Your Identity

Who are you?

While I was new to a particular organisation, someone asked my  immediate colleagues, “Who is she?” when she got no answer from them, she turned to ask me the same question “who are you?”

She was a chirpy lady who had only seen me for a few days as she came in and out of the office during my second week in the new job. I thought it was a rather peculiar question to ask a new colleague, not just that, but to ask colleagues, while I sat there with them all! She was not a member of my team and she sits in an inner corner of the office. I don’t get to see her unless I walk past on my way to the kitchen. She was not only chirpy but also a bouncy and extremely extroverted character and her personality explained away her rather offensive approach to an introduction.

My response was to turn to my colleagues, in a failed attempt to swallow the offence, crack a smile and try to make light of it all. I asked them “Yea, that’s true, who am I?”. The enquirer was not fooled, she gave a withering look, upon which (and as I had been told she was a much senior colleague – a section director) I told her my job title, explained I was new to the organisation and what role I expected to fulfil in my team. She welcomed me and off she went.

For many of us, just like me, telling people “who we are” at work is not a problem, we have a job title, a job description, a line of reporting and we can frame our identity within these parameters. The same is true sometimes for when we are at home, we can define ourselves by the family we belong to – “I am Sara’s mum” … “I am Jane’s husband” … “I am Dr Jones’s father”. We could even have significant roles we play in our communities, whether formal roles or informal ones that we can introduce ourselves by. All these are perfectly legitimate descriptions. In fact it is a blessing to be able to do so.

What I have realised is that there are times when these identities may not be enough to help us define who we are and we can struggle to get on our feet with confidence, knowing how we are defined and what does not define us. These times of helplessness are not limited to the vulnerable and the weak, some of the strong personalities I have met often struggle with self identity.

In this blog, I will like to focus on what does not define us and hopefully by approaching this way we may understand the concept and each person can then work out what defines them.

Our individuality and differences are part of .

We are not defined by the negatives of our past: struggles – financial, health, emotional, relational – that we faced in the past do not define who we are. Just because we have been poor or lacking the resources that we expected to have, does not mean we are perpetually doomed to be that person who never has enough, who has to scrimp and save and always has to sit for precious hours counting the pennies. Someone who felt lacking in the past may go the whole hog of greed trying to grab as much as they can or they may become overly arrogant in their new found status and forget to temper their new “power” with wisdom, and humility. They may still hold very dear the little idiosyncrasies of the past as they hold on to the poverty mentality that had previously helped ground them in the reality of their situation. They may totally forget to uproot themselves from the old and replant themselves in their new reality.

We might have been emotionally bruised and relationships might have turned sour when the last thing we wanted was to let go of them. The hurt of the past may mean for some people carrying the belief that nobody can truly love them or pushing genuine love away because of the fear of abandonment, rejection or failure, but each day is a new day with renewed grace, mercy and hope. Without healing and moving on in the hope and trust for the future, good  relationships will be lost.

Someone who had suffered so much with their health may give up on looking after themselves or preserve and care for their body because a deep root has gone down, the unconscious believe that such care is futile and as a result may become clumsy and suffer accident after accident. Others may become overly fearful and every little symptom may appear as death knocking on the door.

We are not defined by the abuse of the past: this is a big and unfortunate one. Any type of abuse is damaging – sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse. All of them have emotional and physical effect on the victim. But the greatest tragedy will be never getting over it. Sometimes, our lives will look very good to the outside world while on the inside, we suffer with lack of self worth. The abuser took some of that worth, some of the value with them when they came (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” John 10:10). You may wonder sometimes “why me?” “What have I done to deserve this?”  You might have even managed to convince yourself that it was your fault, it must have been because of something you did and you might have gone as far as identifying one or a myriad of things that you believe is the legitimate reason why it was you he or she picked to abuse. There may or may not be elements of truth in that but ultimately the abuser was only showing what they are made of or their own lack of understanding of who they are. They basically chose to give themselves the “abuser” identity. 

Security manager is pushing IAM on a touch screen interface. Information technology security concept for Identity and Access Management that is controlling access rights to data resources.

We are not defined by our career or job: If you define ourselves by the job you do, the day someone, a mistake or a failure manages to convince you that you are not as good at the job as you had thought, is the day you will crumble and your self confidence and self worth will take a quick tumble. Your job is something you do, your career is a path you have embarked on and wish to follow for however long you choose to follow it. It has a lot of benefits, not least of which is the ability to pay your monthly (or how often they come) bills and the fulfilment that comes from doing something you enjoy doing and making a difference in the world or making a contribution to the society.

We are not defined by the family we come from: someone with a great family gene pool, popular or helpful and caring family may find this difficult to get their head around but I bet someone from a family of supposed “losers” may also find it difficult a concept to grasp. Our families give us a great sense of belonging and where things are awry, this sense of belonging may be shaken but either way we cannot afford to define ourselves by our father, mother, husband, wife, daughter, son, siblings or cousins. They are people in our lives to love, cherish and share life with and they also have to do the same, but they are far from being who we are.

We are not defined by our mistakes: Sometimes we do the dumbest things and make the most awful choices, not that we know we are doing so at the time (at least not always!), but hindsight is a wonderful thing; we can look back and cringe at some of the things we have said and done. However, no matter how embarrassing, shameful, damaging our mistakes are, we are more than capable of starting again – each day is a new day with renewed grace, mercy and hope.

We are not defined by the names we have been called: this is especially true of the negative things that may have been said over us in the past, whether by parents in the moments when they threw good judgement out of the window and chose to act otherwise than in wisdom. It may be the bad names and unhelpful declarations by teachers and tutors in school and college. Have you been told you are no good, good for nothing? Names could be powerful things, there was a man in the Bible named Jabez which interpretation is pain. All his parents saw when they gave birth to him was pain and they named him accordingly. But Jabez cried to God to change his fortune so that he will no longer be pain to anyone but a blessing and the Bible recorded that God granted his request. The man Israel, whom the country of the Jews is named by, was previously called Jacob, which means a supplanter, a backstabber, a schemer; when he met with God in a dream, God gave him a different name. You too can have a different name to replace the bad one you may have been given.

We are not defined by our physique: describing someone by their physique is the easiest way to physically identify them. You could hear something like, “go to the fourth floor and he is the short, plump, about middle-aged, blond man you will find sitting by the window, he is difficult to miss…”. It certainly is helpful when someone has distinct physical features that can help pick them out of a crowd, if doing so is crucial to your mission. But this does not define the essence of the man, it is just what he looks like on the outside. And now I hear someone saying, the physique matters! It does matter in some instances – it helps if your spouse finds your physique attractive, or when the girl or boy you’ve got your eyes on think you are the most beautiful thing on earth, but remember beauty is very subjective and as they say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder!”

I can go on and on about the things that we are not defined by, but I hope that by now you get a gist of the message, that the negative experiences and even some of the positives do not define us. I will encourage you to give thought to what you think should define you as a person, what is the lasting, enduring, solid ground, unshakable truth that you can plant your feet on and never be shaken – in there lies the best identity you can give yourself; you need to believe it, abide and live by it.

When you have done all to stand, just stand

Stand

A girlfriend inspired me to write this article.

She had read my book Me, My Mother, My Life a few  years ago and she recently gave a glowing review of not just the book but also of me. Her review was in fact more of a testimony of how she had changed for the better after reading the book.

My friend telephoned to let me know since giving the review she had picked the book back up and started re-reading portions of it. She spoke to me about some of the challenges that she had faced as a child and how she was dealing with those challenges as an adult. It just occurred to me that our struggles may have different shades of red or black but the underlying issues and the principles we battled were the same.

I have no doubt that it would be similar for many women (and men) who have had to do battle with people who wanted to control, manipulate, repress and belittle them, whether because similar treatment had been meted out to them in their own past and they struggled to get past it, so they inflict the same pain on innocent people who entered their lives through no choice.

Being controlling and manipulative in this way tend to come with a huge weight of shame; and seeking any help to get out of this mindset and negative behaviour would seem demeaning and a form of humiliation, like they had experienced in the place where their journey to bitterness and desire to control came from.

What I have learnt is that there is no other way to be healed and free from the oppression we had experienced from others than forgiving them, releasing them from the debt we hold them to and then walking away from their control. There is of course, room for reconciliation and maintaining a level of relationship, or even a full relationship, but by the time you have forgiven, you would be wiser to the fact that they only had the power to repress and oppress because, either they were in a position of authority over you or you had become of such a mind that you allowed them to oppress and repress you. Walking away means not co-operating with them to treat you in this manner.

A proud oppressor would fight back your bid for freedom by attempting more control and if that doesn’t work they would try any form of manipulation whether emotional blackmail, financial or reputational blackmail, being patronising or anger and fury. Once you forgive, it is up to you to stand strong and get all the necessary resources to help you stand strong, understanding that you don’t have to give permission to anyone to abuse you or abuse your generousity and respect.

If you are reading this and thinking well, I already do this and this not new, then I say good on you! Please understand however that not everyone started out as strong as you are, some of us are only learning along the way.

Some of you faced difficult or abusive situations in one way or another but you didn’t hire a coach, a counsellor, or a embark on some elaborate ministry sessions, you just took each day, stood up to the situation and with your own natural inner strength and whatever friendship and relationships you had, you dealt, one day at a time, with your situational adversary. You may not even have realised that having that one or two relationships in your life contributed positively to your ability to deal with the circumstances you were surrounded with. One note of warning to you, please do not close off your mind to the possibility you might need healing in one area or another – don’t go digging unnecessarily but please don’t close your minds either. Let freedom do it’s work in you if ever it comes knocking on your door. All you have to do is tell yourself “if it ever comes knocking, I will open the door.”

Be healed and keep on living and thriving in that healing.

Stand

Conflict Resolution with Ayomide Adeniola

Conflicts are unavoidable, it is how we deal with them that matters. In the past week we have witnessed conflicts pertaining to the Royal Family. Needless to say, while the royal conflicts played out on television and YouTube screens, simply because of the enormity of their family profile, millions of other similarly deep family conflicts have gone on within the same time-frame but outside of the glare of the world and its media.

Prince William, speaking to a cross-section of Bradford Community on Wednesday said it’s okay for us to have these challenges, we just need to deal with them and we do need to move forward rather than be stuck in paralysis and pretend the problem is not there and this is what inspired this blog, so thanks your Royal Highness.

Recipe for success

I believe four ingredients need to be present in conflict resolution, a base of honesty seasoned with humility and served with a garnish of respect and honour for each other.

Now that we have the ingredients what is the process to complete this recipe? You can tell, can’t you, that I watched a bit of Saturday Morning kitchen and am literally sat in from of Mary Berry’s Best Home Cook as I type! So here we go:

Sit down to consider how and what YOU might have done wrong

It is easy to absolve ourselves of all blame and shift it to the other person. A while ago, I was having a chat to someone whose marriage had collapsed. The most shocking thing they said to me was that they did absolutely nothing wrong and had no blame in the marriage ending. They said “…one minute we were planning on buying our first house together, the next minute I was being told that the marriage was over.” As far as I was concerned, my conversation with them about that particular issue was at an end at that point. There was no merit in going further. We did engage in other conversations, at end of which they may have realised we usually have a part to play when things go wrong, it cannot all be the other person’s fault.

One thing I constantly did wrong was brought to my attention one day, when in my younger days, an even younger colleague ‘crossed the line’ and I flipped, in front of customers and every other colleague present. I seriously went mad. We were called into the manager’s office where both the General Manager and the Assistant Manager asked us both for our side of the story (a very wise conflict resolution approach that works all the time!), while he claims innocence and that I was just a raging mad lunatic, who went for him for no reason, I had a bucket load of offences for him and I made the managers realise he had pushed me too far! The managers stood there with their jaws to the floor. The Assistant Manager, very calmly, in a monotone, said, “Ayo, you must never wait until someone pushed you right to the wall before you act. In the least, always give at least three warnings before it gets to this stage.” Having heard that, I realised the ugly scene of that day was in the majority – my fault. I had allowed the situation to get out of hand, my colleague was just being his teenage self. I saw him as constantly rude, disrespectful, immature, petulant and needed to attend a gruesome, intensive Character Bootcamp before he should even be allowed to put one foot into any place of work. The truth was, had I myself taken a little bit more matured approach to the matter it might not have caused the ugly scene it did. I was not reprimanded in any way; I was actually made to understand how valuable my contribution to the organisation was (another wise move on my Managers’ part). My colleague was also not given a marching order but was made to understand that his actions do have impact on other people and that he needed to pay more attention to that. Problem solved.

Perhaps you may consider whether some deep-seated bitterness is at the heart of your manner of interaction with the other person, bitterness that they or completely different people have caused you.

Accept all the areas where you have done wrong

Resolving the conflict is not just about accepting to yourself that you have done wrong, but also accepting to the other person that you indeed did wrong to them in that specific matter. Doing this doesn’t in any way label you as a “wrong‘un” (a person whose whole personality or existence is wrong) nor should it be used as a determinant of any other blame apportioning.

We live in a world where we are always cautioned against admitting ‘liability’; you could invalidate an insurance policy if you do. Even some bad (and wrong) leadership teachings directly or indirectly warn leaders about being honest when they have made mistakes. The old saying used to be “Honesty is the best policy”, now a days we hear “Honesty is not always the best policy” and when you have admitted to being wrong and been beaten over the head for it, you clam up next time you are in the wrong. I am however a strong believer in a timely and appropriate acceptance of liability – it has never failed to work for me, whether in a personal or professional situation. We have seen over recent years, how lack of honestly has in fact impacted negatively on the perception of leaders and leadership.

It appears honesty in the times we live in takes boldness. I was on a leadership course where I was told about the Leadership of Self and all I had to do was be bold and courageous and do some daring things I had never done before. I gained greater level of confidence and courage from it.

Being courageously honest in this way is important because:

  1. It brings honesty back into the relationship and honesty build trust. It will always generate a sense of knowing and understanding better, the person you are in a relationship with as well as understanding and knowing yourself better. No one is perfect and understanding each other’s strength and weaknesses helps in setting expectations and finding the right way to deal with inevitable conflicts.
  2. There is a humility in accepting to the other person that you have done wrong and if I flip that on its side it means a level of ego and arrogance is removed from your interaction with that person. Ego or arrogance is like a dryness between two mechanical components of a machine that are designed to work together, it causes friction, heat, and wear between them. A dose of humility with the genuine aim of making things right is like the lubricating oil that helps the two components work together again more smoothly.
  3. Honesty earns you some of your lost credibility. Let’s face it when we hurt people, we lose credibility and traction with them. Honesty buys us some of that back.
  4. It honours the other person and this again builds trust and also facilitates a spirit of rapport (unless they have self-esteem issues)
  5. Once you find out what it is you have done wrong and admit to it, you actually strip that negative mindset or behaviour of its hold and power over you. When I admitted to myself and the people around me that I did bottle issues up, there was a sense of freedom that I felt in not needing to do it again.
cole-keister-unsplash

Work towards walking a better path in future

There is no need going through all that honesty process and continue in the old behaviour – that is simply taking liberty for licence!

When you find what you are doing wrong and admit to it, you must also work to ensure you serve the negative mindset and behaviour an eviction notice and enforce the notice. It may take time to work through them but starting and committing to working through them completes the honesty circle.

Treading a better path for the future involves moving forward with mutual respect and honour as you continue to work through any issues and make the bold and courageous, even if sometimes challenging and difficult, commitment to change – knowing better and doing better.

eric-ward-unsplash

The Father’s Heart

I was trying to do some tidy up today and came across my old ministry notes. These particular 2 pages, below, perfectly summed up what has been on my heart since yesterday morning about the heart of God towards us as our father and I thought I would share it with my audience. I do hope it blesses you and helps you to re-evaluate your own heart towards God and how that is reflected in your relationships and attitudes towards other people, especially people that you share the same faith with.

God bless.

Contentment

When we feel a strong sense of something missing in our lives, we often feel ill at ease. We loose our satisfaction. This lack of satisfaction motivates us to move forward and do something about the situation.

As Christians – our first port of call in time of dissatisfaction is God, because no matter what it is that we are ill at ease and unsatisfied about, it will not give us complete satisfaction. God is the one who truly can give us wholeness.

In the times of discontentment, it is very important that we appreciate what we already have and to understand that we have the greatest thing possible – the love of God. Through that love, we already have the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Bible says, greater love does no one have than this, that a man will give his own life for his friends.

Jesus said, I no longer call you servants, I call you friends. I don’t know about you but if a friend would sacrifice his or her life for me, I would not flinch in feeling 100% secure in the love of that friend. I would feel that that friend has me covered – they’ve got my back.

God designed our lives – psalm 139 says “you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. The deepest desires of our heart everything that we long for, God knows about them because He created the deepest part of us. He knows us inside out. There is nothing that is hid from Him. So in the times of discontentment let’s remember and be assured by the fact that before the world or anyone else knew us, right there in the womb, God knitted us together. He knows what we are feeling and He’s got comfort for us.

The Bible in John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I don’t give it to you as the world gives” – in order words – the type of peace that I give, you will not find it any where in the world around you. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. When we have discontentment – are we afraid, are we anxious? Or do we seek the peace of God over the matter? The bible gives us a command in Philippians – “be anxious for nothing”… “but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.

Is there anything in your heart today that you are worried, anxious and unsettled about? – why don’t you lift it up to God and exchange your worries for His peace.

 

 

When you have done all to stand, stand

cropped-logo_1310678_web.jpg

A girlfriend inspired me to write this article.

She had read my book Me, My Mother, My Life a couple of years ago and she recently gave a glowing review of not just the book but also of me. Her review was in fact more of a testimony of how she had changed for the better after reading the book.

My friend telephoned to let me know since giving the review she had picked the book back up and started re-reading portions of it. She spoke to me about some of the challenges that she had faced as a child and how she was dealing with those challenges as an adult. It just occurred to me that our struggles may have had different shades of red or black but the underlying issues and the principles we battled were the same.

I have no doubt that it would be similar for many women who have had to do battle with people who wanted to control, manipulate, repress and belittle them, whether because similar treatment had been meted out to them in their own past too and they struggled to get past it so they inflict the same pain on innocent people who entered their lives through no choice.

Being controlling and manipulative in this way tend to come with a huge weight of shame and seeking any help to get out of this mindset and negative behaviour would seem demeaning and a form of humiliation, like they had experienced in the place where their journey to bitterness and desire to control came from.

What I have learnt is that there is no other way to be healed and free from the oppression we had experienced from others than forgiving them, releasing them from the debt we hold them to and then walking away from their control. There is of course, room for reconciliation and maintaining a level of relationship, or even a full relationship, but by the time you have forgiven you would be wiser to the fact that they only had the power to repress and oppress because, either they were in a position of authority over you or you had become of such a mind that you allowed them to oppress and repress you. Walking away means not co-operating with them to treat you in this manner.

A proud oppressor would fight back your bid for freedom by attempting more control and if that doesn’t work they would try any form of manipulation whether emotional blackmail, financial or reputational blackmail, being patronising or anger and fury.

Once you forgive, it is up to you to stand strong and get all the necessary resources to help you stand strong, understanding that you don’t have to give permission to anyone to abuse you or abuse your generousity and respect.

If you are reading this and thinking well, I already do this and this not new, then I say good on you! Please understand however that not everyone started out as strong as you are, some of us are only learning along the way.

Some of you faced difficult or abusive situations in one way or another but you didn’t hire a coach, a counsellor, or a embark on some elaborate ministry sessions, you just took each day, stood up to the situation and with your own natural inner strength and whatever friendship and relationships you had, you dealt, one day at a time, with your situational adversary. You may not even have realised that having that one or two relationships in your life contributed positively to your ability to deal with the circumstances you were surrounded with. One note of warning to you, please do not close off your mind to the possibility you might need healing in one area or another – don’t go digging unnecessarily but please don’t close your minds either. Let freedom do it’s work in you if ever it comes knocking on your door. All you have to do is tell yourself “if it ever comes knocking, I will open the door.”

Be healed and keep on living and thriving in that healing.

…After all, that’s what Christmas is about…

Celebration - Toast

I have heard this said many times about the family jollity (or not) that surrounds, and unfolds on Christmas day. I generally love Christmas and whilst many people swear by their sun filled Christmas in some holiday destination, I love Christmas in the UK – carols blasting out of the supermarket’s PA system, the Salvation Army transforming otherwise stressful atmosphere of London Bridge Station into a heavenly bliss as their wind instruments deliver, with calm assertion, those delightful Christmas carols; lights everywhere on the streets, trees and now even the London red busses, thanks to Coca Cola!

In all our giving and receiving of presents and cards, eating, loving (and for some tolerating) we tend to forget that at the centre of it all is Continue reading

Honouring my Fathers

Just the one man was biologically responsible for my birth, but so many fathers nurtured, affirmed, loved and held me when I felt completely helpless and sometimes confused, disorientated. They came in different shapes, sizes and colours; some even too young to conceive someone my age and some are of the age whereby if I were their natural daughter, I would almost be a retirement baby. 

One such fathers is Pa Chuck Snyder. This morning I picked up an 8-page letter that he sent me on 21 April 2000, a letter of admonition, the kind of Paul to Timothy letter.

memorial
Photo credit: http://www.chucksnyder.org

This my spiritual father certainly knows how to inspire and comfort his children because reading this letter again today stirred up my soul and sad I was when I now no longer can write another email to him saying Pa, just read your letter again, you are fabulous and I am indeed blessed to have you in my life! Pa has been resting in the Lord for over 3 years now.

 I hope on this father’s day, he gets an extra special singing session with the angels in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Pa, you were ace! You rock!

With God’s love

xxxxx

Britain Has a New Prime Minister!

Phew! At last, the markets are picking up, the pound is gaining strength, companies are backtracking from the warnings they gave and things are looking up for the British economy, all because Theresa May has been announced as our new Prime Minister and will assume office tomorrow.

Theresa-May_2508509b

Brexit threat, its economic and financial repercussions has lasted the whole of …erm… two and half weeks, but boy, it feels like a lifetime! Never have I witnessed so much happen in the life of a nation than in the last two weeks. What with the markets tumbling and the political class embroiled in so much trouble – no less the ones they caused with half hearted campaigns, false sums, project fear and trying to bully the electorate to vote one way by threatening emergency budget, what was all that about? Simple recipe for defiant votes by the electorate. Even I for a while joined the camp of those who wanted to stick one finger up and rebel against the establishment. The Question I had to ask myself in the end was, “is that wise?” and of course it wasn’t. As strong as the temptation was, it is always better to take a step back and balance one’s view.

I was not particularly afraid of us leaving the EU because I believe Britain is strong enough to establish individual relationships with various countries but I felt an alliance of nations is stronger than alliances with many nations, never mind about that now, it’s forward march from here. Mrs May, the woman to take us forward into our new nirvana, has been described as a “bloody difficult woman” and apparently if you have worked with Margaret Thatcher, you might just be fine dealing with her. It was a claim Theresa herself did not deny, and she has promised the man at the heart of the EU he will be the next to know about it. Wow, sisters are indeed doing it for themselves. Talking about sisters, Hillary Rodham Clinton has only recently demonstrated to us just how resilient and determined she is by making a comeback eight years after she first tried to become the President of the US. As a woman, I take my hats off to all of them and can only try to imitate the courage, the wisdom and dogged determination that these women have shown in raising their heads above the parapet, raising their hands and standing up to be counted as women who use their God given influence to shape the future of their countries. Here’s to hoping that Britain’s new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Theresa Mary May will bring her influence to bear positively on the nation for unity, tolerance and prosperity.

Going Solo

lonely-boat-on-big-ocean-1378034I recently came back from a holiday and I had quite a lot of beautiful pictures to show friends and acquaintances. Having had the time of my life on the trip, (the latter part of it anyway, I was recovering from flu the first few days and had it not been cheap and non refundable, I would have cancelled the holiday altogether!) I was in high spirit but it was quickly dampened when an acquaintance, after looking at the pictures and complimenting them said, “I was wondering, where are the friends you went on holiday with, why are they not in the pictures?”  She said it as such casual probe that I was thrown aback and found myself on the defensive. “Do I have to go with someone?” “What if I don’t have any friends?” And the truth is I really do not have friends I go on holidays with. Continue reading