Domestic Violence: Even Good People Can be Abusive

As a college counselor, I hear incredibly painful, unbelievable stories when students come into my office. It’s expected because most people go to counseling when they’ve reached crisis level. But there’s one topic that continually leaves me baffled and struggling to keep my focus. That topic is domestic violence. Not because of the obvious reasons, but because I’m noticing a pattern where students are blaming themselves for other people’s bad behaviors.

College students are at that critical point of figuring out what life looks like away from Mom and Dad. They’re learning how to manage roomie conflicts, deciding the best way to express their sexuality, and trying to figure out how to match their career with their calling. So, when I hear someone tell me they were hit, or verbally abused, and they excuse it, my heart hurts. My head hurts. Today, I’m sharing  3 assumptions today that need to be changed before we can stop domestic violence in any relationship.

Assumption 1: To be in a  relationship, I have to accept behaviors that are hurtful and harm me.   ABSOLUTELY FALSE.  And it isn’t just one person’s experience. A beautiful, intelligent young woman  clearly grasping at straws says, “I did something to make him hit me.”  Huh? I nearly jumped out of my chair when she said that. What can you possibly do to MAKE someone hit you? Nothing. They are CHOOSING to hit you in response to their poor communication and inability to control their anger. Please know that everyone  at the very least should have their boundaries respected EVEN  when you disagree with their opinion or choices. In other words, just because you and your significant other are screaming at each other does not mean you can hit them to express your point. So the next time you hear “you made me do it”, understand it’s a lie.

Assumption 2: Good people can’t possibly be abusive. This goes back to blaming ourselves for other people’s behaviors.  Get this concept mixed up and it will have you questioning your sanity if you aren’t careful.  There are supportive and loving spouses who unfortunately  beat their children until they have bruises on their back.  You may have grown up with men and women highly involved in church activities who were also physically fighting behind closed doors.  So, take this to heart. When someone shows you who they are, believe ALL of it. It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend is on the fast track to success at work when he comes home and slaps you for being a “smart-mouth.”  Nor does it matter if your girlfriend is the “Top Chef” of your kitchen  if  she belittles and threatens to leave you when behind closed doors. In other words, if their goodness only exist when you behave the way “they” want you too, you’re in an abusive relationship.   It’s been said that we teach people how to treat us. And every time we allow disrespect and then take the blame for it, we’ve silently agreed to being mistreated. You are worth far more than allowing anyone to treat you poorly. So yes, even good people can do bad things.

Assumption 3: It’s not abuse unless he/she hits me. This is a biggie because we assume a person can’t be abusive unless there’s physical proof.  Words are sometimes more powerful than physical force. Constant insults about your weight like ” You’re too big, don’t be surprised when I find someone else.” Nitpicking and constant criticism like “no one wants you”.  And what about the threats…”why do you always make me angry?” or “No one will believe anything you say.” Verbal abuse is often overlooked because it’s subtle and it often plays on our insecurities. Heard someone say “you’re just too sensitive?”  It doesn’t matter if he/she never lifts a hand towards you. If you are constantly questioning your value due to your significant other’s words, its time for an emotional check up. If you are afraid of displeasing them or worried they will lash out at you, another sign for a check-up. Verbal abuse leaves you questioning, doubting yourself, and it’s not healthy. It’s still abuse.

I haven’t had a physically abusive relationship but I have experienced the painful mess of verbal abuse. It was the “relationship” in which my then boyfriend was never pleased.  Every encounter left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough. So I know how some of my clients feel when they wonder….what did I do and how can I get out of this mess? It took counseling, prayer, and the realization that after I ask and believe “Who does God say that I am?”, all else  (including his criticism) falls away.   Invest in yourself to do the work to get over your past hurts, your family junk, and learn to take better care of yourself.  The right person for you will value you and encourage you in your strengths and your weaknesses.  Doesn’t matter if you have a good man/woman if  they don’t  know how to share their goodness with you.

**Written for  college students, but applies to any age group or gender struggling to understand their worth. Stop assuming and find the truth about who you are, the peace you deserve and the peace you can have.**


Hair Chronicles: She Needs to Comb Her Hair and other Natural Hair Assumptions

So, I’ve poured over YouTube videos in the past month in an effort to learn different ways to style my hair. I now know my hair is 4c, which means it’s not Christina Milianish or Beyonce-like but moreso India Arie-ish and Lauren Hill post weed-ish. Yea, it’s thick, with really tight curls, and probably the kind of hair that you would readily perm if you didn’t want the bother. Of course I learned this watching countless “how to” videos of twist outs, two strand twists and natural hair updos. It was overwhelming and I realized, this “natural” hair requires the same upkeep as a woman with a perm who has to flat-iron, deep condition and spend hours in the chair before going home and sleeping pretty at night to save her “do”.

Can I be honest? I finally get the tweets and comments that rant so eloquently: “Just because you have natural hair doesn’t mean you don’t have to comb it, comb your hair girl!!! I couldn’t figure out who they were talking about and for a while thought they were being kind of harsh. But after watching the videos, I can see the difference between a woman who styles her hair versus some (me when I first started) who would slick product in that made it curl up and hoped for the best.

I think there’s a certain freedom women with natural hair expect to have. To some, natural means uncombed, or wild and free or basically  less effort. And true enough, if you have a nice curl pattern, spray some water in it and you’re on your way.   It’s weird but even I’ve seen the side eye glances when I don’t glaze my head with pomade and oil to curl my hair. If it’s straight and afro-ish,  the thought is “you obviously  didn’t comb your hair today”. Tsk. Tsk. But if  you put curl activator in it, think Wave  Nouveau from the 90’s, then you must have combed your hair because of the natural waves. Newsflash, Care Free Curl in your head means it’s responding to something other than itself. It’s a trick of the enemy. Seriously.

There’s always a certain amount of pressure to have your hair laid. My boss is Black, and when she talks to me, she starts with my head. If she likes the style that day, she freely looks me in the eye. But don’t let it be too “bushy” even with a cute headband and some pudding pomade junk in it….she just keeps her eyes at forehead level. Shady. But I can go right around the corner to my  co-worker with the 10 yr old dreads who then raves about loving my hair “just the way it is.” I’m confused. Not really, see boss loves perm and India Arie loves natural. See what I’m sayin’?

Natural hair is not for everyone. Mine is best when it’s short because I’m a get up and go woman. But thanks to YouTube, I see the struggle of women everywhere trying to pretend suddenly they are master hair stylists holding up product and bobby pins attempting to convince me my hair is going to curl up just like theirs.  Just stop it. When you had a perm, you went to the shop. You let her trim, cut, perm and color it. Guess what? Nothing’s changed except the texture of your hair. Until you learn how to manage it, you will probably get “forehead” looks from your friends. I’m just saying. I had to tell the truth about this because I couldn’t imagine someone not combing their hair just because it’s natural. It’s a matter of perception so go easy on ’em. It will take them a while, or a decrease in dates and no one wanting to be seen with them, but they’ll get it soon enough. The uncombed head is not cute. So, even if you think you can rock a Solange 70’s fro with nothing on it, (which is  suspect even for her), let a stylist work on your head now and then. This PSA was supported and submitted by a former uncombed head. Even though it took me an hour of struggling every morning and it still looked that way, I have now been set free. Talk to you later. I have a hair appointment in the morning.

Exercising is for the Birds & Other Excuses That Leave Us Fat

Every day after work, I climb on the treadmill. For the past two weeks, I go at least two miles a night, sweating my hair out while my achy knees screech back and forth.  With the exception of tonight, it’s now a part of my daily regimen. See, what had happened was, I couldn’t fit my pants anymore. Well I could but what I mean is I couldn’t fit them without it looking like they were stretch skinny jeans. HORRI-FUL.  And, oh yea.  When I went to the mall and tried on my favorite brand pants, those jokers were squeezing my belly to the point my side was hurting. And that was one size up from what I normally wear. So…….

I had a come to Jesus meeting. You know the one where he tells you he won’t put more on you than you can bear? So I said, well Lord,  I get home so late and once I eat I have to wait 30 minutes and then walk Paisley and go through the bills and at least watch something on tv, right? Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

My weight is something I can control but only when I do something about it. I’m not overweight by any means, but I’m uncomfortable with my size. And plus, I need a way to relieve stress  after having meetings at work about having meetings and not settling anything  and having to schedule another meeting.  So I got up. And walked to the gym. And it was hard. But I did it. I started with one mile, then said let’s try for a mile and 1/2 the next time. I turned up my ears with  Tyga, Diddy, Katy Perry, Beyonce’, and kept pushing. My  goal was to get up, and then start to think about doing more.

And for the women that sweat in their hair, it’s okay. I struggled with it too until I realized, I have to take care of myself. My hair done is just one way for me to feel good about me.  And if I’m walking around with a cute do’, but unintentionally giving the impression I intended to wear  stretch pants to work, we got a problem. And we all know women who look fabulously made up then start taking a box of pills because they  “all of a sudden” have high blood pressure. They are too cute and the hair is always laid, but no one cares about your hair  if you can’t breathe and then have to take “walk breaks” cuz you losin’ your breath when you go to the outlet mall with your girls.

All I’m saying is do something. Walk. Zumba. Run a block and take your time walking back even if you are wheezing. But start somewhere. We only have one life so why not live it like we care about it?  Put down that pork chop. Or save it for afterwards if you have to.  But get up. And do something. You really are worth it. :)

And oh yea, I’m proud to announce I’m now down two sizes in my favorite pants. Hollaaaaaaaaaaa!

Bringing Me Back from Captivity

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all you heart. “I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:13-14

Certain scriptures stick out in my head. They pop up when I’m struggling and need a reminder of God‘s promises. But every now and then, there’s a different word that stands out and gives me an even greater understanding  of what God is saying.

“I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:14

The past couple of days I’ve been a hormonal moody mess. The majority of the week left me feeling trapped more than  empowered,  and definitely un-“able to do all things.” Why wasn’t my life moving?  And why wasn’t it working like it should? It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas but everything fell short. I felt stuck. In my messy captivity. Not that I did anything wrong,  or that I was being punished. But nothing was working. And nothing I did made any difference. That’s when I pulled out my Bible and saw the end of Jeremiah 29:14. In my arrogance, I read the verse thinking, “yea, I know what it says, I’ve seen it before a million times.” This time was different because I finally read the end of the scripture. The part where God says  “I will bring you out of captivity.”

Then it hit me. Some of the problems I’m dealing with (created) are not designed for me to easily wiggle my way out of. And with this being the kind of year where I’ve had little to no control (except in how I react) over things, my first thought as of late is to “I gotta do it on my own.” Which is why nothing was working. Which is why I’ve been exhausted. And tired. And grouchy. I can try, but I can’t  do anything on my own. My writing, my work, my singing, cannot be done without the favor of God on my life.

So when I saw  the word “captivity”, the stress in my shoulders relaxed because I realized I’ve tried to DO  and BE everything on my own. And doing without inviting the One who knows how to DO it best is a futile attempt. I prayed for help. I prayed that God would lift my burdens and remind me that if I honestly call on him, he will answer. Not to give a passer-by prayer, but a real-time, “I need you to help me God because if you don’t, I’m liable to do something stupid really soon” prayer.

As a single woman, I do a lot of  things on my own. So I admit I need help letting go and remembering God is the piece of the puzzle that keeps me from being overwhelmed. Unlike Britney says, it’s not me against the world. And unlike Beyonce sings, it’s really not me, myself, and I.  And even when I feel trapped, if I just remember to seek God, he’ll bring my out of whatever stressful thing I’ve gotten myself into. Again.

Good Black Men Still Exist

Whoever said good men don’t exist anymore don’t know what they’re talking about. For a while there, I doubted it myself. But  I was surprised by the random kindness by two men when my tire blew out over the weekend. Side-note. I was already frustrated because my hair stylist told me I was too late to get my hair done. It was 7:20AM!!!!!  UGH. Anyway, I’m driving away wondering should I have burnt her house down and trying to simultaneously eat my hotcakes and sausage, I hit a curb.  My hair is  an afro bushy mess, it’s not even 7:30am,  my tire’s busted and I can’t get home. Great.

I sighed, disgusted my day was starting  like this. And I’m in the hood so I not sure if I should be worried or chill. I knew I had AAA, so I just figured I’d call them and let them tow me home or whatever they do. But, an older man in a van passed by, saw me pouting in the car, and parked his car and walked over. Another man, driving his pick up  truck in the opposite direction, also turned around to make sure I was okay. Again, I’m in the hood, but it’s daylight so I rolled my window down to hear him out. He looked at my tire, asked me if I had a spare, and started changing it. I was a little suspicious, and kept my guard up just in case he expected something or wanted to make a lunge at me, but none of that happened. The other man,  stopped and asked if we were okay, and went on about his way. By the time AAA came, the spare had already been replaced and the rep just added air to the tire. I was surprised that anyone stopped  and was thankful for the help. I didn’t expect to have a feel good moment after getting rejected at the salon but it was nice to see two black men so willing to help me out. And a reminder  not to  feed into the bull that’s so prevalent on tv about Our men. Good men are still out there.  We just have to find them.

How NOT to get a job: Bad Behaviors While Interviewing

What’s the worst thing you’ve done while interviewing for a job? Tripped over your feet right before shaking hands with the boss? Walked in smackin’ on gum because you forgot to spit it out or realized your boobs were showing even though they started out safe in the pocket?  Interviewing can be a painful or easy  experience depending on how you comfortable you are presenting yourself.

My  job has one of the most strenuous interview processes I’ve even been seen.  First the phone interview with the team, then an invitation to interview with the staff: a day’s worth of group interviews and presentations. You meet with every single person affiliated with the staff.  That’s a lot of people taking notes, eyeballing you, and forming opinions while dissecting your every word.  I call it good old-fashioned hazing. After my interview, I was so exhausted and drained  I couldn’t talk about it afterwards without getting irritated. Seriously, who needs five interviews and a two-hour presentation in one day to decide if I can do the job? Don’t you know after the first round? Ugh, I’m getting rowdy even writing about it.

Which brings me to my point. During “hell night” as I like to call it, I was so nervous I teared up with frustration from the steady stream of questions being thrown at me. I was so embarrassed but scrambled quickly to suck my emotions back in. I was angry with  myself because I’d always managed to keep it together even when things got tense.  What was going on? Well, I survived the rest of the day and surprisingly  got the job.  Now I’m on the other side of things and have the opportunity to watch other people in the process.   The past two weeks I’ve seen interviews where the most random foolishness occurred. Thought me getting all in my feelings in public was wacky?  Well, one woman actually sat down in the middle of her presentation and sipped from her water bottle like she was outside chillin’ on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon. Another candidate  was  45 minutes late to the interview and NEVER even apologized to the director. Where dey do dat at? And how about boldly admitting you just started working on your presentation the night before like wanted the church’s sympathy to forgive you if you hit a wrong note? It was a mess. And the worst? The half cocked response to the answer “Why are you looking for a job with us?” “Because I can’t stand my boss and I’m ready to move on.”  I was embarrassed for the one woman who cursed when her slides didn’t work, the guy who slipped and called his old boss a jerk, and just thought to myself…..are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?

Interviewing is difficult because you want to leave the employer with your best impression while showing glimpses of your personality. But some stuff needs to stay hidden. Like deep, deep in the closet under the winter clothes. So please don’t go the next interview late, with 5 slides and a 15 minute presentation when you know it’s supposed to last an hour and a half. And can we come up with a decent, civil answer for why you want to change jobs? “I hate my boss” ain’t gonna cut it. I sympathize with the candidates because I went through it myself and know how agonizing the day can be.  But bad behaviors only show how little you really want the job. And no fancy suit, years of experience, or impressive resume is going to fix that.

Don’t Make Me Unfriend You!!!! #30in30

Seen any of this lately?

“If you support Paul Ryan, unfriend me.”

“If you don’t vote for my kid and I find out, we are through being friends! ”

“Unfriend my if you eat at Chik-Fil-A. You  support their evil. ”

“Unfriend me if you support Mitt Romney: he hates poor, black people.”

“Unfriend me if you don’t agree with Gay Marriage: You hate me then.”

“Unfriend me if you plan to vote for Obama, he’s not even a real Christian, He’s Muslim!!”

These rants  occur when a Facebook user is so passionate about a viewpoint they forget the concept of free will. Facebook, created within the last 10 yrs, did not teach me my values. My parents took sole responsibility for that until I hit adulthood. So basically, everyone had their own ideas and beliefs way before clicking the “accept” button when you “friended” them in the first place. Yes, that’s right, you probably work with them, or have some organizational tie to them, and horrors abound, you find out they disagree with abortion. Oh no, they just got cut!  My greatest issue with this? It’s childish. It sounds like “if you don’t like my pink blanket, then give it back, I’m going home, and DON’T TALK TO ME EVER AGAIN!!!!!”

It’s like the cute  3 yr old that doesn’t understand yet that the world does not and WILL NOT revolve around you. Unless it’s your spouse or significant other, no one’s required to give a flip about your beliefs (mine included). Even with my friends, we tolerate or choose  to disagree on issues because we care about each other and value the day-to-day friendship. See, life shows you that while you may have the same values, there is no blueprint on how those values will play themselves out. We’re the ones who put limits on it and that’s when the unfriend method becomes the preferred means of expressing an opinion.

Tolerance. Isn’t that how we learn to respect the opinions of others? Ever seen the Stepford Wives? Yea, robots is what I called them. Same hair, same language, same dress. Boring. No diversity, no opinion. Just the same blah. Boring. We are not meant to have the same beliefs across the board  and that’s the beauty of living in the United States. There are too many people living in one space to have the same train of thought. And you think threatening them instead of talking to them about your point of view is going to help the situation? Nah.

Here’s the deal. If you want someone to understand your point of view, try civil conversation. Talk about why it matters to you. Share an article and say, this is important to me.  But please don’t try to force someone to agree with you just to stay friends with you. Even as I wrote that, I felt like I was back in 8th grade trying to make sure a popular kid was cool with me. (Thank God for graduation!) We are adults right? If you don’t like someone because of their beliefs, maybe you’ve become the problem. This is a big world. So YOU unfriend them. YOU take the time and scroll their feed and decide, does this person like my party’s platform, does this person support my cause? (Note that it also sounds like you are running for office….ahem) In the grand scheme of things, live your life.  But  if you decide I’m not worth being a friend  because I eat meat and you don’t, here’s your blanket back.  YOU hit the button. I’m more the idiot to leave you on my “friend list” just to show you can’t control me, my thoughts, or anything else for that matter.

And here’s another suggestion.  You have more power when you stop supporting the entity you strongly disagree with. Stop wearing Jordans shoes if Black kids keep getting killed over them. Stop eating at McDonald’s if you have family members who eat there having  4 and 5 heart attacks. Don’t like Chik-Fil-A because of S. Truett Cathy? Don’t go. Don’t like Republicans? Donate and vote for the Democrats. Support Planned Parenthood? Donate. You have more power and more influence in when you respond with your money. Un-friending someone does none of that. Get my point?

I have a lot of  Facebook friends who post about Christians. And I mean hate the Bible, hate the faith, and will dog out anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. Basically me. And while I disagree with their means of expression, they have free will to say what they want. I’m still kind to them at work to show them in person that everyone they try to group together in a “horrible, hateful” religion is not the same. So, I may hide their FB feed for a while and abstain from arguing,  or I may talk with them at work and let them know I will pray for them when they are struggling with personal issues. Notice I didn’t ask them to accept  Christ or unfriend me. Sure I can unfriend them, but it shows no tolerance, no willingness to show the love of Christ, and no civility. And note I don’t post….”If you don’t rep for Jesus, GET OFF MY PAGE!!!!!”””

My point in writing this today was.. if you don’t want someone as your Facebook friend, great. YOU do the honors. Hide their feed, or cut the cord and do the unfriending. It’s simply passive aggressive to try to force someone out of a relationship because you found out they have an opposing opinion from yours. Relationships teach us to how to relate to each other. Relationships force us to grow out of selfish thoughts. If you only surround yourself with people who think like you at all times, how are your growing? Oh, that’s right. You don’t.

“Unfriend me if you challenge me unfriending people!” I’m possibly being unfriended as we speak.  Carry on.