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As the eventful year of 2020 comes to an end, Rev. C.J. Rhodes, the pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church reflects on his personal lessons and shares advice to armor ourselves with in 2021. Photo courtesy Lamar Images

A Mississippi Reverend’s 2021 Advice List: ‘Building Bridges Is Better Than Erecting Walls’

Today is the last day of 2020. Here are a few reflections from this year’s lessons that I hope can help us all in 2021:

1. Some open doors lead to hallways.

Not every open door invites you into the destination, but rather the next phase of expansion. Trust the journey.

2. Grieve at your own speed.

Having experienced numerous deaths this year, I grieved each person differently and diversely. All of us are grieving someone or something. Be kind.

3. Crave awareness over attention.

Ours is a time in which many people shallowly seek attention. But when you’re self-aware, attention seeks you.

4. Trauma doesn’t have to lead to drama.

You can’t control what happens to you but you do have more control over how you respond. You are no less valuable if you get therapy.

5. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

There should be nothing shameful about intellectual stimulation and mental wellness, especially for Black men. Brilliance and wholeness are wonderful gifts.

6. Rep your tribe without being tribal. 

Be proud of your natural connections without “othering” people who don’t see the world as you do.

7. Know your value even when others want the five finger discount.

You are too valuable to be played for cheap. Make no excuses for that.

8. Building bridges is better than erecting walls.

It’s not just the president who wants a wall. Too many folks—especially on social media—are experts at division. I choose to be a diplomat.

9. The quality, not the quantity, of your impact matters most.

The lives you change are better proof of your investments than spreadsheets.

10. Pioneers are first mocked, then modeled.

When you do a new thing, there will be those who try to tear it down. Later on you will be a model for the same people.

11. Perseverance pays off.

“It” may not come when you want it, but don’t give up; it’ll show up right on time.

12. Counterfeits don’t deny reality.

If “fake ones” are out there, then that means there are “real ones” the fake ones are based on.

13. Prayer works.

God is real and does amazing wonders when you ask in faith.

14. Revival is on the way. 

It’s darkest before dawn. Amazing things are happening in the heavens that will draw us closer to God and truth.

15. Launch out into the deep.

In a time of superficiality, God is looking for sincere people wanting to go deeper.

16. You are more special than you know.

Nuff said.

17. Don’t let loud critics drown out silent supporters.

Accentuate the positive, improve what you can and keep it moving.

18. Your roots matter more than your branches.

I’m a country boy with a cosmopolitan outlook. I appreciate my roots even more.

19. You have few real confidantes.

Choose them wisely and honor them and the time they have in your life. You never know when they’ll be gone.

20. Crisis and chaos are often the parents of creativity.

Expand your imagination of what is possible, color outside the lines and do a new thing with God.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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