What I learned in Five Years

Five years ago today, I had just been employed at my previous job for a few months.   Also, I was five years into membership at my previous church.  I had just met my mentor J, maybe a year back.  All in all, I could have never known the adventures in my life that awaited me, even a year or two later.  Five years later, I can honestly say that I have learned so much. Here are some of the things I learned:

First and foremost, I learned how to relate better to other people.  The one thing that I will always appreciate about my former place of employment is that they taught me so much about how to relate successfully to customers that I also apply to the job that I have now.  For instance, I learned how to cater to the customer’s needs, even when it may have been inconvenient or difficult to do so. Thus, I learned just how valuable the customers are to the business.  More recently, I have also learned the power of forgiveness. I can think of several people that I currently work with or for that I had misgivings about in the past, with whom I now get along great!  One important thing that I learned from those experiences that helped me to be able to forgive these people is to put myself in their shoes.  I know it may seem very difficult to do, especially since they hurt you! It was tough for me too, but when I was able to do this, I found that I was able to see, not just the person that hurt and damaged me, but maybe a hurting, vulnerable soul inside. I was able to see them through eyes of compassion and love, instead of through eyes of hate and disgust. Thus, I also learned how to love people better. Though being angry is still a struggle for me, I have learned so much about understanding others better and being a living sacrifice both for God and others.

Secondly, I learned some secrets to be content. Overall, I can say, five years later, I am more content with my life than I had been before.  One secret of contentment that I learned is gratitude.  In 2014, a year after 2013 (which was five years ago), I became very ill and had to be rushed to the E.R one day. (For the full story on this, go to this link.).  To make a long story short, I had an inflamed gallbladder that was twice the size it should have been, and it had to be removed. However, it was only three years after the surgery that I realized that I could have died had the surgery not occurred when it did! So, realizing that, I have learned to value my life more.  Also, many people around me have either gotten sick or died, and experiencing these trials alongside them has helped me to appreciate my good health more and also the value of making a positive difference in others’ lives.  Very recently, I have also learned to worry less. Though I still struggle with worry sometimes, I can happily say it is less than before. I have learned to trust God’s plan for me and also to let certain things that used to worry and aggravate me, go. For instance, I used to get really upset when traffic was really bad and people cut in front of me.  However, ever since my recent vacation where I learned how to tolerate traffic that was BEYOND horrible (even though I did not drive), I learned to be more patient and grateful for the comparatively smoother traffic I have where I live!

Finally, I also learned how to stay motivated and passionate in life.  One of the things I learned was to widen my interests. I learned this primarily by reading others’ blogs, as part of the blogging community I am part of online. Reading blogs covering a variety of topics, has piqued my interests in things that I didn’t care about or focus much on before, such as cooking and travel.  I also met diverse groups of people at work and at church. Meeting these people has also helped me discover new interests and things to learn about that I have never explored before.  I also have learned how to look to the life beyond the grave. Because of what I have learned in church and in life, I have learned to focus on a.) eternal rewards (i.e heaven) and b.) leaving a positive legacy for future generations more. This focus has motivated me to do the best I can in almost every aspect of my life. I want to leave this world knowing that I contributed something of value to it, and that I loved others as the valuable beings they are.

Overall, though these past five years have gone by so fast, I have learned so much. I can honestly say that I am a different person than the one five years ago. In the future, I want to continue to grow as a person and continue to live a positive legacy for those around me.

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On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

Importance of Authenticity

Do you ever wonder why, in many countries, bringing in knock-off high-end merchandise can elicit fines and the confiscation of said items? Do you ever wonder why so many people are turned off by pretense and lies from another?  There is something about having authenticity that trumps having an imitation or, let’s say, a knock-off of something real. Having something that is authentic, both in merchandise and, more importantly, in one’s character, bring much value to the person or item in question.  This is why it is so important to strive to be an authentic person.

In order for us to be able to be authentic in our character, we must first know what being genuine is not. First of all, being authentic is not just being a good person. It is especially not just trying to “earn” one’s way into heaven. Being authentic goes further than just being nice to get a return for a kind deed.  Moreover, if you are trying to do something nice for someone and do so to expect to get even a “thank you “for it, you are not really being authentically kind to that person, but more to get good feelings for yourself. Also, being authentic is not simply being really honest, to the point of hurting someone’s feelings without regard for that person.  Yes, honesty is a vital component to authenticity, but a truly genuine person does not need to hurt others in order to get true respect from others.

So, then, what components do comprise a truly authentic person? Well, first of all, a truly genuine person is not afraid to be who they were made to be, no matter the cost. For instance, I have read and heard about in various sources that both Fred Rogers and Rachel Joy Scott strove to be kind to others, no matter who was watching them, and even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Being authentic sometimes involves what I call “upsetting the applecart,” and not going with the crowd if your truly believe that your way is better or to correct an injustice you see in this world.  Another quality of an authentic person is their willingness to be vulnerable when necessary without fear of what other people may do or think. They regularly apologize and admit their failings when they make mistakes. They don’t feel the need to hide their failures, especially if those shaped who they are today.  Finally, a truly authentic person not only values honesty in themselves and others, but loves without pretense or compromise. For instance, an authentic person would never pretend to befriend someone in order to manipulate them for their own gains. They would also understand the importance of loyalty; their family and friends would know exactly where they stand with the authentic person. There are no games involved in their relationships—what you see in them is exactly what you will end up getting.

Yes, being authentic can be tough sometimes, and it does involve sacrifice sometimes, but it is so important and so needed in a world that can be full of drama and duplicity.  One reason why being authentic in character is so important is because genuineness is a vital component to having strong, lasting relationships.  While relationships based on lies can last maybe a few years, they will eventually break and the lies will eventually be found out causing immense pain to both parties involved. If there is no authenticity in a relationship, true trust cannot be built and it will eventually fall under the pressure of trials and temptations. However, if you have an authentic relationship with someone, then love and trust can flourish. You will know where you stand with each other, because there will be open and honest conversation between you and the other person.  No one will be afraid to be who they really are, or feel that the other has hidden motives in the relationship.

Because being authentic allows for strong and loving relationships with others, it will bring joy to us and the people with who we commune. Also, the people in both parties will feel free to be who they really are without worrying about being judged, rejected, or lied to by the other person.

However, if we are fake, and not authentic, our lies and hidden motives will eventually be found out, and we will become less desirable to be around.  People won’t trust us anymore because of our duplicity and will second-guess our motives because of our previous lies.  For instance, some of the Hollywood actors who have been accused of sexual misconduct had the guise of being family man or someone “charming” to be around. Since their real selves have been revealed, many, not only in their acting community, but also those in the general public, are now disgusted with them and don’t want to even be associated with them anymore.

When we are authentic though, our integrity is built up and we are considered by people as someone that can be trusted.  We not only gain respect from others, but we have confidence that we are doing the morally right thing.  Sadly, having great authenticity in character is a rare find these days. However, if we strive every day to be more and more genuine in our character, not only will that help us gain confidence, but also help change the world for the better.

The Legacy I Want To Leave

Having gone through depression and being an Advocate personality (a, la Myers-Brigg personality type), I had rarely felt like I belonged anywhere, and thus the subject of death came up many times in my mind.  However, in the past few years, when I think about death and dying, I think more about the legacy I want to leave and what kind of life I want to have lived should the inevitable happen.  Recently, I visited one of my fellow congregants, who is now in hospice. Thinking about the pain and the triumphs that she has been through, I started also thinking about the legacy I want to leave when it is my time to go.  Here is the legacy I want to leave:

First and foremost, I want to lead a legacy of love. I don’t want to leave this earth with people thinking that they were not valued and loved by me.  Sure, I may have bad days, and inevitably this may happen to some degree, but as far as it is possible, I want people to know that they are valued.  I not only want to speak encouragement into others’ lives, but also want to show tangible demonstrations of God’s love to them whenever I can.

I also want to contribute to ending social injustices, such as abuse and slavery.  One way I aim to continue to do this is to spread awareness about these injustices and help some of those who are or have suffered through this.  I want to continue encouraging and coming alongside, as a support, to those I know who have been through abuse or any other type of social injustice.

I also want to buck the trend of apathy in this society, by going against this trend. For instance, I have seen a lot of people both in the places where I work or used to work, do their job solely for the paycheck, and have no passion or joy in what they are doing or for the people they are supposed to be serving. For me, I don’t want to be that person who has no joy or passion for others or for life.  I want to serve others, both at my job, and at other places, with all my heart. I want to work hard because I know it will all be worth it in the end.  When I see someone hurting or suffering, I want to at least stop and pray for them.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to them, but see where I can help meet their need.

One of the reasons why I don’t ever want to be known as apathetic is because I know how it feels to be devalued by seemingly apathetic people, or people that just gave up on me.  When I have been visibly upset, I lost count of how many times people either just judgmentally stared at me, or avoided me altogether, not even trying to help or seeing if everything is OK. I was also rejected by caretakers at a daycare because I was too unruly for them to handle.  Also, because I had had a demanding personality when I was a child, most of my peers didn’t really want to be close friends with me. When I was going through hell and back in my early teenage years, I could probably count on my hands the number of people that actually cared enough to ask me what was going on with me.

I also want to be able to let go of the things that won’t matter after I die.  Right now, what I am working on letting go of  is a.) holding grudges and anger against individual people. b) the need to be always in control.  c) little things that bother me now, but won’t matter after death.

Sometimes (ok, often), when people offend me, I tend to replay what they did and how I would respond if it happened again.  This replay-tape in my mind tends to build up my anger and bitterness for those people.   I am working on (and getting a bit better at) not replaying the tape so many times. I want to be able to let go and forgive, because I don’t want to be holding grievances against any person when it’s my time to go.  I also want to let go of the need to have everything go my way. I always had thought that if everyone would just cooperate with me and everyone and everything would exactly be this certain way, I wouldn’t be stressed or upset at anything anymore.  However, I have learned that even if things don’t all go exactly my way, I still can find joy and peace in the fact that everything will turn out how it is supposed to and that God will give me the strength I need during each season of my life.  I also want to let go of all the other things that bother me in life, but that won’t matter when I go, such as not finding  something that I want to use or waiting in traffic.

Finally, I want to hold on to the things in my life that will ultimately matter. I aim to always value my God, my family, and my friends, in that order, and above all else, than anything else  this life has to offer. I want to value people over things. I want to hold on to continually developing and improving my character.  I want to be less angry and anxious. Ever since I was little, I have had the propensity to worry. However, I want to leave here not worried about anything anymore. I want to be at complete and total peace.  I also want to be more compassionate to others and less self-centered. I don’t want to let one more day go by without being thankful, in some way, for the people that are in my life. I want to glorify God every day of my life, and I want to love others the way that my God and the people that He brought into my life have shown love to me.  I want to cause a positive chain reaction and ultimately change my world for the better.

My Legacy–a poem

My Legacy  6/17/2018

 

When it’s my time to go

I want the world to know

The fullness of God’s great love

The love from up above

 

When it’s my time to go

I want people to know

That they are so much more

Than just another face

 

When it’s my time to go

I want to live in peace

With no more bitterness

And for anger to cease

 

Before my time is up

I want to serve others

And share the immense hope

I found in my Savior

Gifts- a poem

Gifts       6/10/2018

 

I have grumbled about much strife

Though I do not deserve this life

Full of many gifts

From the one above

 

So I strive to count the many gifts

That have graciously been given me

For their value I can clearly see

From a Maker that dearly loves me

 

Gifts of all different shapes and sizes

Gifts that bring much joy to my full life

Gifts that show or teach me how to love

Gifts that are clearly from up above

 

So value the gifts of your one life

Before you miss the joy that is true

Before mercy reaches its limit

And before all is taken from you

 

How to Give Hope to the Hurting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.

 

In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live!  The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!

Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:

One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives.  One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note.  Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life.  When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.

Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out!  However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them.  When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before.  When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts.  They feel like their hard work is done for naught.  If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.

Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps.  If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot.  Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.

If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again.  Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses.  You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately.  2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them.  3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e  give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them.  4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.

One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside.  By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future.  We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.

When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world.  There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.

Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.