About a month ago I was at a function and was approached by a man I respected from my past. I was just expecting a “hey, how are you?” but to my surprise the conversation when in a completely different direction. He said he wondered how I was doing then began to express his distaste for how people didn’t believe in me as a teenager and young adult. He said “they just didn’t believe in you, I just wanted them to leave you alone.” He continued to say that he always believed in me. I was a little shocked because I didn’t think he cared then I wondered why he never reached out to me before. I began to think about the “what if’s”. What if he would have spoken up on my behalf? What if he would have told me as a young person that he believed in me? Would it have made a difference? Could the turn I made at 30 occurred earlier? So many questions bombarded my mind and I started reflecting…
I remember sitting as a teenager wishing that someone would see beyond my actions and focus on my heart. I was hurting and did not know how to express it but few could see ME. So often young people are labeled by their actions with no consideration of the “what” and “why” behind it. Don’t get me wrong, I have done a lot of garbage in my lifetime and own every bit of it, but again, the “what” and “why”. Oftentimes, adults hide behind what is politically correct (especially in the church) and are cowards who refuse to speak up. How is it right to watch a young person be bullied (in a sense) by adults and their peers alike and sit silently? We cannot hide under the cloak of “it’s not my business” or “that’s my leadership” when it simply comes down to what is right. No one is perfect but some frequently forget they are not resting on the throne.
My experiences have taught me not to focus on the actions of a person but rather the “what” and “why” behind the actions. I have learned more about the truth of a person by taking the time to understand the “what” and “why”. So many are quick to judge, but I imagine if someone shined a light in their closet the amount of skeletons shaking would exceed our wildest imagination.
We all have “stuff” as my mother would say. However, as we come out of our “stuff” we cannot forget to encourage those who are right where we came from. We also cannot be afraid to speak up when we see actions that are not right. As a teenager and young adult I didn’t believe in myself at all. Much of it resulted from people who said they loved me displaying actions to the contrary. I remember coming to a point of irritation because it seemed like every time someone said “I know you” it was associated with something negative. I placed too much stock in the people around me and allowed their words and actions of to shake my foundation and shape who I was for years. Once I realized that I was above the negative words spoken, it changed my life. I came to a point of believing in myself (after many years of therapy) whether those around me believed in me or not. I had to learn to love myself even when it seemed like no one else did (whether by truth or perception). I still have to shake myself from time to time and tell myself that “I can do it”, but I am in a much better place than I was.
So here I am; I’m still standing, refusing to give up. I have been through too much for my age and at times I felt like and have tried to give up, but I survived for a reason. I encourage anyone who comes in contact with a “troubled” teenager to take the time to let them know you believe in them. Sometimes knowing that someone believes in them until they believe in themselves can be a game changer. Look beyond their actions and remember that it’s bigger than what you see. Don’t ever be that person a young person remembers as the one who broke their spirit. Don’t be a coward and follow the majority or sit quiet. Stand up, let love be your light, and remember Jeremiah 31:3 …therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.
Side note: I attached this song by Marvin Sapp because regardless of how much I’ve survived, I know it wasn’t by my own strength. No matter how many times life and the people in it have tried to knock me down, I’m still standing!