourage.

I block out complainers and I make it a point to try to hear myself when I get on that train.  I wantuned-out-2t to catch myself and stop to right away. I don’t want to be a person who becomes the crier of bad news and the person who is the Debbie Downer in every
situation. I don’t want family or friends to think of me as the one who is always negative. I pray to be a positive person and to be a person who can help bring joy to others.

People have a lot to deal with in life and most times, they know when they haven’t made the right decisions. They know when they could have done better but chose to do otherwise. I don’t think they need me pointing that out. I learned this from having a son.  I want to uplift him and help him. I want him to always feel that he can recover from anything; from any failure. Heck, I have.  I don’t want anyone in my sphere of influence to ever feel totally defeated, I don’t care what they have done.
You know, Jesus encouraged others. He didn’t tear them down. He didn’t look at those who was already beating themselves up for their mistakes and beat them down more.  Rather, Jesus strengthened and encouraged.  That’s what we are supposed to do too according to Romans 15:1 “We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak in order to build them up in the faith.”

If you know you have a habit of becoming negative, stop yourself. If you have tuned out and can’t hear yourself speaking negative, get a true friend who can gently point it out in you and bring you back.  If your words would change and become more positive, I bet your entire life will reflect that too.