Best Advice Given

I believe that life is a teaching tool for us to be able to constantly improve ourselves and to learn as much as possible.  Though plenty of people have given me bad advice, there have also been many people that have given me valuable advice that has greatly impact my worldview and the way I live.  Here is a list (in quotes) of some of the best advice I have ever received in my life,  how it has encouraged or taught me about life, and why I think this advice is so good:

(In no particular order…)

  1. “Always do your best.”- my dad. – My dad not only has said pretty much this quote, he also has lived it. He sometimes picks up the slack of others who are not willing or able to work as hard.  I strive to do my best every day, whether it is at my job, or with my interactions with others, or whatever I do.  I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly, and I feel (appropriately) guilty when I do less than my best.  The feeling I get when I accomplish something good and I know I gave it my whole heart is one of the best feelings in the world!
  2. “My response is my responsibility.”-Pastor David Shoaf – My pastor’s quote is completely convicting to me because I know I have, on occasion, blamed someone for “hurting me” without taking responsibility for a wrong response to them.  When I remember this piece of advice/admonition, I am able to bite my tongue and be humble enough to admit my part in a conflict, where I had the wrong response towards someone, even if that other person really did hurt me.
  3. “Never let those who hate you dislodge your love and faithfulness to the God who gave His only begotten Son to give all for you.”—Pastor David Shoaf—Along with advice #2, I think what Pastor Shoaf said really encourages me to not let my love for God and others falter, even when others hurt or betray me.  Tough as it is to not let evil or hurtful people discourage my love, I figure that these people will eventually get what they deserve, but more so, I can “heap burning coals on their heads.” That is, I can let my love convict them of their actions, so that they will feel bad and improve their behavior. Also, sometimes the nastiest people are the ones that need our love the most.
  4. “Don’t let people say you can’t do something.”-J—This was said by my mentor J. I was so discouraged when I first met her because many people in my past had discouraged me from trying new things, and didn’t believe in what I could do. She not only said these words to encourage me, but also showed me she meant those words by always believing I could do the things that others may have thought I could never do.  Now, even when I have trouble doing something, I try again and again until I get it right. This advice is so good for all of us because it keeps us going, even when times are tough. When we don’t let other people’s estimation of our abilities influence what we do, we can achieve almost anything!
  5. “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”—Jefferson Bethke—Even though I have never met Jefferson in person, how he lives and especially this quote, inspires me.  This is a good quote to remind us of the value of people.  I have said this before, and I will say it again: When we stop caring about people, we become monsters.  That can also be said this way: When we treat people like commodities to be used, instead of souls that are to be loved, we also become monsters.  This quote has helped encourage me to uplift and encourage people, and never to use others to my own advantage.
  6. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”–Jim Elliot—This was something that the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, said in regards to the eternal versus the temporal.  I have been realizing more and more that this is very true.  This piece of advice has encouraged me to loosen my grip on some material things and be more willing to share with those that are in need.  In loosening my grip on temporary things like money and outer appearance, I have found that I am more able to love and help people than when I become stingy or judgmentally vain.  I also have found that when I apply this quote to letting go of small annoyances that probably won’t be remembered even the next day, and not to fuss over these issues. For instance, if someone rudely bumps into me without saying excuse me, instead of getting very upset at them, I would just politely say, “Excuse me,” and walk away from them, and not dwell on the situation again.
  7. “Dear ‘helpers’- If you’re doing it for the gratitude, then it’s not about them, it’s about you.”—my online friend *Holly (*=not her real name), in regards to people who do things that they think are kind, but only so they will feel “good” about themselves and will be appreciated by the recipient.  — This piece of advice has helped me to make sure my motivations in doing something for others are pure, and are not tainted with selfishness and self-aggrandizement.  I want to have a pure heart when doing something kind for others, helping others so that they will be able to experience love and joy, not just so I will feel appreciated by them.  I don’t ever want to feel entitled to appreciation or even respect, but instead to know that these things are gifts from above.

These are some of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. All these words of wisdom have helped shaped my worldview in a positive and more enlightening way for me.  They have helped me to be more giving and loving of others.  What are the best pieces of advice you have ever been given? How have they influenced your life? Feel free to reply in the comments.

Advertisements

Lessons I Learned This Past Week

(*=Names have been changed for privacy reasons.)

written on 10/10/2018

Last week was up and down emotionally. When I was down, it was because work was more stressful than usual and I had forgotten about the good things in my life.  When I was up, things were better. Despite the highs and lows of the past week (and also this week), I went away learning three important life lessons.  These lessons are vital not only to one’s success, but also to one’s growth as a person.

Lesson #1—Never think that what you do is unimportant or worthless.

During this past week, I had a gnawing sense that whatever I did wasn’t good enough and was futile. This sentiment was fueled by a couple bad incidents where people were being rude and unreasonable to me. Thus, my thoughts grew so dark that I felt absolutely worthless to the world. However, the day after these bad incidents, a good friend of mine told me, “Do you know how many people look up to you?” Obviously, I didn’t think anyone really looked up to me, but her comment was encouraging to hear. Her comment also “woke” me up to the fact that what I do does make a difference to those around me. 

Then, I thought about the impact people have had on me. I think of my parents and brother, who have helped and supported me throughout most of my life, and have given me motivation to always do my best in life.  I think of my mentor J, who has believed in me so much that I am now able to do some things that I thought I would never be able to do. I think of all my friends that I have met through church, work, or other functions, and how they have each helped encourage me in their own way and have brought joy to my life. I think of my managers *Chris and *Elizabeth who have helped me so much to grow as a person and as an associate. Last, but not least, I think of you, the reader, who has helped encourage me to continue writing simply by choosing to read this blog.

I also thought about the people in my life who have impacted others. One of my managers, Kim* also thought that the job that she had done in my company was not always appreciated by others. However, one day, upper management wrote a note to her telling her what a good job she had done for a customer. Also, from the “Caught In Providence” page (Credits: Caught in Providence, ViralTrend), there was a judge that saw potential in a guy named Jose Jimenez about 20 years ago, who was battling alcoholism and drunk driving when he was 18, and warned him about the direction he was going. The judge asked Jimenez if he wanted to be dead or in jail, or if he wanted to be somebody. That was the wake-up call Jimenez needed to turn his life around. Now, Jimenez is a truck driver and a U.S citizen.  Never think that what you do well for others won’t have an impact. Just because you may never the see the fruits of your labor, doesn’t mean what good you did on this earth is worthless, because it is priceless!

Lesson #2—Everyone is a valuable creation, even yourself.

This ought to go without saying because it should be obvious, but your family and friends are valued creation because they are a good part of what makes your life worthwhile.  They also have the most impact on who you will become in life and can greatly influence how successful you will be in life. However, I think even your enemies are valued creation. I know we often do not want to think well of our enemies, and that concept is foreign in most value systems. However, our enemies can be valuable to us when we think of them in terms of what they can teach us.  For instance, I have learned from a lot of my enemies that not everyone can be trusted.  They have taught me the signs to look for in untrustworthy people (i.e  many people having their personality traits) and just to be careful when giving your heart to someone. I also learned not to take the bad things they said about me as personally as before, because their slander is more of a reflection of their character, not mine.  Our enemies can also refine us and make us stronger, more thick-skinned people.  They can be used to make us more compassionate people to others, and less like them.  You are also a valuable creation, because of the impact that you can have in this world every day when you wake up. You also can teach the world valuable lessons, not only about yourself, but about how one should live their lives.

Lesson #3-The people that are there for you are more valuable than gold or silver.

The people in my life that have impacted the most have either saved my life in some way, helped me persevere, helped me feel motivated to do better, or given me joy and/or God’s love.  One of them, my manager Chris* contributed to my life being saved one day.  I wanted to help him by working extra hours because he was so overwhelmed with only a few associates to help him, since many people had called off from work that day due to a bad snowstorm.  However, when he found out that I lived more than a couple minutes away from work, he, in essence, said, “I care about my associates. I would rather have you home safely, than worry about getting this work done.” Had he not cared about my safety, I don’t know if I would be here writing this post today.  I listened to him, and went on my way, also calling off the next day due to the snowstorm.  Another person that was there for me when I needed them was my friend Veronica*.  When I was feeling very depressed and hopeless because I was feeling stressed out at my now-previous job, she encouraged me to persevere and that helped me see that things would get better, and they eventually did.  One day when I was really upset, a friend of mine that attends my current church, sent me an encouraging forward with the header: “This is you,” and helped me see the beauty that she saw inside me.  This helped encouraged me to be able to get through the rest of the day.

These are the three main lessons I have learned this past week. I hope if you are feeling discouraged or don’t think what you do matters, that reading this will help give you the motivation and encouragement you need.  These lessons certainly gave me the much needed reminder of the fact that everyone impacts everyone else.  What you do matters. Make your life count today!

Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be

What Rejection Has Taught Me

When I was just two years old, I had already experienced my first battle with rejection.  I was a very active and naughty child, and so the daycare I was in didn’t want me.  Growing up, I struggled to make and keep close friends.  I felt some people, even adults,  tried to change me into a person who I was never meant to be.  Thus, I have struggled with a gnawing sense of insecurity and fear of being unloved almost my whole life.  Despite all this, I would change very little about my life.  Rejection, especially in my past, has taught me some crucial life lessons that have shaped the person I am able to be today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Rejection has taught me to persevere.—I know many people would want to give up after being rejected so many times, but for me, it has built my tenacity.  I didn’t want to be stuck and miserable, wallowing over how many people didn’t accept me as a person.  For instance, before I got my current job, I had wanted to work at a bookstore. I was ecstatic when I finally got an interview at a location where they were opening a new bookstore.  However, when I got interviewed, I was not only too nervous to be really effective in articulating myself, but I also quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit for the job.  I never got a call back from them.  Yes, I was crushed, but that experience also taught me that there must be a better fit out there for me.  A week or two later, I wanted to check on the status of my resume at my now-current job.  That is when the HR scheduled an interview for me for 1 pm. I went there, not really expecting anything to come out of it, but my whole outlook changed when I got a job offer, and I accepted a day later.  I have learned so much from my current job that I would never have learned if I had been accepted at the bookstore.  Rejection has taught me to try different experiences and things until I found what was right for me.  When I struggled to find a job in my career field, I volunteered first.  Then, through many tries and stops, I finally found a job that was a good fit for me.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it.
  2. Rejection has taught me to forgive.—This has been the toughest lesson that I have been learning and have had to learn.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I used to be very bitter and angry at the people that rejected me. I felt that if I was physically dying, for instance, they would just abandon and not help me.  However, even from their rejection, they have actually contributed to me being a better person in a way.  I have learned not to judge some of them as harshly as I did, because of the pain I may have put them through and also because of their own personal pain that had little or nothing to do with me.  Also, I see Jesus Christ’s example of how He was able to persevere through rejection by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as He hung on the cross to die.  I also want to follow Jesus’ example, not only because I am a Christian, but also for my own healing from the rejection.
  3. Rejection has taught me to value others more.—This has been one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from being rejected.  I know the pain and hurt that I have experienced because of some people unfairly rejecting me, and I never want anyone else to have to experience that with me.  That is why when my co-workers and friends feel unappreciated, unloved, or having a bad day, I strive to be encouraging to them and have them see the value that still resides in them.  When I was relating a poem that I wrote referring to my experiences with being rejected in the past, someone said to me, “Do you know that many people here love you?” I said that I did. Furthermore, because of my experiences with past rejection, I actually value the people in my life that love and support me more than I would have if I had never been rejected in my life!  I have learned that people should always be loved and cherished for who they are, and not to be molded in the image of whom you want them to be. 

Despite the pain and hurt of being rejected, good still has come out of these negative experiences. I still hate being rejected, but instead of wallowing in anger and bitterness as in the past, I will strive to take these and other rejection experiences as life lessons to persevere, forgive, and value others who do accept and support me, more.

Restoring Broken Relationships

There has been so much turmoil, hatred, and division in this world.  People are being torn apart—both physically and emotionally by these wars waged against one another.  Maybe you are in the midst of a relationship today that has been torn apart by the spirit of deception, abuse, anger, and/or betrayal.  Maybe there is a family member who has deeply hurt you, or maybe it is a co-worker or classmate who has bullied or hurt you in some other way.  Whoever has hurt you in life, whoever you may have hurt, and whatever may have caused the rift in one or more of your relationships, there is always hope for restoration if both parties are willing to do the hard work of repairing them.  Here are some of the essential ingredients that must be present in order to have a true restoration in a relationship with another person:

  1. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must apologize for their part in the rift and/or forgive the other person for past hurts done to him or her. –A relationship cannot be restored if one or both parties still have bitterness and anger against the other.  Moreover, not only does holding grudges and being bitter prevent relationships from being restored, they destroy one’s other relationships as well because there is a barrier to transparency that develops with bitterness. Also, the party that wronged must sincerely apologize for his or her offense, in not only words, but also by changing their actions and/or making amends.   They must aim to seek restitution and restoration with the other party that they wronged, and not have an entitlement expectation that the offended party will do something for them in return.
  2. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must demonstrate humility to the other.—Being humble means not lording the hurt that caused the relationship to break apart over the person that offended you.  Being humble also means owning your part in the rift, even if it is just your response to the person that hurt you.  Yes, it probably wasn’t your fault that your offender hurt you, but your response is.  As my pastor has repeatedly said, “Your response is your responsibility.”  Don’t lay blame on the other party for the rift, even if it was primarily their fault.  Placing blame never restores relationships, but forgiveness and humility do. 
  3. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must forsake selfishness.—If we still are thinking, what will I get out of restoring this relationship, you are not ready for restoration.  We must do not only what is best for us, but for all parties involved.  We must do what we can to uplift and encourage the person in the relationship.  In fact, when I was having a conflict with someone, one of my pastors said exactly this. In other words, we are to love those we consider our enemies, or those with whom we find ourselves in conflict. This means not only saying nice things about them, as opposed to  mean and nasty things, but it also means a willingness to help and support the person with whom we had a rift.  When we show that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, most people are willing to open up to us again.  I am not saying for us to let ourselves be taken advantage of consistently for others’ selfish pleasures. In that case, we may need to set some boundaries.  However, we must be willing to serve them in ways that truly will be beneficial to their emotional and spiritual well-being.
  4. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must be patient.—We must remember that complete change and restoration does not usually occur immediately, but over time.  We must be willing to wait for the relational trust and love that we had before the rift happened to be rebuilt.  Even if it takes a really long time, we must not give up on the relationship if we want it to be restored.  We must be willing to work hard at restoring and renewing our relationship for the better.

When we incorporate these four elements into restoring our broken relationships, with time, most of them can be restored.  Though it does take both parties for a relationship to be truly and fully restored, we must strive to do our part to be agents of reconciliation, especially with people who we interact with regularly. Yes, there are relationships that may not be able to fully be restored because of abuse or other things, but we must not let those broken relationships rule how we conduct our other relationships. However, when we are agents of reconciliation and restoration, we will make the world a better place.

My Top Deal-Breakers in Friendships (and their counterparts)

Even though I am happy to meet and cultivate friendships with many different kinds of people, there are some things that I will never tolerate if you consider yourself a close friend. These deal breakers are not prejudiced against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or any other human identifier, but have more to do with the person’s character.  These deal breakers include: 1) Hurting me or my loved ones in some way, and not apologizing or repenting of your actions.  2) Betraying me in some way. This includes pretending to be my friend in order to manipulate me in some way.  3 )If I find out one is abusing children or animals in some way.  All these deal breakers involve people who may think they are my friend (or not), but do not demonstrate the authenticity or the care needed to be a friend to me—or to anyone else.  Here is why:

The Deal Breakers

If I find out one of my friends is hurting either me, or more likely, my loved ones in some ways, this is a definite deal breaker for me.  First of all, I will not surround myself with people who intentionally want to hurt my family or my friends who I love. If they change their behaviors and attitudes towards my loved ones, then I will most likely forgive them.  However, if they don’t, then they are a distraction and a harmony-breaker, and are not someone with whom I would ever want a close relationship.  I do not need friends who bully or attack those I Iove in my life, and I will not tolerate them. For instance, if my parents or brother lets me know someone is or was hurting them, and this person hasn’t apologized or repented of their actions, I may still talk to them or be cordial to them, but I will not allow them to examine the depths of my heart—or that of my loved ones.

Another definite deal breaker for me if I have considered you a friend is if you do something to betray me in some kind of way.  One thing I absolutely hate is when people fail to be honest with me! When someone lies to me, it not only calls their character into question, but it also calls the friendship and how much they really value me into doubt as well.  One way to lie that is an absolute deal breaker for me is to be my friend only to use me for your pleasure or purpose! I do not tolerate narcissistic people who I know are using me and not really being genuine in their intent or friendship with me.  For instance, I have found out, probably much too late for my good, that several people that were in my life only wanted to be friends with me because either a.) They felt sorry for me and only wanted to be friends with me to “feel good” about themselves, and when they did not want to do the work of a real friendship, they faded away.  b) They wanted people to give them unconditional support and if I tried to correct them (even gently), they became upset with me, showing their true intentions.  C) They wanted to be “friends” with me just so they could do with me according to their pleasure, never thinking about what I needed or wanted from them.  These people definitely merit my INFJ (What is an INFJ? Read this, for more information) door slam! A door slam is basically a sudden form of going no-contact with someone, either emotionally or physically, or both.

The third, and perhaps, most serious deal breaker, is if I find out one of my friends is abusing children or animals, or any other of the most vulnerable in society. I can tolerate many things from many people, but cruelty is not one of them.  If you are cruel to this point, I probably don’t even converse with you.  Cruelty to children, animals, and any of the most vulnerable in society, not only saddens me, but enrages me as well. Unfortunately, sometimes I have had vengeful thoughts against those who would be so cruel to others, and if I find out you are like this, are not repentant, and still want to be my friend, I will cut off all contact with you, no questions asked.

The Counterparts

I did not want to finish without focusing on the positive characteristics I most appreciate in those I consider good friends.  They are:

Authenticity—Most of the deal breakers I described above are evidence of people who are not genuine and have very calloused souls. However, I am happy to say that all my close friends have characteristics of authenticity.  My one friend, Veronica*, for instance, is not afraid to be vulnerable with herself or with the struggles that she is facing in her life. I appreciate that kind of honesty and openness in her.  My other friend, Kelly,* is also honest about her struggles and always strives to care for and appreciate her friends, as much as possible.  I know that some people may be afraid of sharing their struggles, because they are afraid of being judged. Don’t be.  It is better for you to be unapologetically who you are, flaws and all, no matter what others think, than to be some plastic image of perfection.  If you don’t want to be friends with someone, say so, and then distance yourself from them. I know I may sound a bit harsh, but it is better to do this, than to pretend to be friends with them, when what that person probably needs is a genuine and caring presence.

Caring—All of the deal breakers had focused on people who are basically manipulative, cruel, selfish, and apathetic to the damage they cause to the ones around them. However, I am blessed to have friends who exhibit none of those traits.  My friend Erica* is giving her life right now to help those in need.  My friend Kelly* is a registered nurse, who wants to travel to restore the health of those who are sick or injured.  My friend Veronica* also has a passion for others finding the joy and love she has found in Jesus.  We care for people when we think of others besides ourselves and our own needs.  We care for others when we think through things before we do them, to discern if the action will also benefit others.  We care for others when we seek to love others and share the joy that we have found in life with those around us, especially those who need it most.

Hard-working—One of the characteristics I almost always appreciate in people is when they strive to do something with all their hearts, rather than to just meet the “status quo”.  I am glad that Kelly* is able to become a nurse because I believe her drive and passion for helping others makes her the best qualified for a career like that. I appreciate that many of my managers strive to work hard, even coming in on their days off sometimes, to make sure the work is done well.  I appreciate that many of my friends, especially those closest to me, are very hard working and strive continually to make the world around them a better place.

 

So, the best way to have a good friendship with me—and with others as well, is to be authentic, caring and kind, and hard-working.  However, the worst way to try to be friends with me is to be inauthentic in some way or to be callous and mean-spirited toward my loved ones, towards those who are most vulnerable in society, and to me. What are your deal breakers in friendships? Why? What are the characteristics that you value in your friends? Why? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=not their real names