I once heard someone say, “God ain’t done with me yet”, and in many ways, that phrase fits me to a T. Sure, I’ve come a long way but Lord knows my journey is far from complete. However, I’m smiling even as I type these words. Why?
Well, because I know I’m on the right path, since I’ve cleared enough obstacles in my life to see my destination clearly. In order to do that, it was important to fix what was broken in me.
In the past, I was a person who put up facades. I wouldn’t say I was fake because most of my intentions were genuine but there were things I never wanted anyone else to see. I even did a good job of hiding those things from myself. They were too embarrassing and I grew up thinking that I’d be weak if I expressed myself and admitted some of these issues to others. So I did what many other Black men do far too much–I lied and suppressed those feelings for so long that I didn’t even realize I actually had them.
I had numerous traumas I buried which I wrote extensively about in my memoir “Open Mike”. However, for the purpose of this letter, I’ll talk about one of my main vices. That vice is fear. And while there are many components to that, in this letter, I’ll talk about why I was afraid to fully open up and love someone intimately.
The simple answer is I honestly just didn’t know how. It wasn’t something I saw growing up. Not to blame anyone else but I do believe we become a product of our environments and that can sometimes be detrimental if there isn’t someone there to guide us down the right path. I can’t remember a time when my mom and dad embraced each other in a loving manner. At least not in front of me. The “I love you’s” were more like a quick, under the breath “love you”, as someone left the house on the way to work. So even though I heard it, I never felt it. This gave me training wheels that took a long time before I was able to take them off.
Deep down I knew I should love or at least feel it. I felt it. I knew it existed. I just didn’t know how to truly express it. The first time I tried, it was a disaster. As I wrote in my book, Open Mike, the first time I expressed genuine love to a girlfriend, I was 15 years old and when I told her, her reaction was not what I expected. It was absolutely terrible. I was hurt. I was embarrassed and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was becoming cold and cut off. It wasn’t enough to not be in relationships but more than enough not to fully trust or “fall” in love.
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Some will say, “well that happened when you were 15, get over it”! Maybe. But it wasn’t that simple and because I couldn’t trust or fully commit, I had to always have some sort of insurance clause to avoid being hurt. This meant since I couldn’t fully trust someone I was with, I was going to at least ensure my fall didn’t hurt as much if she did try to hurt me.
To many of you reading this, you might think this sounds ridiculous and juvenile. Ladies might say, “we get hurt all the time, move on” or “this is just an excuse”. And later in life it’s possible that I did use it as a crutch for my greed and indiscretions but I will never discount emotional traumas and the type of effects they have on your mentality. If I never saw true love between a man and a woman, as a child, and the first time I tried to express my own and was deeply hurt, how can anyone say it didn’t have some sort of influence? And if it’s never addressed through some variation of therapy, it will grow. Remember, all trees start as seeds.
We have to be careful how we view a man’s feelings or emotions. It’s gotten better, thank God, but we still have this stigma, especially in the Black community, about a man putting certain feelings on display. Those reactions are a major reason why some men become afraid to show their feelings and be vulnerable. And since you can’t heal what you don’t reveal, any issues a man suppresses out of that fear can do major harm. For most of my life this was my issue and it not only affected me, it had an ill affect on my previous marriages, which caused some psychological harm in my kids.
Because of what men may think others will think or the fact that they’ve been told it’s not manly to talk to someone, many men (especially Black men) with these issues never face them and get the help to correct them. Fortunately, after writing the book, I was able to do so and that work continues today.
Now I’m able to be IN love because I’m not afraid to fall. Through my therapy and other healing work, I’ve gotten over that fear of being hurt or worried about karma because of my indiscretions in previous relationships. I’ve figured out where that pain started from, removed it from my soul, and now continue to do the things I need to do to heal. Thank God I have because had I not, I certainly wouldn’t have been in a position to be with someone like Cynthia and respect her like the queen she is.
I’ve apologized to the women I’ve hurt before. They didn’t deserve what I put them through and I didn’t deserve them. I have to live with that and I’ve asked them and asked God to forgive me. It’s important that I’ve also forgiven myself. I know because of my journey through healing, I’m a better person–walking into my manhood. I’m not afraid to love deeply and I continue to learn how to love my wife and kids. It’s a process but as I said in the beginning, God ain’t done with me yet. I’m TRULY happy with the road he has me on though.
1 Corinthians 13:11, KJV: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”