Category Archives: Christian

The Gifts of Vision: Clarity, Truth & Wisdom

 

This past weekend I picked up new eyeglasses. It was a huge deal for me as I have struggled with finding the right lens for the past decade. When I turned 40 my vision got really complicated as my mild farsightedness worsened in both eyes but to varying degrees. As a result, my eyes see better further but my left eye is much stronger than my right. When it comes to reading up close I am helpless without glasses, but I also need help seeing far away. Cue progressive lens, which have been the bane of my existence for the past 10 years. Even after 3 different pairs of glasses over the years I continue to struggle to see clearly.

In this ‘finding the perfect glasses’ go-around, I had reluctantly spent an extra $200 on Zeiss lens just to see if they would solve the issues I had with my older progressives, but really not expecting a huge improvement.  Imagine my amazement trying on these new glasses and feeling like I’m finally able to see clearly for the first time in years!  I walked out of that Optician like someone who had been gifted a cool million. I could REALLY see!

The first thing I noticed were the bags under my eyes. (Ugh!) Normally that would be a depressing thing but seeing them so clearly made me realize I was seeing clearly. As I got in my car I immediately noticed how dirty my windshield was. I have never been so happy to see dirt in my life. As I navigated my way home, I smiled  to myself because everything in my sphere of vision was crisper, sharper and clearer. I could actually see the features of the people in the cars behind me when I pulled to a stop. And the icing on the cake? I did not feel compelled to shield my eyes from the glaring sun with my go-to D&G sunglasses. What!!? The glare free coating was working overtime and I could not be more thrilled. I kept repeating to myself in disbelief, “I can see, I can see!”

Me and my D&G sunglasses in Antigua

 

I couldn’t help but think of the lyric in the song ‘Amazing Grace’, “I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” To see clearly, to see things as they really are—what liberation. I pondered how this was such a fitting metaphor for my life lately.

You see, (pun intended), I have been having revelation after revelation about my life this past year. It’s been amazing, painful, inspiring, clarifying and humbling, all at the same time. It’s as if I finally stumbled on the secret combination that unlocked all the mysteries of my life that previously had been hidden to me.  The process didn’t happen overnight—in fact it has been a work in progress for decades.  But the increased clarity over the course of this year has been undeniable.  If I had to sum it all up in a nutshell, I would say that I can see clearly the pathways  of my life and understand with profound respect my history, my identity and my humanity. I appreciate how I have become the woman I am, I accept my many mistakes and shortcomings, and I am making peace with aspects of my past for which I had no control.  It has been a crazy journey, my life, and for so long it confused me.

Now, I see so clearly how my identity for most of my adulthood, had been rooted in performance, privilege and posturing aka The Big Three. I lived my life by the secret codes of; Look at what I can do, Look at what I have and Look at what I can do for you. I lived tethered to ways of being, achievement and entitlement which were bound to change over time.   All were attempts at garnering me the approval of others I so desperately sought. But when performance, privilege and posturing were stripped from me—when I could no longer do, when I no longer had anything anyone wanted and when I believed I could no longer help others, I felt inadequate and ashamed of myself.

I was ashamed because I did not really understand my true worth. I didn’t know then that as a child of God, I was the precious, beautiful, beloved daughter of a King.  It was lost on me that there was a predestined purpose for me– that as God’s masterpiece, constantly being sanctified and made new, that I was becoming more of whom He made me to be. It is only when I had to stand metaphorically naked, humbled, and contrite in His presence that I started to see how much he loved me, even during the midst of my toughest trials yet.

The notions and things I clung to for my self-worth were like shifting sand, never solid, permanent or secure.  I was moored to an un-anchored ship. I am so grateful that the veil has been removed from my eyes and I can look at my life and myself unflinchingly.  It matters not what I have achieved, who I know, how I look, what I have or what I can do. My true identity is in Christ who has made me complete and renews me daily. “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Coupled with clarity of vision has come truth. And yes, the truth does set you free. It is liberating and exciting. No more hiding behind facades or myths I constructed to shield myself from painful realities.  My life has worth simply because I am. I am holy and blameless even as I continue to mess up and fall short despite my best intentions. I can wear the helmet of my salvation—my true identity— with a joy and peace that cannot be found in things of this world. What. A. Relief.

With truth has come wisdom.  I thank God that like Paul, the scales have been removed from my eyes. If you don’t know the story, on the road to Damascus, Paul the apostle was blinded, after he heard a voice from heaven say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’(Acts 9: 3-8). Before this experience, Paul did not understand who Jesus was and who he was in Him. He was a Jew who believed in God but to him this Jesus character was just blasphemous, claiming to be the Son of God. He persecuted Jesus’ disciples zealously to the point of execution. On that life-altering journey to Damascus, Paul remained blind for three days after which, “something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again” (Acts 9:18). After this encounter with God Saul/Paul, was never the same. In his physical blindness, his spiritual blindness was readily apparent until he could “see” Jesus for who He really is– the Son of God. He spent the rest of his life spreading the gospel to non-Jews and was instrumental in establishing the early church with the Apostle Peter. His newfound sight gave him a new identity in Christ.

Like Paul, I am now firmly rooted in my identity in Christ.  Still, understanding the unique truths about my life thus far on this earth is unfortunately painful, which is perhaps why it was veiled from me. What I didn’t understand for most of my life is how easy it is for us to distort the truth based on our life experiences, who people say we are, and what we wish our lives to be like. From these unique viewing lenses, we filter our perceptions of reality so much so that we convince ourselves it IS truth, when it is actually fantasy, illusion or worse, denial. I see how guilty I was of viewing the world through filtered and distorted lenses which made me not see things as they really are. Just like when my vision was distorted over the course of a decade when I wore those ill-designed progressive glasses.

It is not lost on me that the timing of my new “I can see” progressive lenses synchs up so perfectly with the newfound vision I have about my life. In my experience, it is so like the God of the Universe to have a bit of a sense of humor. It’s as if he is saying to me, “Behold Natalie. Didn’t I tell you that my timing is perfect? Didn’t I exhort you to trust me and lean not on your own understanding? Didn’t you understand when I said, I work everything out for the good according to my perfect plan?”

All this recent reckoning gives me a deeper respect for the verse: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a (wo)man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” ( 1 Corinthians 13:11) I truly feel like I’m only just beginning to mature spiritually. And so my clarity of vision begets truth. And truth has  brought forth wisdom. These are the gifts of seeing clearly.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, insight career coach, and marketing & branding consultant. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

 

 

The Imperative & Paradox of Racial Reconciliation

 

Over the past eight months I have been a part of a pilot racial reconciliation women’s group at my local church, called ‘Be The Bridge’. It has been a pivotal experience for me personally and interpersonally, forcing me to engage in tough conversations around race and identity with myself, my teammates and my wider circle of friends and family. So I find myself, a black, Christian, American woman of Caribbean descent, trying to grapple with racial reconciliation in my church community and the country at large.

Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed and more hopeless than ever given the political and cultural context in which we exist today. In just this past year alone things have gotten so much worse, racially speaking. In the eight months our group has gathered, we have witnessed the Neo-Nazi/white supremacist protests in Charlottesville which put the undercurrent racial hostility in the country front and center.  The country is still reeling from those events and what has followed. The ongoing controversy around NFL players taking a knee in protest of black oppression has reached the upper echelons of the White House. Racial tensions are at an all-time high in America. Devastating proof of the horrors of hatred surround us. This is a time of reckoning in the United States if there ever was one.

Not coincidentally, this past week I started reading the book, ‘Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone’, by renowned social scientist and author Brené Brown. The book is essentially the culmination of her research on “true belonging”. Americans are scared, she writes, and to offset our fear we have collectively hunkered around our “ideological bunkers”, sorting ourselves into more homogeneous groups so that we live, work and play with people who look, think and act like we do. Yet instead of these “bunkers” drawing us closer together, we are moving further apart. Ironically all this sorting has us more disconnected than ever and yearning for true belonging.

In the book, Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. But she does not hesitate to underscore the challenge America faces. In this country, she writes, “our three greatest fault lines, cracks that have grown and deepened due to willful neglect and a collective lack of courage are race, gender and class. The fear and uncertainty flowing from collective trauma of all kinds have exposed these gaping wounds in a way that has been both profoundly polarizing and necessary. These are conversations that need to happen. This is discomfort that must be felt. Still as much as it is time to confront these and other issues, we have to acknowledge that our lack of tolerance for vulnerable tough conversations is driving our self-sorting and disconnection.”

Race, gender, class—America’s fault lines. When I read those words this week as I was crafting this post on racial reconciliation, I had to pause. Here I am writing about racial reconciliation in a month where the fault line that has cracked open wide is the one around gender. I cannot write about racial reconciliation in this season of America, without acknowledging what is happening in this country in the wake of the allegations of sexual assault of hundreds of women at the hands of powerful men in entertainment, politics and business. It is simply staggering.

Sexism versus Racism

I’m encouraged by the hundreds of brave women coming out with their #metoo stories, each one subsequently fortifying the other, because this too is a state of affairs that has long since needed reckoning in this country. I’m hopeful as I see man after man being stripped of his title, status and privilege for his gross misconduct against women because justice, however imperfect, is finally being served. And with the truth out these women who have been trapped by their stories can find true freedom. The dark secret of sexual harassment and assault in America’s workplaces is out and as a country thank God, we will never be the same. The balance of power has shifted and women are finally reclaiming their collective voice and standing united and courageous against sexism.

The movement is so powerful that Time magazine Editor-in-Chief, Edward Felsenthal dubbed it “the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s”. To champion how ground breaking this movement has been, Time chose these very brave women, “The Silence Breakers” as the much anticipated Time Person of the Year for 2017. But Felsenthal acknowledges that we are just in the “middle of the beginning of this upheaval. There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart?” We don’t know. Time will tell.

Sexism affects all women. There are no grey areas, no blurred lines. One is either male or female, and as females we have been subjected to sexism all our lives. We learn to orient ourselves as women in a male-centric world at an early age, being mindful that how we dress, comb our hair, walk, talk or behave can lead men to see us as prey. This is such an integral aspect of being female that most of us, myself included, aren’t even aware of the many ways we have contorted ourselves so we won’t be the victims of unwanted sexual advances. Unfortunately as recent allegations demonstrate, even taking these precautions don’t necessarily grant us immunity from attack.

But here is where I’m going with this. There has been a certain confluence of events that has led to the fallout from sexism in the workplace. Was it the close but no cigar almost Presidency of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to have almost succeeded? Was it Trump becoming President even after allegations of his own sexual misconduct had been publicized last year? Was it the Women’s March in January that united and emboldened women to start sharing their stories? We may never know what led to this domino effect that has given women the courage to stand up and speak out against sexual harassment. But it is happening. And it is changing the landscape of this country as we speak.

So I wonder then what sequence of events would need to happen to see real, substantive change along racial lines in this country? Race–that infinitely much more complicated and emotionally charged demographic characteristic than gender—which impacts an important sub-segment of the U.S. population, some who happen to be women too. What would that take? Can we hope to really see racial reconciliation in America? Can I look to what is happening now with the galvanizing movement against sexism, witnessing those chickens come home to roost, and hold onto hope for racial reconciliation?

This country needs to reconcile itself to centuries of racial oppression against blacks.  Consider the challenge. It is daunting. But we must be fearless in wanting the light of truth to shine too on the nasty, grimy, filthy crevices of racial hatred. But I believe it will be much more difficult than what has occurred this year to begin to end the cycle of female oppression.

A Personal Confession

In my own racial reconciliation small group, I often had to lean heavily on our good intentions and the covering of our church in engaging in these hard conversations around race, knowing we were building bridges of racial unity in our church by our efforts. That didn’t make it easier, just more intentional. I felt anger, hurt and guilt repeatedly as I allowed myself to listen to other women’s experiences and views that sometimes offended me or were in conflict with my own.

I listened with a heavy heart as women shared their painful stories of racial discrimination or how they may have hurt others because of their white privilege. And I shared my own experiences, which as a black woman born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago are so very different from my African-American sisters. My blackness did not much inform my identity growing up as I lived on an island where people of color are the dominant culture. By the time I got to the United States to study at Rutgers University, I did not have that particular monkey on my back. I knew racism was alive and well here but I did not take it personally. And my experiences in college, Corporate America, in my own business and in my social circles, where I was often the solo black person among a sea of white people, oddly enough validated that way of thinking for me. I felt “free” to be me. I see things differently now.

Acknowledging this reality was difficult for me. And part of my personal journey during this process, was owning that as an American with black skin, I too am an object of hate and revulsion amongst racists in this country. I am not exempt, different, set apart or in any way spared just because I had a different socializing. My Caribbean heritage could no longer be a mask I could hide behind. With this understanding arose a righteous anger within me that scared me for a while. And if I’m being honest, at that low point, I just wanted out. I didn’t want to know, see or feel the things that were being stirred up within me, seeing myself, the way many white Americans see me with my blackness speaking for me before anything else about me. It pained and offended me. But this is the reality of racial toxicity. This is the struggle and I have no illusions about which side of the battlefield I’m on.

Racial Reconciliation is a Marathon Not a Sprint: A Quick History Lesson

In our groups at church each of the 32 women who participated in the pilot racial reconciliation program did so voluntarily, focusing mostly on our relationships with the increasingly ethnically diverse women of our church, with the hope that our efforts would slowly spread throughout our church at large. We’re at a juncture where we are hoping to double the groups from 4 to prayerfully 8, as wrap up the pilot groups, with the understanding that we are still figuring this all out as we go along. It continues to be an illuminating yet uncomfortable learning experience. But we are committed to doing the work.

With this awareness I’ve really been struggling with what racial reconciliation looks like at the national level. Getting to racial reconciliation as a nation seems virtually impossible to me. How can centuries old hurts, wounds and the systemic oppression of a race of people be healed?  Since there is no precedent for racial harmony in America, what are we even reconciling to? These valid concerns can stop the attempt and intent to reconcile dead in its tracks. There are no easy answers. I would offer that meaningful racial reconciliation in this country is not likely in my lifetime, given its history.

Let’s look at America’s track record. The 13th Amendment was passed in America in 1865 abolishing slavery….except as a punishment for crime. In 2014, the U.S. at only 5% of the world’s population had 25% of its citizens behind bars. This is roughly over 2 million people.  Of these roughly 2 million people behind bars, 40% are African-American men. Let that sink in for a moment.

So 152 years after abolition, “slavery” exists today for people of color in this country. As the decades have rolled on by, the dominant culture continues to find creative ways to enslave its black citizens, starting with the aforementioned 13th Amendment. Thereafter, this country enforced Jim Crow Law—the caste system that essentially relegated black people to second class citizenship– from Reconstruction in 1877 well into the 1950’s. Then the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s spearheaded by Martin Luther King Jr. and others who helped get the landmark Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 (outlawing discrimination based on race or color) followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which removed barriers to voting among African-Americans, made it seem like racial equality could be a dream fulfilled in America.

But it would be a dream deferred as the 1980’s and 1990’s witnessed the continued subjugation of black people. With the media dehumanizing and painting black men as criminals to be feared, these decades ushered in the “War on Drugs” in urban communities and the system of mass incarceration of black men to the prison institution. In the past couple years, African-Americans seeking justice have rallied around Black Lives Matter–an activist movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards African-Americans. Black Lives Matter has highlighted the scores of (mostly) unarmed young black men across the country who have been killed at the hands of (mostly) white police officers, while the officers go unpunished.

2017 will go down as the year white supremacists rallied in broad daylight in Charlottesville resulting in clashes killing one. Racial tensions in this country are worsening. For a moment, I wonder too with Edward Rosenthal of Time what it would have been like in the 60s if Rosa Parks had a Twitter account, like the countless women who used the social media platform to share their stories of sexual assault and discrimination? Would the civil rights movement have progressed more? But after a moment, I shake my head to myself. No. I don’t think we’d be much further along. Because racism is way more complicated than sexism and harkens back to the root of how this country was founded.

America’s Bleeding Heart

Michelle Higgins, worship leader and a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement wrote a no holds barred article on racial reconciliation this summer titled, ‘The Idea of Racial Reconciliation is Bankrupt‘,  essentially claiming that the term itself is bankrupt. She asserts that before the nation can even think of reconciliation that it needs to be repenting of its past atrocities, “I grieve the arrogance and presumption of “racial reconciliation” work among the diverse peoples of the United States. I believe that the terminology of racial reconciliation is bankrupt. When, in the history of this country, have racial relationships been conciliatory? We need racial righteousness, racial repentance. In this country and many others, we have worked harder to hide the truth about our history than we have to amplify the stories of people who’ve been wounded by historical lies.” For many black people, the day to day reality of being American is living in a country where we are not truly free. Where our very identities are shaped by what the dominant culture deems relevant, promotable or shameful. Where wearing a hoodie in the dark is immediately seen as predatory and where we ourselves buy into the negative stereotypes by often resigning ourselves to them. Because it gets so wearying having to prove that you bleed the same as your white brother. Every. Single. Day.

Since slavery first reared its monstrous head in America in the 1600’s (depending on the text book you read), there has never been a period of racial reconciliation between blacks and whites in this country. Ever. And the wounds inflicted on black men and women from the ravages of slavery are at the center of this country’s heartbeat. They are generational, endemic and propagating. They have never healed. And like any unhealed bodily wound that has been left untreated, the wounds wreaked from racial inequality and oppression have festered and infected the body collective of this country.  Whites, blacks, browns…all are infected and affected. This racial hostility in America will be all of our demise, if we don’t work through the reconciliation process in a meaningful way together.

In ‘Braving The Wilderness’, Brown offers hope. She has faith that we can build connection across our differences if we are willing to listen and “lean into vulnerability.  She adds, and “mercifully, it will only take a critical mass of people who believe in finding love and connection across differences to change everything.”

I believe this critical mass of people gathering together and having these difficult, painful conversations around race has to start in our church communities. Starting in groups like the Be The Bridge group I have participated in at my church over these past eight months.

 Racial reconciliation: The Paradox and the Imperative

There is no question that racial reconciliation is needed for us to move forward and thrive as a country. But this is the racial reconciliation paradox as I see it: this country needs racial reconciliation but we may never experience it in our lifetime. In over 400 years we are not even close. Yet we must strive for it. Hope for it. Dream for it. Pray for it. We do not have an alternative. We must press on towards that goal, step by step, individual by individual. If not for our generation, prayerfully for the next?

Here is the other paradox. Racial reconciliation cannot happen by our own good intentions or intent. “For everyone has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Rom 3:24. Emphasis mine).  If we as a country could have healed on our own might we would be much further along on the reconciliation continuum. Many noble men and women have tried. So what do we do? Instead of hopelessness, we need to lean heavily, entirely, on the cross to move towards the racial unity I believe most Americans truly desire. In short, engaging in conversations and building relationships with others of diverse ethnicities in ways that are healthy and that promote peace requires a supernatural covering which can only come from the creator of the Universe.

In Christ who has already victoriously reconciled the world to himself, we can see an end to racial hostility in this land. In an article written in October titled, ‘Should we abandon the language of racial reconciliation?’ Duke Kwon, pastor of Grace Meridian Hill in Washington DC asserts, “The biblical-historical reference point for ‘reconciliation’ isn’t the birth of our nation but the birth of the human race in Adam. . . . When used in the church, ‘reconciliation’ harkens back to our creational unity, not a national or ecclesiastical unity.”  I agree and believe that racial reconciliation needs to be under the covering of an authority greater than our collective selves as a country, and this authority is Christ.

One of the greatest stories of reconciliation between two hostile groups of people is what Paul describes between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” Eph 2:14-18

Praise God! I have to hold onto the confident hope in this: If Jews and Gentiles could come together to share the gospel, and build the early church under the Lordship of Christ, I hold onto hope that one day the walls of the racial divide in America will come crashing down as we unite together in love and truth. This is not pie in the sky. This is biblically sound truth. And this is true for people of all skin tones, nationalities and ethnicities, not just in America but globally.

Michelle Higgins argues in her article that the social justice work required for racial parity is founded on following Jesus’ example, depending on His Gospel, to continue His social justice work here in our world today. In his article, ‘The Burden and Promise of Racial Reconciliation’, Mark Gali editor of ‘Christianity Today’ went a step further and put it this way: “Our vision, then, is bigger and bolder than social justice. And we pray and work not simply for reconciliation of blacks and whites, but of both, and all, to Jesus Christ.”  In our own strength, in our lifetime, perhaps racial reconciliation may seem illusive. But in God’s hands all things are possible.

Christ must be in our midst as we continue the long arduous work of racial reconciliation. He is our guiding light, our way maker and mountain mover. He is the authority we must cling to as we take each step and attempt to bridge the racial chasm in this country.

As Christians we are commanded to live in peace with each other: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NLT. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to be disciple makers, to love one another, to make allowances for each other’s faults, to extend grace, to be ambassadors and reconcilers for Christ so he can reconcile us ALL to himself. This is the imperative of racial reconciliation. This is our imperative. This is the Christian imperative. This is my imperative.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

As I have been crating this article over the course of two weeks (yes that long!), God has been guiding my heart and thoughts. In the sermon at my church just this past weekend, the pastor shared a point in a different context that is so relevant for racial reconciliation. He was speaking on 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I interpret this verse in a racial reconciliation context as meaning we will never achieve perfection on this side of heaven. But we have to still press on knowing that our vision will be imperfectly executed, knowing that it is limited. If the majority of Americans desire peace and unity in our land, work towards it, strive for it, however imperfectly, we will be closer to the ideal we can envision in our minds’ eyes which may yet seem so unattainable. But we stand firm because even though we can only see dimly now, all will become clear when Christ returns. Then Light will permanently extinguish darkness once and for all for eternity. Hostility, division, hatred, racism, sexism, classism, discord and dehumanization will cease. And peace will reign.

I cling to hope in our future progress as a country on this journey to racial reconciliation. I stand firm in my faith in the Truth of God’s ministry of reconciliation for all Christians. I am encouraged by the personal growth I have experienced as a result of my participation in the bridge building reconciliation work in my church. And I trust in the love of God to heal all wounds. Racial reconciliation is guaranteed in Christ. But in this broken world, we have to let God fight this battle for us with our cooperation, just like he did for the Israelites– once they trusted him to get them to the Promised Land.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, insight coach, and marketing & branding consultant. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Real Beauty from the Inside Out

 

Without question our external appearance is important. Studies show that it takes less than 30 seconds for people to form an impression on you based on the way you look.

It is no wonder that the image and fashion industry is as successful as it is today. Celebrity culture, the rise in plastic surgery, the red carpet glitz and glamour, ubiquitous designer fashion, makeup madness– all these cultural forces focus on the external appearance. But without innate self-confidence and self-acceptance, and strong, unchanging core values, your external image is merely a facade.  It’s just window dressing.

It’s like getting a gift, beautifully wrapped with ribbons and trimmings and pretty paper, and opening the gift and finding your recipient gave you a water globe. Unless you’re a fan of water globes, you’d be very disappointed and even feel misled. So too, we can dress ourselves in the latest duds, put our best face forward, literally, and still feel ourselves wanting.

When I was an image consultant, coaching women on how to express their best external self to others, my professional philosophy was grounded on what issues or challenges my clients may be facing on the ‘inside’. Without tackling these issues from an image coaching perspective, it would have been difficult for me to properly advise and help my clients achieve their external image goals.

This viewpoint has even deeper meaning for me as a Christian woman. In 1 Peter 3: 3-4, women are instructed not to be concerned “about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.” Instead Peter says we should “clothe (y)ourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Again in Colossians, Paul advises us to “clothe (y)ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. Colossians 3:12

This notion of clothing myself in attributes that are pleasing to God really appeals to me. I see that the more I desire to be a woman after God’s own heart, how I am literally being transformed from the inside out, with each passing day. That inner sweetness is more precious to me than any item hanging in my closet. And it is not something I have to strive for on my own. It happens because I desire it, pray for it, and let God’s spirit live and move in me.

As an image coach I could show women how to dress to impress, but only with the help of God (and for some the help of a good therapist), could their hurts and hang-ups be healed so they really could reflect the beauty that truly comes from within.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

 

 

Finding a way: Cultivating resilience when facing life’s storms

 

Building resiliencethat ability to ‘bounce back’  after adversity, trauma, tragedy, change, or failure —has become a critical component to living a long, healthy, and productive life. In the past few weeks, the ravages from Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and most recently, Hurricane Maria, in the US and the Caribbean have been televised and we, the un-impacted, sit back in awe, disbelief and gratitude. We are grateful that (for now), we are safe and our possessions intact, even as our hearts overflow with compassion for the millions who have to rebuild their lives, their cities, their economies, or their countries. I find myself thinking that it could easily have been me and wondering if I have what it takes to start all over, if I had to. How does one cultivate that type of resilience?

hurricane

Numerous studies  have shown that children need to be taught how to be resilient at a very young age so that they can develop into thriving, well-adapted individuals. None of us chooses to go through trial and hardship. But life happens, and we either get knocked down and stay there or get back up. When the going gets tough the tough get going, right? According to Pastor Rick Warren in his recent study series, Daring Faith, “Nobody goes through life with an unbroken chain of successes. Everybody has failures and mistakes. We all embarrass ourselves. We all have pain. We all have problems. We all have pressures. The people who make it in life have resilience.” I immediately think of Diana Nyad.

I have only recently heard about Diana. She is the long distance swimmer who set the record for swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage back in 2013 when she was 64. She swam nearly 53 continuous hours in the ocean, surviving  the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits, a notorious stretch of water teeming with sharks, jellyfish, storms and an unpredictable Gulf Stream. The magnitude of her achievement is undeniable. But what really got my attention when I heard this story, was that this was her FIFTH attempt at setting this record. She first tried when she was 28 years old back in 1979! On her 4th attempt, she almost died from Jellyfish venom. At 64 years old she finally accomplished her life-long dream, when many of us are thinking about retirement. What made Ms Nyad so tenacious, so persevering, so resilient to failure, to adversity, to misfortune?

diana nyad ted talk

I was so intrigued, I listened to a couple of her Ted Talks (she is now an author and motivational speaker) and they are truly inspiring. Four things stood out to me related to cultivating resilience. 1) She learned from her mistakes. After each failed attempt, she improvised, learning what to adjust, which expert to consult and what new protective protocol to implement. 2) She kept herself motivated and positive. To keep herself focused and upbeat during the dark lonely hours of her swim, she sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” over and over and over again. She jokingly admits to “having a playlist of songs” at the ready to sing in her head. 3) She had a single-minded goal to set this record and she believed her dream was achievable. Her motto as she trained for the feat was “find a way”. She saw her dream coming to fruition in her mind’s eye. As she swam, she thought only of reaching the Florida horizon, that was her fulcrum, her grounding point. She did not agonize over how many hours she had left or what could go wrong. She sung and she swam. 4) She did not go it alone. She frankly shares about her ‘ride or die’ friend Bonnie who was right there in the boat alongside her, encouraging and supporting her, along with a team of experts who were there for her protection and safety. She acknowledges that even though she was the one swimming, it would have been impossible without her team.

Diana Nyad’s feat makes it crystal clear to me that resilience is about not giving up, no matter what. We will all fail at something. Life will throw us curveballs. Tragedy or illness may come upon us or our loved ones. We may lose our cherished job. We may be forced to contend with a natural disaster. We may have to endure with terror a Category 5 hurricane huddled up in an attic or shelter praying for our lives, and survive, yes, but without the material possessions we once held dear: damaged car, destroyed house, no building standing for miles, our town or island flooded, washed up, practically swept away! So we are forced to begin again, to face the clearing, the rebuilding, the starting over, one step, one piece of debris, one day at a time. So daunting isn’t it?

veeterzy-113210

How do you stay resilient, after a “storm”?  You find a way. You consider:

  • What can I learn from this disaster? What is the life lesson here for me to grow from?
  • How can I keep myself and those around me positive and motivated to keep going, even when I am exhausted, feeling hopeless and I cannot see my way through the aftermath of this storm? How can I remind myself that “this too shall pass”, that I have endured the worst of it and I am alive?
  • How do I stay focused on my dreams and goals even in the midst of this adversity? What is my fulcrum? My true North? What do I believe to be true about myself, about God, about humanity?
  • How do I let the fact that I am not alone, strengthen me? How do I draw support from the millions of people going through this very same catastrophe? How do I stay encouraged as I witness the outpouring of compassion and support from my fellow survivors and the International community, whether it be via funds, food, Facebook feed words of encouragement and inspiration, prayers, supplies, disaster relief efforts or fundraising campaigns?

These questions apply for a hurricane and for any storm we face.

key-west-81664_1920

I have faced more than my fair share of storms in the past few years, from seeing my career aspirations come crashing down to chronic illness. I have often wondered just how I was supposed to find a way in the midst of seemingly incredible odds against me. And yet, I’m here, still in the game, with new dreams and a reinforced inner strength. I had to find a way. And that way was excavated out of the rubble of my trials through trust—trust in myself, in God and in humanity. I had to trust and let go of the reins so God could take over. I had to submit, in humility to the grace of my God. And therein lay the gift of resilience.

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.” A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

tommy-lisbin-259645

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

I am reminded of a conversation I had decades ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult season, and a mentor said to me that I was like a willow tree—that I surely bowed but never broke. She was right. That powerful image has stayed with me. There is a quote that I have had stuck on my office poster board for years, and in writing this post, I understand why it is so meaningful to me. It is because it speaks to me of the heart and soul of resilience and epitomizes for me what resilience looks like: “The sturdiest tree is not found in the shelter of the forest but high upon some rocky crag, where its daily battle with the elements shapes it into a thing of beauty.

Goosebumps.

I was sharing with my friend Maurice, my idea to write a post on LinkedIn on resilience after just having written a post on humility as a hallmark of leadership and he shared an original thought that coupled the two themes that was just so brilliant to me. According to Maurice,  “Resilience is the other side of coin to humility. Humility keeps you grounded. Resilience helps you fly”. With resilience my friends, you can fly, you can swim over 100 miles, you can soar to greater heights than you can ever imagine!

rod-long-47290

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

I  just have to end this post with one of my absolute favorite Maya Angelou poems, Still I Rise. I consider this to be the resilience anthem! This poem deserves its own post, but for now, I’ll just quote the first verse:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” Maya Angelou

—–

My heartfelt thoughts are with all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, especially the victims on the islands in the Caribbean whose infrastructures have been completely devastated.  Please consider donating to these organizations to help hurricane victims:


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.  Visit her blog Be Simply Inspired. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Humility: The Hallmark of Great Leadership

 

I recently responded to an article on LinkedIn where the writer set out to prove why being humble is a bad thing. He basically asserted that humility fosters blending in, not speaking up for oneself, and letting others (who are braggarts) get ahead because you don’t toot your own horn. I appreciated the perspective and subject matter but disagreed, so I was inspired to write my own post on this topic. Having had a feast eating “humble pie” in the past few years, I have a newfound respect for humility and what it stands for.

I can think of quite a few leaders from the past and present who I consider to be successful, stellar, one of a kind, movers and shakers by any account, who are also humble. From my perspective, humility has nothing to do with letting others run circles around you. Looking at the root of the word, humility comes from the word hummus, meaning the earth or the ground. Humility then has as its essence, groundedness, steadfastness, and standing firm on one’s beliefs and values. A humble person does not compare themselves with others as they know that they are no better or worse off than anyone else. Being humble means having a realistic sense of one’s position with God and to other people. Humility levels the playing field. It embodies the traits of honesty, authenticity, trust, acceptance, unity, kindness, expansiveness and generosity.

I believe very strongly in personal branding and one of its tenets is the principle that we all have gifts that we are uniquely qualified to offer to the world, based on our experiences, talents, beliefs, values, personality, etc. As Marianne Williamson says in her famous quote from her book Return to Love‘, “We are all meant to shine…we are all born to make manifest the glory of God within us”. If you believe this, then you cannot believe in the scarcity model that suggests that only some of us get to be successful, brilliant, or stellar. The author of the article that inspired this post, shares stats on the number of people in the world, on social media and possessing college degrees in the US to offer a view that there is just too much competition for brilliance. Therefore, the only way for a person to succeed, to carve out a special niche or platform for themselves is by taking full advantage of their bragging rights. If they don’t do it, someone just as qualified will take their place as “nature abhors a vacuum”. I respectfully disagree.

You have unique gifts to manifest to the world—God given gifts. Humility is graciously receiving these gifts and sharing them with others to bless them and glorify God. You don’t need to scramble like a crab in a barrel to get others to notice you. If your light is shining truly, others will see it and you will influence those in your sphere. Though the greedy and the proud will have you think otherwise, your light, your unique brilliance, is unstoppable. Because it is your stamp, the efficacy of your personal brand. It is the core of who you are as a leader.

When I think of stellar leaders in my lifetime, who possess humility at their core, the icons that come readily to mind are Princess Diana, The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.

princess di quote

Princess Diana was the poster child of gracious humility. A princess, beloved by the world, as beautiful on the outside as the inside, who with heart and humanity used her influence to help the needy, the marginalized and the outcast. Her many charitable endeavors are well documented. Watching her being interviewed on TV, what you observe is not a woman full of herself and her accomplishments, but one who even in her gentleness and meekness, demonstrates her commitment and passion for her causes with grace, dignity and humility. In every single year since the anniversary of her death 20 years ago this year, she is celebrated and mourned all over the world. Why? Because she let her actions speak for themselves. She let her true light shine on its own merit, and we all witnessed her authenticity and the fruit of her passions.

Dalai-Lama-Quotes-on-Change

The Dalai Lama is a study in tranquility, presence, open-hearted service and humility. Whenever he has a speaking engagement, anywhere in the world, people of all faiths throng to hear him. Why? Could it be because there is an allure there, an attraction which has nothing to do with wealth, perceived success, prestige or status? Could that attraction be the very humility and self-sacrifice so many of us shy away from? We are captivated by the Dalai Lama in some part because what he stands for runs so counter to the values we hold dear in this society. Simplicity, non-attachment, non-judgement are characteristics so foreign to the average person that a persona like the Dalai Lama stands out distinctly from the pack.

obama quote

You may not agree with Barack Obama’s politics while he was President, but you have to admit he possessed a calm, dignified and resolute presence which for a U.S. President, was refreshing to many Americans. He came into his Presidency ringing the bells of change, hopefulness (“yes we can”), unity, and inclusiveness. After 8 years in the Whitehouse, he left sans scandal and controversy with his morals and values intact. I see so much humility in President Obama. He had a lot to brag about as the first African-American President in US history, one of the youngest elected Presidents in recent memory, and as a President who in spite of a Republican controlled Congress, got Obamacare and other major legislation enacted in his tenure. Yet what will go down in history is not a President that tooted his own horn, but one that listened, extended grace to allies and foes, and who tried to act fairly in his dealings, all why staying true to the man he was. Authenticity, poise, equanimity and kindness are some of his hallmarks—all key aspects of humility.

 

quotes-from-martin-luther-king-jr

Martin Luther King Jr’s whole platform centered around non-violence and using the power of love to conquer hate. He rallied for justice and equality for African-Americans and advocated for peace and unity instead of resistance. What a concept! It was hardly revolutionary, but it seemed crazy against the backdrop of the violent and contentious civil rights movement in the 1960’s. His opponents mocked him for what they deemed as weakness. He didn’t go around thumping his chest trying to be noticed. Yet he built a movement so pivotal that it impacted the course of U.S. history. He advocated unrelentingly for civil rights in the face of fierce opposition and used his platform to “keep hope alive” when it seemed that equal rights for all citizens was just a fantasy. His beliefs eventually led to his assassination at the age of 39. Martin Luther King Jr’s was a visionary. He was courageous. And he was humble.

MLK’s story reminds me of a famous Jew that preceded him centuries earlier. Jesus of Nazareth spoke The Truth, knowing it would lead to his death. He confronted his accusers boldly and publicly shamed the Jewish leaders of his time for their hypocrisy. He was the God/man come to the earth in the most humbling of circumstances (born in a horse’s trough in a stable) and lived without wealth or earthly pedigree. He didn’t brag about himself but he did brag about his father, the God of the Universe. Jesus spoke favorably of the meek and the humble, and went so far as to say they would “inherit the earth”. The character trait of humility was one Jesus endorsed, exemplified, and encouraged. According to Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

As a Christian, who has a newfound respect for humility, a recurring prayer of mine is to learn to embrace humility and to know that in my humility I gain so much more strength to do the will of God. In my humility, I am transformed more into the likeness of Jesus. Hallelujah!

You don’t have to be a braggart, prideful, arrogant or self-seeking to get noticed for what only you can do best. You— with your unique talents, experiences, personality, values, strengths and bravado— are needed. Your niche is already carved out waiting for you to show up and manifest your brilliance. They are waiting on you to shine.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.  Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Six Tips to Combat Perfectionism

Red apple and A Plus sign, Concept of learning

If you’re an over achiever like me, you may develop a habit of equating your performance at work with your level of self-worth.  As high-achievers, we can become addicted to the adrenaline rush of exceeding expectations, receiving praise for a job well-done, getting that recommendation, collecting accolades upon accolades, getting that raise or promotion. It never ends, does it? I don’t know about you but it is exhausting. The effort of besting oneself over and over again plays itself out over time. And here’s the rub: when the outside validation stops for whatever reason—career change, job loss, retirement, illness, a dry period, reaching one’s desired zenith, or simply growing out of favor—what is left? What do you hang onto when the only people you have cheering you on are me, myself and I?

It is at this juncture that you find out whether or not you have nurtured and fostered a healthy self-esteem in yourself. Seeking external affirmation is risky business as it depends on the fickle fancies of folks who often come and go with the tide.  The only constant is our unwavering and unfailingly loving God and the “self” that we have allowed to either foster or to flounder. Seeking self-approval begins and ends within. There is no short cut, no fast track, no other way.

life is a marathon

So what are perfectionism seekers to do? Here are 6 principles that continue to work for me:

  1. Accept that failure is part of the human experience. Yes, success feels great, I know. But real success only comes when we are truly willing to accept that failure is an option and we will survive it. I can attest to that!
  2. Spend time loving on yourself to truly bolster your inner confidence. Embrace praise but don’t substitute it for your own internal positive self-talk. What do you say to yourself in your down time? Are you building and lifting yourself up or tearing yourself down? Do you know that it doesn’t matter who thinks you’re awesome if you don’t?
  3. Focus on progress not perfection. High achievers are often perfection seekers. But the truth is that none of us is perfect. Aiming for perfection is a losing game. Instead aim to keep growing and learning. And learning some more.
  4. Recognize that you are so much greater than the “A”, the perfect 5 satisfaction rating, the exemplary performance—these are just metrics, you are divinely YOU in all your expression. The bible says, you are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Jesus Christ. Be not just satisfied, but awed with that.
  5. Know that having expectations of others is the pathway to disappointment. Chances are if you just concentrate on being the best version of yourself, the right people will notice and reward you accordingly. Let that be enough.
  6. Loosen up! Life is meant to be experienced and enjoyed. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Get those endurance muscles in gear and enjoy the long ride. And discover yourself along the way.

(c) Natalie Jobity

Related Posts:

Dare to be Brilliantly You

5 Steps to Leverage Your Vulnerability for Victory 

The 3 Ps: Patience, Perseverance and Prayer 

Be Simply Inspired 

 

Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, freelance writer and editor, and marketing consultant. She consults with would be authors and writers on honing their “voice” so their words have the desired impact.  She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide: Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. 

Contact her writer@nataliejobity.com

 

Five Ways to Use the Power of your Words for Good

talking

Lately I have been trying to pay attention to the words I use.  And what I hear myself speak does not always please me.  It’s bad enough that the occasional expletive still slips out of my mouth unawares, but I am actually more concerned about when I speak lack, destruction, failure or negativity of any kind into my life. Our words have power, yet we use them so thoughtlessly. I am as guilty of this as the next person.  I was just at the car dealership, complaining that I can’t afford to fix another problem with my VW Beetle. And the dealer, kept insisting, “Oh you can afford it, you are doing well, you’ve got loads of money”.  Then I began to come in agreement with him. I affirmed, “Yes you are right, I’m doing well”. This was my attempt at injecting positivity into my consciousness rather than lack.

What I’ve learned over time is that we do create our reality with the thoughts we think and the words we speak. If I want a future filled with prosperity, abundance, love, joy, peace, success and harmony, then I have to come into agreement with this vision with the words I use. Isaiah 55:11 underscores this point: “It is the same with my word. I send it out and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” My words produce fruit. If they are life enhancing, my life will bear fruit accordingly.

The words we speak into others’ lives are just as important, especially those closest to us. Are our words to our loved ones enriching or are they destructive? Someone very creative came up with the acronym, T.H.I.N.K. as a guide to ensuring the words we speak to others are edifying.

  1. First, is what you are saying TRUE? Is it true about the situation, person or event? Is it an honest assessment or is it based on fear, ego, jealousy or judgement? Consider the motive behind what you are saying.
  2. Second, consider, is it HELPFUL? So often we can mistake criticism for helpfulness. We think if we point out what the person is doing wrong we are “helping” them. But are we? In most cases, aren’t we simply finding fault to boost our own pride and self-importance? Again, if we examine our motive, we will have the answer.
  3. Third, is what you are saying INSPIRING? Our words have power to build up and tear down. Are your words motivating and encouraging to your loved ones or are they self-esteem breakers? How are you using the power of your word with your child, spouse, sibling or co-worker? Are they being exalted by your praise or condemned by your judgement?
  4. Fourth, are your words NECESSARY? In business, there is the concept of “adding value”, meaning that one’s efforts augment the status quo. If there is no “value add” then the effort is wasted. Don’t waste your words. Use your power for good. You can be constructive without being critical. You can disagree without disapproving. You can correct without being caustic.
  5. Finally, is what you are saying KIND? Kindness is so underrated. Simple acts of kindness make a tangible difference to our environment, and ultimately to the world we live in. We show kindness to others by using words that make them feel good, words that bring a smile to their face, words which make them beam with pride. Our kindness begets more kindness. It self-perpetuates. When in doubt, just say whatever is kind.

Philippians 4:8 gives us further guidance on how we should think in our interactions with others: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Your word is your wand. Use it to uplift, inspire, and enrich others, and to create a beautiful and prosperous life.

Please share how you use your words for good.

Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, freelance writer and editor, and marketing consultant. She consults with would be authors and writers on honing their “voice” so their words have the desired impact.  She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide: Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.Contact her at nattyjay5@yahoo.com