We had issues. Like serious issues. Like sitting in those meetings in that room with the blinds tightly drawn to perhaps protect us or maybe spare him from embarrassment, felt like marital counseling for issues that were there long before I arrived on campus only a few months prior. Marital counseling for a wedding I never had, a dress I never purchased and danced the night away in, a groom that was nor favored Idris Elba or Simon Baker.
We muddled through, the nine of us assistant deans. First meeting with the president of the university, then with HR, and then with a consultant the president hired over the course of about six months. During the time with HR we all took the Strengths Finder assessment. It was an attempt at assessing strengths as a team, where some of the conflicts we were having may stem from, and how to leverage strengths to move forward.
We gathered in a house the campus owned just behind several of the office buildings on campus. We made our way down to the basement that must have at one time been a family room. There was a kitchen area and catered treats were in abundance, around a slight corner tables had been arranged in a circle of sorts with just enough space to allow us to still enjoy the beautiful fireplace. As we took our seats and pulled out tour sheets of paper with our top five strengths the woman from human resources smiled empathetically at us and then shared that she would be reviewing the profile of all 34 strengths, including the strengths that no one on our team had in their top 5. She started through the list alphabetically and in no time we were at belief. “Now no one on your team had belief,” she started. I looked up at a few of my colleagues, who were aware that belief was one of my top 5 strengths. “People with this strength need to be a part of things they believe in. If they don’t believe in the work they are doing, the task required of them, or the outcomes, they will have a hard time completing tasks or really being on board. The internal struggle to do what they don’t believe often becomes too much for them, “ she went on. My colleagues and I exchanged glances once more. “This person won’t last long in an organization or a job that doesn’t align with their beliefs. They are most likely going to quit,” she stated. We started laughing. We being almost all of the assistant deans. She looked up, tilted her head to the left slightly, and asked what did she miss. “Belief is one of my strengths,” I said. She apologized and then asked if any of what she shared resonated with me “It’s spot on I shared.” A few months later, I submitted my resignation.
I first took the strengths finder assessment in undergraduate school as a member of our residence life team. I don’t recall my strengths other than relator. I remember that all of my strengths seemed to really fit what I was studying in college, human development and family science. When I took the assessment with my team of assistant deans relator wasn’t in my top 5, but I as okay with that. I liked my current list of strengths, felt they made sense to me and the way I see and navigate the world, with the exception of belief. For some reason that strength didn’t seem to really resonate as much as the others, although I had a deeper appreciation for it once it was explained to me.
Yet, here I am almost three years removed from taking the assessment a second time, wrestling with belief being strength, and now I laugh at how I ever doubted or questioned the role belief plays in the way I see and navigate the world. It’s why I curated the list of guest lecturers for my campus this semester, because I believe we need to learn more about what it means to communicate effectively across cultures and partner through coalition building and community organizing. It’s why I stepped down from a search committee and reached out to human resources when I knew inequity had been ushered in and integrity shown the door. It’s why every couple of weeks I spend some evenings before bed writing love notes to friends and family members to be snail mailed to their doorsteps. I believe we should open more than bills and that if you don’t tell people you love them they might not know or circumstances in life may cause them to question if they are loved and I don’t want that. So I believe in sending reminders on cute stationary, sometimes designed by me and sometimes in the sweet dollar section of Target. I believe in the dollar section of Target.
Fast forward to my sitting in a different coffee table writing this post after taking a day off from work because what happened the day before violated several of my beliefs. Clearly, my beliefs matter.
I’d been taught to pray “Lord, help my unbelief.” To seek help in growing my faith and diminishing doubt. But to be honest, these days my prayers have been “Lord, help my belief.” There’s a boldness, a conviction, a forthrightness, a serious pursuit that comes with belief. It’s strong, deep, unwavering, and rebuffs any requests to be mediocre, settle, or subtly and quietly fade to the background. It looks, it listens, it leads, and in recent years I’ve learned to appreciate it.
Today, I’m learning how to live it. I’m learning how to live my beliefs in every area of my life. In the way I communicate, pray, exercise, eat, relate, steward my finances, the work I do, the dreams I dream and work towards, etc. I’m learning to live in congruence with what I know deep in my soul to be what is best for me and what I’ve been designed and fashioned for on this side of heaven. I’m learning to question more, and not out of insecurity or defiance, but out of assessing if it jives with who I am and desire to be. Cause if it doesn’t, I reject that sucka. If it does, I take care of it, protect it, bask in it, own it, live it.
The heart of the simply lived life has always been grounded in my belief that we have choice and that when we recognize that and own it, magical things happen for us, our friends, our families, our communities. I’ve also believed that my words, strung together, will resonate with someone who needs help with their unbelief. This week however, my hope is that these words resonate with someone who needs help with their belief. May you live well this week. May your wellness spring forth from what you believe. May what you believe be healthy, loving, and gloriously reflective of who you were created to be and the life you were crafted to live.