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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Shabazz: Guard your gates

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My great-grandmother Vivian Irene White Marbury used to drop all kinds of wisdom nuggets. I’m sure I’m not the only one with an elder or mentor who would spout a phrase that at the time was confusing. The older I become though, the more they seem to make sense. One that has been swirling around my heard and heart lately is the saying “Guard your gates.” I recall her saying how important it was to guard my ear, eye and mouth gates. She was trying to emphasize the importance of self-awareness and knowledge by advising me to be conscious of what and who I listen to (my ear gates), who and what I watch (my eye gates), and what I let in and out of my mouth (my mouth gate). Each of these gates can allow the good and the bad to enter my body, my psyche and my heart. Not effectively guarding these gates could lead to circumstances or issues that are counterproductive to development and living a healthy, peaceful life. Let’s consider a few examples of the impact of unguarded gates.

Unguarded gates will have you not liking someone you don’t even know because of listening to other people’s experiences with them. You’ll be making assumptions and unsubstantiated decisions about someone’s character without having any interactions of your own. What you hear becomes absolute truth, even when it may be riddled with negativity and bias. It will have you destroying or blocking relationships that may be beneficial to your life.

Unguarded gates will have you missing opportunities and blessings because you are selective in what you choose to see. You see the glass only as half empty and not for the potential it has as being viewed as half full. You see people through a narrow lens and therefore limit your interactions. You watch or read material based on the limited algorithms set for you and rarely deviate from the typical things you like to watch. Your ability to see opportunities is clouded because it’s filtered by what you’ve seen others be able to accomplish and how you may compare.

Unguarded gates will have you internalizing oppressive conditions and then casting judgment on yourself or others for their circumstances. Doing things such as speaking negatively about yourself often or people who look like you, dismissing or withholding compliments, and openly condemning children and young adults for their growing pains or for mistakes you also once made.

Unguarded gates will have you make potential life or death health decisions based on limited or misinformation. Popular Facebook or 120-character Twitter posts don’t constitute facts. YouTube videos, podcasts with thousands of “likes” aren’t comprehensive sources of knowledge to base decisions on your health that could not only impact you but others around you.

So how do we guard our gates? Well one simple strategy is don’t take everything you hear or see as absolute fact, even if it comes from a reliable source. You don’t have to be skeptical about everything, but you should consider multiple perspectives, impacts and your gut. What you see and hear can embed itself in your psyche and shift the way you interact with others, so it’s important to be aware of what you are exposed to. Ever around someone long enough that you catch yourself using words they say or doing things like them? Our unguarded gates allow information (including misinformation) to flow in and out freely and we’re often unconscious of the impact. Another way you can guard your gates is by addressing addictions to drama/trauma.

Some people don’t realize that they draw drama and trauma to them constantly because of their own addiction to it but when you begin to close those gates (not entertaining it), you’ll begin to see a shift in what comes your way or what you’re attracted to. You can also guard your gates by remembering that your mouth gate has the ability to restore or destroy. Words (the words you say and the tone used) can either be used as weapons or healers. Remember, rumors can’t travel unless they stumble upon open gates.

I hope this nugget helps you realize the importance of guarding your ear, eye and mouth gates. I do believe that if we are more conscious of what enters our gates and are mindful of what we release to others, we can all be and do better. Don’t let what you consume, consume you — guard your gates!

Dr. Khalilah A. Shabazz shares wisdom, lessons and insights on personal, social and societal issues of today. Contact her at shabazzk@iu.edu.

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