anthem, boundaries, caring, community, credos, errors, eternal matters, God, hypocrisy, integrity, life, life lessons, love, purpose, truth

4 Things All Professing Christians Should Stop Doing

I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general.  Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad.  Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.

  1. Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life.   Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another.   I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
  2. Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies.  I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
  3. Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins.  For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride.  Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset.  However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
  4. Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have.  In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better.  Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours!  Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).

When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!

anthem, bullying, caring, community, diversity, eternal matters, integrity, life, life lessons, positivity, purpose, truth

How To Speak Your Mind Gracefully

I am saddened and dismayed by the political vitriol and discord that has gone on in my country, and frankly, around the world as well.  Unfortunately, I have taken part in heated and aggressive arguing before. It was about twenty years ago in an online forum.  I may have considered myself a believer in Christ, but I doubt I really was at the time.  Worse yet, one of my hateful messages became a featured message on that particular website! I regret writing that message to this day, and hope it is not still up there. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know it didn’t build up or respect anyone at all.  Thankfully, God did not leave me hate-filled and aggressive like I was before, and He has taught me, through many respectable and grace-filled Christians, how to speak my mind more gracefully. Here is what I learned, and continue to learn:

  1. When confronted with a person or person with an opposing view, make sure you understand what they are actually saying, and define terminology. —I was in an online discussion on a social media platform that got heated because both sides seemed to not understand what the other person’s view actually was. That’s why I asked them to define terms.  For instance, I’ve seen and heard people arguing against the stay at home order in their state.  Other people accused them of being “selfish” because they are arguing against it.  In order for either party to share their beliefs with grace, they need to try to understand where the party with the opposing belief is coming from.   The party that called the people protesting or arguing about the stay at home order “selfish” could instead see what part of the stay at home order they are against. The people protesting may not be against all stay at home orders, but just the more restrictive parts of it.  The people who are for the stay at home orders may just come out of a concern and care for others’ well -are and safety and are not intending to be “tyrannical,” as those protesting the orders may think.  Also, it would be useful for both parties to define clearly and precisely the term “stay at home order.” What would it include? What would it not include?
  2. Focus on what you agree on, not on what divides you.—In my example about the stay at home order, it may be useful to focus more on what unites you, not only what you disagree about.  Both parties in arguing about the stay at home order issue seem to come out of a concern for what they feel is the greater good. The party that supports people staying at home until COVID-19 passes wants people to stay safe and not potentially spread the virus, especially to the most vulnerable in society.  The party that supports lifting some restrictions on the stay at home order in their state may want the economy to recover so that less people would be out of work and have income to buy food and other necessities.
  3. Never name-call or denigrate the other side.–What I see in many bitter and contemptible debates is that people tend to demonize and denigrate the opposing side. They do not see the opposing side as humans with goals and dreams like us, but instead as a demon or even the devil himself! If we want to speak our mind with grace, we can never demonize the other side.  We must remember that no matter what side a person is on, they are humans, created in God’s image, like we are. They have hopes, dreams, and families, like we do.  If someone, especially in an online forum, starts resorting to name-calling or otherwise denigrating you, you can shut down the conversation by not responding to their comments and getting out of the forum.  This will allow both parties to cool down, or, at least stop the verbal escalation from getting worse. Sometimes, I even refrain from sharing my beliefs, not so much because I’m afraid to, but because I do not want to get into a name-calling, hateful debate with others.

I find that when we try to understand where our opponent is coming from,  when I focus on where I agree with my opponent instead of only what divides us, and  when I treat my opponent with respect and grace, that we will understand and love each other better.  This pandemic alone won’t unite people, but a heart that respects and gives grace to even our opponents, can and will.  Let’s feel free to share our beliefs, but let’s do so with a humble and a gracious attitude.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay
anthem, caring, community, credos, eternal matters, friends, genuineness, goals, God, heroes, inspiration, integrity, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, thankfulness, truth

Qualities of my Closest Friends We Should Strive to Have


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics. No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Servant’s Heart
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Thoughtfulness/Care
  5. Depth

The most important trait that my close friends all have is authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy, and genuine.  They do not act one way towards others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their lives.  Also, another part of how they are authentic is their honesty.  For instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth!  I appreciate this about my friend because her honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling me that I am worth what is true.  Sure, some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that because it shows that she values honesty.

Another trait that my closest friends all have is a servant’s heart.  All of my close friends have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve others.  Some are serving the Lord as missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has abandoned them.  Still others are serving their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those of the one who would eventually betray Him!  They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the willingness to be vulnerable.  I define vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no one, except God, is really perfect.  Mark Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her.  In years past, I admit I have struggled with being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me.  However, I have realized over the past five to ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each other.  It also enables others to help us through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in our pain and struggles.

Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is thoughtfulness and care towards others.  Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the needs of others.  One of my close friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday.  I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she sensed that I was hurting and sad.  I aim to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants moral support in a time of need.   All my close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.

Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate better to the world around them.

I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you know who you are—who embody these characteristics.  I pray that we all would strive to embody authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from their pain and fears.

Source: “Casting Crowns: The ‘Lifesong’ of Mark Hall.” Accessed 12 May 2019. < http://www1.cbn.com/music/casting-crowns:-the-‘lifesong’-of-mark-hall>.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

anthem, community, emodiversity, eternal matters, genuineness, God, hiding, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, rejection, stories, suffering, truth

On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability. 

What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world.  Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears.  Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”.  I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure. 

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later. 

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long. 

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well.  In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between.  Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly. 

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told.  God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me.  God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay
anthem, caring, community, eternal matters, family, friends, inspiration, integrity, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, poem, positivity, purpose

I Will Never Give Up On You  – a poem

written : 12/6/18

 

Through all your triumph and glory

When I see the light in your soul

And I see you becoming whole

I will never give up on you

 

Through all the laughter and the pain

Through the joy of being with you

Through all the good times and the bad

I will never give up on you

 

Though at times you will fall and fail

And you want to give up and bail

Because you don’t think you’re enough

I will never give up on you

 

Though sometimes you drive me insane

And there are times of stress and hurt

Where some people treat you like dirt

I will never give up on you

anthem, autism, bullying, caring, community, disabilities, diversity, genuineness, inspiration, integrity, joy, life, life lessons, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth

Being Different, Being Me

written February 26, 2019

I am not like many, or even, most people. At my church, most people are older than me, have children and even grandchildren, are married, and have been there for a long time.  In contrast, I am single, have exactly zero children, and have only attended this current church for a little over two years. I’m not only different at church, but also at work.  While many people at my job have either hated or just tolerated their job, most of the time, I find great joy and passion in my job, which is why I strive to give it my all every day. In general society, I am different from what most would consider “the norm” because I am neurodivergent, have the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type there is (In case, you are wondering, I’m an INFJ, and have only found one person in real life with this exact type as me!), and love organizing things more than most people.

And I like it that way.

Being different has forced me to not be able to hide myself behind a veneer of familiarity well, leading me to be able to be more genuine. For instance, when I try to hide behind a veneer, such as having no passion for my work and not trying my best, people will immediately notice something is wrong and that I am not really being “myself.” In fact, one time when I was just trying to get things “done” and not really striving for excellence, a manager admonished me for that, but understood I was just really stressed out.  Standing out in my differences has allowed me to be more genuine because I know I have an interesting life story to tell others.

Being different has also enabled me to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas into the world around me. Because I am realizing that many people do not think like I do, when I say something from my heart and offer my unique perspective on things, people will be more apt to listen to me since I stand apart, than to someone whose ideas are more common .  Being different has also helped me to learn about other perspectives with a fresh and more invigorating view. For instance, I observe that many people use small talk to get to know a person better. I do, too, however, I also strive to see into the soul and observe what their dreams and goals are in life by what they talk about.

Being different has helped me move away from the status quo when necessary. For instance, when I see or hear of something that I feel is not right, I won’t be as afraid to say so , because I am not pressured to maintain the status quo as other people may.  Even when most people are doing “A”, I won’t be afraid to do “B’ if I feel that would be the right thing to do. Sometimes, because I am different than most, I stand out more anyway.  So, I am less afraid of backlash in standing up for what is right.

Being different has motivated me to stand up for and support people who have been unfairly discriminated against due to their differences, including, but not limited to, certain minority ethnic groups, people who struggle with mental illness, those who are disabled,  and other societal identifiers that may be outside “the norm”.  Because I have also experienced teasing and bullying throughout my life due to my differences, I am able to better understand what it is like to be ridiculed, ignored, and bullied because of them.  These painful experiences have enabled me to have more compassion for and better able to relate to others who have been through similar abuse and bullying.

Yes, I am often considered an anomaly to the norms of society. Yes, I may be sometimes treated unjustly because of them. However, not being like most of society has allowed me to have a greater impact on it then I otherwise would if I were a carbon copy of the “normal person” in society.

We may be more or less “normal” than the standards and characteristics that society may deem “normal,” but everyone has uniqueness that makes them stand out in some way. Embrace yours, and accept others!  Upset the applecart to do what is right sometimes, and use your differences to be a catalyst for positive change in this world!

anthem, caring, Christmas, community, credos, eternal matters, family, forgiveness, friends, genuineness, inspiration, integrity, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, peace, positivity, purpose, thankfulness, truth

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia

anthem, caring, community, credos, eternal matters, goals, inspiration, life, life lessons, positivity, purpose, truth

Finding Your Legacy

With everything good and bad that has happened to me this week, I have been thinking more and more about what kind of impact I am having in this world. I hope to leave a positive impact on as many people as possible.  However, it wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I started seriously living intentionally to leave a positive legacy. Yes, I still strived to be kind and positive to others before then, but it was much less thought out. When things are more intentional, there is more passion and impact in both your actions and purpose.  Here is what I learned about finding my legacy and striving every day to live it out:

  1. In order to create a legacy that you want to leave this world with you must find your life’s purpose.– You cannot create a legacy that you would be proud of leaving if you are living aimlessly, because you will be too distracted by the goals and dreams of those around you, and the environment around you. In order to find your life purpose, you first need to ask yourself: “What do I value the most in life?” For me, I value glorifying God in everything I do and say, and the quality of my relationships with God and others.  In order to find out what you value, ask yourself what you spend most of your time doing.  If you spend the majority of your time hard at work, for instance, it means that you value your job highly.  If you spend most of your time cultivating relationships with others, it means that you value personal relationships more. Then, after you determine what you value, ask yourself: a) Am I what I valuing now going to contribute to leaving a legacy in my life that I want to leave. If so, ask yourself: How can I fulfill what I was made to do? For instance, I believe God has made me to write about what He teaching me in life and sharing it with others.  So, I need to ask myself: What do I need to write about to make maximum positive impact on the world around me? How can I convey what I want to say most effectively? Who do I need to write to? What do I need to do to improve my writing skills?  Then, after you find the answers to these questions, work to tailor everything you to do to accomplish that purpose.  If you think what you value now isn’t going to make the impact you want to, you need to change what you value to better tailor to the legacy you want to leave.
  2. Value the important.—In order to create a good legacy, you must value what is important to the memory you want to make.  I would suggest writing down, or at least, pondering these following questions to determine what you want to value in creating a lasting legacy: 
    •  How long will what I value last?—I would submit, the longer the person or thing you value will last, the more your legacy will most likely will be remembered and followed. For instance, if all you care about is money, and ways to get the most money in life without regard to giving some of it to those in need, when you die, the only legacy you will leave is how stingy and selfish you were. Hardly a legacy anyone would want to leave; I think!  However, if you care about spreading love to others, the impact of your acts of kindness and sacrificial love would be felt by many generations to come.
    • Is this going to matter in the long term?—So many times, we, me included, get worried or upset over things that won’t even last long! For instance, I know people who will get super-offended if you don’t say “Hi” to them when you pass by them. First of all, maybe that person passing by you was so busy that they didn’t even see you. Second of all, do you even remember all the people around you who said “Hi” to you this past week? If the thing that is upsetting you won’t likely be remembered next month or even next year, let it go.  Let. It. Go. 
    • What sacrifices am I willing to make with what I value?–In order to truly value something; we must be willing to make sacrifices for it. For instance, if I say I value God, am I willing to sacrifice for Him? For another example, if I were married (I’m not, by the way), would I be willing to make necessary sacrifices for my husband to show I truly love him and want him to have joy in his life?  If you say you value someone or something, you should be willing to make sacrifices for them.
  3. Believe in your purpose.—In order to create an effective legacy, you must believe in your life’s ultimate purpose.  As I reiterated already, you must be willing to sacrifice other less important things to accomplish your life purpose.  You must be willing to live your purpose, and not quit when something else enticing, but distracting, threatens to cloud your view of your life purpose.  Also, the ultimate show of your belief in your life purpose is how vocal you are about it, both in your words and actions. If you are passionate about who you were created to be, it will show up in your discussions and focus with others, and will creep up in every aspect of your lifestyle. 

Personally, finding my legacy has been an adventurous and insightful journey for me.  I want to create a legacy where I love, first and foremost, God, but also the people here on earth.  Yes, sometimes I may fail at that, but overall I want to be the type of person who, overall, never quits loving and caring about others. What do you want your legacy to be? Finding your legacy is important to having a purposeful and fulfilling life. I know finding mine has made joy possible for me.

anthem, caring, community, eternal matters, friends, genuineness, inspiration, integrity, life, life lessons, love, truth

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

anthem, caring, community, credos, errors, eternal matters, family, forgiveness, friends, joy, life, life lessons, love, peace, positivity, suffering, thankfulness, truth

How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.