28 life lessons learned: reflections of a black male on his birthday
today, april 2, is my 28th birthday. and every year on the days leading up to this day, i find myself thinking about lessons i've learned in the previous year. friends i've lost. mistakes i've made, victories I've won. all of it. it's very therapeutic for me because it's an opportunity for me to sit down, uninterrupted, and be real with myself about my triumphs and tragedies and the ways in which i can apply what I've learned in my new year of life. i've been doing this for a while now, but this is the first time i've actually written theses realizations and reminders down. hope ya'll enjoy.
28). people don’t owe me an explanation.
and likewise, i don’t owe them one. moving on is much easier when we learn to accept the apologies we never got.
27). God’s timing is perfect.
i was once the guy who had a list for everything; it was the timeline of my life. and as things appeared to be falling apart, i realized they were actually falling together.
26). i am not defined by a title.
it matters not how many degrees i have or how many organizations i join or where i work. those things mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. what matters most are the lives i’ve touched, the change i’ve enacted in the world and the people i bring to Christ.
25). i shouldn’t say things i don’t mean.
i have to be a man of my word. if i say i’m going to do something, i need to do that. and if something happens where i cannot carry out what i said i’d do, i need to communicate that.
24). it takes strength to be vulnerable.
life isn’t meant to be done alone. i can’t make it by myself and i will never be able to conquer my vices if i don’t confront them head on, even if the process makes me uncomfortable.
23). i am more than my worst act.
people will try and hold your shortcomings over your head forever. don’t let them. your worst act is not your identity unless you choose to allow it to define you.
22). support comes in many forms – and it goes a long way.
you’d be surprised at how a small act of kindness can literally change someone’s life. if i can give people a glimpse of God’s favor and grace through an act of good measure, i’d be happy with that.
21). everyone can’t stay with me along the way.
i can’t be keeping people in my life just because. sometimes you have to take a step back and evaluate your relationships based on who is pouring into you and who is taking from you. anyone that isn’t helping me progress is helping me regress – i can’t have that.
20). guarding what i hear, see and say has never been more important to me than it is now.
the shows i watch, the conversations i entertain, and the music i listen to are all changing – slowly but surely. i have to be more mindful of the type of content i’m taking in because everything has a seed attached to it and i can’t be allowing any and every thing have access to me.
19). i can literally do anything i put my mind to – i just can’t do it all at once.
mentally, i’ve learned to just make my to-do list (because i still love to make lists). however, now i only look at the list in portions, not as a whole. it lets me get everything out without feeling compelled to do everything at once. you should try it.
18). there’s power in my difference.
i use to try so hard to fit in because i didn’t realize i was called to stand out. now i know better. the characteristics and skills that are unique to me are the tools i’ll use to fulfil my calling and make a difference in the world.
17). i must train my eyes to see people as God sees them.
my perspective on people was flawed at one point. why? because i refused to see people how God saw them. and i noticed that the way i treated people was commensurate with what i thought of them, and that's not ok.
16). there’s more to life than being in a greek-lettered organization.
a lot of people around me are greek. and for some of them, that’s all they have. i don’t want to be that person who abandons their purpose and searches for their identity in a social organization filled with individuals who are more often than not, toiling in their personal lives.
15). i can’t afford not to pay my tithes and offering.
let me tell you something, the breath of God is all up and through my bank account because i’ve committed myself to portion order – which starts with me giving back to God what i owe Him.
14). my plans mean nothing if they don’t align with God’s plan for me.
i mean, the Bible literally said it best. “many are the plans of a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. why would i waste energy worried about figuring it out or making plans about working it out when i know what the end is going to be?
13). the people inspired by me won’t always like, share or comment on my posts – and that’s ok.
why? because social media should never be that deep and i’m no longer looking for validation from the social media. my life’s mandate exceeds the worldwide web.
12). some people want to see me fail – and that has nothing to do with me.
if you live by their applause, you’ll die by their criticism. i can’t concern myself with those that don’t like me or hope to see me fail. i gotta keep pressing toward the mark of a higher calling of God in Jesus Christ. forreal.
11). it’s my duty to be a role model to the generation of black men that will come after me.
there’s a lot of black men out there doing their thing in life, but those images and stories aren’t always making it to the people who need to see it most – the next generation of black men. as often as i can, i need to take advantage of the opportunities to demystify misconceptions about black men and the black male experience. it’s basically obligatory for me.
10). despite the amount of black men being killed at the hands of the police, i am valuable.
i can’t lie, it’s been emotionally taxing seeing the amount of black men gunned down by police officers who consistently get to walk away unpunished. this is why i barely watch the news, because the content i take in affects me. that’s why i work overtime to take in content that reminds me of how valuable i am as a black man.
9). i should never be too busy to check in on those close to me.
whether that be my family or my friends, i want to make sure those that i cherish are good. it’s so easy to get caught up in your own thing that you forget what (and who) is actually important in life. but i want to be better at allocating my time more efficiently and effectively, especially as it pertains to my village.
8). people will let me down, and i will let people down.
it’s a fact of life that we often forget when we’re the ones being let down. but just like i said earlier, people are worth more than their last worst act. so it’s important that i remember not to condemn those that i feel have wronged me.
7). “no” is a complete sentence.
it requires no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.
6). if I’m not willing to pray for them, i shouldn’t be talking about them.
gossiping is entertaining, yes. but it’s ungodly. and i can’t be out here participating in conversations that break people down rather than engaging in discussions that build them up. whether my words hurt or heal someone is always on me.
5). everything doesn’t have to be announced on social media.
it was revealed to me through prayer that a lot of things in my life didn’t happen because i released them prematurely. i’ve learned from those mistakes and have also repositioned the importance of social media in my life. i don’t have to post it to prove it. you’ll see the results when the favor of God over my life begins to manifest itself.
4). i have to be thankful for where i am in the journey.
because at any given moment, things can always be worst. and for that, i’ll always have a reason to smile.
3). there is nothing too hard for God and with Him, i can do all things.
stress will kill you. and although there’s a lot of things that do stress me out from time to time, i find peace in knowing that there’s a heavy-load sharer waiting to see me through to the other side of victory. and anytime i find myself stressed and apprehensive about handing things over to God, i remember His record is good.
2). deliverance requires persistence.
yeah, my words may have power. however, faith without works is still dead. i don’t wanna live in cycles, constantly going back and forth between things i was supposed to be set free from years ago. besides, staying bound is doing nothing but keeping me from the window of blessings waiting to be poured down onto me. picking up your cross and choosing to follow God isn't a one time thing, it's a daily thing.
1). family is everything.
God knows my family is a trip. but i will forever go hard for them and do better at supporting them to the best of my ability. that's what family is about. we protect. we advise. we support. we love. and i would not trade mine for anyone because at the end of the day, i know my family got my back.