Two close encounters with gun violence led me on a journey to conquer fear.
Living in America, at any given moment there are HUNDREDS (if not thousands in some places) of guns circulating around you undisclosed. Even in the region with the tightest gun laws, the black market in that area is ripe with them. We somehow have not been able to get a grip on it, largely because there is not interest in doing so. There is greater interest in having them. And that is largely as a result of fear, power and control.
It had not occurred to me that gun violence would become such a close issue to my heart. But recent self reflection, helped me realize that I had become desensitized to the matter. When I was 11, I learned that a close family friend of ours, who we attended church with, had been shot in the foot by his girlfriend. He was a hot boy (approaching 40), so we suspected he’d been caught cheating. There is also the possibility that he was abusive toward her, and it was a warning shot.
He lead the choir at church, so it was hard for me to believe he’d done anything wrong. We were trained to believe that leaders in the church were without blemish and to be revered. In retrospect, this guy was TOXIC. He always brought a new girl around, and the adults would laugh about it when she left. I was too young to process what was going on, and the adults always tried to distract us from their trifling ways with bribes and lies.
In another example, my step-uncle, who I knew was immature in the faith, decided to open a church. One day, when we went to visit said church, I stayed in the car, but my cousin came out and dished what they were in there talking about. Apparently this uncle had pulled out a gun in the office to show the other adults. Now this is how it was presented to me by the cousin, but in retrospect, a couple things may have been happening. He may have been proud of his newly licensed firearm, and showing it to the other adults. He could have been brandishing it to the adults as a warning. He could have been involved in gang or drug activity and purchased the gun illegally. I feel inclined later in life to believe the latter, based on other pieces of our lives back then that have gradually been coming back to me. But of course at that age, we are more inclined to believe the best about the adults, our providers, our ‘heroes,’ our sole hope for safety and security.
In my coaching, I find that clients have limited memories of their childhood because they were either gaslit and lied to by adults who wanted to hide the shame of their realities, or because it was just too painful and traumatic to have to remember. In my case, we were gaslit. A lot. This very same uncle came over just weeks prior, boasting about how much money pastors make to do nothing but talk all week. I didn’t think he’d actually pursue it. And the doors opened just two weeks later. There must have been some grant he learned about that gave him funding to do it. He was a hustler for sure. But this was low. My step-dad ran a church already. He’d later be indicted for fraud.
I say all of this to say, there is the trauma we are exposed to as children that we recall, and then there are those bits of trauma that we don’t know are shaping our reality and future limited capacity due to the way that it is concealed. That concealing of truth impacts us psychologically because we are more aware than the adults believe, or will allow us to believe. As a result, our intuition and ability to trust our own wisdom is singed over time until the metaphorical rope finally breaks into and we are completely separated from our ability to discern reality or at least the bad parts. This has grave consequences, as later in life, it will be difficult to leave bad situations because we’ve been trained by the adults in our lives back then to believe that perceived danger is not real and not to be questioned. “Everything is okay,” they’d tell us.
I’d stayed in many very bad relationships as a result of this. Gaslighted into thinking things were not as bad as I perceived and that a graver danger awaited me outside should I choose to leave.
I’ve stayed in work spaces, friendships and physical environments as well when I didn’t feel safe because I was groomed to endure them. What happens over time is we let that programming shape our lives and destinies because we never leave to experience the truth. The truth is this: better awaits you. Better is possible for you. A life of physical and emotional safety is available to you.
Those mental traps created by the trauma of our childhood are designed to perpetuate the cycle into our adulthood, so that we never go and become the person we are meant to. Over the last year, I’ve been tracing this theme of lost memories due to fearful childhood experiences. And after more recent encounters with fear, I’ve decided I had to be an example to myself of what was possible.
In my last blog post, I share how a tragic experience led me to move to Costa Rica for a year to reset.
From that experience, I have built a wildly beautiful life and have begun the work to rebuild my life at the very foundation. Fear, which has followed me through most of my life is a major blockage to success. And I am on a mission to stop it from stopping me.
Two weeks before I closed on my home, my roommate was carjacked at gunpoint, right outside of the house while I was inside. We stayed indoors for a week, and I contemplated canceling the contract for the house.
I went on to spend two miraculous years, making change in that new neighborhood. I cultivated a BEAUTIFUL garden, and had the chance to bless so many people with the Light of God in that area.
When my safety felt compromised once again after another close encounter in the neighborhood, I was faced with the decision to stay and live in fear, thus becoming stuck and unable to move forward with my dreams, or leave, start fresh, and build I life I actually wanted outside of that fear.
I could live in fear of going broke or failing but the alternative (staying) was far graver than anything else. So I left.
I finally had the power in my own hands to leave a situation and create a better one for myself (with the help of God, of course). The truth is, though many of us have been, we did not come to this life to be scared. Scared of our progress and the circumstances that hinder us.
Our parents did the best they could to keep us from harm, and meant well by lying to us when harm was present. But we do not have to stay where it left us. Immigrant parents in particular, like my own, were up against a LOT, raising kids in a country that was not theirs. So we give them grace. And we accept the grace of God that puts each new generation in a better position.
We all have the potential to improve our surroundings and our lives at a large. I am so grateful for this story now and the ability to be able to help other women come out of unhealthy cycles, find peace and safety again and thrive like they never knew they could.
If you’re suffering in an environment that does not feel safe, I encourage the following:
- Write a list of the things that feel unsafe right now. This can be mentally, physically, emotionally, financially or other. Whatever comes to mind.
- Pray that God give you clear instructions on how to step out of it and into better.
- Write down what He tells you. And commit to doing it.
Do this today. Right now. I believe in the power of prayer and have seen what God can do when you trust Him with your circumstance. I pray you move out of fear and into greatness today and forever. Amen.
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