I have a confession to make. I’m a Christian. It’s not a popular thing to be nowadays. As soon as people know you’re a Christian they assume you’re judgmental, boring, flaky, unintelligent, or a Trump supporter. Jews are cheap, Muslims are violent and Christians are judgmental according to stereotypes.
Over the past few months faith and Christianity have been in the news because of Justin Bieber. First, he cancelled his highly successful world tour. Initially we were told it was due to exhaustion, which I believe was part of the reason. Later TMZ reported it was because he wanted to refocus on his faith. Second, he dropped his friendship with the now 50-0 Floyd Mayweather, again to refocus on his faith.
This story resonates with me for a few reasons. Like Justin, I was 23 years old when I made a decision to become a Christian, although I had been in church all my life, and that decision didn’t make sense to a lot of people. I don’t blame them. I changed.
I threw all my CDs in the garbage or gave them away- Nas, Bob Marley, Wu-tang. My boys and I used to rap so I threw away all my hip-hop instrumentals. I even threw away my tight shirts that would be appealing to the opposite sex and my Kangol style hats from Big It Up (I would later retrieve my Bob Marley CD from my dad’s collection).
The biggest casualty of my sudden transformation was my relationships. I had a group of guys that I grew up with that were like my brothers and when I became serious about my faith I went MIA. I didn’t know how to navigate this new life I was living and still be in the same environments I was in. And to be honest, I found a new passion and it consumed me. I was Bieber and my boys were Mayweather.
At one point, I quit two retail jobs, one at Square One and the other at Yorkdale, because I didn’t know how to be a Christian in the normal world where there’s beautiful girls and after work drinking. In the past those things led to flings with co-workers and me getting wasted. Now my response was just to run.
My change was so drastic that, similar to Justin, some people thought I was in a cult. I even had family members from overseas hold an intervention with me over the phone. It always makes me laugh when I think about it.
Now I’m 37 years old and so much has changed. Moving from Toronto to Ottawa gave me the opportunity to be myself, independent of any outside influences- culture, church, or family. In my mid-20’s, pretty much all of my friends were Christians like me. Today I enjoy hanging out with people who are different than me and believe different things than me, just as much, if not even more than people who believe what I believe. There are no expectations and no pressure to be something you’re not.
The difference is now I know who I am and I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’ve had people question my “blackness” because I cheered for Connor McGregor instead of Floyd Mayweather or because I’m not as socially conscious, aka “woke”, as I should be. I’ve even had people question whether I’m Christian enough because of the work I do with SHIFTER.
So now that I’m older, do I regret everything I gave up when I was 23? I regret the relationships I lost. I thought I would grow old with my brothers in my neighbourhood. I also wish I kept my hats from Big It Up. They were fly and they were my unique expression; no one else I knew wore them. I don’t regret giving up my CDs; streaming allowed me to reconnected with my love for hip-hop a while ago.
A part of me wishes someone told me, “Slow down buddy. I know you have a new found passion, but slowdown,” but another part of me feels it was necessary.
We focus a lot on mental health, and rightfully so, but I think we need to go even further and talk about “soul health” or the health of both our mind and heart.
There’s a biblical passage that says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” In other words, success shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being.
Justin Bieber walked away from millions by cutting his tour early, but would that money have been worth his mental and emotional health? And if his relationship with Floyd Mayweather is somehow compromising his mental, emotional or spiritual well-being, shouldn’t he do what’s necessary to have inner peace? In a time when we’re hearing so much about mental illness, drug overdoses and suicide, especially among the rich and famous, I congratulate anyone who takes the time to take care of themselves.
When Justin Bieber is 37 years old he may regret ending his friendship with Floyd Mayweather or cancelling his tour, but for now he has to do what’s right for himself as a person. We all do.