How do you see yourself as somebody when your circumstances say you’re nobody? How do you have a smile on your face when your life requires that you have tears in your heart? These are challenging times, but that has always been the case for our people. The human condition requires facing challenges and there may be no burden that feels greater than tackling debt.
After hundreds of years of duplicity and hypocrisy and denial and injustice, here we are still standing at the precipice of greatness. But how do we cross that divide? It helps to know our history. It helps to know who we come from and what they’ve handled with grace, compared to whatever we face today. But when you’re feeling depressed, which money trouble can easily ignite, it’s hard to remember your birth power and heritage.
It’s hard to remember, when you put on a cotton shirt, the millions of slaves who bled and died working those fields so that cotton could become a staple industry. It’s hard to remember, when you eat peanut butter, the genius of slave-born George Washington Carver, who created more than a hundred products out of peanuts. It’s hard to remember, when you look at a clock, that the very first wooden clock made in America was created by a 22-year-old Benjamin Banneker, inventor, entrepreneur, author, surveyor, farmer and more. But you should remember.
If you don’t know, before this year ends, take time to learn some African American history. Because when you know about the faith, hope, grace and courage that have always been some of our most potent weapons, then you might be able to see some of that strength in yourself.
Listen, I know what it’s like to duck, negotiate and even lie to creditors to get through another day. I know how it diminishes your spirit. I know how it can make you feel that the people who depend upon you the most are doomed. It can make you feel less than worthless. Thank goodness those feelings can change, because they are not true. Debt is temporary, unless you choose to make a home in debt. One of the best places to start is to start believing in yourself and believing that you have the power to change this temporary situation – that things will get better. And once you’ve mastered that, you can believe in something even greater than yourself.
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re in a terrible place, you cannot get out of it by focusing on the negatives that surround you. The only way to get out of darkness is by finding the light. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” This man, who was a nobody in his time, became somebody that the world will never forget because he believed in himself enough to come up with a plan and execute it.
If you’ve been struggling with debt and self-love, it’s not likely you can change your situation alone. You need to get a mentor or a friends’ circle or a team of supporters who believe in you. Not only can they help remind you of all of your great qualities and how you can put them to use, but they’ll be there to lift you up when you would otherwise sink.
Turn to people who you admire for their self-confidence, for their ability to create plans and bring them to fruition, for their ability to care for and help others. If you don’t have any people in your life right now who fit this bill, it’s time for you to venture out and join some new organizations. Our neighborhoods are full of churches and community organizations bursting with people who would love to get to know you. Join them. Now is not the time to be shy.
Just taking that first step may feel like a battle, because it is a battle – to reclaim yourself. All of society at times is sending you a different message, particularly at this time of year when holidays are touted as shopping sprees. It’s this worthless spending that has brought you down in the first place. Reject it. Set new priorities and start a new path that ends in victory.
You didn’t get into debt overnight and you won’t climb out of it overnight, either. When you start by believing you can take this journey, that you can get help along the way, that you carry the spirit of our ancestors in your blood – which makes you capable of just about anything -- then you’ve put yourself in the right mindset to change your life.
You are worthy. You are precious. You deserve to live debt free. Won’t you join the financial freedom movement today?DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey and is the architect of the dfree® financial freedom movement.
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