All Articles Tagged "Iyanla Vanzant"
If You Want To Forgive, You Must Learn To Trust: Iyanla Vanzant Breaks Down The 4 Essentials Of Trust
Happy New Year! I’m sure that you’ve probably made some pretty awesome New Year’s resolutions. Do any of those resolutions include establishing better relationships with relatives or perhaps rebuilding trust with someone you love? If so, delving into Iyanla Vanzant’s latest book, Trust: Mastering the 4 Essential Truths, may be the perfect way to kick off your New Year. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the “Fix My Life” star and she dished on everything from the dangers of not trusting to that controversial Debi Thomas interview.
MN: What is your definition of trust?
Trust is a state of mind and a state of being that allows you to expect the greatest and best possibility as an outcome.
MN: Let’s talk about your new book Trust. What can readers expect to learn?
The four essentials:
1. Trusting yourself
2. Trusting God—your source, the creator
3. Trust others
4. Trusting the process of life.
In each area, we look at why it’s difficult, why it’s required to build trust, the benefits of trust and the challenges when we don’t trust in those four areas.
MN: Specifically, I wanted to ask about trusting in the process of life. What does that mean exactly?
Well, people have a tendency to believe that life isn’t on their side and that they have absolutely no control over what happens and how it happens and why it happens. But the process of life is really a function of how you’re trusting yourself, your creator and other people. How you see life, how you view life and how you participate in life is going to be a reflection of how you trust yourself, how you trust God—depending on whether or not you place your trust in something greater and move divine than your humanness—and your interactions, relationships and ability to trust other people.
MN: What inspired you to tackle trust, of all things, with this new project?
It is really a function of forgiveness. When I wrote Forgiveness, I gave people a very clear outline for how to forgive, why to forgive, the benefits of forgiveness. But what I discovered was that people couldn’t forgive because they didn’t trust. They were really expecting more of the same thing. And I was like, “What a minute, you’re not going to find the benefits of forgiveness until you learn to trust.”
MN: Do you find that the genders struggle with trust issues in different ways?
No, it’s not gender-specific. I really do believe that it’s a human issue and not a gender issue. If you don’t trust yourself, it really doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, black or white. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t have trust in your creator, your source, a divine being—whatever you call it, just something greater than you. Some people go, “Well, I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in humanity.” Well, do you trust that?
MN: How do you recommend giving someone a chance after they’ve broken the bond of trust?
Well, a liar is going to lie, and a thief is going to steal. A cheater is going to cheat. You have to balance trust with wisdom and boundaries. You can trust a liar, you just don’t trust what they’re saying when they say it without some kind of evidence that what they’re saying to you is actually accurate and valid. We get in trouble because after people have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, we try to trust them again wanting them to be who we think they are as opposed to accepting what they’ve demonstrated themselves to be. Now, does that mean that people cannot and do not change? Absolutely not. People can change, but you have to find and secure evidence of the change before you alter your experience and awareness of them.
MN: You once said, “You never get what you ask for, you get what you expect” and “when someone betrays our trust, it reveals the high price paid for such a deep disconnection.” It kind of blew my mind, but I wanted to ask you to clarify a little bit about what that means.
Trust is a state of mind, and the mind is very powerful. 99.9 percent of the time, we say we trust, but we’re looking out of the corner of our eye expecting more of what we already have. You may be saying “I trust you,” but you’re expecting to be violated, rejected, abandoned, betrayed again, and that’s what you get. The mind is very powerful; it doesn’t matter what your words are. It doesn’t matter what you’re hoping for. One element of expectation supersedes 25 elements of hope or 25 grains of hope. So if you’re expecting to be betrayed, rejected, abandoned, you’re going to get it.
MN: You do a lot of great work, but, of course, good work doesn’t come without criticism. Recently, people had some things to say about your Debi Thomas “Fix My Life” sessions. Some said that you were shaming her. Did you hear any of that feedback?
Oh absolutely. Here’s what I do know, people only recognize outside what they do inside. What I do within myself is the filter through which I see the world. Debi Thomas came to me; I did not go to her. Debi Thomas was very clear about what she wanted to talk about in her story. Debi Thomas also had a vision and an intention for what her work would be. Every guest has a vision and an intention. Now, when we arrived, that looked very different for her, so my heart and mind are very clear because I asked her what she wanted to fix, she told me and we gave her the tools to fix it. The fact that she rejected it, that’s not on me, that’s on her.
MN: And finally, are you still working with police brutality victims? Do you have any words for the black community during these difficult times?
Whenever I’m asked to do community work, I show up. You know, whether it’s Baltimore or Ferguson, or wherever I’m asked to work with the community, I do that—including the mental health community through which I was challenged with the Debi Thomas story. People were saying that I was insensitive to that, which is absolutely not true. So yes, I do show up in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in the mental health community, for domestic abuse, for children of incarcerated parents, for teenage mothers, for single mothers, in shelters. All of those places, I show up. Just because the camera isn’t there doesn’t mean I don’t do it, which is why criticism doesn’t bother me.
During these trying times that we’re facing, I would remind people to focus on the road. If you focus on the worst possible outcome, that’s an expectation, and that’s what you’re going to get. So in addition to continuing to do the work we have to do to grow our communities, I’d say the same thing I said in Ferguson: “What is the ask?” What are we expecting and are we bringing our best individual selves to the table? As we get better as individuals, as our ask becomes clearer and our expectations become higher, things will change.
People have been talking about Debi Thomas, the 48-year-old former figure skater who, in 1988, made history as the first African-American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.
I am one of those people.
But when I talk about Debi Thomas, it’s mostly to rush to her defense. Not because I believe she’s a hero, but because I don’t believe that she’s a failure.
As I watched Saturday’s season finale of Iyanla: Fix My Life, my chest tightened with “There but for the grace of God, go I” anxiety. I wasn’t counting my blessings for not being Thomas, or for being in a better position than she’s in, but I was counting my blessings for not being on television.
Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who fall from grace. Regular folk, whom others regard as everyday stars, also descend. If you are someone about whom people have said “you’re special” or “you’re a star” or “you’re going places” or “you’ve got potential” or “you’re destined for greatness,” then you probably know what I’m talking about. God bless you if you grew up with predictions about how you would “be somebody.” God bless you if you actually achieved some level of somebody-ness (earned a college degree, scored a six-figure-salary job or attained a not-so-high-paying-salary gig but a big job title; purchased a luxury home; raised an exemplary child to whom others point as evidence of your gold star in parenting; painted a svelte figure and stylish appearance; partnered with an ideal mate; quadrupled your net worth in 30 years; founded and ran a successful company, etc.). God bless you if had some somebody-ness, then you lost some or all of it.
If you’ve ever had someone (a former colleague, a mentor, a concerned friend from college who you haven’t spoken to in years) lament your squandered talent or your unused potential and go on mournfully about everything you “should have been” or how “you let yourself go”; if you’ve ever been the subject of someone else’s disappointment; if you’ve ever been in a rut that no amount of social media airbrushing could hide; if you ever had a massive trip-up or collapse in your career; if you’ve ever experienced any kind of public demise that made people wonder “What happened?” and say as much out loud…then you know how Debi Thomas feels right now.
Thomas is you, me and any person who has not been who someone else thought we could be or should be.
The day that her appearance on Fix My Life aired, The Atlantic published a piece about the religious undertones of Vanzant’s particular brand of intervention and redemption. Discussing the unspoken mandate of the show to have its subjects confess and repent, writer Emma Green said, “Public expressions of brokenness, of being essentially flawed in a way that has led to wrong-doing, have long been a central preoccupation of organized religion.”
What many folks learned from the Debi Thomas episode: Debi Thomas—the athlete, scholar and surgeon—is deplorably flawed. She’s so flawed that she’s a blight on the American Dream itself. She’s so flawed that she doesn’t know the half of how flawed she is and, so, because of her apparent cluelessness, she cannot repent.
How did we want her to repent? Did we want her to say, “You’re right. I’m wrong.” Although Vanzant says throughout the show that she wants Thomas to do right by herself, it often seems as if Vanzant wants Thomas to do right by Vanzant’s expectations (and, quite likely, our own).
Watching that episode, why were so many folks upset to see Debi make “wrong” choices (not taking the offer to spend months in Chicago getting therapy and life coaching, choosing the blue pill to save her relationship with her man)? But whom did she wrong with those decisions? Has she wronged herself or has she wronged the all-knowing television audience who says it knows damn well what’s best for her?
What I learned from that episode: Olympians-turned-orthopedic surgeons are just like us.
Olympians get arrested. Sometimes, they go broke. Dorothy Hamill, the figure skating darling of the 1970s, declared bankruptcy. Hamill has talked about the challenge of navigating life, post-Olympics, saying, “One naively thinks that by winning the Olympics, it’s going to be this switch and then your life is going to be perfect, and that’s not reality. I just never really knew what life would be like after.”
I know, I know. Debi Thomas has a more tragic story. She has bedbugs and lives in a trailer! (*clutches pearls*) Never mind that, according to the National Pest Management Association, one in five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home. Never mind that, per an economics professor at Duke University who was quoted in this BBC article from 2013, “Not everyone who lives in a trailer park is poor.” (But, yes, when you watch the Fix My Life episode, it’s evident that the description of Thomas’s trailer as “rundown” appears to be accurate. And “living in a rundown trailer” may as well be synonymous with “being a poor bastard.”)
In the voice-over at the top of the show, Vanzant says, “Aaaaall of Debi’s success, aaaaall of the glory is gone.” (There is so much dramatic emphasis on “all,” as if Vanzant is over-enunciating the word so her vocal choreography will paint the most tragic picture.) She continues, “Debi is penniless. Divorced. She even lost custody of her son.” Then, in an on-camera shot, Vanzant offers this bottom line: “This is a story about falling, about losing sight of who you are and what really matters in your life.”
The loss of Thomas’s child, Vanzant wants us to believe, is a prime example of how Thomas has lost her life’s direction. Though we hear Thomas speak vaguely about having once had goals in her life, we don’t really hear her say that being an on-site, present mother was one of them. She doesn’t speak of a time when she was particularly invested in motherhood; she barely seems as if she is interested in being a mother. And guess what? That’s OK. There are plenty of women who realized after they had children that they were either not interested in or not cut out for motherhood. Still, Vanzant calls out Thomas for raising her fiancé’s children and not her own. But living with a child is not always raising them. Thomas boldly admits that she didn’t bond with her own child during his formative years, and this is not the rarest of rarities. Men ditch fatherhood, and it’s a minor reproachable offense of being a rolling stone. Women ditch motherhood, and it’s a damn condemnable sin to the “How dare you?” degree.
When that woman and mother has the nerve to say, “I’m pretty comfortable with myself,” then we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, say, “Really? You’re pretty comfortable with yourself?”
And when we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, ask that woman and mother how she feels about living in a trailer, and that woman and mother says, “A little bit frustrated,” then we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, ask, “Frustrated? Not sad, not angry, not ashamed, not guilty?”
When we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, disregard that woman and mother’s response to her mental health diagnosis, by calling Mood Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) Bipolar Disorder, we forget that the two diagnoses are not necessarily the same.
When we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, yell at the flat screen like, “Girl, that man is beating you! I can see the bruise on your face. Get out!” we forget that every minute 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence. (No, I am not making an “it’s OK, everyone’s experiencing it” excuse. But I am saying this: Thomas, unfortunately, is not an anomaly, so we needn’t pelt her with every ounce of our infuriated disbelief. Compassion works, too.)
When we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant, criticize folks for the stories people tell themselves about themselves that may or may not be holding them back, but we never stop to answer the question of “What do we think they’re being held back from?” that’s where we go wrong. Because that’s the question that matters. That’s the question that forces us to look at the stories we tell ourselves about others and the way in which we narrate other people’s futures and failures based on who we need them to be and the plots that we’ve conceived for their happy ending.
Here’s what we, the world via Iyanla Vanzant are saying: You are not making us proud, Debi Thomas. There was a time when we were proud of you. But now, look at you. You are nothing that we’d thought you would be because you’re nothing that we would want to be. You are nothing about which we can boast and brag. We feel sorry for you. We shake our heads at you. We can barely stand to watch you and see who you’ve become.
But the nerve of us! Because even when you won that medal that awarded you the pedestal of grace from which we say you’ve now fallen, we still had the nerve to call it “the night when it all slipped away.” We say it was “not her best moment” in reference to the numerous times you fell on the ice.
How we feel about Debi Thomas is how every mother feels about her teenage daughter from the ages 13-18 when the daughter’s experiments show her mother just how un-sweet, un-perfect and un-obedient she really is. The teenager thinks she’s exercising her autonomy; the mother thinks the teenager has lost her damn mind, often saying, “I raised you to do better than this.”
So, too, do we, via Iyanla Vanzant, tell Debi Thomas, “You are an unerasable, undeniable piece of American history. But you don’t carry yourself in a way that is congruent with the truth of who you are.”
I only wish Debi Thomas had retorted, “The truth of who I am according to whom?”
Iyanla Vanzant is all about teaching people to “rebuild, restructure and redefine” their lives. The 62-year-old spiritual advisor learned this lesson over 40 years ago. She was 21 years old at the time and had just given birth to her third child. Still suffering from post-partum depression, the young mother decided to end her life.
“I took a bunch of pills. I was in the kitchen, on the floor, and I could feel myself losing consciousness,” Vanzant says in a clip from OWN’s upcoming seven-night series, “Belief.”
As she felt herself fading out, the television personality had a life-changing vision.
“In that moment, I saw what I believe to be the Divine Mother. She said to me, ‘Do you really want to die?’ And I said, ‘No. I just don’t want to hurt anymore.’”
Thankfully, Vanzant survived the suicide attempt. She was admitted into a psychiatric hospital where she was treated for depression. There, she learned to sort through her thoughts and emotions in a healthy way.
“What I learned to believe is that I matter. Life matters. God is all, and where I put my heart and my intention, that is what I’m going to experience,” she recalled. “I learned in that eight weeks that I have to power to rebuild, restructure, redefine, recreate my life because my mind is one with God’s mind. I learned that in the nuthouse. Pretty crazy, huh?”
“Belief” premieres Sunday, October 18, at 8: 00 p.m. ET on OWN.
People speak about a woman’s intuition almost jokingly. Like it’s not to be taken seriously. But it can prove to be quite important. And oftentimes when we ignore it, regret soon follows.
Even seasoned women who seem to be very in touch with their emotions and feelings don’t always do what their mind, heart and spirit instructs.
Recently, Iyanla Vanzant, who makes a living off of unearthing the emotions in others spoke about a time when she ignored her own knowing and how she fears it affected her work.
In a recent interview with Essence.com, Vanzant spoke about second guessing herself and referenced the volatile episode with rapper DMX.
“I never second guess myself because I’m not committed to the outcome. I can’t want more for them than they want for themselves…I failed one guest,” she said. “I failed DMX because I was guided and directed by the Holy Spirit to do something and I didn’t do it. And I don’t know had I done it, how the show would’ve turned out…But that was my failure and I have never done that again. What the Holy Spirit tells me to do, I do much to the horrification of my producers.”
Take that as a friendly reminder ladies. When you know, you know and should act accordingly.
In addition to DMX, Vanzant also spoke about what entity she would like to work with next on her show: The Black Lives Matter movement.
When Michael Brown was killed last year in Ferguson, Missouri, Vanzant and her OWN crew traveled to the city. There she prayed, spoke to a family member of Mike Brown, protestors and even a police chief. And while she acknowledged the necessity of the movement and the protestors there, she also made sure to mention that the activists would have to develop clear “asks.”
She wanted to know what type of legislation or policy changes the protestors, activists and community leaders were hoping to achieve. And since she believes the movement lacks the ask portion, she told Essence.com, that during season 4 of “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” she may challenge some of the young people involved to use the hashtag to do something more than just tweet and march.
Do you think Iyanla is the right person to take this on? Do you agree that the Black Lives Matter movement needs clear asking points?
In 2012, Evelyn Lozada had a “coming-to-Jesus” moment with Fix My Life host, Iyanla Vanzant. Lozada, who was notoriously known as a “Basketball Wives” mean girl spoke with Vanzant after she was assaulted by her then-husband Chad Ochocinco and revealed some of the underlying issues behind her constant rage.
The session proved to be a life changer for Lozada, who levitated her anger issues and became a more affable person. Lozada also became engaged to LA Dodgers athlete Carl Crawford and gave birth to their adorable baby boy, Carl Jr. All seems to be on the up and up for the mother of two, but that doesn’t mean she might not need to be checked on every now and then.
This Saturday on Livin’ Lozada, Evelyn’s OWN reality show, we’ll see her reunite with Iyanla for an “accountability check” as she discusses her new life and how she’s managing it. During their conversation, Evelyn delves into her relationship with Carl and reveals something very interesting to Iyanla.
Watch Evelyn open up to Iyanla in the exclusive clip below. “Livin’ Lozada” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.
Jesus wept when we learned, earlier this year, that Jay Williams was coming back to OWN with a new docuseries.
But apparently, he may have heard some of your prayers about it not coming to pass. Because, midway through production, the OWN announced that they’ve decided to pull the plug on Jay, his 17 baby mamas and their 34 children.
The network released this statement:
“OWN has decided not to move forward with the Jay Williams docu-series. The series aimed to follow Jay as he worked to put his life and fractured relationships in order and to hold him accountable every step of the way. The intention was to help Jay work to establish new connections with his family, his children and the mothers of his children. Production has ended and the series will not air.”
Sources told theGrio, that production for the docu-series wasn’t playing out the way the network had hoped.
When OWN made the announcement about the show, they said that cameras hoped to document Jay as he worked to heal and establish new connections with his fractured family.
This is certainly interesting to me. And actually, reminds me of the open letter his daughter Amina Mosley wrote, where she stated that her father had become a bit of an attention-seeker after the cameras started documenting his troubled relationships.
Perhaps OWN learned the same thing…or maybe things just got uglier. Either way, Jay Williams really didn’t need any more public exposure. And whether someone is broadcasting it or not, I would hope he and several of his family members get some professional or spiritual help so they can begin to clean all of this up.
On August 5th, 2014, 22-year old John Crawford III was shot to death by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams. His crime was walking around a Walmart store near Dayton, Ohio, with a toy BB gun he had hoped to purchase. In spite of the unprovoked shooting, which was caught on tape, and Ohio being an open-carry state, his killer was not indicted for his death.
On November 22 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice, was also shot to death by Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for “brandishing” a toy gun. His murder, which was also caught on camera, happened within a mere two seconds after the police officers arrived on the scene. Although Rice would not be laid to rest in the six months after his death and his mother had to moved into a homeless shelter because she couldn’t afford both housing and the cost associated with the two criminal and civil investigations into his death, his killers too have yet to be brought to justice.
After a month-long trial, a judge found Cleveland officer Michael Brelo not guilty Saturday of two counts of felony voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. According to published reports, Russell and Williams were killed on Nov. 29, 2012, after leading 62 police vehicles on a chase across the city in a Chevrolet Malibu. When the pair finally surrendered, more than a dozen police officers pumped more than 137 rounds into the vehicle for reasons unknown. This included Officer Brelo, who climbed onto the hood of the Malibu and shot 15 rounds into the windshield. Despite the sheer overkill, Cuyahoga County Commons Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell said in his ruling, “The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Michael Brelo knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, because the essential element of causation was not proved for both counts.”
And earlier this week, the Justice Department reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland, that would require its police force to “reform their behavior,” including barring them from using retaliatory violence and requiring it to invest in “training in tactics for de-escalation.” According to The Atlantic, the settlement comes six months after an investigation into Cleveland PD, which found that “there is reasonable cause to believe that CDP engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
And yet, Iyanla Vanzant, and all of her healing magical powers and roots, is nowhere to be found.
She will be in Baltimore though.
According to The Root, the mud cloth and knee-high, kitten heel, boot-wearing Yoruba goddess will be one of several “spiritual leaders” heading up a “healing over Baltimore” in response to the recent riots after the police killing of Freddie Gray. The event is in partnership with famed Baltimore Pastor Jamal “There Some Hoes In this House” Bryant, who last year drew the ire of the entire Black Internet for his passionate sermon entitled “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal.” And Jesus wept…
While a representative from the OWN network told The Root that Vanzant’s appearance will not be part of her popular talk series on OWN, where she pretends to fix people’s lives but really she is just meddling for ratings, Bryant tells the Baltimore Sun that she will be taping three sessions at Bryant’s West Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple Church. And that Vanzant volunteered to host the three-day event, which will be divided by gender before a community-wide “healing.” Moreover, he tells the paper that the overall goal of the event “will be a sort of group therapy for people to discuss economic oppression and violence, among other issues.”
I don’t know about healing, but I definitely foresee lots of cutting people off mid-emotional sentence and hugging, a la Oprah Winfrey in The Women of Brewster’s Place, happening during this group therapy session.
I also foresee Vanzant’s planned visit being reminiscent of her previous televised healing she did in Ferguson. There, she sat down with townsfolk and yelled at them about how “we” need to “stand down and hold the peace” for 14 days while the police conduct their investigation into themselves. As reported by the Washington Post, she also told Ferguson: “We need to do better. We need to be better and understand why this keeps happening over and over and over. It’s clear we need another way to express our hurt and suffering.” And in the most egregious moment of the program, she made Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson and Mike Brown’s uncle hold hands across a table to “resolve the larger problems of the town.”
In spite of all of her conjuring in Ferguson, Mike Brown’s killer was found not guilty. So what exactly does she plan to “heal” in Baltimore?
In addition to going in on the community, by gender, about how we need to fix ourselves, will she also use her mystic powers on Baltimore law enforcement agency, which has paid out over $5 million to victims of police brutality in a four-year period? Or will she get on her magical broom and shoot over to Wells Fargo where its redlining and predatory lending of black communities resulted in hundreds of city residents receiving “thousands of dollars each under a landmark $175 million settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Wells Fargo over accusations of discriminatory lending practices.” Or will she use her enchanted pot to mix up some jobs for the 37 percent of young Black men who remain unemployed in the city?
Or will she just blame the community, like so many others do when they want to bury their heads in the sand to the brutality, as well as the socioeconomic structural conditions, which ensure the dissolution of the same families that the Black upper privileged class likes to tout as the solution to all of our problems?
Vanzant is not to blame for the riots. But I know victim-blaming and white washing over the poo-poo covered elephant in the room when I smell it. As a former community organizer in Philadelphia, who had her boots on the ground everyday, there was no shortage of preachers, activists and “healers” who liked to come out and give big grandiose speeches and otherwise make spectacles of themselves (and us) when a community issue caught the attention of the media, but were absent from the struggle when the real work of fixing things began. Sorry to say (no I’m not), but Vanzant and all of her remedial mumbo-jumbo is no different.
And it should come as no surprise that she, and all the other spiritual gurus who are coming out of the woodwork now to offer their salvation (just like they did in Ferguson), weren’t too worried about handing out one-sided, half-assed healing over Baltimore until the Black, brown and poor got tired of being disenfranchised, maligned, ignored and murdered and started burning sh!t down. No, this is not about healing anything, but rather gratuitous self-promotion at the expense of the poor and the Black bodies. And I’m sorry if this all seems harsh to some folks, but it is high-time we start calling it what it is. For the sake of the people.
If Vanzant is truly here for the healing, she should start handing out her spells, cowry shells and free hugs to the politicians, the police and the black leaders who have meekly sold out the next generation for a few opportunistic scrapes off the table of oppression. And tell them to do better fixing the institutionalized violence against us. Or better yet, she should go someplace which is in desperate need of love, heal and got-damn attention. Like Ohio…
In Greek mythology, a Phoenix is an immortal bird that’s cyclically regenerated and reborn. In honor of this inspiring bird, we’ve collected a list of seven women who rose from struggle to success and continually reinvent themselves. We can all take a page from their stories to learn how to turn our greatest tragedies into our greatest strengths.
In 2014, a girl named Saa (a pseudonym to protect her family back home) jumped from a truck in Nigeria, escaping from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Saa was one of hundreds of girls abducted from a Nigerian boarding school. Since her harrowing escape, Saa has been hard at work in Washington, D.C. ensuring that public awareness of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign doesn’t falter. Many are calling Saa the “Malala of Africa” as she continues to call for international intervention for her 219 peers still in captivity by Boko Haram. Currently, Saa, one of four escaped school girls, is attending a small Christian school outside of the Washington area as she continues to speak out regarding her hellish experience.
Born in Brooklyn, Iyanla Vanzant’s alcoholic mother gave birth to her in the back of a taxi cab. At the age of nine, Vanzant was sexually molested by an uncle and at 16 she became a teenage mother herself. When Vanzant turned 21, she found herself a mother of three with a physically abusive husband. After escaping her abusive home life, Vanzant raised her kids on public assistance until going to school to study law. Vanzant later left the legal world and gradually grew into a career as a writer and inspirational public speaker, attracting the likes of Oprah Winfrey. And yet, in 2002, her canceled talk show seemed to spark a great deal of loss: the loss of her home, marriage and multimillion-dollar book deals. Through all her tragedy, including the loss of her daughter to cancer, Vanzant has rebuilt her empire and continues to share her strength and message as a minister, life coach and television personality on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
While watching the interview between Iyanla Vanzant and Karrueche Tran last night, I got this familiar feeling. It was hard to pinpoint at first, but as I hung onto every word, every question, every answer that was presented in the interview, I no longer felt like I was watching someone else’s life story play out on TV – I was in a counseling session of my own.
As Iyanla pointed out to Karrueche in the beginning of their discussion, Karrueche’s story isn’t exclusive to just her…or even just women in her age range. While it may seem that women in their 20’s are the only ones who make certain decisions when it comes to relationships, a grown woman such as myself has made the same mistakes well into her 30’s and beyond. Staying in emotionally and mentally abusive relationships way longer than we should was something I could totally relate to, and as I watched Karrueche search her mind to understand why she did it, all I could do is see myself in her eyes. She wanted to be heard, but she also didn’t want to be judged. But when you’re in a situation that you know is unhealthy, there is no “good” answer you can give as to why you stayed that doesn’t involve coming to the conclusion that you are broken somewhere inside…and that’s hard to face.
Emotional abuse can be hard to quantify, whereas physical abuse can show an obvious line in the sand. And even when physical abuse is involved, it’s still difficult for some women to leave out of fear. So imagine trying to justify staying when it’s “only” emotional abuse…so far as we could tell anyway. I don’t recall Iyanla asking Karrueche if Chris ever laid a hand on her, but I do recall her asking if she knew about his past with regard to the physical violence against Rihanna. Most of us would say that we’d never date someone who we knew beat up another woman. But like most women, Karrueche thought she’d be the one to change him. She said she wanted to love him, because that’s what he needed. She wanted to love him into being a better person and she felt like a fool when loving him wasn’t enough.
I know, because I’ve done that myself. We think if we love him hard enough, he’ll see “the light.” If we provide a good example of what love is, he’ll have no choice but to love us back the same way in return. And when that doesn’t work, we love harder. We fight to stay with someone who is doing nothing to keep us. And then the dysfunctional attachment becomes “normal” to us until we either wake up and come to the realization that no amount of love can “save” him, or we hit rock bottom within our own soul that we now have to save ourselves.
While I cannot imagine living out such drama publicly as Karrueche has with her relationship, I found myself wishing last night that I had the public scrutiny, gossip and even ridicule she has endured in order to force me to leave sooner. So many women suffer emotional (and physical) abuse in silence for fear of being judged by those close to them. They keep it a secret because they know deep down inside they’re not ready to remedy their situation, so rather than listening to friends and family wonder why you’d stay in a situation like that, you hold on to your pain and shame in silence. It wasn’t until I told my sister and best friend of the abuse that I suffered that I knew I was ready to actually do something about it. I knew they’d support me and hold me accountable. And a weight had been lifted. Hopefully Karrueche feels free as well.
While I’m no therapist or life coach, I felt like even in the midst of all her pain, Karrueche was still trying to protect Chris Brown. I felt like Rihanna did the same when she finally spoke out about her abuse. That is what we women (and some men) tend to do…nurture, protect and be loyal to the very men who hurt us but claim to love us. We want to believe that what they actually feel for us IS love. But while our abusers may love us the only way they know how, you have to come to the conclusion that anything that feels less than love is not good enough. Love shouldn’t feel disrespectful, fearful, belittling, humiliating, retaliatory or physically painful. Love is supposed to make you feel good and build you up, not bad and tear you down. My prayer for myself, Karrueche and all the women who have suffered – and are suffering now – with emotional abuse is that we find the strength to face our situation head on and finally choose to love ourselves enough to leave…for good.
Oprah and OWN are determined to dominate the ratings this year. Now that the network has pinpointed exactly what it is viewers want to see, they’re on a roll.
This September the network is sticking to the formula and reuniting with Jay Williams. For those who don’t remember, Williams is the man with 34 children by 17 different women. Iyanla sat down with him and several mothers of his children for one of her “Fix My Life” shows.
According to Variety, this time around Jay, of Atlanta, will have his own show where he will try to mend the relationships with his family, children and mothers of his children. Iyanla will be helping to guide him along the way.
While Jay certainly needs to “do the work,” to borrow a phrase from Iyanla, I do wonder if all of this fame and recognition is going to his head.
At the same time, with his track record, full of irresponsibility, it’s doubtful that Jay would attempt to repair these relationships without the cameras around.
I still don’t believe Iyanla is to blame, particularly when Jay is ultimately the only person who can hold himself accountable. But I do get the sense that he’s more interested in being seen than he is in repairing and rebuilding the relationships he’s broken.
What do you think about Jay getting his own show? Is it more hurtful than helpful?