Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reflections of a Former Attitude Queen – Emotional Healing for Black Women

I’m a black woman, but I honestly have to say that, based on my experiences, too many black women have a bad attitude. Yes, there are difficult people in other groups (black men and people of other races), but the proportion of black women that are just hard to get along with is really high compared to other groups. We are continually denying our attitude problem or justifying it, but it’s time for us to stare the truth in the face and work to fix this problem. I know what I’m talking about here. I, myself, am a former attitude queen. When a person would tell me I was being difficult, I would get irritated and defensive and would see my offensive behavior as justified.

There are negative consequences of being a difficult person. You can alienate people and miss out on opportunities in various aspects of your life.

Here are some sample scenarios illustrating the harmful effects I’m talking about. You own a thriving small business, but because you’re full of yourself, you start exhibiting a bad attitude to your customers, as you already do to others in your life. How long will it be before some customers start to move on? Or how about the fabulous boyfriend you had. You were both madly in love and he put up with your difficult personality for a while, but after some time, he was fed up and he ended the relationship. Let us now consider your neighbor who has seen you cussing out other neighbors, the cable guy, the gardener and the clerk at the grocery store. You want him to go to Heaven, so you decide to share the gospel with him and invite him to church. He’s thinking, “Good grief! If following Jesus is going to make me have a negative disposition like she does, I think I’m going to pass on her invitation!” (Yes, people should be focused on the perfection and grace of Jesus and not your sins, but the fact is they do evaluate Christians, partly to see if what we’re “selling” does actually work.)

Additionally, a black woman with a bad attitude not only hurts herself, but other black women. She does so by feeding into negative stereotypes, which means other black women are also going to miss out on opportunities in different areas of their lives; the fact is that, whether we like it or not, a lot of people do (wrongly) judge others based on stereotypes. Once, I went to a retail store to return some placemats that I had bought from there a few months earlier. The assistant manager was working at the return counter at that time. I showed him my receipt and he told me that I could only get store credit, not a refund because I bought the items more than 90 days earlier. As he spoke to me, his tone and body language had a slight edge, as if he was quite sure I was going to throw a tantrum and he was ready to go toe to toe with me. I didn’t throw a tantrum because I felt the store’s policy was the store’s policy and I shouldn’t have waited so long to bring the placemats back. I calmly told him store credit was fine. I could tell that he felt ashamed of the assumptions he’d made about me. He then went on to say that he would give me a refund after all - I think it was his embarrassment that made him immediately change his mind.

I don’t know exactly why he had pre-conceived notions about me-it may have been my race, gender, a combination of both, or just that he was used to customers of various races and genders going off on him when he would only give them store credit. The point, though, is that his pre-conceived notions about me shaped his decision to be somewhat hostile to me. This is a fairly mild example because I wouldn’t have lost any sleep if he had just given me store credit, but how about when the stakes are a lot higher, when a person is losing a promotion or an election or a potential client because of people’s pre-conceived notions about them. What opportunities have you lost out on or could you potentially lose out on because of pre-conceived notions about black women? It’s time we look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that though the whole bad attitude thing may feel good when we’re going off on someone, in the long-run, we are hurting ourselves and our sisters.

If we consider the hardships black women have had to endure, it is understandable why so many of us are too tough for our own good. The bad attitude has become part of our sub-culture. If a black girl sees her mother is excessively tough and so many of the other black women and older black girls around her are like that, she most likely will absorb that character flaw and the cycle will continue. Even if it’s not part of the girls’ personality to be like this, she can get the message that if you don’t want to be taken advantage of or disrespected, this is the way you have to behave. Our condition is understandable, but not justifiable because we are hurting ourselves, other black women who are alive today and future generations of black women. We need to learn to be assertive rather than aggressive, to have strength and at the same time, have restraint.

Even though I’m writing all this, I do recognize that the label of “woman with a bad attitude” is sometimes given to a black woman by a person who is trying to get away with inexcusable behavior. Does a black woman have the right to call the person out for their inexcusable behavior? Yes, she does. The problem is that sometimes the person may have done something that was wrong AND at the same time, your difficult behavior may have been a contributing factor. Oftentimes, we focus on all of the other person’s flaws and not our own. I know there are times when a person has behaved improperly and you have to do something about it and I will address what I believe is the best approach to that later in this post.

I also recognize that there may be some women reading this and thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me. I do nice things for people, I donate to charity, I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West.” It is possible for a person to do good deeds for others sometimes and still be a difficult person. We all have different sides to our personality. So, I’m not necessarily saying you are the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m just saying that you should evaluate whether oftentimes, you do a very good imitation of her close cousin, the Attitude Queen of the East.

Earlier, I called myself a former attitude queen. For me, the improvements in my disposition have been gradual, so I’m no longer an attitude queen, but I wouldn’t say I’m perfect either in this area. What I can say is that I am way, way, way better than I was before and I thank God for the healing and strengthening process He has taken and is taking me through.

So, what can you do to deal with your bad attitude? Take it to God and cooperate with God as He transforms your character.

Transforming Your Attitude – Taking it to God and Cooperating with God
There are 4 steps:
Step 1:
Get right with God if you are not. If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior or you walked away from Him and want to re-dedicate your life to Him, call 888-NEED-HIM or visit
If you are already saved (i.e. accepted Jesus and your Lord and Savior) and are in an active relationship with Him, then skip to Step 2.

Step 2:
Due to the adversity that black women face, many of us harbor anger, grief and bitterness in our hearts, and these then contribute to our bad attitudes. I will guide you through digging into your heart to find what is causing any anger, grief or bitterness (AGB) and you’ll create a prayer list of the various root causes that you uncover. You’ll continue digging and also add to the list any other causes of your difficult personality (aside from the roots of the AGB) and then you will pray about everything on the list, asking God to heal and deliver you.

When I say we’re going to be digging into your heart, realize that it may be an emotionally painful process at times. You’re going to be examining historical and current racial issues as well as non-racial issues. You may also be surprised to find things being harbored in your heart that you felt you had already overcome or had brushed aside in order to “keep it moving,” as we are often encouraged to do. As we encounter challenging circumstances, we must deal with the negative emotions AND also keep it moving, but many a time, we are only doing the “keeping-it-moving” part. In my own life, I thought there was one particular painful event from the past that I had gotten over, but as I was exploring my heart, I found it was still lodging there. There were many items on my prayer list other than this, but this one loomed the largest. When I finally took it to God, I had an emotional breakthrough. All of a sudden, this over-the-top anger that I had felt over certain issues was virtually gone. Praise be to God!

Some may feel that when I’m asking you to consider negative circumstances that have impacted you, I’m asking you to be a victim. This is not about being a victim. It’s about staring the truth in the face and allowing the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Lover of your soul, to heal you, so you can live an abundant life. No matter how much you seem like you have it together in certain areas of your life, if your heart harbors rage, bitterness or pain, you can’t live an abundant life. You may say, “But I’m saved.” Yes, you are saved, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need work done on the inside—all children of God do. Once we are saved, our spirit is re-generated by the Holy Spirit, but our flesh (physical body, mind, emotions, will) is still earthly, so that is why we still sin. The Holy Spirit takes us through the life-long process of sanctification to purify our flesh. Sister, and I’m saying this with love, put down the tough lady mask, get out of warrior princess mode and be transparent before God. He knows you better than you know yourself anyway, so why not speak to Him straight from your heart?

Let’s get started. Just read through this whole post first and then you can follow each step at a later time.
What you’ll need: a notebook that has lined-paper or several sheets of lined, loose-leaf paper with something to keep the sheets together like a binder clip, folder or stapler. If you’re using loose-leaf paper, number each side of the sheet as you use it.

(a) Select a day to be your day of prayer for emotional healing. You can spread it out over two or three days if you prefer. Mark the day on your calendar so you don’t forget. On the day of prayer, you will first spend time exploring your heart and creating the prayer list and then you will pray. If you decide to do spread it over two or more days, then on each day, you’ll write a portion of the list and pray about the portion you wrote that day.

(b) On your first page of paper (your prayer list), write the page title, “Prayer List A." You’re going to create a table on this page (and on subsequent pages too). Make the table have 2 columns. The first column shouldn’t be so wide-just wide enough to be able to write one letter (an “R”).
(i) Draw a line to create the first column.
(ii) Leave the first column without a heading name.
(iii) Write a heading for the 2nd column: it should be called “Prayer Topic.”

(c) Look at the Guide for Uncovering Prayer Topics for Healing which is below (in blue).

Guide for Uncovering Prayer Topics for Healing
(1) Conditions in the black community.
* So many black men in jail
* shortage of black men and devastating consequences for dating and marriage for black women
* black women are 57% of new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S.
* Gang violence
* Hateful things some black men post online about black women

(2) Family:
ex. -
* A poor relationship with a relative you love
* A relative making bad choices

(3) Your Individual experiences that don’t fall under above headings.
ex. -
* Something hurtful someone said to you. For example, someone making fun of your single status.
* Rape
* Sexual abuse
*A broken heart
* Physical, verbal or emotional abuse
* Rejection
* Failures
* Weaknesses

(4) Additional items that don’t fall under any of the above headings
*An injustice you read about in the news like the genocide in Darfur
*hateful words someone wrote online about a group of people that your best friend belongs to

(d) Pray to God to reveal the root causes of anger, grief or bitterness (AGB) in your heart to you.

(e) Start with the first heading of the Guide for Uncovering Prayer Topics for Healing (I’ll sometimes just call it the Guide). The first heading is “Conditions in the Black Community.” Look at the examples under the heading. Is there anything relating to this heading that you think causes AGB in you? I’ll do an illustration. For the sake of the illustration, let’s make some suppositions. First, you are grieving over the gang violence in the black community. Second, you have a dead 7-year old cousin, whose loss you’re still mourning, who was shot by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting. Third, you're angry with the behavior of the people in the gang who are wasting their lives and those of others. Leave the first narrow column blank—you won’t be filling it out until you’ve finished your list. Then, write down the heading “Conditions in Black Community” and under that heading, write “gang violence” as one of your prayer topics. If you want, you can even be more specific when you’re writing the prayer topic-i.e. write down gang violence and also refer to your cousin’s situation.

Keep examining your heart and write down the prayer topics associated with this heading. If you find that your list of prayer topics under a particular heading is getting too long for you (ex. 50 topics under one heading), then, if you want, you can write the top 20 that cause the most AGB. When you pray, you will be praying for the heading and for the individual prayer topics. For example, you’ll pray at a general level for the heading, the “Conditions in the Black Community” that cause you AGB and then you’ll also pray about the specific topics under the heading.

Focus on what causes you AGB. It’s different for different people.

When you finish one page of paper, just draw the table with 2 columns on the next page. As a second reminder, if you’re using loose-leaf paper, number the pages.

For some prayer topics, thoughts may enter your mind about focusing on what to do (other than prayer) to fix certain conditions; for example, if one of the causes for your AGB is the astounding high school drop-out rate in the black community, you may start thinking of an organization to join to encourage high school students not to drop out of school. Taking action to help others is excellent and we all need to do it, but prayer should precede it. For this prayer time, focus on 2 things: (i) praying for God to heal you of the AGB caused by the situation and (ii) praying for God to solve the situation itself. Here’s an illustration: if a cause for your AGB is the gang violence, (i) pray to God to heal you of the AGB caused by gang violence and (ii) pray to GOD to solve the gang violence problem and to guide you to know what part you should play in the solution (if that is going to be your ministry). AFTER your prayers, you can start contemplating the earthly action to take to fix the gang violence. Too often, we jump to the “what-action-are-we-going-to-take-to-fix-the-problem” stage without dealing with it spiritually or dealing with the emotional cancer it is causing in our hearts.

As you consider your prayer topics associated with a particular heading, you may find that it is not necessarily one particular topic that causes you high level of AGB, but the topics as a group do.

Don’t take a quick-and-easy approach to this process of exploring your heart. Take your time. Go through the compartments of your heart diligently, thoroughly. Turn off the phone/cell phone/blackberry, etc if you are able to in order to minimize distractions. You need to dig deep into your heart to shine light on the things that are causing you these negative emotions I’ve written about. After you think you’ve finished digging, dig some more. It’s like layers of an onion. You strip off one layer and then there’s another one and then another one, and so on. Keep digging. You may even find that as you’re digging, you have pain that manifests itself physically, perhaps around the area of your physical heart. It’s just like physical surgery. After the anesthesia wears off, you’ll feel pain because a part of your body has been cut. However, after the pain will come the healing.

(f) After you think you’ve finished with the first heading on the Guide for Uncovering Prayer Topics for Healing, go to the next heading and repeat the process in (e). Keep doing the same process for each heading in the Guide.

If you think of a prayer topic that could fall under multiple headings in the Guide, just pick one and go with that.

If, for example, you just finished writing topics for heading 2 (Family) and you remember something you need to add to a previous heading (Conditions in Black Community), on the next line, just write an additional heading titled “Conditions in Black Community (continued)” and proceed.

As you’re going through this whole process, you can take a break if you want to rest or eat.

(g) After you’ve gone through the entire Guide, review your prayer topics and consider which areas you need to repent in—for example, certain failures or weaknesses you may have written down. Put an “R” (for repent) next to the prayer topic.

(h) On a separate sheet of paper, write the title “Prayer List B.” This one may be much shorter than Prayer List A. Create 2 columns, just like you did for Prayer List A.

For this list, you’re going to consider what the additional contributing factors to your difficult personality are other than anger, grief and bitterness. Pray to God to reveal to you what these are and then write them down. One example of a topic for Prayer List B is pride. Another is fear of being seen as weak and being taken advantage of.

You may find that Prayer List B is quite short, perhaps as short as just 2 topics and that’s okay.

There are no headings for the prayer topics on this prayer list.

(i) After you’ve finished Prayer List B, consider which areas on the list you need to repent in. Put an “R” (for repent) next to the prayer topic.

(j) Leave a blank line and then write “***Pray that any causes of my difficult personality that I’ve not yet uncovered will be healed***”

(k) Leave a blank line and then write “***Overall prayer: Transform my difficult personality***”

(l) This is a good place to take a break because after you return, you’ll be moving into the actual prayer phase.

(m) Here is a mnemonic that Pastor Rick Warren has suggested to help folks structure their prayers: P-R-A-Y.

P - stands for praise and thanksgiving to God.
R - stands for repenting of your sins
A - stands for asking God to do things for others and/or you
Y – stands for yielding to God; surrender your life to Him again and asking Him to give you the strength to remain surrendered.

In the praise and thanksgiving, you can start off with a song of worship, if you wish. Lyrics of worship songs are available online. After that, move into the non-musical praise and thanksgiving.

(n) Now, you’ll start your prayers:
(i) Start with praise and thanksgiving to God.
(ii) When you get to the “Repent” phase of your prayers, go through Prayer List A and B and repent in the areas where you have marked the “R.” If any additional sin comes to mind that is not on the prayer list, repent of that too.
(iii) Go through each heading and prayer topic on Prayer List A and ask God to heal you of the anger, grief or bitterness that has been caused by these problems. Ask God to also solve the underlying problems too. (For example, if the issue is the high HIV/AIDS infection rate among black women, ask God to heal you of the AGB caused by this problem AND ask God to solve the problem of the high HIV/AIDS infection rate among black women.) Ask Him to protect you emotionally as you encounter challenging circumstances in life and see situations that greatly disturb you. As I said earlier, you should pray at the heading level and also at the prayer topic level. For example, you’ll pray at a general level for the heading, the “Conditions in the Black Community” that cause you AGB and then you’ll also pray about the specific topics under the heading.
(iv) Go through each prayer topic on Prayer List B and ask God to heal you of those.
(v) Also pray that if there is any other root cause of your difficult personality that you have not yet uncovered and written down, that you will be healed of it and that God would also eventually reveal it to you.
(vi) Pray a summary prayer that God will deliver you of your difficult personality and will give you strength and restraint when you feel like lashing out at a person.
(vii) Yield to God.

(o) Do the day(s) of prayer for emotional healing as often as you need to – once a year, twice a year, once a month, whatever works for you. Do what you need to do for your own emotional health. It can’t just be a one-time thing because events may occur after you pray to cause the negative emotions again. It may even be that you remembered one of the items you prayed about today and remembering it caused the negative emotion again.

(p) Incorporate the prayer that God deliver you from a bad attitude into your regular prayer life (that is separate from this special day). You can decide to incorporate all these prayer topics categories into your regular prayer life or just some of them. I’m not saying that every day when you pray, you necessarily have to pray about your difficult personality, but I’m saying pray about it regularly.

(q) Select the date for your next day of prayer for emotional healing and mark it on a calendar. Find a way to remind yourself to have this special day of prayer at least once a year. For example, you can set it as a recurring appointment in your electronic organizer or the online calendar that comes with your web-based email account.

Step 3:
The next step is to cooperate with God. What does this mean? It means that since you’ve prayed and asked God to help you, you also need to do your part. When God heals you and gives you strength, but you don’t take steps to capitalize on it by taming your tongue, what good is that? You have a part to play too. You need to make an effort. God’s power PLUS your will interact to produce the transformed personality you desire. Try your best, but, at the same time, when you fail, don’t wallow in disappointment forever. Rather, learn your lesson, repent and keep striving to do better.
Here are some of my suggestions on what you can do to cooperate with God:
(a) Decide that you are going to be assertive, not aggressive. Decide that you are going to have strength that is tempered with restraint.

(b) If a person exhibits behavior that is just wrong, your focus should be trying to correct the person’s behavior, as opposed to having and showing a dislike for the person. I remember one pastor saying in a sermon that anger becomes a sin when you’re angry with a person instead of being angry with the person’s behavior; this is very much in line with the old saying, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.“

(c) Instead of automatically cussing a person out when they do something that displeases you, stop, take a deep breath and look at the situation again, but this time, with your “Gracious Glasses” on. What do you consider when you have your “Gracious Glasses on?” First, try to see the things from the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself whether the situation could just be an innocent misunderstanding. Also, perhaps, what seemed like a major offense will later become minor when you look at it from the other person’s point of view. Give people the benefit of the doubt unless you have a good reason not to. Second, there are some times when you know a person is out of line that you should just let it go. You shouldn’t be continually telling people off, so pick your battles wisely. Remind yourself that God has forgiven you of so many sins and you’ll probably find it easier to extend mercy to the person that offended you. When you do decide to address an issue, you should try to speak with the person in private, if that is an option. A lot of times, if you’re attempting to correct a person in front of others, the person just gets defensive. Also, try to not raise your voice- be calm, but be firm.

(d) If you’re an opinionated person, cultivate an attitude of humility in your heart: recognize that when you’re debating with someone, there are times when you may actually be wrong. Don’t automatically close your mind if someone disagrees with you. Hear them out. Don’t be afraid to concede a point or the whole argument. If you do so, it doesn’t make you look weak, it shows that you are mature. If the other individual decides to respond childishly to your concession, don’t have any regrets because you took the high road. Lastly, when you disagree with a person, do it in a way that is respectful.

Step 4:
If you find that the issues you’re dealing with are extremely deep-seated, you may need professional Christian counseling too. Talk to the pastor at your church because he may be able to provide you with short-term counseling and refer you to a professional Christian counselor if your needs are more long-term. Additionally, you can go to the website of the American Association of Christian Counselors,, to get a listing of Christian counselors in your local area. You may also want to check out New Life Ministries, which is run by the founder of Women of Faith Ministries. New Life offers a 3-day, intensive, small-group therapy program called the New Life Weekend. All the people in your small group counseling session will be those going through a similar problem as you are. Here’s a link to get more information:

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