What I Learned From the Movie “Priceless”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Civil Online and Preventing Cyberbulling

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, especially among teens, where more than 1 in 3 have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Cyberbullying may also be an issue even among adults and young children. In a society where anonymity online can be used as a weapon against people who either a.) hold different views than the perpetrator or b.) are hated or that the perpetrator is disgusted by, we need to be vigilant against cyber bullying and make sure we don’t become perpetrators ourselves. I’ve seen many people on even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rail against each other and call someone they don’t even know personally nasty names or even tell other people to end their own lives over petty issues.

This is why we need to be sure we are always civil online and do our part to ensure that the Internet trolls don’t successfully hurt others or ourselves.
Here’s how:

Being Civil Online

  1. When you disagree with something or something someone wrote or said online angers or irritates you, do yourself and that other person a favor: Don’t say anything nasty to them. –I made the mistake of biting back and saying some crude things a very long time ago when someone made rude remarks about the type of music I listened to. In retrospect, I should have just left it alone. Sometimes bloggers (and I read a lot of blogs since I’m part of a blogging group now) say things that disgust, upset, or irritate me. Not all the time, not often, but once in a blue moon. I have found the most effective and most civil way to voice my disagreement over their post is to say nothing at all. If you feel, however, that you must say something to them, do it civilly. Find points in common. For instance, in the example of the people making fun of the music I listened to, I could have said, ” We both listen to similar kinds of music, but just different groups. I am sorry that you feel that way about [name of group], but I respectfully disagree with you.” OR “It looks like we both like different groups, but maybe we both have another artist we both like. What are some other music artists you like?” Lastly, ask questions and try to learn about why they think that way. For instance, if you live in the U.S and you really don’t like Trump and the person you are engaging with really likes Trump, you could ask, “What have you found that Trump does well?” or “What led you to vote for him?,” but say it in a neutral, wanting-to-learn tone of voice, and not an accusatory, judgmental tone of voice.

When someone attacks you:

This is harder because it’s personal. They want to hurt you, perhaps to make a point or put you down. It doesn’t matter. It is not right for them to do that, but there will be trolls. Internet trolls are, according to Wikipedia, “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.” Often trolls either want to hurt you personally out of anger, or for their own amusement. However, we can prevent ourselves from stooping down to their level by taking these measures:

  1. Don’t respond to them, if possible.— Yes, even if you angry inside (and I would be too, to be honest) the best way to not attract the kind of attention the troll wants is to be silent. Don’t give them the pleasure of a crass, emotionally-laden response. They want that, but if no one responds to them, the troll will die down and look for targets elsewhere.
  2. If you do respond, keep your responses simple and/or robotic.—If they say something about or to you that you know is untrue, say so. But that’s it. You don’t need to add about how they angered you or how rude they are (They already probably know, but they don’t care.). Just say, “This is not true.” or “What you said isn’t true.” If they insult your character, and the criticism isn’t warranted, but you feel the need to say something, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that isn’t how I see it. ” OR “That isn’t true.”
  3. Report them to the moderators.–If they keep escalating, tell it to the moderators of the board. Don’t get overly emotional with your complaints. Just say, for instance, “So-and-so [person’s name here] keeps telling me that I lie and cheat on others when I have done nothing of that sort. And he (or she) keeps bad-mouthing me to other people. For instance, [tell of first instance, and other specific incidents thereafter]. Could you please tell him or her to stop? It not only hurts me, but the other people around me, and more importantly, it hurts the integrity of this whole board.” If the moderators don’t do anything about it or blame you for telling them about these incidents, don’t say anything bad or inflammatory back, just get out of that forum.

Preventing Cyberbullying:

First and foremost, don’t be a cyberbully yourself. Always communicate your responses and writings with love and grace to those who will read it.— If you disagree with someone, even strongly, be respectful of him or her. Don’t be judgmental or condemning, but speak the truth in love. If you want to give advice, make sure the person is welcoming of them. Never give unsolicited advice. a.) The person will get upset at you for “helping” them, and you both won’t feel better after the interaction. You, because you wouldn’t be appreciated by them, and them, because you will seem overbearing and like a busybody to them. b.) They probably won’t listen to said advice anyway, and you will waste your time trying to “help” them.

Second, if you witness someone being cyberbullied or attacked online, do something! — If you don’t want to engage with the attacker (and sometimes it’s wisest not to), report the attacker to the moderators/administrators. If they don’t do anything constructive about it within a reasonable time period (but give them some time, don’t be impatient), then get out of that forum! If you can engage, engage with the victim first. Stand up for him/her. For instance, if someone is attacking him/her because of his/her disability, tell the person something encouraging like, “I think you are a beautiful and unique person. You may have this disability, but don’t let it stop you from accomplishing your dreams and don’t listen to [perpetrator]. That is just not true.” Also, tell the perpetrator, “Attacking [name/screen name of victim] is not acceptable in this forum. If you don’t stop and/or apologize to [name/screen name of victim], I will report you to the appropriate people. Thank you.”

These are some ways I have found effective in dealing with the serious issue of cyberbullying. What are some other ways you have found to help combat cyber bullying? Please discuss in the comments. Also, may we all join forces to combat this issue so that the Internet will be a place of peace and love for all.

For related content, please see my friend Kat’s blog on:  Preventing Slut Shaming

sources: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

Why Hate- a poem

Why all the hate
In God’s good green earth?
Why have a date
With Satan and all his hate

Why all the cursing and backstabbing?
Why all the lying and stealing?
Why all the hurting and pain?
Why all the hatred to drive us insane?

Why ever waste energy
Devising ways to cause hurt and pain
And driving yourself insane in vain
Instead of seeking love and peace

Why ever hurt others
When it hurts you the most
Why not instead love
With the love from up above

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

Power of Words

What we say can mean a whole lot to people–either positively or negatively, depending on what words we use. This is because each word has a meaning behind it.–something that can either make or break a life. This is why we should always, always, strive to use our words to encourage someone, rather than to tear someone down.  When we tear someone down with our words, we risk not only creating distrust in a relationship, but tearing it down altogether.  Here are some common ways people use their words to hurt others…and also some ways that people can use their words to instead encourage one another. For more information on the power of words, see also this post:

Ways people tear down others using words:

  1. Using words to blame others for their own mistakes or problems- This often happens in families or among close friends.  Sometimes when a person doesn’t feel heard and is constantly being invalidated by another, he or she will start to blame the invalidating person for anything or everything going on in their lives. They would say to them, “If you hadn’t done x,  then I would have not been passed over for that job I really wanted.” or something to that effect. They will use the other person as a scapegoat and refuse to accept responsibility for their own mistakes and failures.
  2.  Invalidating—This often happens when a person is too caught up in their own life and problems to listen to the other (often, hurting) person. It also happens when a person doesn’t care about the hurting person’s problems.  For instance, if I told you that I had a bad day, and you said something like “Suck it up, buttercup.” or “Ok, that’s nice,” in a dismissive, sarcastic way, that would be invalidating my feelings and that I had a bad day. Instead,  using this example, you should listen to what I have to say or at the very least express sympathy for my pain and suffering.
  3. Being sarcastic.—This often happens when a person is upset with someone, but doesn’t just want to yell at them. For instance, if a child doesn’t want to listen to his or her parents’ directions to clean his or her room, he or she may say, ” It doesn’t have to be perfectly clean you know!” knowing it isn’t even clean at all!
  4. Using curse words.–This means a person uses foul language to tear down and insult someone. For instance, if a person feels another has hurt or insult them by the other person’s words and/or actions, he or she may call them a[n] [insert swear word here] to their face or behind their back.
  5. Insulting someone—This can happen in many ways. One of the ways a person uses words in this mean and derogatory way is to mock them.  For instance,  President Trump was accused by some people of mocking the disabled and women by making fun of their mannerisms using his words.  Another way some people unfortunately insult people is to degrade them. For instance, a parent may verbally abuse their children by saying that “They never do anything right.” or saying, “You’re worthless. I wish you were never born to me!”

Ways we can encourage people with our words:

  1. We can validate them.–When we see or hear someone in pain, we can first of all, listen and hear what they have to say. Then, we can sympathize with them by saying, “I’m sorry you are going through this. What can I do to help you through this?” We can ensure them (if that’s the case) that what they are going through is not their fault. If it is their fault, we can validate them by saying that we will help them to make amends and forgive them for their errors.
  2. We can refuse to slander or gossip about others.– One of the most damaging things one can do to another person is to slander or gossip about them, so that their reputation is ruined or, at the very least, marred. If you refuse to say unkind things about others, it will be much easier to encourage and uplift them.  Even if those things are true, I have learned (often, unfortunately, the hard way) we can instead talk to the person directly about any issues we have with them.  If you are scared or for some reason can’t talk to them directly, at least talk to someone who can actually do something to rectify the issue or issues you’re having with said person. Once someone said that if you are not part of the problem or solution to an issue between people,  then you have no right to blab about another person in an unkind way. If you do, then it is gossip.
  3. We can use our words to uplift someone in need of our love and encouragement.–What I started to do at work is to make little notes of encouragement to people who I feel need it. When we use our words, either orally or in print, to compliment and/or encourage someone, it can give them the joy they so desperately need in their lives. For instance, one of my managers was having a stressful day and it was his birthday. So, I had some of my co-workers and managers write him good wishes for his day, and when I gave it to him and told him what a great manager he was (and he is), he teared up a little, obviously touched by the encouragement that those co-workers, managers, and I gave him.  I have seen when I take the time to encourage someone, instead of gossiping or slandering someone, people usually take notice, and their faces light up.
  4. We can speak the truth in love.–When you must correct someone or admonish him or her for something they are doing that is hurting themselves or others, it is often an unpleasant experience. However, we don’t have to avoid talking to them about the issue or sweep it under a rug, so to speak, in order to build someone up. We don’t have to be nasty or insulting to them either. We can speak the truth in love instead.  For instance, if a child’s parents catches their child lying , they doesn’t have to call the child a “liar” or let the child lie to them. They can instead focus on the bad behavior, instead of the child’s worth as a person.  For instance, they can say, “Tommy, when you lied about having already taken the trash out, it made me feel angry and hurt.  I know you can do better than lying to us.  Can you trust us to tell the truth next time, so we can trust you?”  Use the phrase, when you did x, it made me feel X (name the emotion—angry, hurt, frustrated, sad, disappointed, etc…). Also, affirm the person after you let the person know you’re upset at him/her. This doesn’t mean you condone the behavior, just the person.  Also, let the person know how you would like them to change their behavior. For instance, Tommy’s parents asked him to be more honest with them next time so he could regain their trust.
  5. We can demonstrate humility by apologizing and by honestly committing to make real amends when we wrong someone or otherwise make a mistake.—For instance, if you upset a boss at work by doing something incorrectly or inadequately,  instead of making excuses or blaming others for the wrong that occurred, you can apologize. For instance, when a manager points out a mistake that I did in straightening, instead of making excuses for why I did it wrongly or inadequately, I could say, “I’m sorry for X mistake I made in straightening. How can I commit to doing this work better?” This response would not only be genuinely humble, but also shows you are open to learning from your mistakes.

These are just some of the ways people (unfortunately) tear down others, and some of the ways that people can build up people.  I am not perfect in building up people in any of these ways. There are still many things about encouraging others and not tearing them down that I need to learn, and we all do. However, the more we proactively encourage others, and the less we tear them down with our words, the better this world will be for them.

Why God Allows Suffering

*triggers* : Mentions suicide

Suffering can be described as the gift no one wants, but it comes anyway. It teaches us lessons we never wanted to  learn (or not).  I (personally) have often wished that God didn’t allow suffering and that we could learn life’s lessons some other way. Sometimes, sadly, I have even doubted God’s goodness and justice when I was suffering. However, when I study passages in the Bible like John 9 (about a man born blind and Jesus heals him), I begin to understand WHY  God allows suffering and what we can learn from God’s character and how we should care for those who are suffering.

Reasons God allows suffering

  1. To refine our character- Some of you know that I experienced bullying in various forms when I was going to school, and I felt like no one really accepted me as I was or wanted my company.  Also, I have had experiences with being jobless and other various trials. I’ve had to deal with difficult people (as I’m sure all of you have), and felt like I was being abused and/or discounted as a person. I tell you this not so you will feel sorry for me, but to explain to you that God has used all these experiences to help refine my character. I believe that as a result of these experiences that God has worked through me to be a more compassionate and caring person, and less my selfish, sinful self.  Before I became a Christian, I was an extremely selfish person, but God has used these trials even before I was a Christian to help break down these walls of self-indulgence and self-absorption. Maybe there have been trials God has used in your life to help refine you and help others who are going through the same or similar things you are going through.
  2. To alert us to the fact that we need Him-If I didn’t go through some of the unpleasant things that I have, I probably would have never been a Christian or known how much I needed God.  I know people who have gone through very little trials in their lives that don’t even know they need God, or feel that God is not that important in their lives.  It is true that some people who go through stuff feel the same way about God, but it probably has to do with the fact that they don’t understand why God would allow them to suffer, rather than the suffering itself.  But when you suffer, it is often in these times when you grow closer to God and realize that you have needed Him all along.  In fact, in my testimony, I mention how I felt depressed before and felt that there wasn’t much meaning in my life. It is in the depths of my despair when I was in tenth grade, that God found and rescued me.
  3. To allow God’s glory to shine through you– When we suffer, especially as a Christian, we are able to use these experiences to glorify God. For instance, if someone is dealing with a difficult person but still tries to be kind to him or her, God can use this experience to bring him or her (i.e..the difficult person) into a relationship with Himself.  Or if a person is going through a physical illness, God can use that experience in his or her life to bring about miraculous healing or for that person to heal others. This is also why God allowed the blind man in John 9 to be born that way. God knew that allowing blindness into this man’s life, would bring about later, not only physical healing for that blind man, but spiritual healing as well.  Though he was kicked out of his religious community, the blind man thought it was worth it because he knew he could trust Jesus and thus followed Him.
  4. To alert us to what’s really important– Often when we are in trials, God uses these to alert us to what is really important, so we stop being distracted by minutia. For instance, if you are going through the trial of losing a loved one or a loved one is sick or in the hospital, a reaction that you may have is to spend more quality time with them or with the people who remain more. We become more intentional about doing the Most Important things with God and others, and leave the Less Important things to the side, which is how we should do things.

How We Should React to Another’s Suffering

  1. NEVER EVER discount what another person is going through! Everyone does not react the same way to suffering and it affects each person differently and to a different degree. For instance, when a person is being treated unfairly, one may react with anger or rage, while the other person may become despondent or feel hopeless.  Don’t call the despondent person “weak” for feeling the way they do. Always validate the person suffering.  It may help them see that you care about them and make them feel less alone.
  2. Be kind– Along with validating the other person’s suffering, ask how you can help them through it. Be there for them.  Tell them that they are NOT alone. Go out of your way to be kind and appreciative of them in a genuine way. Show you care for them. One thing I did was to send them a card to show them how much they are loved and cared for not only by God, but also by me.
  3. Don’t assign blame or rejoice in their suffering– Never assign blame for a person’s suffering, even if they are at fault. Now is not the time to revel  in their suffering or beat someone down either! Instead, be willing to be there for them and mourn with them in their pain.  If you are willing to mourn and be there for them, they will know that someone out there cares for them and for what they are going through.
  4. Listen to them– Listen to them attentively in their suffering. Offer words of validation and comfort. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Only offer advice to them if they are willing (i.e.. ask for it) and are ready to receive it. Otherwise, it just leaves both parties frustrated.

If you are suffering right now, I want you to know that I care for you and that I am willing to listen to you.  If you are suffering so much that you are considering ending it all, please see this  before you do anything drastic and/or call 1-800-Suicide. There is always HOPE for you, but only when you are alive.   If you are not, and are happy with your life right now, please be willing to reach out to someone who is suffering so that they know that you care. It can save lives!

How to Set Boundaries

May trigger *Speaks of/refers to abuse or abusive behaviors*

Some people will test your boundaries. I was talking with someone about that a few days ago, and she made me realize I have two choices when someone violates my boundaries: a.) Allow people to walk all over me and take advantage of me.  OR  b.) Set clear and firm boundaries. Here’s how (By the way, some of the advice is extrapolated via Captain Awkward, so some credit goes to her as well. She offers some good advice for everyday or abusive situations.) :

1.)When someone touches you without your permission and does so in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable: let out a small yelp! Don’t be afraid to make a scene, even if it is someone in authority over you, but with them, do so respectfully. Remember no one has a right to touch you without your consent!  You can alternately say, “Please don’t touch me like that (or without my permission). ” OR ” I don’t like that. Please stop.” OR  “That makes me uncomfortable. Please stop that.”  If he or she makes a big fuss over it or touches you more, tell someone in authority or higher-up than them if they ARE authority, or the police if things get really bad (i.e.. if you are getting assaulted ), but only as a last resort!

2.) When someone asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with or don’t feel morally right doing, you are allowed to say “No” to them sometimes. For instance, if a boss wants you to fudge data and you don’t feel morally right doing so, instead of a.) Getting upset and cursing him or her out.  b.) Letting him or her violate your conscience, do  C.) Tell your boss firmly, but politely, “I don’t feel comfortable doing this for you. It violates my personal convictions. I am sorry.” See also: “I can’t do that for you, or I will get in trouble from [higher-up managers, law enforcement, etc.]. Sorry.” If he or she insists, keep telling them the same thing like a broken record, but don’t raise your voice.

3.) When someone yells at you or treats you rudely for no good reason, you can also set boundaries to help them stop their behavior too. When I got upset(legitimately), instead of setting boundaries with that person, I yelled at that person and got very angry. (Don’t do what I did!) The person then told me very sternly, “Don’t talk to me like that!” Though that made me more upset, what the person said to me was spot on and made me treat that person better in the long run.

When someone–a friend, a parent, a co-worker, a customer or client, a boss at work, or anyone else, yells at you for no good reason, you can use these words: “Don’t talk to me like that.” in a calm, but firm tone. This says to them two things: 1) Their behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop now. It won’t be tolerated. and 2.) that you deserve their respect. And it’s true. Though much of respect is earned, no one has the right to yell rudely for no reason or verbally abuse you in any way. Just because something doesn’t involve physical violence, does not mean it’s not abuse! If the person(offender) escalates their abuse after telling them “Don’t talk to me like that!”, walk away and/or tell them, “I’m not talking to you until you can talk to me nicely!” This will tell them in  no uncertain terms, that you will not accept their abusive behavior.

Setting boundaries not only ensures you will not tolerate abuse or being taken advantage of by others, but also will help the offender or offenders realize the impact their behavior is having on you and others, and help them (hopefully) change or face the consequences of their abusive behavior.

What I Learned About the Most Painful Experiences of My Life

DISCLAIMER: Please keep comments civil and respectful of everyone, as this was not that easy for me to write, or they will be deleted.

*religious references*

In all the most painful experiences of my life, there is one quality that made these events especially painful: the feeling of being rejected. However, I will share these things with you, not as a vie for some attention, but so that you can learn from them too, and triumph in your own bouts with trials and suffering.

Bullying at school: One of my most painful experiences to date was the teasing and bullying I endured at school up until about high school. There is an adage that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Some people I encountered at school said or did things that made me feel less than and not even worthy to be called their friend or confidant, no matter how much I tried to be one to them.

What I learned: From this pain, God has taught me to never reject a hurting person or anyone just on the basis of superficial things like how they look or dress, whether or not they are rich or poor, what sexual orientation they identify with, or on the basis of how intelligent or intellectual they are. God has also taught me how to better use my words and actions to bless instead of curse or condemn. He has taught me how bullying and teasing can destroy a person’s soul and even livelihood! God has taught me how to appreciate people who do love and accept me for who I really am more, and make sure I show them in tangible ways, that they are, in fact, appreciated by me.

Being unemployed or underemployed: Another painful experience in my life was not being able to find, for awhile, employers that wanted to give me a chance to work for them. It’s not that I wasn’t willing to work hard or that I didn’t get along with people. It is just that I didn’t find a good fit for me, and that made me feel depressed and worthless, and that I wouldn’t really amount to anything in this world, which is basically what a teacher in high school said in so many words to me. And I internalized this lie for a long time, extending to even my “work years.”

What I learned: From this pain, God has taught me to value what He has given me now, especially my current job. God has taught me to always work hard in all areas of my life to please Him, but not so I could get saved.  God has also taught me to have more compassion and love for others who are still looking for work, or who, for whatever reason, really can’t work, because I learned that it is not easy to look for a job. He has taught me that my ultimate worth comes from Him, not my job or anyone in it. Finally, God has taught me from that experience, to never ever give up, because good things will come to those who are able to persevere, even in the midst of the most difficult pains and trials. For story on how God graciously provided me with my current job, please see this post.

Having family and friends move away: Another painful experience in my life was seeing family and/or friends move away from me. The most painful was having a sibling of mine move to another state. However, these changes have actually helped me grow for the better.

What I learned: From this pain, God has helped me to treasure each moment with the people I love, and also strive to enjoy the people who I am with more, because I now know that seeing them tomorrow or next time is never guaranteed by God. He has also helped me to be more open to meeting and to bond with new people, and made the relationships I have with the people that haven’t left me stronger, in many cases. Most of all, through this trial, God has helped me keep people with an open hand. That is, l learned to let God do what He wants with the people around me, including sometimes taking them away from me,  but only if it is His will, and not feeling devastated or hopeless about that prospect, but instead depending on Him for my ultimate companionship.

All these things have helped me be a stronger and more caring person than I was before. I’m not perfect, and I still don’t like pain, but I know that God is there with me through it all. He will be there for you in your pain and suffering too, if you let Him.

How to get out of the dump: Triumphing in and after suffering

*triggers: Mentions suicide*

A cursory look at the Facebook posts in my news feed today shows me that there are at least two phases that my Facebook friends find themselves in today: 1.) Going through a trial or trials and 2) Going through times of joy and jubilation. People don’t normally post the ordinary things that they are doing. For example, I would not post that I’m going to work later on today. It just won’t get people’s interest, but that’s commentary for another time.

However, I would like to focus today on how people can triumph over suffering and not lose hope in trials. I admit, for the author of this blog, this is still something I am working on, but these things I have found to be true not only for me, but also for others who I have seen and heard overcome their trials.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk things through.-Often in trials, we want to be alone and be able to get out of the dump ourselves. Though a few times I have been able to get out of the dump myself, I have found that asking for help and talking things through with another person, whether it be virtual or real-life, helps me gain perspective on my trial and be encouraged by another person either a.)going through the same thing I have or b.) already went through the same thing I have and has gotten out alive and well.  Also, when we ask for help, we can often find new solutions to our trials we ourselves never thought of before or at least remind us that we are not alone in our trials.  DISCLAIMER: If you feel that when you have asked for help, that no one was there or made things worse, I do apologize. In an ideal world, someone helping you would always make things better, but because of sin (moral wrongdoing) this happens. But I would recommend not giving up on all people, because I believe at least one of them will be able to give you the right kind of help.
  2. Try to persevere through the trial, even if you don’t want to-Often in trials we want to give up on working through it. This is because often we as people want comfort. God has been telling me time and time again that if I idolize anything other than Him, it’s comfort, and that I need to repent of that. Comfort, according to the Oxford Dictionary,  can be defined as,”A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.” (source:https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/comfort). We don’t want pain, but if we tell ourselves in no uncertain terms that this pain will not last forever, we will be able to better endure it. Give up trying to be comfortable.
  3. Try to learn from the trial. -This is often more difficult when you are in the midst of it. However, there is often something to learn, something to be gained, even and often after going through a trial. For instance, since I work in sales, sales are slower during this time of year (i.e.. after Christmas), and hours get cut. Because I thought my hours had been cut more drastically than they were, I thought for sure no one really appreciated me. I began to spiral down a depressive cycle. I was a sobbing mess…until God made me realize that I counted the total hours wrong. I was actually given more hours than the previous week! And then the next day, because I needed a correction on my schedule, I was incidentally given even more hours! So, what I learned in the trial, was to focus on the positives and that God can make even the bad scenarios into blessings for me.  Sometimes, when you go through a trial and you don’t understand why you are going through it, it can be tough to persevere through it and find any hope of ever getting out of the perpetual cycle of pain and suffering that goes with going through a trial. However, know that there is always something to be learned from the trial even when you don’t know what it is yet. This is beneficial to us, because it will help us not only learn from our mistakes or help us to know God or ourselves better, it will often help us be stronger and more compassionate and caring people. For instance, I shared in another post that I was often bullied by classmates and even a few teachers in school. Though I sometimes wished that I weren’t alive in those moments, I am glad that I survived this because I am better equipped to be able to relate to and help those who are being bullied and/or abused by others or have experienced similar or worse things than I have.

 

If you are going through a trial right now, I encourage you to not be afraid to ask for help, to not give up on life in the midst of the trials, and learn from the trial. If you are going through extended suffering and feel like giving up in life completely and are having thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-SUICIDE or some other crisis line. Know that whatever season of life you are going through, you are never alone and that there are people who care for you.

How to encourage people who have been bullied or otherwise oppressed

(*trigger warning*: references/link about suicide, abuse, bullying )

I have had a lot of interactions with people and sometimes even their families, who have experienced or are experiencing bullying and other forms of abuse and oppression. Many children are being bullied at their schools currently. When I was in school, I was often the target of bullying myself.  Recently, I read an article about a boy who was bullied to death, not only by people at his school, but also by the manager who he worked under. (source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/02/us/suicide-dairy-queen-charge-trnd/). And, in my opinion, some of the comments made from another website featuring the same story, were very disheartening, and revealed a lack of compassion and empathy for what the boy was going through, and his family that is experiencing the pain of his loss and suffering right now.  So, how do we encourage those being bullied or otherwise oppressed, instead of leading them to think life is no longer worth living or that no one cares about them?

I’m not a mental health professional or any other type of doctor, but I have had experiences on both sides of the coin–being bullied and being able to encourage those who have been bullied or otherwise abused. So, here’s what I learned.

1.) Be there for the victim/survivor.-This does not mean be there for them one time, but it means being willing to invest in their lives in some way.  It also does not mean being physically present with them, but your mind be somewhere else.  But it does mean being fully invested-physically and emotionally to what and how they are feeling and if possible, why they are feeling that way.  It means at the very least listening to their needs and concerns without judgement or condemnation.

2.) Validate how they are feeling, and never invalidate them! -Validating them means affirming what they are feeling (You don’t necessarily have to agree with what they are feeling though!) and affirming their worth as a person.  Never, ever say to them in any type of wording, that what they are going through is “not a big deal” or “just get over it!” First of all, that they trust you to tell you something painful is big, and you don’t want to ruin their trust in you. Secondly, if they could “get over it,” they probably would without telling you in so many words that they need help.  An example of validating someone would be if your daughter is being bullied at school and she confides in you about it, you could say, ” I’m sorry that [name of bully] is hurting you. I will be here for you and help you through this so that you don’t have to suffer at his/her hands anymore. You are an infinitely valuable person and child. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” (And then actually following through on your promise to help the child through the situation by a.) talking to the teachers/administrators b.) talking to the bully’s parent(s).

3.) Ask if there is anything you personally can do to help (and other open-ended questions). Ask, but don’t interrogate. Asking if there is anything *you* personally can do to help them will help them to know that you are there for them, but it doesn’t burden them to be obligated to accept any offer of help. However, it also lets them know you care and have their best interests at heart. It also allows you to know what type of help they may need.

4.) Make sure you are not getting drained yourself. -Contrary to some religious circles, I do believe that you need to make time for self-care, otherwise you will find yourself idolizing caring for that person and will not allow yourself to be recharged. Let’s face it, helping someone else through a difficult time, can be draining  not only for the person going through said experience, but for you as well.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them though. This just means you will need some time for rest as well. Even God rested from His creation on the Seventh Day!

This could mean anything from taking a literal nap, to doing something you enjoy just for you, for a time.

Remember, helping the oppressed and bullied, though it can be difficult, can also be rewarding. More importantly, it can save another person’s life! So, who can you encourage and support today?