Throwback pic and lesson. This was part of my team getting me ready for the finals in the Detroit Golden Gloves Tournament in 1990.
It’s been years since I’ve competed in the martial arts, but the martial arts has given me so many gifts that transfer to all aspects of my life, including my full time work in youth development.
One of the many gifts the martial arts has given me is the understanding of how essential a team is. A team of supportive, loving and encouraging mentors and coaches is crucial if we want to actualize the best possible version of ourselves, and help others to do the same.
Yes, as a fighter you’re the one walking into the ring/cage alone and laying it all on the line, but you can’t see everything. Your coaches and mentors – your team has a unique perspective from the outside that has to be trusted and listened to. We all have blind spots and our mentors and coaches will not only point them out, but help us make the necessary adjustments.
In between rounds during a really close fight, I asked my coach, “Am I winning?” He yelled, “Yes, but fight like you’re losing!”
The difference between a win or a loss in the ring and in life often depends upon our ability or our inability to be teachable.
Be teachable. Be humble. Be a lifelong student. And most importantly, be blessed by being a blessing to others.
~ Walk In Beauty,
Acts 9:3-9 New International Version (NIV)
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
So there Saul was living his life, mercilessly persecuting those who believed differently than he did. Along the road to Damascus he was struck blind and heard God say, “Why do you persecute me?” He didn’t ignore this, or try to write with some type of scientific explanation. He understood the importance of that moment, and began an intimate relationship with the Creator. In this intimate transformation, he became Paul, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. His sight was brought back to him but with a renewed vision, this time living from his heart and following the intimate and personal voice we all hear from deep within our hearts.
What was your road to Damascus? If you haven’t had a road to Damascus experience thus far, it can be challenging to appreciate those who’ve had this type of experience.
The lives of every person we encounter are never as simple as presented. In a facade-filled society where protecting perceived prestige and titles is a norm, it becomes challenging to appreciate those who are willing to reveal their past mistakes and challenges.
Those who are willing to share their testimonies are sometimes labeled in negative ways. The very urge to label someone who has the courage to share their testimony with others demonstrates how sharing our personal testimony stirs a remembrance within others about the roads to Damascus some hold secret. Thoughts or statements in response to someone sharing their struggles such as “I would never”, “I can’t believe she did that”, or “Why would he share that?” come from many who claim various forms of religiosity as bedrock for their lives. It’s interesting how those who claim Christianity as their religion will quote various individuals, who, before their moment of transformation had bad reputations from less than honorable lifestyles. If it isn’t obvious, the irony is simple: people will quote scripture from those they themselves would have labeled as “undesirables” and “criminals” but who are now considered spiritual leaders, yet will reject people who have come from the depths of prostitution, gang life, drug dealing, alcoholism, and incarceration among us right here, right now as living, breathing miracles, and in-your-face testimonies of the true healing power of our Creator regardless of religion, but exclusively dependent upon Spiritual Relationship.
It’s in the complete and honest dialogues of our challenges and shortcomings that true teaching-learning experiences blossom. I am not advocating indiscriminate & complete personal disclosure; we have to be careful with that. I am advocating that our personal road to Damascus experience can be the greatest foundation of compassion we have with ourselves and each other. To a greater or lesser extent we all have our own personal road to Damascus. A moment we saw beyond our physical sight and beyond ourselves with great perception in order to glimpse the impact our thoughts, words, and actions are having upon our family, community and world. Never underestimate the power of your personal road to Damascus, and never demean someone else’s personal road to Damascus.
For anyone reading this that views others in our communities who are currently or were previously afflicted with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, gang affiliation, drug dealing or any other forms of negative lifestyles as “less than” perhaps this writing is a personal road to Damascus of sorts for you. A moment for you to reflect upon any self-righteous indignation you may carry towards or about those you would consider “less than,” “beneath you,” “unreachable,” or “beyond help.” Carrying this type of view about anyone is a poison that blinds us to the reality that the Creator has placed within all of us. A reality we must see in one another so that we can remind one another of the greatness placed gently within everyone by the hands of The Great One. As disturbing as it may be to your ego, your labels, judgments, and opinions cannot hold the translation of anyone’s life, including your own. The Creator alone holds the final translation about everyone and everything.
Perhaps if you take a moment to go beyond your physical sight and look deep within your heart you’ll see nobody sets out to become a prostitute, addict, and place more value on money than human lives. Perhaps within your heart you’ll hear a still, small voice saying, “They are my children and deeply wounded. You might have wound up exactly like them if you went through exactly what they did. If you’re so perfect then shouldn’t you have more than just labels and judgments to place upon the altars of my hurting children’s minds and hearts? Don’t you see them as a part of Me? Don’t you see them as part of you? Why do you persecute yourself? Why do you persecute Me?”
Hurt, pain, loss, tragedy, condemnation, and persecution in various forms is what moves our youth into negative lifestyles; offering the exact opposite is what’s required of us to bring them back.
Youth Gang Intervention Tip About Activities:
Activities in and of themselves are not gang intervention. Baseball, soccer, chess, yoga, creative writing, painting, basketball, poetry, spoken word, music, football, boxing, MMA, etc., are all good activities. The intervention comes into play before, during and after the activity, where the facilitators of the activity connects with the youth, and guides them in developing powerful, internal metaphors that instill resilience, fortitude, honor, healthy choices, and a powerful healing vision that the youth can and will focus on and apply in challenging situations when they’re away from the programs and activities.
A program will only rise to the level of the people facilitating it. Allow the Creator of your understanding to facilitate your programs through you with the most powerful force there is – love.
Walk in Beauty,