What Did I Do To Make Him Give Me A RATING?

IMG_0169I remember it like it was yesterday. We were driving back to my apartment from a museum tour and he was mainly silent. Granted, we got into a small disagreement that morning, but nothing that warranted his extended silent treatment. We were newly reconnected, and though God warned me that someone from my past would attempt to re-enter my life, I dismissed that the warning was about him.

Until the moment that he rated me.

Ok, I was in the wrong because I allowed him to stay in my home for a few days because he said that he missed me. And, the curiousness as to why I had never given him a chance in past kinda fueled my decision.

We were enjoying one another…until we weren’t.

For some reason, our long nightly conversations on the phone did not equate to the real time we spent together in person. We were on two completely different pages and while it was obvious, I still wanted his company. I was lonely.

While he was a guest in my home, I made sure that he was taken care of. This was hospitality, right? Ha. Farthest thing from it. I was petitioning for the place of girlfriend in his life and I purposed within myself that I would cater to, and anticipate his every need.

I thought that I was doing good…until. Fast forward.

As we were driving back to my house, I asked him to talk to me. He said a few words to me before he pulled out his phone. (I cannot recall the beginning of the conversation). When he opened the note app, he started to read me my report card. What I mean is that he said, your life is too planned, you are not spontaneous, your cooking is a “B,” your attitude is a “B-,” etc, etc, etc. Negative. Negative. Negative. He seriously had letter grades that dissected any possible weak area that I had.

I was stunned. I never had anyone rate my efforts in the manner in which he did. (Well not to my face). It was an insult to everything I worked hard to make happen for him. It didn’t matter to me that he came during the busiest part of my academic semester. It didn’t matter that he was a bit inconsiderate for the things that were happening in my life. All that mattered was that he proved to me that I had not measured up to his expectations.

That moment still sits with me because I allowed him to do it. While I think that constructive criticism is helpful and heed should be taken, when it comes out of a spirit of destruction, it is problematic.

I didn’t stand up for myself. I actually took it and I felt myself sink lower. I didn’t have words to counter his observation of me. I let myself down. I was not who he wanted, but I allowed him to finish out the rest of his trip with me.

What type of woman would do that? A broken woman.

Now, this is not a post to bash the individual in this experience. In fact, it is to point you back to my dysfunction as a result of a flawed identity. I didn’t know who I was and as a result, I allowed him to start to attach meaning to my life. Labels. I allowed him to measure my worth by the stretch of sight, but he didn’t have true insight into who I really was. (I didn’t know this then).

I internalized his rating. I started to pick at my self-confidence–the little that I had–causing it to become even more infested with lies. It took me a while to rebuild after this experience but it all made sense after I discovered my identity.

In my upcoming book, Woman of Royalty, I provide 10 practical steps for how to find your identity. It is not enough to just want to be better, but you must put your desire to action. You don’t have to be alone on this journey.

Pre-order your copy today on www.brianawhiteside.com. (I will personally sign your copy).

WOR flyer

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Insecure, How I Discovered This Shortcoming

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I thought that I had it all together. I was living my best life. I was finishing a degree program. I was in a relationship with the person of my dreams.

People always told me that I was attractive and outwardly I believed them, but something just wasn’t right. Somehow, deep down inside, I was still unhappy and very hurt.

These feelings caused a deep-seated insecurity within me that no one knew about. My emotional turmoil often surfaced in a bad attitude and a low tolerance for people. I was often snappy and held people at bay, why? Because I was insecure and insecurity often kept me lonely. Even around others.

I didn’t find out the truth of my positioning until I cut all of my hair off in 2013. I did a big chop (the process of cutting all of my hair’s relaxed end off), which left me with 3 inches of hair. When I looked at myself in the mirror I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. She was ugly. She was unsure. She was me.

It was a hard journey, traveling from insecurity to security. In fact, there are still moments where I negotiate between the two. One luring me to come back to the past while the other beckons me to move forward. But choices had to (and have to) be made and in that moment and the years after. I decided to try to love myself out of the insecurity that I was once bound to…and I did.

When we are insecure, we lack confidence in ourselves, which we then project upon others. This, more times than not, is when we put ourselves in prison to serve hard sentences that we were never intended to complete.

I discovered mine just by cutting my hair off and seeing myself in the mirror for the first time.

What about you?

Healing Does Not Always Happen in the Church

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I was driving on the back roads of Alabama when I realized the danger of my body. As an African-American woman living in the South, I’m prompted to think about my body more readily than when I lived in Chicago.

Perhaps it’s the legacies of oppression attached to blackness. While I’m not completely sure, I do know that  my awareness is real and my experience still sticks out in the front of my mind.

Let me explain:

In 2015, I was headed to teach in African-American literature in a maximum security prison in Birmingham, Alabama. My trip required that I exit the main expressway and drive through some unknown territory where I usually lost cellular service. On one particular morning, I was stopped by a police officer who asked me, “What are you doing here?” By “here” he meant in the white community that I was driving through. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to fear my body.

I told the police officer that I was headed to the prison to teach–my active duty as a responsible citizen committed to social justice. The officer asked for my license and insurance information and went to his vehicle to run my info through the system. When he left, I noticed that my hands were shaking. Just a few weeks prior, Sandra Bland was killed.

Now, as a Chicagoan from the inner city, I thought that I was accustomed to policing. However, I realized that I was used to black men being policed, and now that women were being targeted and killed it caused me to be unsettled even more.

When the officer came back, he must’ve noticed my parking decal in the rearview mirror because he asked if I were a student. “Yes, I go to UA,” I responded. He then asked if I could produce my ID as proof (ultimately, I need to show my “freedom” papers). After he saw my ID, he handed me all of my identifiers and asked me two disturbing questions:

Will you be traveling this way often?

Do you need an escort?

Whether the officer was showing concern or extending protection, I do not know, but what I do know is that I was made hyperaware of the fragility of my black body.

As a Christian, I struggled with the moment, and if I’m honest there are times that I still do. See, I was taught that if I got an education, stayed out of trouble, pursued God, and was a responsible citizen, certain things would not happen to me. I was told that I wouldn’t be subjected to certain treatments, but that is a lie!

And, I didn’t know where to turn because in that moment, the church house was the last thing on my mind.

Yet, as a student of African-American literature, I had an arsenal of books at my disposal. I needed validation and quick so I looked to the authors who readily spoke to this struggle–this policing of black bodies. The words of Angela Davis, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Martin Later King Jr., and Malcolm X brought my solace. Their words confirmed that what I experienced was traumatizing and that I wasn’t alone. In essence, their words helped me cope.

Now, this is not to say that I couldn’t have found this in the church, but this is an admittance that I’ve discovered that healing is not a linear process but takes place in multiple forms. And, more times than not, my access to education has helped me in more ways than I willingly admit. In essence, education has caused me to create community with individuals that I may never meet. It has helped me learn from their experiences, and in using discernment, I am able to figuratively take the meat and leave the bones.

I’m able to stand on the shoulders of the people who fought before me, while still being rooted in God. What I noticed in that moment, and what many Christians don’t like to admit, is that God called me to a mountain of influence and not just a pew. He gave me an experience to which many can relate, but equally put me at the intersection of christianity and social justice.

Ultimately, the words of the activists before me performed a sense of textual healing, and my personally cultivated relationship with God helped me to not grow bitter.

 

 

When You Feel Like Your Work Is Not Enough

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Sometimes I have moments where I feel like my voice isn’t loud enough. I’m not talking about the 3 octaves that my voice climb when I’m in a heated debate, or the outburst I have when someone does something unsafe in the middle of the road (pray for me). What I’m talking about is my work in the kingdom and the unique position that I occupy.

People who know me know that I’m not the most churchiest Christian. While I do believe in the assembly of believers, I don’t spend majority of my time in its walls. In fact, most of my time is spent on a college campus, or in front of a computer. I am a researcher and an emerging scholar in academia, but I am also a believer.

Due to the intersectionality of my position at the crossroads of scholar, Phd candidate, Christian, and activist, I often feel a bit insecure about my voice. Sometimes in academic settings I have the potential to come off as churchy. When I’m in church, there are moments that my critical lens turns on the congregation. These things happen without effort. They intertwine with my personality so seamlessly that I wonder about my effectiveness.

I, of course, have never seen a prophetic academic. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any, but just means that I haven’t made their acquaintance. This reminds me of the prophet Elijah who laments to God that he’s the only one who hasn’t bowed to Jezebel in 1 Kings. The Lord responds to him that there are hundreds of prophets in caves who haven’t bowed.

Honestly, God’s response to Elijah is convicting for me. It shows me that because of  limited knowledge that I reason immaturely. See, I don’t know who my work is impacting. I don’t know who my positioning encourages, but what I know is that no matter how insecure I may feel about the my assignment, I must remain faithful.

God uses who he will, how he will. He decides our destinies and our paths. He knows who we were before the foundations of the world. And, while I may think that the work I’m doing is insignificant, he does not.

Ultimately, this is where we have to find our grounding. We cannot measure our duty by someone else’s notoriety. We cannot decide through emotionalism our worth, but we must stand on the truth of God.

His word says that he called you. It says that he ordained you. It says that he knew you. Do not despise the day of small beginnings. I know that seems cliché especially in our hyper saturated world, but it isn’t impossible.

In essence, we must keep our eyes upward if we hope to have the victory.

When God Shows You Your Truth

“God, show me my truth”was a statement that I once said frequently. In my attempt to be more like Jesus, I desperately wanted to become better and I knew I needed God to do it. I didn’t realize at the time that my statement was dangerous and that I wasn’t prepared to see what I was asking. One day, God answered me and I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s amazing to me the ways in which we perceive ourselves. On the one hand, we see ourselves moving freely and strongly in the world. On the other hand, we witness ourselves living bound by legacies of hurt, dysfunction, and grief.

I thought I dealt with the things that God was showing me about myself but what I didn’t realize is dealing with a thing, and walking over it are two different things. I didn’t know that in my effort to become well, I healed wrong which brought other areas of my life out of alignment.

The misalignment surfaced in my personality. My inability to admit that I was wrong. My ability to walk away from people without a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, I thought so much of my life was built on strength, but it has been really built on fear and rejection. Interestingly, the two can pose as close cousins of strength, but when the light focuses they falter.

This is how my life is at the moment. In my attempt to live and say “I’m okay,” I forgot to bleed for the little girl deep inside of me. I forgot to comfort her with questioning eyes who wondered would she be worthy of someone’s love. I forgot to validate the teenage girl who was rejected from the cliques in high school. I mismanaged the moment to speak to the young adult walking through college dorms looking for her father in other men. In essence, I walked away from myself long ago and I have the proclivity to challenge those who want to stay.

God showed me these things about myself. Like garbage kicking up in heavy winds he is stirring the depths of my heart to bring to light the hidden parts of me. If I can be honest, what I see scares me. I thought I dealt with that. I thought I was free of those thoughts. I thought I had moved on.

While I did everything I could in my might to be okay, I’ve never been completely healed. Under the scab of my wounds are tender, pulsing flesh begging that I do it right this time.

I must do my work.

I’ll do it with God this time.

Taking A Stand

Will you be different?Too often we are tempted to compromise and go against our internal convictions. Sometimes it is the pressure to please friends while other times it is the weight of our familial interactions, but what is true is that there are moments where we secretly battle with adhering to the voice of God.

Contrary to popular belief, Christians do not all have the same convictions. Some may have a strong conviction for drug use while others don’t see it as a major issue. There are those that view sexual immorality as a “struggle” while others think it is a choice made in weakness. Then, there are those individuals who think listening to secular music is harmful while others love Jesus and trap music. With the varying opinions, the views of the world, and divisions in the body of Christ, there are people who struggle to find truth.

Don’t get me wrong, the bible is clear on what is sin and what isn’t. It is very open about the impacts of individual sin for generations, but what about those internal conflicts? What about the places where the bible is silent but your spirit is grieved? What, then, are Christians to do when we were once graced to do certain things but are now convicted about them?

We submit to the holy promptings within us.

I learned long ago not to seek validation from others on the things that God was telling me to do. While earlier in my walk I had the grace to party on Saturday nights and go to church on Sunday, I can’t anymore. While I once had the ability to curse someone out who was being ugly towards me, I can’t. Now, this is not a boasting moment, but more of a teaching moment.

We go from faith to faith, and glory to glory in Christ. And, in those elevation times he changes us. Majority of the change does not happen in the church house, but in our intentional quiet time with him. It is in the prayer room that God meets us and begins to transform us. Think of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17. He went up on the top of the mountain and his appearance dramatically changed before Peter, James, and John. The key to remember is that Jesus ascended to a higher place. We can correlate his physical movements with our spiritual elevation.

When you are intentional about spending time with God, he will change you inwardly. Your life may begin to convict others who are possibly living beneath who they are called to be. Your words may pinch their souls by just sharing your beliefs. While you may not seek to judge them, they may feel some type of way, because the gospel if shared in love will do that.

Just recently, I had an opportunity to overrule my inner convictions. I was invited to an event that I really didn’t see anything wrong with, but my spirit sent off an alert in warning. I was confused as to why my spirit reacted the way that it did, but I’ve learned hard lessons in the past about ignoring that type of thing. So, I told my friends that I couldn’t attend and while I hoped they had fun, I could not do it for my own peace of mind. As imagined, this upset them but I just couldn’t do it. See, I’m working on something in this season of my life. I’m building some things and can’t afford to have my spirit infiltrated with unnecessary stuff, so I had to decline.

Did I feel bad? Yes. But, I have to give an account as to why I wasn’t in position when needed. I have to be able to live with the consequences of my decisions and I just wasn’t willing to pay the price for a few hours of “fun.” To be clear, my decision was not made from a judgmental place at all, but from one a place of protection for myself, and my destiny.

So I write to let you know that it is okay to say no. It is ok to protect the fruit of your labor. It is ok to take a stand for your convictions.

Baskets of Broken Pieces

This morning I was reading the bible and came across the scriptures when Jesus fed the 5,000. Of course I’ve heard this story several times, but this time something jumped out to me. Now, I don’t want to be presumptuous and assume that you know the story, so here’s a brief synopsis:

After Jesus heard that John the Baptist was beheaded, he withdrew to a desolate place to grieve. The crowds followed him and he healed them in spite of his grieve. Evening then came and the disciples suggested that Jesus send them away because there was no food where they were. Jesus then asks what food is available and a young boy have 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Jesus then took them, blessed them, broke them and was able to feed 5,000 people. When everyone was done eating, the disciples took up what was left over which was 12 baskets full of broken pieces.

What is telling about this story is that the broken pieces outnumbered to whole pieces in the story. They started out with 5 full loaves of bread and 2 whole fish, but as the sequence of events would have it, they were left with more pieces. Even if the loaves and fish were broken up intentionally, twelve baskets wouldn’t be filled. This is kind of how it is in life. We start off whole when we enter the world, but slowly but surely, things begin to chip away at our being. The disappointments, lies, broken promises, hurts, and pain create more pieces than we realize and when we finally look at ourselves to take inventory of the damage we are met with baskets full of jagged pieces.

You may wonder where this piece came from, or when that thing merged itself with your personality. You may start to remember the events, times, days when something happened to you where you stopped believing, loving. But, remembering isn’t enough. What do you do when you see the pieces?

In essence, the pieces are evidence that an event has happened, that you’ve been wounded. It is evidence that you’ve been in a war, that you’ve survived. However, surviving isn’t enough when you haven’t healed. When you haven’t used those pieces to overcome, to influence, to shape the world for the better. Surviving will only provide momentary gratification because the pieces will still be the evidence.

What I am saying is that we see the broken pieces to deal with them and help others deal with theirs. We see the broken pieces to encourage us to move forward with the intent of healing. We see the broken pieces to encourage us towards God.