A Call to Black Leaders to Condemn Anti-Semitism

A Call to Black Leaders to Condemn Anti-Semitism

Recently, while watching the news, I was saddened, like many Americans to hear of the Jersey City shooting, an incident of blatant anti-semitism against the orthodox Jewish community, in which two armed assailants stormed a kosher market killing four innocent people and losing their own lives. With the rise of hate crimes in America, I was saddened, but not surprised. But when it later came to my attention that the perpetrators of the violence were Black, I must admit that I was shocked. As the main recipients of America’s bigotry, we ought to know better. To imitate the actions of one’s oppressor is to become the oppressor. That was the brilliance of the American Civil Rights Movement led by a commitment to non-violence, for indeed, as Dr. King taught, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” 


Dr. Clarence B. Jones is the Director of The USF Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, and the former personal attorney and speechwriter to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Again, I woke up and heard the news: “An intruder with a large knife burst into the home of a Hasidic rabbi in a New York suburb on Saturday night, stabbing and wounding five people just as they were gathering to light candles for Hanukkah, officials and a witness said.”

I thought, “O no, not again! I hope the person who did this was not Black!” My shock turned to dismay when it was revealed that the machete-wielding intruder was indeed a black man. 

The history and ill-effects of racism perpetrated against the African American community require that we know better, and thus do better — that we express our differences and grievances by a more enlightened means, which is the great lesson of the American Civil Rights Movement, of which I was honored to play a part. King is quoted as saying, “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.” 

When I was 29, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was 31, from February 1960 to April 4th, 1968, the date of his assassination, I served first as a political advisor, then personal lawyer and draft speechwriter (excluding his sermons) for Dr. King. No African American leader of his stature worked and spoke so unequivocally against anti-semitism.

Now, 89 in ten days, and Director of the University of San Francisco’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, I thought to myself, “What would Martin Say? What would he expect ME to say and do?”

Dr. King would remind me that in 1936, Martin Niemoeller, a Lutheran Minister and early Nazi supporter, later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime said:

“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

This year, the Anti-Defamation League and others have repeatedly cited the unprecedented incidents of anti-semitic terror occurring in our nation. As Rabbi Joachim Printz memorialized in his speech immediately before Dr. King took the podium at the March on Washington, he said these words, “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence…America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent”. 

Believe that King would call upon the moral leaders of the Black community to lift their voices in support of our Jewish brothers and sisters, a community from out of the trauma of the Holocaust understood persecution and hate and that stood with the Black community during the Civil Rights Movement. I know because I was there. I made the phone calls to Jewish labor leaders and donors, attorneys, educators and rabbis. So today, I call upon the African American community to condemn anti-semitism with the same vigor that we condemn its evil twin of racism. 

Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.” The wisdom of King once again. And in this light, I further call upon leaders of the Black and Jewish communities, to rekindle the great alliance that leads our country in the expansion of civility and civil rights for all people. Together, we must continue to be the moral compass that America so desperately needs. 

January 20, 2020, our nation will again commemorate our national weekend, celebrating the legacy of Dr. King. The twin issues of ubiquitous gun violence and resurgent anti-semitism and racism should be the cornerstone of our commemoration of Dr. King’s 91st birthday. Please consider joining me and other leaders across the nation in partnering with the Philos Project’s campaign against anti-semitism and racism as they provide leadership and education on this issue. Visit www.philosproject.org or email [email protected] for more information. 

Decades after ‘Black Manifesto,’ religious groups take up reparations again

Decades after ‘Black Manifesto,’ religious groups take up reparations again

James Forman, chief spokesman for the Black Manifesto, inspects a bulletin board in New York’s Interchurch Center after he and supporting members of the National Black Economic Development Conference seized three floors of offices in 1969. The NBEDC sought $500 million in reparations from the white religious community. RNS file photo

On a Sunday morning in May of 1969, as clergy processed into the sanctuary of New York’s august Riverside Church, civil rights activist James Forman vaulted into the pulpit to demand $500 million in reparations for the mistreatment of African Americans from white churches and synagogues.

At the time, Forman’s interruption represented the high point for the reparations movement. A week before, Forman had debuted a radical proposal for racial justice known as “the Black Manifesto” for 500 black activists gathered in Detroit for the National Black Economic Development Conference.

“(W)e know that the churches and synagogues have a tremendous wealth,” the manifesto stated, “and its membership, white America, has profited and still exploits black people.”

The conference determined, by a 187-63 vote, that it was time for white Christians and Jews to pay reparations and demonstrate a willingness to fight “the white supremacy and racism which has forced us as black people to make these demands.”

Riverside, then a mostly white liberal Protestant congregation whose neo-Gothic landmark building was financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr., would be deeply divided over the next few years over Forman’s challenge. As the activist brought his manifesto to other congregations and denominations, Riverside established a lecture series and a “Fund for Social Justice” that aimed to raise $450,000 over three years to help the poor in the local community. It fell short of the goal by almost $100,000.

Members of the congregation file out after Sunday morning worship services at Riverside Church in New York on July 20, 2014. The building is modeled after the 13th-century cathedral in Chartres, France. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Black Manifesto’s demands never caught fire in the broader U.S. religious community. The Rev. Gayraud Wilmore, a black Presbyterian leader in New York City in 1969, recalled 50 years later how religious institutions responded.

“I saw them withering and unable to step forward and say ‘Let’s be the church,’” said Wilmore, now 98. “I saw no bold action taken on our side to go along with the bold action Forman was taking.”

Five decades later, the reparations debate has re-entered the national spotlight, with some religious institutions leading the way.

Earlier in December, Reform Jews, declaring that “racial inequity is present in virtually every aspect of American life,” voted overwhelmingly to support a U.S. commission to develop proposals for reparations and urged conversations in their congregations to redress systemic racism.

In recent months, Virginia Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and Georgetown University have all announced plans to fund initiatives that would benefit the descendants of slaves, while Episcopal dioceses in New York and Long Island made million- and half-million-dollar commitments as reparations committees continued their work.

In May, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland voted to study reparations and urge congregations to “examine how their endowed wealth is tied to the institution of slavery.”

Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton testifies before the U.S. Congress about reparaions in June 2019. Video screengrab via C-SPAN

Maryland’s African American bishop, Eugene Taylor Sutton, said tears came to his eyes when the measure passed at the diocese’s general convention with no dissenting votes, and he realized that the assembled delegates, representing a membership that is 90% white, “got it.”

“They get this thing called justice, and when you put it in a frame that there is a basic injustice in this nation of stealing from generations of people and that has a direct effect on today, then people,” Sutton said, “they say, ‘OK, we got to get that fixed.’”

Sutton, who testified before Congress in June with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to advocate for the idea of a U.S. reparations commission, emphasized that reparations can come in many forms. Starting next month, members of his diocese will begin to consider options such as providing better access for people of color to home buying, job training and faculty positions at seminaries.

It has taken some American religious institutions 50 years to get their heads around reparations. When Forman hijacked that Sunday morning service, two-thirds of Riverside worshippers, including the minister, stormed out in protest. After activists occupied offices in the Interchurch Center of New York, a court-issued restraining orders to bar Forman from the building. In Missouri, manifesto supporters in St. Louis carried out a series of “Black Sunday” protests, interrupting local services, which led to confrontations with white church members and arrests.

Activist James Forman walks in New York’s Riverside Church on May 11, 1969. Forman returned to the church after interrupting a service there earlier that month to deliver the Black Manifesto. (AP Photo)

The manifesto was quite specific in its demands. Black activists would control the distribution of reparations. The $500 million (soon increased to $3 billion) would be spent on programs designed to ensure black self-determination. These included establishing a Southern land bank, publishing industries, television networks, job training centers, labor unions and a black university.

The manifesto’s rhetoric was just as controversial. Written by Forman, a former member of the civil rights group known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the preamble framed reparations in Marxist terms. “Time is short,” Forman wrote. “(N)o oppressed people ever gained their liberation until they were ready to fight, to use whatever means necessary, including the use of force and power of the gun to bring down the colonizer.”

Prominent black and white religious leaders diverged on how to interpret Forman’s call for revolution. The Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, who succeeded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, compared Forman to biblical prophets who spoke truth to power. Writing in The Christian Century, he asked, “Was there not even a physical resemblance between Amos, the dusty-road-weary prophet in his desert garb, and Jim Forman in his dashiki?”

The response from some white denominations was outright rejection. The Southern Baptist Convention dismissed the manifesto as “outrageous.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York called it un-American and touted its own programs for the “needy and disadvantaged” instead.

The American Jewish Committee, which as part of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization had helped organize the National Black Economic Development Conference, withdrew from the IFCO. Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, IFCO’s first president, resigned, stating he could not “in conscience stand by in silence and appear … to give assent to the revolutionary ideology and racist rhetoric of the Black Manifesto.”

Other denominations were more ambivalent. The Reformed Church in America invited Forman to address its general synod after he occupied the denomination’s headquarters a month after his action at Riverside. The Rev. Rand Peabody, a 22-year-old white seminarian who had already been slated to give the sermon the next day, revised his sermon after hearing news of Forman’s “liberation” of the RCA’s offices.

The Rev. Rand Peabody. Courtesy photo

“I remember I said it’s not a time for us to feel either blamed or shamed and certainly not a time to feel futile,” Peabody, now 73, said in an interview. “Our denomination, in his eye, did indeed have the power to play a part and we should accept that as almost a commissioning of the denomination to indeed step up to the plate and get involved in more focused and proactive ways.”

Like other denominations, the RCA didn’t accede to Forman’s demand that reparations be handed over freely. Instead the synod voted to create a $100,000 fund “to be disbursed according to the decisions” of a newly formed Black Council. The council then rejected the money.

“We just basically wanted to be at the table where decisions are being made and not considered an auxiliary or an offshoot or a secondhand portion of the denomination,” said the Rev. Dwayne Jackson, a Hackensack, New Jersey, pastor, who was a panelist at an RCA event commemorating the manifesto in October titled “Unfinished Business.”

Jackson, who knew some members of the council from his childhood church in the Bronx, said the staffer hired to oversee the council was the church’s first black executive. (Today, people of color comprise a third of the RCA’s executive leadership team.)

Other denominations acknowledged the grievances raised by the manifesto but rejected the solutions it proposed and even the language of “reparations.” Instead they created or continued programs aimed at helping poor blacks and others. The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Fund for Disadvantaged Americans of Minority Groups and the Episcopal Church’s General Convention Special Program were all created around the time of Forman’s action.

Dominique DuBois Gilliard, the current director of the ECC’s “racial righteousness and reconciliation” ministry, recently reflected on how this kind of response “enacted a very problematic erasure of the black freedom struggle.”

Met with the manifesto’s demands, “the Covenant found it more palatable to shift the conversation to marginalization in general,” Gilliard writes in the May/August edition of its Covenant Quarterly, which focused on the 50th anniversary of the manifesto. “This response has strong parallels to proclamations that ‘All Lives Matter’ in response to the declaration ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

There has been a shift in recent years, however, which Gilliard has helped encourage. The ECC Resolution on Racism, passed in June, insists that “the time is right for white clergy to attend to the sins of our own community and make a public commitment to prioritize antiracism work within our ministerium.”

Activist James Forman speaks in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. Photo by Glen Pearcy/Library of Congress/Creative Commons

Nell Gibson, a member and former chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York’s Reparations Committee, recalled that in the wake of Forman’s declaration — which resulted in the Episcopal Church’s $200,000 donation to the National Committee of Black Churchmen — members of her Manhattan church created a Black and Brown Caucus. After receiving the $30,000 they demanded from their St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, they developed a free breakfast program for children, a summer “liberation school” that taught minority children their ancestors’ history and a prison law library.

Fifty years on, reparations are often framed as spiritual tests as much as financial ones. This year was named the “Year of Apology” for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and each Sunday Gibson’s congregation has said a prayer that includes this sentence: “For the many ways — social, economic and political — that white supremacy has accrued benefits to some of us at the expense of others, we repent.”

Soon, the diocesan reparations committee will consider a number of possible next steps, such as a truth and reconciliation commission or education and health care initiatives.

Likewise, Sutton said his Maryland Episcopal diocese is moving methodically after years of conversation about reparations to figuring out how that will be lived out financially and otherwise.

“We don’t have all the solutions, we don’t know everything that’s going to fix the problem and so we’re going to be humble in even what we think we can accomplish,” he said. “But, by God, we’re going to do something.”

Decades after ‘Black Manifesto,’ religious groups take up reparations again

Decades after ‘Black Manifesto,’ religious groups take up reparations again

James Forman, chief spokesman for the Black Manifesto, inspects a bulletin board in New York’s Interchurch Center after he and supporting members of the National Black Economic Development Conference seized three floors of offices in 1969. The NBEDC sought $500 million in reparations from the white religious community. RNS file photo

On a Sunday morning in May of 1969, as clergy processed into the sanctuary of New York’s august Riverside Church, civil rights activist James Forman vaulted into the pulpit to demand $500 million in reparations for the mistreatment of African Americans from white churches and synagogues.

At the time, Forman’s interruption represented the high point for the reparations movement. A week before, Forman had debuted a radical proposal for racial justice known as “the Black Manifesto” for 500 black activists gathered in Detroit for the National Black Economic Development Conference.

“(W)e know that the churches and synagogues have a tremendous wealth,” the manifesto stated, “and its membership, white America, has profited and still exploits black people.”

The conference determined, by a 187-63 vote, that it was time for white Christians and Jews to pay reparations and demonstrate a willingness to fight “the white supremacy and racism which has forced us as black people to make these demands.”

Riverside, then a mostly white liberal Protestant congregation whose neo-Gothic landmark building was financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr., would be deeply divided over the next few years over Forman’s challenge. As the activist brought his manifesto to other congregations and denominations, Riverside established a lecture series and a “Fund for Social Justice” that aimed to raise $450,000 over three years to help the poor in the local community. It fell short of the goal by almost $100,000.

Members of the congregation file out after Sunday morning worship services at Riverside Church in New York on July 20, 2014. The building is modeled after the 13th-century cathedral in Chartres, France. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Black Manifesto’s demands never caught fire in the broader U.S. religious community. The Rev. Gayraud Wilmore, a black Presbyterian leader in New York City in 1969, recalled 50 years later how religious institutions responded.

“I saw them withering and unable to step forward and say ‘Let’s be the church,’” said Wilmore, now 98. “I saw no bold action taken on our side to go along with the bold action Forman was taking.”

Five decades later, the reparations debate has re-entered the national spotlight, with some religious institutions leading the way.

Earlier in December, Reform Jews, declaring that “racial inequity is present in virtually every aspect of American life,” voted overwhelmingly to support a U.S. commission to develop proposals for reparations and urged conversations in their congregations to redress systemic racism.

In recent months, Virginia Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and Georgetown University have all announced plans to fund initiatives that would benefit the descendants of slaves, while Episcopal dioceses in New York and Long Island made million- and half-million-dollar commitments as reparations committees continued their work.

In May, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland voted to study reparations and urge congregations to “examine how their endowed wealth is tied to the institution of slavery.”

Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton testifies before the U.S. Congress about reparaions in June 2019. Video screengrab via C-SPAN

Maryland’s African American bishop, Eugene Taylor Sutton, said tears came to his eyes when the measure passed at the diocese’s general convention with no dissenting votes, and he realized that the assembled delegates, representing a membership that is 90% white, “got it.”

“They get this thing called justice, and when you put it in a frame that there is a basic injustice in this nation of stealing from generations of people and that has a direct effect on today, then people,” Sutton said, “they say, ‘OK, we got to get that fixed.’”

Sutton, who testified before Congress in June with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to advocate for the idea of a U.S. reparations commission, emphasized that reparations can come in many forms. Starting next month, members of his diocese will begin to consider options such as providing better access for people of color to home buying, job training and faculty positions at seminaries.

It has taken some American religious institutions 50 years to get their heads around reparations. When Forman hijacked that Sunday morning service, two-thirds of Riverside worshippers, including the minister, stormed out in protest. After activists occupied offices in the Interchurch Center of New York, a court-issued restraining orders to bar Forman from the building. In Missouri, manifesto supporters in St. Louis carried out a series of “Black Sunday” protests, interrupting local services, which led to confrontations with white church members and arrests.

Activist James Forman walks in New York’s Riverside Church on May 11, 1969. Forman returned to the church after interrupting a service there earlier that month to deliver the Black Manifesto. (AP Photo)

The manifesto was quite specific in its demands. Black activists would control the distribution of reparations. The $500 million (soon increased to $3 billion) would be spent on programs designed to ensure black self-determination. These included establishing a Southern land bank, publishing industries, television networks, job training centers, labor unions and a black university.

The manifesto’s rhetoric was just as controversial. Written by Forman, a former member of the civil rights group known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the preamble framed reparations in Marxist terms. “Time is short,” Forman wrote. “(N)o oppressed people ever gained their liberation until they were ready to fight, to use whatever means necessary, including the use of force and power of the gun to bring down the colonizer.”

Prominent black and white religious leaders diverged on how to interpret Forman’s call for revolution. The Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, who succeeded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, compared Forman to biblical prophets who spoke truth to power. Writing in The Christian Century, he asked, “Was there not even a physical resemblance between Amos, the dusty-road-weary prophet in his desert garb, and Jim Forman in his dashiki?”

The response from some white denominations was outright rejection. The Southern Baptist Convention dismissed the manifesto as “outrageous.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York called it un-American and touted its own programs for the “needy and disadvantaged” instead.

The American Jewish Committee, which as part of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization had helped organize the National Black Economic Development Conference, withdrew from the IFCO. Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, IFCO’s first president, resigned, stating he could not “in conscience stand by in silence and appear … to give assent to the revolutionary ideology and racist rhetoric of the Black Manifesto.”

Other denominations were more ambivalent. The Reformed Church in America invited Forman to address its general synod after he occupied the denomination’s headquarters a month after his action at Riverside. The Rev. Rand Peabody, a 22-year-old white seminarian who had already been slated to give the sermon the next day, revised his sermon after hearing news of Forman’s “liberation” of the RCA’s offices.

The Rev. Rand Peabody. Courtesy photo

“I remember I said it’s not a time for us to feel either blamed or shamed and certainly not a time to feel futile,” Peabody, now 73, said in an interview. “Our denomination, in his eye, did indeed have the power to play a part and we should accept that as almost a commissioning of the denomination to indeed step up to the plate and get involved in more focused and proactive ways.”

Like other denominations, the RCA didn’t accede to Forman’s demand that reparations be handed over freely. Instead the synod voted to create a $100,000 fund “to be disbursed according to the decisions” of a newly formed Black Council. The council then rejected the money.

“We just basically wanted to be at the table where decisions are being made and not considered an auxiliary or an offshoot or a secondhand portion of the denomination,” said the Rev. Dwayne Jackson, a Hackensack, New Jersey, pastor, who was a panelist at an RCA event commemorating the manifesto in October titled “Unfinished Business.”

Jackson, who knew some members of the council from his childhood church in the Bronx, said the staffer hired to oversee the council was the church’s first black executive. (Today, people of color comprise a third of the RCA’s executive leadership team.)

Other denominations acknowledged the grievances raised by the manifesto but rejected the solutions it proposed and even the language of “reparations.” Instead they created or continued programs aimed at helping poor blacks and others. The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Fund for Disadvantaged Americans of Minority Groups and the Episcopal Church’s General Convention Special Program were all created around the time of Forman’s action.

Dominique DuBois Gilliard, the current director of the ECC’s “racial righteousness and reconciliation” ministry, recently reflected on how this kind of response “enacted a very problematic erasure of the black freedom struggle.”

Met with the manifesto’s demands, “the Covenant found it more palatable to shift the conversation to marginalization in general,” Gilliard writes in the May/August edition of its Covenant Quarterly, which focused on the 50th anniversary of the manifesto. “This response has strong parallels to proclamations that ‘All Lives Matter’ in response to the declaration ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

There has been a shift in recent years, however, which Gilliard has helped encourage. The ECC Resolution on Racism, passed in June, insists that “the time is right for white clergy to attend to the sins of our own community and make a public commitment to prioritize antiracism work within our ministerium.”

Activist James Forman speaks in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965. Photo by Glen Pearcy/Library of Congress/Creative Commons

Nell Gibson, a member and former chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York’s Reparations Committee, recalled that in the wake of Forman’s declaration — which resulted in the Episcopal Church’s $200,000 donation to the National Committee of Black Churchmen — members of her Manhattan church created a Black and Brown Caucus. After receiving the $30,000 they demanded from their St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, they developed a free breakfast program for children, a summer “liberation school” that taught minority children their ancestors’ history and a prison law library.

Fifty years on, reparations are often framed as spiritual tests as much as financial ones. This year was named the “Year of Apology” for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and each Sunday Gibson’s congregation has said a prayer that includes this sentence: “For the many ways — social, economic and political — that white supremacy has accrued benefits to some of us at the expense of others, we repent.”

Soon, the diocesan reparations committee will consider a number of possible next steps, such as a truth and reconciliation commission or education and health care initiatives.

Likewise, Sutton said his Maryland Episcopal diocese is moving methodically after years of conversation about reparations to figuring out how that will be lived out financially and otherwise.

“We don’t have all the solutions, we don’t know everything that’s going to fix the problem and so we’re going to be humble in even what we think we can accomplish,” he said. “But, by God, we’re going to do something.”

Mastering the Unexpected

Mastering the Unexpected

Video Courtesy of Michelle McKinney Hammond


Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Perhaps you expected to be married by now. Perhaps you did not anticipate being single again. Perhaps that big decision you made — the decision you sought godly counsel on and that you thoroughly prayed through before making — is not working out. Despite your surprise, God knew all along where you would be right now.

When life’s unexpected twists happen, I think the first thing we wonder is, “Where is God?” Yet the text in Genesis 39 says that when Joseph’s brothers sold him and he was taken down to Egypt to work in the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the Lord was with Joseph. So much for the theory that if God is in your situation, you won’t have any troubles or struggle with feeling alone.

Where is God? He is right there!

When the wind was tossing around the disciple’s boat, where was Jesus? Walking on the water to meet them. He even invited Peter, an ordinary fisherman, to come walk with Him on the water too. Peter did — that is, until he became absorbed with where he was. After that he started to sink in his own fear and unbelief.

Sometimes the single life can be overwhelming. The weight of dealing with and solving problems on your own can take a toll on your strength and your faith. However, we are all equipped to walk on water, so to speak — the troubled waters of our lives. If we look down at our state of affairs, we can only hope to sink. But by keeping our eyes up, locked on the Author of our faith, we will overcome. If we are able to take a deep breath and say, “This is only a test,” we can apply ourselves to finishing the course.

The choice is to either roll over and die a slow, painful death while repeating the mantra, “Why me? Why me?” or to rise to the occasion. Realizing I have an invisible enemy who wants me to cave in is usually enough to make me perk up and decide I won’t give him the satisfaction of seeing my demise.

It’s easy to say things can’t get any worse, but the truth of the matter is that they can. I recall a particularly bad year in my life when everything that could go wrong did. With each new setback I would say, “Things couldn’t get any worse than this.” And then things would get worse. Again I would say, “Things just couldn’t get any worse.” And then they would. Around the fifth time I was tempted to utter these ill-fated words, I caught myself. “Things couldn’t get — Oh, never mind!”

Wallowing in what can’t be fixed has never fixed anything. Don’t go there. Instead, take God’s advice:

“Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor O Jerusalem the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:1-2).

Now let me break that down to a Michelle paraphrase: “Snap out of it! Push out of your fog and buck up! Don’t wimp out. Flex some muscle, locate your power, and use it.”

Fortify yourself with your faith in God and with what you’ve learned. Purposefully put your best face forward, even when your insides don’t match your outward expression. Get over the past. Shake off the bad influences and people who cling to you but are not contributing to your progress. Pull yourself together. Climb above your situation and gain a new perspective.

Notice that the people of Jerusalem were given the work of freeing themselves. No fairy godmother was going to show up to free them. It’s important to kill unrealistic fantasies and expectations and be grounded in God’s promises. How do you free yourself? By embracing the truth and wielding it like a weapon. If the truth is what makes you free, then what is true? God is still on the throne. Though you are standing alone, you are still standing. Therefore there is hope. Deal with your attitude.

When you take stock of your life not at eye-level but at faith-level, you will find something good to work with. Something great to hold out for. Something that will give you the strength to grit your teeth and hang on. Take note that God has been faithful so far. Though you may not feel your best, you are, in fact, living above the circumstances. This is just a test, and you are still standing.

The rest hinges on your own determination and the decisions you make as you move forward. The old saying “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet” would perhaps be written by God this way, “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband, says the LORD” (Isaiah 54:1). If you take the time, you will find that no matter what your circumstance is, God has equipped you not just to survive, but to thrive and flourish right where you are. This is the ultimate preparation for life no matter what your relationship status.

Whether you are single, divorced, or widowed, life happens. Just remember that each test can result in an amazing testimony if you purpose to stay connected to the One who promises to be your life partner forever.

How putting purpose into your New Year’s resolutions can bring meaning and results

How putting purpose into your New Year’s resolutions can bring meaning and results

Remembering why you want to eat better and take better care of yourself can help you stick to your resolutions. Being present to family is one important reason.
Prostock studio/Shutterstock.com

People worldwide make New Year’s resolutions every year in an attempt to improve their lives. Common resolutions are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight and reduce stress.

Yet, 80% of people agree that most people won’t stick to their resolutions. This pessimism is somewhat justified. Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set.

We have spent years studying motivation, emotion regulation and behavior in family relationships, athletic performance and health information processing in the marketplace. Now at USC’s Performance Science Institute, we help people attain and sustain high performance in all aspects of their lives.

Based on our research, we propose a potential solution to the problem of New Year’s resolutions that people can’t keep: encouraging people to reframe their resolutions to emphasize purpose-based performance.

Why the failures?

What leads to so many abandoned New Year’s resolutions?

A large body of research on goal-setting and habits provides insight into the various reasons for failed resolutions.

Many people are not framing their resolutions in ways that will motivate them over time. For example, “exercise more” is a fairly clear directive, but it lacks depth and personal meaning that could help promote follow through. Overly simplified resolutions, such as “exercise more” and “eat healthier” contribute to the ongoing problem that emerges as early as mid-January each year: unintentional neglect of important self-improvement goals.

Thinking of purpose as you ponder your resolutions can imbue them with joy and meaning.
Kiefer Pix/Shutterstock.com

Make it purposeful

Purpose has been defined simply as someone’s reason for doing something. However, scientists have recently developed a more comprehensive framework for purpose.

Purpose is associated with positive outcomes for people of all ages. People with a sense of purpose make more money, cope with life hardships more effectively and are healthier across the lifespan. Organizations that foster or reinforce employees’ sense of purpose are now referred to as “high performance workplaces”.

In the context of goal-setting for the new year, the concept of purpose-based performance becomes especially relevant. In our research, we have found that purpose-based performance is much healthier and more sustainable than outcome-driven performance.

Purpose-based performance has three critical, interrelated components: goal orientation, personal meaning and focus on something or someone beyond the self. We provide three questions that you can ask yourself when developing New Year’s resolutions to inspire purpose-based performance.

What are my longer-term goals?

The first thing to consider is your long-term goals, and how each resolution fits with those goals. Purpose-based performance includes goal orientation, or an internal compass that directs people toward some long-term aim. This orientation helps people organize and prioritize more immediate actions to make progress toward that aim. People who are goal-oriented and remind themselves of their “end game” live consistently with their beliefs and values and perform better on the immediate goals they set.

When setting New Year’s resolutions, many people end up with a long list of simple resolutions without thinking deeply about their rationale for each resolution, or where each resolution will take them. Linking an immediate goal with a longer-term aim can sustain progress. Thinking about who you want to become can help you decide which resolution(s) to take on.

Why is this personally important?

The next step to consider is why each resolution is personally meaningful for you. When people pursue personally meaningful goals, they are not only more intrinsically motivated but also find more joy in the process of goal pursuit. They are able to reframe challenges as opportunities for personal growth. In one study with elite athletes, we found that personal meaning helped them regulate their emotions when things didn’t go their way and display more patience as they pursued their goals.

Someone who pursues a goal for external rewards that are contingent on a particular end result – for example, validation that comes from winning – is likely to experience shame when they fall short of their goal. Even when they win, they may feel disappointed because the end result does not bring meaning to their life. This is exemplified by the “post-Olympic blues,” when Olympians experience depression after such a significant accomplishment.

Spend time thinking about your motivation for each resolution. Ask yourself, are you focused on a particular outcome because it will give you self-esteem, status or something else? It can be helpful to think about the potential meaning found in the process of pursuing a goal, regardless of whether you attain the desired outcome.

Who will be positively affected by this?

The final step is to consider who or what, beyond yourself, will be positively affected by your resolution(s). Desire to be a part of something greater than the self, or transcendent motivation, is beneficial for performance for several reasons.

Being healthy for one’s kids can be a motivating goal.
Pixel head photo digital skillet/Shutterstock.com

Linking a resolution to transcendent motivation can be a powerful source of inspiration. Someone may link exercise goals to a charitable cause they care about, or they may think about how improving their health will make them a better partner, friend or parent. Research shows transcendent motivation improves self-regulation when things get dull or repetitive during goal pursuit, and it strengthens character virtues like patience and generosity. When someone’s transcendent motivation is prosocial in nature, they are willing to accept feedback about performance and receive increased social support in the workplace.

Think about the bigger picture. Consider whom you are helping with each goal. Potential impact beyond yourself is added fuel for your goal pursuit.

Reframing your resolutions

What might New Year’s resolutions that incorporate purpose-based performance look like? Using the three questions above, we have reworked three common resolutions to reflect purpose-based performance:

  • “Exercise more” becomes “I commit to working out two times per week so I can be more present and energized with my children, so they feel more loved and inspired by me.”
  • “Save money” becomes “I commit to saving US$100 per paycheck so I feel more secure in my role as a husband and father, which will ultimately benefit my family.”
  • “Lose weight” becomes “I commit to losing ten pounds so I feel more confident at work, and my coworkers will experience a more positive version of me.”

Cheers to a new, purpose-filled year!

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Benjamin Houltberg, Research Director, Performance Science Institute, University of Southern California and Arianna Uhalde, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.