About 6 years ago a friend I went to seminary with passed away unexpectedly. Steven was a book lover and so his family decided to have a book give away at the school. At first it felt kind of strange picking through his books, but in a way it felt like if I read some of the books he liked, I’d get to know him more and perhaps learn something I wouldn’t have otherwise learned. Most of the books I accepted didn’t really stand out, but I was surprised to find among his theological, classics, and sci-fi collections a huge Anthony Robbins book called Awaken the Giant Within (AGW).
AGW seemed so out of place on that bookcase. And it totally didn’t seem like a book Steven would have. In my experience, Steven was kind of snarky guy and not at all “Anthony Robbinsy”as far as I could tell. As I looked at the book trying to imagine what Steven could have possibly been doing with it, the thought came to me that I should take the book and read the whole thing. I committed then and there that I would do just that. Six years later and I am only a little more than halfway through the book.
See here’s the thing about me and Anthony Robbins. We’ve been in a secret relationship for about 30 or so years. It’s so secret in fact, that he doesn’t even know about it. It all started when I saw a commercial for one of his seminars when I was about 10 years old. I can’t remember what he said, but I know that I liked it and thought that a lot of people I knew needed to hear a positive message like his. I said as much out loud and said that I thought I might do what he was doing one day so that I could help people believe in themselves too.
When I said that out loud, it was as if I was instantly transported to my future when I would be doing that very thing. I said it and it was instantly fulfilled. But then a person whose opinion I respected heard me and said something I will never forget. This person said, “Well, it is easy for him to say that stuff and for people to hear him because he is a tall, handsome, white guy. All he has to do is put on a suit and get excited and people will listen because everybody wants to be a rich white guy like him. If you got on stage and said the same thing no one would listen because no one wants to be a little poor black boy.” Pop! The image burst like a bubble.
From that day to the day I saw that book in Steven’s collection, I decided to intentionally not listen to anything from Anthony Robbins. I decided this not because I thought anything negative about him personally. I know people who bought his tapes and have even had them offered to me numerous times. Besides, he’s been around a long time so I couldn’t completely get away from him if I tried. I decided not to listen to him because I wanted to defy the idea that everybody wanted to be a rich tall handsome white man. If that was the case, then people could only accept themselves to the degree to which they aligned with that image. I refused to believe that so I decided if what he was saying was true, I’d encounter it by living a truthful life as the little black man that I was destined to be in this world.
Over the years I have had many people hear me say something I’ve witnessed in life and them ask me if I listened to Anthony Robbins. When I’ve said no they’ve offered me tapes or CDs or DVDs and I would always decline. Once though, I did buy some AR tapes from a yard sale, but then refused to listen to them and threw them away. Can you believe that this thing with Anthony Robbins had been going on for most of my life when I came across this book? Pretty ridiculous huh? That’s what I determined when I almost chose to avoid him yet again. In the context of Steven’s death I finally realized that twenty-five years was enough time of avoiding someone who doesn’t even know I exist just because this society is race crazy.
By the look of the book, Steven hadn’t even cracked it open. I wondered if he knew he was dying somehow and got the sense that he might have missed out on awakening the Giant within him. If so, I wanted to leverage the emotion of his passing to get me to crack that book open, and not only that, do whatever exercises were in it as well. And that’s why it has taken me 6 years to only get halfway through. I told myself that if I was going to get into it, I would see the whole thing through and not skip anything. Clearly my reading of it is sporadic, but I’m progressing through it a page here and there at a time. Along the way, I’m getting to mentally connect with all of the people who are looking for a way to live into their God-graced potential.
So what’s the lesson here? The truth is, I don’t know. When I got up here to write this I thought the lesson was that I shouldn’t have let what one person said to me as a kid steer me the way that it did. I wondered if maybe I should have gone to the Anthony Robbins seminar at the Scope Coliseum when I was a kid and as a result I’d be a Giant by now (figuratively speaking as DNA has vetoed me getting taller). But as I’ve gotten to the end of writing, I don’t feel like I made a mistake at all. I feel like what that person said to me was exactly what I needed to hear at the time in order for me to value myself as I am–a child of God who is beyond comparison to made up societal prescriptions of value. And in realizing that, I can learn something freely from all children of God–even tall, white, handsome multimillionaires like Anthony Robbins. LOL.
God of the Red and Yellow and Black and White and everything in between,
Remind us that we are indeed all precious in Your Sight. And help us to remember that in Christ there are none of these divisions that we give false value to. We are One Body all exalted or brought low together. Thanks for all of those in the work of lifting us up in all of their many expressions. Amen.