People may feel sorry for you, but they will not feel responsible for you.
Discipline yourself, so nobody else has to.
When you take full responsibility for your life, you free yourself from the mental slavery that says someone else is responsible for the fulfillment of your purpose. It starts with developing a strong sense of ownership and responsibility over your life.
As men, our jobs are to take full control of the individuality we were born with and develop it, without being defeated by the harshness of life. As a black man who serves a predominantly black community, it’s important for me to talk about the nuanced issues that have affected our community.
There is no perfect way to measure the social health of a group or a community without error. However, anecdotal evidence can be helpful in assessing prevalent perspectives and mentalities. I have personally observed that, for those born after the era when “crack” cocaine infiltrated many black neighborhoods, and right up to the present time, social service institutions and criminal justice agencies have taken responsibility for addressing community issues.
Child protection services, foster care, group homes, juvenile correction facilities, jails, and prisons have become tools to address the outgrowth of fragile family dynamics in many black neighborhoods. As a behavioral consultant and life skills coach in several of these institutions, I have observed patterns of thoughts that don’t serve to help the development of self-sufficiency and accountability of those they serve. Instead, services designed to “help” create a dependent and inferior mentality.
Here are a few examples:
· “My social worker is going to find a job for me.”
· “I went on an interview, but the job never called me back.”
· “If I go to jail, at least I’ll get three hots and a cot.”
· “My teacher never taught me/my child to read.”
· From a fifteen-year-old black male: “I’m going to live off SSI like my mother and grandmother.”
· When asked a question about their future: “I don’t know.”
Some of us even use religion as a drug to run from reality: “Let go and let God handle it.”
As a result of a legacy of trauma and institutionalization of black communities during the crack epidemic in the 1980s, many black Americans have developed a learned helplessness or dependence on systems for aid.
Ralph Ellison, in his book Invisible Man, says that a part of the black man’s invisibility is irresponsibility. Responsibility depends on recognition. Why be responsible in a world that doesn’t see you or only sees you through their own interpretations, opinions, assumptions, prejudices, and beliefs about black men? When you are seen, or know you will be seen, you matter. What you do and don’t do matters.
As a man, you must take the initiative to solve your own problems—instead of waiting for Superman to arrive.
Everyone receives assistance along the way to get to where they are going. There’s nothing wrong with asking for or receiving help—but when you rely completely on outside help to get out of your condition, you are headed toward stagnation, complacency, and dependence. To change the future of black men—and all black people—we need to face the reality of the negative thinking patterns that they use to make pivotal life choices.
It can be hard to acknowledge the reality, but you cannot change what you tolerate. Taking ownership of your life requires that you live the life that was meant for you to live, and not the script that society hands you. It all starts with taking responsibility for your own future.
Here’s a perspective for you to consider.
Solution: The Ant Perspective – The Danger of Being Lazy
“Take a lesson from the ant, you who love leisure and ease. Observe how it works, and dare to be just as wise. It has no boss, no one laying down the law or telling it what to do, Yet it gathers its food through summer and takes what it needs from the harvest. How long do you plan to lounge your life away, you lazy fool? Will you ever get out of bed? You say, “A little sleep, a little rest, a few more minutes, a nice little nap.” But soon poverty will be on top of you like a robber; need will assault you like a well-armed warrior.“ (Proverbs 6:6-11, The Voice)
In this passage, the ant doesn’t have a boss, nor does it need a boss. The ant knows what’s necessary to be independent, based on its own needs. The governor of the ant’s life is internally based self-sufficiency.
If nothing changes in most of our culture, your internal governor must be self-reliance, self-determination, and self-enterprise. These are the same values that the formerly enslaved Africans used to build self-sufficient black businesses or towns such as the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921; Rosewood, Florida in 1923; Knoxville, TN in 1919; Wilmington, NC in 1898; East St. Louis, IL in 1917, and Oscarville, GA in 1912 —before these areas were destroyed by white racists.
In the days of chattel slavery, black people were made dependent. They had to be productive, but only to satisfy the needs of their masters. As free men and women, they embarked on a journey of independence to build lives for themselves. Despite being oppressed time and again, they persisted. They chose to be survivors instead of perpetual victims.
Which one are you?
Survivor or Victim
A man crossing the street was suddenly struck by a speeding, drunk driver. He survived with serious injuries. Doctors assumed that the man would never be able to walk again.
The man had a wife and two daughters. He wept, picturing everything he would lose now: the ability to play sports, to walk his daughter down the aisle, and even to work to support his family. After many hours of crying, he realized that he might not have been responsible for what happened to him—but he was responsible for what happened next.
His healing and recovery were up to him. He could schedule physical therapy appointments and arrange for someone to transport him to and from the doctor. He could organize his life to be as productive as possible. While he had a great support system, his healing was his responsibility.
Instead of being a victim, he became a survivor, someone who functions and even prospers despite hardship. He chose not to remain helpless and hopeless.
When tough times hit, what mindset do you take on? Are you a survivor or a victim? How do you know which you are?
Nine Signs You Are a Victim
1. You complain rather than taking action to improve your situation.
2. You discuss the same issues over and over, month after month, and sometimes year after year.
3. You receive solutions but always seem to find them unworkable or inapplicable to your circumstance.
4. You wait for a “superhero” to rescue you.
5. You avoid taking responsibility for your actions. You look for people or circumstances to blame for your current condition.
6. You are a parasite. You take but don’t give. You’re more of a liability than an asset because of your selfish perspective.
7. You refuse to take care of yourself, preferring for someone to take care of you.
8. You are constantly in trouble because you catastrophize situations.
9. You drain the people around you with your unwillingness to deal with your situations head on.
Nine Signs You Are a Survivor
1. You engage in behaviors to move you in the direction of improving your situation and restoring your sense of hope.
2. You are willing to fight the fear of change, and you make sacrifices to position yourself to grow.
3. You are patient because you understand that delayed gratification is a tool on your journey to reach your goal.
4. You fight your fears on a daily basis.
5. You make plans based on reality, not a fantasy world.
6. You embrace your circumstances instead of running from them.
7. You use all the resources at your disposal to bring about positive change.
8. You seek skilled help when you get stuck instead of spinning your wheels.
9. You stay prudent instead of being impulsive and reacting solely off emotion.
To remind yourself of your purpose, you can create a mantra to keep you grounded. Here’s one that I use.
The Responsibility Mantra: This is my life. I’m responsible for who enters it and for what takes place in it. I determine my life mission, goals, my values, and my pace. I will respect and learn all the different views and opinions from others, but my decisions for my life will be a product of my own conclusions.