On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

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My Goals In Life

DISCLAIMER: This content is from a Christian perspective. However, people of all faiths and all walks of life can learn from this. Also, at the end,  I will talk about putting my goals into action, if you desire, for your own life. It will include resources for helping people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Though I am promoting these organizations in a way, I make NO money from them in any way shape or form. Just want to help YOU help others.

Who or what motivates you to live your life? Is your life marked by passion and drive? When the chips are down, so to speak, what is it that keeps you going? For many people, it is often their loved ones. Sometimes, it is their job and sense of accomplishment. Other times the motivation is wanting love and approval. What motivates me to keep going when life is as dark as a tornado whirling during a fierce and powerful storm is the love that God through His Son Jesus Christ gave and continues to give to me.

These following two goals are based off the love that God has given and continues to give to me. They are:

  1. To love God with all my mind, soul, and strength. (Matthew 22:36-38)
  2. To show others the love that God gave to me, so they too can experience love, joy, and peace in their lives that I have.

How will I go about accomplishing these goals? 

How I will meet goal #1

  1. Read and study His Word, the Bible, daily for at least 15-30 minutes a day.
  2. Pray daily to meet the challenges of the day, for at least 15 minutes a day. Also, I will try to be in constant communication with God, not just for 15 minutes!
  3. Attend a Bible-believing church. (I am attending a good church that lines up with my beliefs nicely).
  4. Focus my mind on God and His will for my life, and for the day, as much as possible, without getting distracted. (I am still working on this one. Sometimes it is a struggle. Correction: Every day it is a struggle not to get distracted by other things that don’t matter to this goal at all, but I will not quit trying.)
  5. Memorize His Word and apply it to my daily life.

How I will meet goal #2

  1. When I do something that offends another person, I will strive to quickly confess that to the other person and repent (i.e not do that offense action anymore) of my offense.
  2. When someone offends me, I will let the person know in private, in a gentle and humble manner, with all honesty and love.
  3. I will never give up on a relationship unless they give up on me.
  4. I will do my best to show kindness and care to other people.
  5. I will do my best not to let my anger at someone linger for more than a day.
  6. I will encourage others by sharing with them how God loves me, and by telling them how much I love and/or care for them.
  7. I will do my best to sacrifice my time and resources if someone is in need of them and doing so will help the other person.
  8. I will do my best not to show any pretense towards another but be my genuine self, even if it is sometimes flawed.

These are practical ways anyone can join me in not only keeping me accountable but also joining with me to show others true, unconditional love to the whole world, instead of hate. Ban the hate!:

  1. Forgive at least one person who has hurt you deeply. –There are several people who I have had a hard time forgiving, mostly because they did the same bad things over and over to me again, even though I had confronted them more than once about these issues.  However, I now realized that letting go of my bitterness and anger towards them has changed the way these people treat me, and in some ways, my relationships with these people have been restored!  Who is someone who deeply offended you? It could be someone from a church or temple. It could be a family member or a once-close friend. It could be a boss or a manager.  Yes, forgiveness is very difficult at times, and sometimes you can’t forgive everyone at once, but an unforgiving heart keeps you, not the offender, in an emotional hell-hole prison that traps you and robs you of the joy that life is meant to bring.  Also, the very act of forgiveness necessitates the offense. It does not dismiss it or excuse it. It acknowledges it but leaves the justice in capable hands, NOT yours.
  2. Be genuine.–Do not hide who you are. Yes, if someone has demonstrated that they are untrustworthy you may have to hide some things about you. However, as a general rule, do your best to be genuine. Be willing to be vulnerable and forthright about your struggles. You shouldn’t have to hide yourself to be truly loved.
  3. Be willing to care about and sacrifice for others.– One practical way one can do this, especially if you are spiritual, is to pray for those who are hurting and suffering. Pray about what you can do to help these people. These may be people at work, at your school, at your place of worship, at home, or in your community. Once you pray or think about what to do to help these people, do it! Recently, in a huge chunk of Texas and some of the Southeast part of the U.S, there has been a hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, that has swept through there and devastated many people’s lives, and destroyed many homes and businesses.  This storm is still ongoing as of this writing (written 8/27/2017). Here are some organizations that are helping these people through this:

These are my two major goals in life. This is what keeps me going, even in the hardest times. What are yours? What steps can YOU take to accomplish your life purposes? Please feel free to discuss here.

When I Say “I Love You”

This post is based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (KJV), where charity=love:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

DISCLAIMER: This post can be for everyone, but is dedicated to all those who have made a positive impact in my life, especially my family and friends. Thank you!

 

When I say, “I love you,” I strive to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always wish the very best for you and your future.

When I say,  “I love you,” I will always strive to treat you kindly and with respect. That means I will never think I’m better than you or better off without you. I will always do my best to respect your boundaries. This includes when you don’t want to be hugged, I won’t hug you. When you don’t want to talk about something, I won’t force the issue. When you can’t do this right away, I will try to be patient and wait for you.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my very best never to think evil thoughts about you, never to slander you or talk behind your back.

When I say, “I love you,” and you wrong me and I get upset at you, I will a.) Get the issue between us resolved quickly  b.) Not allow bitterness to take root in my heart. c.) Have my anger at you subside as soon as possible.

When I say, “I love you,” and I wrong you, I will quickly ask for your forgiveness, repent, and try to make things right between us.

When I say, “I love you,” and you accomplish something special and good, I will always be there to support you in it. I will be happy for you and not be jealous and scheming against you.

When I say, “I love you,” it means that I will always encourage the best in you and try to bring that out.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always appreciate everything that you do for me and others.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my best to always show my authentic self. Since there are no pretenses in true love, I won’t hide who I really am either. And I expect that you will not be afraid to show your authentic self to me either.

When I say, ” I love you,” it means that I will sometimes call you out on things that bother me about you that need to be changed. However, I will also strive to do this gently and in love.  This is not to put you down, but this is to bring out the best you possible.

When I say, “I love you,” I do my best to sacrifice myself and my desires if I think it will help lift you up in any way.

When I say, “I love you,” it does not mean I will never fail you or fail in my love, but it does mean that I will never give up on you or on our relationship.

When I say, ” I love you,” I will always strive to show how much God loves you through my words and actions to you.

What I Learned (or re-learned) from God Today

Disclaimer: This has content from a Christian perspective. Please, no disparaging comments or they will be deleted.  Thank you and happy reading. 🙂 This was originally written August 16, 2017, and will be up a few days later.

A few months ago, after having a very satisfying time with God, I decided to have what I call “God Day” again today. God Day is where I devote most of or all day to God to get to know Him better and to learn new things and re-learn old things from Him.  Everyone who calls themselves a Christian should try to do this at least once a year, preferably a few times a year.  Some people even do several days of God Days! At any rate, here’s what I have learned from Him during my time today and for the last several days:

  1. God is sovereign in control of everything.–I learned that I need not worry about my present and future circumstances. No matter what may go wrong or right, God is still in control. I believe that God will take care of me. No matter what. Always and forever. Even if someone hurts me physically or emotionally, God can still use that situation to bring about good in my life. Even if some of my prayers go unanswered, God is still in control. He is in control of the ultimate outcome of our lives. Yes, we make decisions (I don’t know how that works, but anyway…)  that can impact this, but ultimately it is His will that will win out.
  2. Everything that God does is to either bring us closer to Him or a way to bring us good and Him His due glory.–Even the annoying phone call I received from a scammer in the middle of my God Day today (Ugh, how irritating is that ?) helped me to rest in God’s grace. When I wanted to escape a bad situation that I had at work, God didn’t allow me to because he was using that situation to refine my character and grow me to be a more loving and patient person.  It was like God was saying to me, ” You don’t want to deal with [situation] anymore? How will I grow you then? Not going to happen until you deal properly with the situation at hand.”  My illness three years ago with my gall bladder? I believe it was to bring me to a greater appreciation of life and all that He had given me. I believe every situation in your life is allowed by God in order to make us a better, stronger person, even the bad ones. I’m not saying that it is good that you had to suffer through these things (I hate seeing or hearing of others suffering, and still do!), but that your situation is not hopeless even if you think it is! It is still redeemable!  Been rejected or abused? That experience can help you to treat others with more compassion. I have been rejected tons of times, and I know that these awful experiences have helped me to carry out God’s purpose and mission for my life with greater love and compassion than if I hadn’t been rejected by anyone at all. Lost a loved one? This experience of heartache and sadness can help you to help others through their losses and can help you value the people that are still with you more.
  3. I need to look to God and His character for love and approval and not other people.–In my experience, I have tended to look to others to draw upon my self-worth and how I thought I was. I now know that was a mistake, and I still struggle with this sometimes. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can attest that other people’s perceptions of you aren’t always 100% true or even accurate. This is why it is so important for everyone to stop feeding on another’s love and approval as indicators of how lovable or valuable we are! The truth is that we all are inherently valuable no matter what other people say or do to us.  Whether you are Black, White, or anything in between, rich or poor, straight, gay, or bi, transgender or cisgender, republican or democrat, thin or fat, short or tall, or any other human identifier, we are all inherently valuable and should be loved and treasured as fully human, more valuable than gold or even platinum! For me, when I look to God for my worth, I know that I am His child and inherently valuable and cherished, no matter what other people say about me. So, if another person says that I am worthless and stupid or something to that effect, I can laugh in their face and acknowledge in my heart that they are lying, and not take them seriously at all! When I look to God, I know He loves me so much that even when I was at my worst, He gave up everything for me! (See Romans 5:8). 

These are some of the lessons that God taught me today. I know that today I can rest assured of God’s peace and presence in my life, even though things around me may be chaotic because He is my constant.  What has God and/or your life experiences taught you?  Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Top 5 Men That Have Impacted My Life

Since I have already done a post (See: Five Women ) on women that have impacted my life positively, now it’s the guys’ turn. In addition to the five women that have impacted my life, here are who I believe (as of this writing) are the top five men who have had the most impact on my current life thus far and why.

DISCLAIMER: Some of these names will be aliases (i.e.. not their real name) for anonymity and privacy reasons.

  1. my dad--He was there for me when I was born and through thick and thin.  His work ethic and his willingness to serve and sacrifice for others have inspired me to do the same. As I said in an earlier post, he often works 10-hour shifts, at least five days a week. He sometimes works weekends as well. When he is at home, he doesn’t always lounge around and watch television all day but also helps my mom around the house. When I was discouraged about not achieving the desired result in school even though I had worked hard, he told me something like, “It’s OK, as long as you try your best. It’s better that you fail at something that you worked hard at than doing pretty well, but you don’t try your best.”  This philosophy set the foundation for how I currently strive to approach my job. In fact, I have this philosophy to work hard at my job, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.”  And my dad was a huge part of this mindset. (So if you read this, Dad, thank you.)
  2. my brother–Even though he is younger than me, he has had a huge impact on my life as well.  He has pushed me to succeed because he always believed in me and that I could do better and better.  When I was discouraged, he always took the time to talk to me and to encourage me. I was (and still am) always inspired by how innovative and creative he was and is.  For instance, when something in our house broke, he was able to fix it just by ordering the right part.  He also was able to figure out what exactly the problem was.  Not only that, but he has a kind and generous heart. I can never outdo what he has given me, both materially and eternally.
  3. Frank Taylor–He was my former pastor, but he has taught me more about grace and humility than most anyone I know. For instance, when he said something that offended a few people, he didn’t try to justify what he said or make excuses for why they shouldn’t have been offended. He humbly and contritely made a written apology to the whole church. Also, even though at first I didn’t trust him because I didn’t know him well,  he was patient in those times and didn’t try to force me to trust him.  He still showed kindness and grace to me. Though he isn’t perfect, he still strives to be transparent and acknowledges his imperfections.
  4. My manager Chris* (*=NOT his real name)— Though I have only known him for the past year and a half, he has taught me so much.  First of all, he has impacted my life because he interviewed me for my current job and was able to convince the Store Manager to grant me this job.  Also, he has taught me so much about patience, the power of grace and forgiveness, and perseverance.  He has offered to help me advance my career, while also respecting my life outside of work by giving me the days off that I need. I have discussed in this post what he has taught me.
  5. My favorite manager Tom* (*=not his real name)–He has taught me through his great example how to be a good manager.  He has always been kind, generous in his estimation of me, and provides much-needed humor on stressful days. I have discussed in this post how Tom has qualities that we should all emulate.  He also has helped me through some trials that I have had while working at my current job and has always encouraged me in my work.

These are the five amazing men who have most impacted my life so far. They all have had positive impacts on my life, without a doubt. Who are your top five men who have impacted your life? How? Why? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

 

Why What You Do Matters

Have you or someone you know ever thought that what you do for a living, the kind deed that no one ever even said “Thank you” to, or just anything you do in life doesn’t matter or won’t count for anything?  Well, there were times in my life when I felt that way.  However, this is a lie from the pit of darkness!  I know a lot of people go through life just “existing” because they feel no one gives a care about them.  And this is very sad. However, know that anything you do, whether good or bad, matters. Here’s why:

  1. There is are rewards and/or consequences to everything you do.–For instance, if you work hard at your job or at school, or whatever you do, in general, you will reap the rewards of so doing.  If you break the law, you will most likely end up in prison or at least have to pay a hefty fine. Even if you don’t see immediate reward, I believe it will come to you. You may have to be patient to see the reward or you may not get it in this life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get rewarded in eternity.
  2. Everything you do affects, positively or negatively, at least one other person, if not more.–For instance, sometimes when I go to work and I feel discouraged and unappreciated, but I still try to work hard despite these feelings, some people still take notice. How do I know? I have had people come up to me and say good things about my work.  I don’t say this to brag about myself, but to show you that even when you don’t feel appreciated or loved, if you still strive to do your best, people will eventually take notice. The reverse is also true. When you do something bad, people take notice too. For instance, if you always yell at and are rude to people, other people who don’t even know you but hear about you, will either be more cautious around you or avoid you altogether.  So, I encourage everyone to do their very best, because it will affect someone–and someone will eventually take notice.
  3. Every little thing you do will build up or tear down your legacy (i.e. how you will be remembered after you die)–This goes along with points one and two, but everything you do either builds up or tears down what you want your legacy on earth to be. For instance, if I want to (and I do) carry Rachel’s torch and I compromise my morals because I wrongly think that it doesn’t matter what I do or say or that I will make little difference anyway, I would not only be disgracing Rachel’s legacy as a sold-out follower of Christ, but also ruining my legacy of how I would like to be remembered when I die and with what I will leave this world.  However, if I want to be like Jesus Christ, and I strive every day to be loving, forgiving and kind as he was, knowing that everything I do matters, then I will leave quite a different (and more positive) legacy than if I were to compromise who I am for the sake of temporary pleasures on this earth.  So, how do you want to be remembered after you die by your family, friends, and others that know you? What you do matters.

This is why everything you do matters, whether small or great.  So, if you have a job, work hard at it even if no one else seems to. Be different, stand out, and make a positive change in this world. If you are a student, study hard and do all your homework (or even go beyond what is required sometimes), even if 90% of your classmates don’t. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” And I wholeheartedly agree!

How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

On Sacrifice

According to Merriam-Webster’s website, sacrifice is, “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice).  Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about sacrificing, not only for Him (though that to me is the most important) but for others around me as well. Dying to self and sacrificing for others is not a popular concept in this current society. Many advertisements and social media posts even discourage us from doing these things. Yes, we must be careful not to sacrifice to the wrong things or people, or else we may not only lose everything but gain next to nothing in the process.  However, that does not mean it is wise to only live for oneself. Only living for yourself will ultimately lead to destruction and death of your spirit.  Your heart will most likely become so hardened that you will really have little or nothing to give or share with others, or you won’t want to.  This is why sacrifice is so important.

What God has taught me about sacrifice in my own life: 

The three major changes that I have had to go through last year were these: A) Getting a new job  B) Having my sibling move away. C) Going to a new church.  God has taught me through these three events that I have had to let go of certain people and things to get to where He wanted me to be in life.  For instance, if I stayed at the job in the thrift store and not listen to the inner promptings (I believe, of God) to look elsewhere, I would have never been blessed with some of the things that I enjoy today. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the job there or that the people in there were mean to me, but that God put in me the feeling that my time was up there and I needed to embrace a new challenge in my life.  In essence, God wanted me to sacrifice the security that I felt at the thrift store to trust Him with something bigger. Luckily, I did, with great results!  When my sibling moved away, it was very difficult for me at first. I felt a bit alone and empty inside where my sibling’s presence used to be. However, I realized I needed to sacrifice for that sibling so that they could accomplish what they needed to do get a better job without pressure or me (or my parents) hovering over that sibling.  I needed to allow them to grow.  Going to a new church was also very difficult for me. I remember God had asked and said to me a few years back, “What if [old church name] no longer existed? Wouldn’t I still be there for you? What if you had to go back to [another old church]? What if I have greater plans for [old church name]? What if you could just enjoy now and trust Me?” This was kind of prophetic, in retrospect, because now the old church doesn’t really exist (at least as that named church) and God has been doing something different through that church.  However, I felt God’ s nudging that I should look for a different church so that He could grow me better. Almost a year later, I have been going to my current church and grown so much there!  But I had to sacrifice the presence of my church family I had grown with for about ten years (and still miss them), in order to make room for something different that God wanted to do with my life.

Now, I sense God may be nudging me to give up some of my co-workers and managers at work, in a way, in order that I depend on Him more, and not on them and their approval so much. I am not saying that I no longer value them or that their approval doesn’t matter to me. What I am saying, through future events, is that I may need to give up having to be with some of them constantly (or for my own happiness) so that they may feel more joyful or less stressed in their lives.  It’s not that I was a burden to them or something either, but that change was needed in their lives so that they could have a deeper sense of purpose and positively impact the lives of others. (And, no  I’m not planning to quit my job either, in case you’re wondering…)

How to Sacrifice For Others (without sacrificing your identity):

  1. Allow them the option of leaving or rejecting you, if you really love or care about the other person.–This is why stalking is so wrong. It does not give the person the space they need to breathe apart from you. Even though I know most of you would never stalk someone, when we don’t allow a person close to you (i.e.. a family member, spouse or a close friend) adequate space apart from you, they may feel suffocated and trapped, and they will not be able to really love you fully from their heart(s), or their own free will.  This may be painful and upsetting for you. Trust me; I have experienced this many, many times in my life, more times than I care to count. However, if we don’t allow this option, not only will that person grow in their love for you but you won’t grow either! If this other person or persons really love you, they will at least visit you. If they don’t care to even acknowledge you anymore, then the relationship was not meant to be, and you have to move on for their sake and yours!
  2. Be willing to give up your selfish dreams and desires for that other person or persons.–For instance, if you and your friend are in the same car and he or she is driving, let them choose the music they listen to for their pleasure, even if you dislike it, especially if it is only a matter of taste.  Also, parents, never ever live vicariously through your child or children and impose your dreams and wants on them! Let them have their own dreams and goals. Yes, raise them with a set of rules and morals you believe will help them be successful in life, but never force your child into a profession or activity they don’t want just because you didn’t get to do it yourself.
  3. Be willing to give up something valuable for that other person or persons, if the situation calls for that.–This may be sacrificing financially for the sake of the poor, or it may be something as simple as sacrificing your time to help another person or friend in need.  For instance, if someone you know at work or at school often goes hungry and does not bring a lunch or dinner with them when they are feeling hungry, you could sacrifice for them by fasting that meal and giving your meal to them. Or you could still eat your meal, but offer to buy the person a meal from a restaurant or store.  This is not to cultivate a “poor-me” mentality, but to serve the other person in need.

As one can see, even if in some circles, sacrificing for others is highly discouraged or even rejected, sacrifice is an important part for both parties in a healthy relationship.  Though it may not be wise to sacrifice for someone who is constantly trying to take advantage of you, you should find someone for whom it is a wise and viable idea to sacrifice to, whether it be God or another person. Who has sacrificed a lot for you? And who have you sacrificed for? Please discuss in the comments.

What I Learned From the Movie “Priceless”

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with the movie’s producers or any distributors, nor am I making any money off these reviews.  Any opinions are always strictly my own. Also, contains spoilers!

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priceless_(2016_film))

“Priceless” starts out with a man named James who tragically loses his wife and subsequently loses custody of his daughter, Emerson, after not being able to keep a steady job and becoming an alcoholic. Then, a guy offers James money to drive a truck cross-country no questions asked. He does, until, one day when he crashes the truck and is run off the road after a storm. Curiosity and a gnawing sense something is wrong prompts him to open the back of the truck. He does and discovers two young ladies inside.  After discovering that these ladies were being recruited for prostitution purposes, James and his friend Dale, who later discovers the truck that James drove, tries to shut down the prostitution ring and rescue these women before it’s too late.

As with everything in life, even movies, there is always something to be learned from them. “Priceless” is no exception. Here’s what I learned from this movie:

  1. Everyone has value, and that alone is worthy of protection.–It’s obvious that even though James has been absent for most of Emerson’s young life, he still values her enough to think about her a lot. This is in contrast to the pimps that wanted to prostitute the two young women who James found inside his truck. Not only did the pimps in the story want to use them for their own perverted pleasures, but they didn’t even care about these women’s feelings or livelihood.  Because James and Dale knew that these men (the pimps) were up to no good, they knew they had to do something to rescue at the very least the two young women whose lives were in danger, and shut down the prostitution ring.  We can apply this concept even to our own lives. If we see or hear of someone that is lonely or feels depressed or hurt, we should not only comfort them but encourage and cultivate the positive aspects of their character and treat them as valuable human beings, rather than commodities to be used for our own purposes. For instance, if someone tells you that they have no friends and that they feel that no one cares about them, be their friend and love them. Yes, it may be difficult, but doing the right thing is sometimes not easy, but we have to strive to do the best we can.  If we witness someone being abused or bullied, stand up for them. Don’t let people hurt others, especially if they are in a vulnerable position. Everyone has value, cherish and protect that.
  2. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, but we have to do it.–At first, James was hesitant to rescue the two women (Antonia and Maria) because he had promised to be with his own daughter, Emerson. However, James knew he had to rescue Antonia and Maria, I believe, not only because he knew it was the right thing to do but also to be a good example to Emerson.  James had to sacrifice some time with his daughter, for a higher purpose. If he had forgotten about the two women, James’s conscience would have been eating at him, and he wouldn’t have been such a good example to his own daughter.  Of course, this can be applied to our own lives as well. Have you ever had to do something difficult, but it was right, morally, to do it, as in an obligation? I have.  For instance, several days ago I was having a bad day and yelled at someone I shouldn’t have.  Instead of clinging to my pride and blaming them for my anger, I apologized to them and have tried to make things right with them. It was difficult, because I had to let go of my pride and selfishness, but it was the right thing to do.
  3. One person can make a big difference.–James was just an ordinary guy that was down on his luck (and pride).  However, when the situation called, he made a huge impact in the lives of several girls and women caught in the throws of prostitution.  Yes, James was able to sacrifice even his life, to save Antonia and Maria, and other women.  However, we also can make a positive difference, even if it seems small. For instance, if you see or hear about a customer or client that doesn’t have enough money to pay for your services or products, but they really need it to survive, you can offer to pay for them.  Even something a simple as a sincere compliment or word or words of encouragement to someone who is depressed or suicidal can save someone’s life or at least make their day.  Never believe you can’t impact lives for the positive. Anyone can, even YOU can!

“Priceless” ends with James marrying Antonia, and them rescuing countless girls and women who were formerly involved with prostitution. It also ends with these women and girls being brought into James’ and Antonia’s home and being nurtured and encouraged into a new, hope-filled, love-filled life.

How To Grow as a Person

As some of you may know, I am a fairly short person, and I want to grow taller like the forest trees in this picture.  I’m fairly sure that will never ever happen. Today, though I can’t make one grow taller (even myself), I can share with you what I have learned about growing personally, experientially, and intellectually as a person.  This kind of growth, I believe, is of utmost importance if one truly wants to succeed in life. Here’s what I learned are the characteristics necessary to facilitate personal growth:

  1. Humility/A willingness to learn–One of the most overlooked and important qualities to personal growth is the power in humility.  In a previous post, I discussed the pitfalls of being arrogant, including not being able to get the help one needed,  broken relationships, and not being able to learn new things.  In contrast, one of the benefits of humility is that you are able to change and grow into a better person.  Think about it:  When you readily admit you don’t know everything, you are able to better receive correction and rebuke and learn ways to improve yourself than if you don’t.
  2. Motivation.–If you truly want to grow as a person, you most likely will, because you will want to do everything in your power to make this happen. Without motivation, almost all is lost.  For instance, if you are not motivated by anything or anyone to be less selfish (not saying anyone is or isn’t–just an example), then you will most likely continue to act in selfish ways and even probably not think twice about it.
  3. Perseverance.–There will be obstacles whenever one tries to grow as a person. Some people will not like the change, even if it is positive. The key to lasting and sustained growth is perseverance.  We need to keep on going in life to make positive and lasting changes as people.  We cannot give up. If we give up, we stop growing. We need to work hard to overcome the obstacles that bind us down.  We can do this by not only focusing on the positive but also using the negative obstacles as teaching tools for us to push through and move ahead in life. For instance, if you know you struggle with being patient, you can use the times when you got impatient as reminders of what not to do or say next time a similar situation like that happens.
  4. Adequate moral support.–One of the key factors in my personal growth as a person has been the support that I have gotten both on and offline.  I have not always had a lot of support, but as people have seen that I wanted to grow as a person, they have graciously taken the time to support and guide me.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have adequate moral support, but for those of us who are,  use your supports to be a better person to them and grow yourself. If you don’t have much support, I would suggest starting slowly to build your support network.  I would frequent places where people have the same interests and goals you do and go from there, or I would go online to find communities that can give you some kind of moral support.

These are some of the characteristics that need to be present in order for someone to become emotionally and personally growing as a person. Sometimes it takes a long time to have any significant growth, but take things one step at a time, and do not give up. What other characteristics do you think is needed for one to grow as a person? Please discuss here.