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Here's Exactly How To Start Protecting Your Spirit

Because spirit is life.

Inspiration

The spirit is a complex and, as you're about to see in just a moment, super layered kind of thing. From a biblical standpoint, if you looked up the Hebrew origin of the word (because the Bible was translated from Hebrew to English), it is "ruach" which is a feminine form of the word "breath". Breath isn't just the air that we breathe; breath is also our very life. Spirit is life.

And so, of course, it is imperative that we do all that we can to protect—to defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult, etc.; cover or shield from injury or danger—our spirit. Because, as a Native American writer and musician by the name of John Trudell once said, "Protect your spirit because you are in a place where spirits get eaten." Another way to look at this is, you are on a planet where spirits are oftentimes consumed. Devoured even. Yeah, that might not be a warm 'n fuzzy kind of intro, but that doesn't make the facts any less true. And just why are so many people having their spirits—their quality of life—devoured? I'd venture to say that it's because a lot of individuals don't even recognize just how vast their spirit actually is.

Let's do something to change that today. Below are seven words that are literal synonyms for the word "spirit". From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that, if you take the necessary steps to protect each of these, the quality of your life, overall, will only get exponentially better. That's a promise.

1. Your Character

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Some people like to define character as being one's personality. Personally, I think it goes a bit deeper than that. To me, your character is comprised of your behavior and the adjectives that could be used to describe it. For instance, someone might say that you're patient (or impatient), funny (or serious), dependable (or flaky). The reality is all of us have character traits that are good—and not so good. But hopefully, with the passing of every birthday, you come to a place of wanting to strengthen the good and weaken the bad.

Like with me, one thing that I know is a character trait of mine is I'm a big giver; so much so that I used to be codependent and also mad resentful when I would realize that some relationships were constantly taking me for granted. When I finally got to the point and place of accepting that it really is true that you teach people how to treat you, I started to set boundaries. I started to express what I expected out of my relationships and I learned how to only say "yes" if I knew I wasn't going to regret not saying "no" later. I also learned how to find the balance in doing things out of the goodness of my heart vs. doing things in hopes that someone would care about me as much as I cared about them. Mastering this has helped to keep me from becoming jaded and bitter; it has helped me to protect my giving spirit.

If you don't make a point to protect your good character traits, you can best believe that your bad ones will start to take over—maybe even overpower the good. That's why it's so important to take the time out to ponder what your good traits are and what you can (and should) do in order to make sure that those particular traits remain intact.

2. Your Energy

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In the simplest form, energy is power. There is someone I know who says that he responds or reacts to other people based on the energy that they give him. Honestly, a lot of folks would probably say the same thing. However, the challenge with that is, if you take energy at its core definition, that means someone has the power to shift your power…and that's giving them a lot of power in your life (too much if you ask me!). In an article that I read entitled, "The People Factor: It's All About Energy", the author stated, "Understanding how people affect you means that you can do a better job matching what you need at any given moment to what your energy requires." I totally agree with that.

Something that I used to have in my space, a lot, both personally and professionally, were narcissistic individuals (check out "What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?" and "3 Warning Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist"). Because I didn't know the traits—and agenda—of narcissists at the time, I didn't get why a lot of relationships had me emotionally drained and sometimes very depressed. But baby, after a year of studying narcissistic abuse, I get it. I realize that a part of what a narcissist does is look for people's power sources to take as their own. And so now, the people who I know are narcissists, I keep a safe distance from. Also, when I recognize that someone is showing red flags of being one, I mentally and emotionally remove myself. I don't try and "compete" with narcissistic energy or even try and change the individual (most of them can't without therapy anyway). I simply make sure to not give them my power (including my time, resources or emotional investment).

A wise person once said, "Certain people and their toxic energy can block you from expanding, elevating and vibrating higher. Detach and protect your energy." One definition of power is the "ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something". Anything or anyone who is constantly a stumbling block or hinderance for you in this area, they are someone who is working against, not for you. Protect your energy and release them (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead" to see what I mean by that)—whether that be for a time or forever.

(By the way, if you want to learn a bit more about the kind of energy that you have, overall, take the personality test, "What Kind of Live Energy Do You Have?". I took it and it was pretty spot-on.)

3. Your Humor

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Anytime I'm talking to someone and they say, "You're hilarious", I find that to be one of the best compliments ever. Not only does it remind me that I am able to see the joy in life in spite of a lot of what I have been through, but I know that a good sense of humor is beneficial to our mental, emotional and physical well-being. You can read articles like "Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke", "A good sense of humor is a sign of psychological health" and "A sense of humor could mean you're a healthier, happier, and smarter person" to confirm this fact. Meanwhile, there is a particular person in my family who is basically the humor police. It's not so much that they lack a sense of humor as they want to "regulate" what everyone else should think is fun or funny. Ugh. Not only is that controlling as all get out (I am not you and you are not me; chill out), but it's also a slick way of trying to keep others from protecting a part of their spirit.

Yep, believe it or not, humor is another part of your spiritual being. Make sure that you laugh often. Make sure you surround yourself around others who do the same. And, if there are people who are constantly bringing your joy down, can't take a joke or need to freakin' lighten up—realign your boundaries and how much time you spend in their presence. In times like these, humor is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity.

4. Your Attitude

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When I'm tired (the weary kind). Two days before my period. Right after a long writing day. For about 12 hours after processing a disappointment. Those are the times when my attitude can be a bit stank. I'm self-aware enough to know that. What I used to selfishly do is subject people to whatever mood, words and actions came with my foulness. Now I know that I'm not protecting others when I do that and so I retreat in solitude until I can get myself together.

For the most part, your attitude is all about how you choose to express yourself at any given moment. And since there is plenty of data out here to support the fact that negativity can be quite contagious, it's important that you protect your "self-expression" by 1) knowing who and what triggers you; 2) discovering tactics that others use in order to do it (check out "Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships"); 3) taking care of your physical health (check out "In A Bad Mood? These Foods Will Lift Your Spirits!") and 4) disciplining yourself so that your emotions don't control you, you control them.

A lot of us have missed out on all kinds of good things due to our bad attitude; that's the bad news. The good news is we each have the power to protect ourselves so that our attitude can remain positive and productive. Always make sure to keep that in mind.

5. Your Enthusiasm

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These days, when someone asks me what should be a deal-breaker in a relationship, one of the things that I say with, pardon the pun, off-the-charts enthusiasm is, well, enthusiasm. I can't tell you how many married couples I deal with who are on the verge of ending things and a big part of it is because they feel like their spouse lacks enthusiasm ("intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval"). It could be a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to their goals and dreams. It could be lack of enthusiasm in the bedroom. It could be a lack of enthusiasm in them, period.

While on the surface, enthusiasm may not seem like all that big of a deal, the reality is, it's hard to start or finish things in excellence if enthusiasm is lacking. That's why you need folks who are supportive, who totally have your back and who are consistently cheering you along the way.

Ladies, I hate to say it, but oftentimes the lack of enthusiasm in a marriage tends to come from our side (at least with marriages I deal with). Again, enthusiasm makes up our spirit man (and woman), so it's natural for us to want to build up walls against people who lack enjoyment, interest and approval of us. If you are an enthusiasm-drainer, there's no time like the present to change that. If you're wasting precious time trying to get others to be enthusiastic about you and what you've got going on…that's definitely something to think long and hard about because it is definitely doing a number on your spirit. Not in a good way either, sis.

6. Your Heart

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This one is interesting because, oftentimes, when people (especially women), think of their heart, they think of it in the context of love and relationships. Since that is the case, I will say that one way to protect your heart is to actually learn from your past experiences. When it comes to brokenness, people, especially women, are actually pretty resilient. It's not usually one person who takes us out but a pattern that we've been repeating and/or ignoring. If that sentence just "pricked" you on some level, make sure that you take heed to what you're allowing to be done over and over that is harming you—mind, body and/or soul.

However, by definition, your heart is the center of your emotions. And while, I'm personally not big on letting our emotions rule our decisions (shoot, even the Bible warns us to not follow our heart because it has the tendency to be deceitful—Jeremiah 17:9-10), I do like how one article stated that our emotions are how we communicate to other people. So, you know what that means, right? Since a good communicator listens well; practices empathy with others; seeks clarity; is aware of their body language; is knowledgeable in what they speak on and about; can be the teacher as well as the student when necessary; is tone-conscious; tries to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible; pays attention to patterns; can receive constructive criticism and, is open to receiving new ideas—you have to protect your heart by surrounding yourself with people who strive to communicate well with you as you seek to do the same thing with them.

A lot of personal and professional relationships are destroyed due to poor communication. At the end of the day, it's because people don't recognize how much bad communication damages the spirit.

7. Your Resolve

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OK, let me start this one off by saying, it's one thing to be resolved; it's another thing to be stubborn. Don't confuse the two. It's an epidemic, how many people are so prideful and egotistical that they can't be advised on anything. That is definitely not what I'm referring to here. No, what I mean by resolve is "to come to a definite or earnest decision about" your core values, needs and how you want to live out your life's purpose. If you are single and desire a life partner, before you can find someone who truly complements you, you've got to be resolved in who you are as a person.

And, when it comes to resolve overall, it's easier to figure out what you want your personal and professional life to look like once you are resolved in what you desire out of this life. Yeah, it makes total sense why resolve is a synonym for spirit. Our decisions determine the quality of our life.

A lot of information is provided on how to care for one's body. But what does that matter if our spirit is damaged? It's not only relevant to protect your spirit, it is essential. So much of who you are is within your spirit. Protect it—without reservation or apology. Those who honor your spirit will only support—and respect—you for doing so. Make sure you do the same for them. Again, spirit is life.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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