What I learned from my vacation

You may wonder why I hadn’t been writing for the past week and a half or so. Well, I have been on a siesta and have taken a vacation. However, being on vacation has not stopped me from continuing to learn about the world around me and how to better it. I met many amazing and interesting people during my vacation, including two men having the same name as my favorite manager ( see also: Qualities of my favorite manager)! Here are some of the things that I learned about this particular vacation that can be applied by almost everyone in everyday life (not just on vacations!).

  1. How beautiful God made this world.—On this vacation, I was fortunate and blessed enough to witness some of God’s beautiful creatures. Some of the most interesting things I saw in nature were: waterfalls, birds, flowers, and many, many trees! All these things reminded me how blessed we all are to live on such a beautiful planet. This vacation also has helped motivate me to be more environmentally conscious to help preserve the earth. Even a sunrise and a sunset each day have beauty not only because of the bright colors but also because it is a reminder that we are indeed able to still be alive on this planet and make some positive difference in this world!
  2. Get to know people before you judge them. This will enable hearts to be opened to receive love and respect.—At first, when we met the people with us on our trip, most people seemed more reserved and kept to themselves more. However, as time went on and we did more together, people seemed to be increasingly open and friendly to each other. When people let down their guards and set aside their initial impressions, I learned that this allowed us to love and respect each other more because we better understood where the other was coming from and thus were more open and willing to learn from each other.  I believe that if we all strived to really get to know and understand people better before having any type of snap judgment against them, this world would be a much more unified and loving place.
  3. When we strive to understand each other, rather than be selfish or rude, love can thrive and grow!—I admit that when things don’t go my way, I am very tempted to become self-focused. However, when I try to understand others better, I found that my love for them grows as God’s love and compassion in me are able to better flow through me, rather than my selfish, sinful self. The same goes for everyone else. I have been blessed to see people from my trip reach out to one another in unexpected ways, such as a.) Someone on our trip took pictures for someone when they were unable to so that they would remember the good times had with the other members of our trip. B.) The tour leader offering to help people with their flights and accommodations, often going above and beyond to make this possible. He also checked the weather the day before so to make sure no flights were being canceled or delayed, and if they were, he let us know in a prompt manner. C) Someone offering their seat in the front, so that others could sit there too.  These little things and more helped me to gain love and respect for everyone on this trip. What good deed can you do for the people that you encounter today? What have others done for you to gain your love and respect for them?

Overall, this vacation I took has been one of the best and most rewarding thus far. I will strive never to forget these lessons that I believe God has taught me and all the people on my trip that have touched my life in a very special way. Have you ever had the chance to take a memorable vacation or have you met remarkable people in your life before? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

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How To Fight Against Human Degradation

According to writer Jon Bloom, from DesiringGod.org, Playboy magazine founder, Hugh Hefner, who died about a week ago at the age of 91, “destroyed millions [of souls].” This is because he was known to propel the pornography industry from its dark dungeons into mainstream society today, with all its philosophies and fantasies.  Indeed, as a society, we have delved into the depths of apathy and selfishness. With these vices, naturally, humans are being degraded at an alarming rate.  There are 45 million slaves in the world today. That is more than five times the population of New York City! Many of them are being sold to be instruments of men’s disgusting, unspeakable “pleasures.” Even if one is not in slavery, there are still many ways humans are being degraded, from the words people use to describe each other to how some people physically attack another.  If we are to value each other and bring hope and love back to the entire human race, change must start with us.  We must, as Mathma Ghandi has said in numerous sources, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Here are some practical ways I find that are effective in fighting against human degradation and devaluation.:

  1. Value and take time to verbally (and also in writing) thank the people who have made a positive impact in your life. –Many people, whether at home, at school, in the workplace, or in any other place of service, don’t hear many words of appreciation when they do something positive and are condemned almost instantly when they do something even just a bit wrong or sinful. Even if you think these people already have been acknowledged, thank them for their positive role in your life anyway. Not only is it good manners, it could make someone’s day-and even influence positively the trajectory of the person’s entire life!
  2. Never ever use someone just for your own benefit and pleasure.–We all have been guilty of this in one way or another.  For instance, if you are only friends with someone just to get something from them, STOP! Not only are you reducing their humanity, but you are also being fake.  Be genuine and aware of your motives for doing things. If you want to care for or be kind to someone, be sure you are doing it with no strings attached.  Do it for the sake of doing right to them and because you want them to be happy, not to get something out from them. Doing kind things without expecting anything in return also motivates us to continue doing so, even if things get tough or if the recipient is ungrateful.
  3. Support social justice organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, which work to help free people who have been sold into sexual or other types of slavery and that help them rebuild their lives.–You can either contribute financially or volunteer your time in some way to these organizations, so their good work can continue. You can also spread the word about these organizations and about the seriousness of the human trafficking problem by signing petitions, organizing awareness marches, bringing it up in conversation, and if you are spiritual, praying for these organizations and the people they are helping.
  4. Refrain from supporting or participating in any form of human degradation.–This means everything from refusing to look at any pornographic images to standing up for anyone who is being bullied or abused in any way.  For instance, if you see someone bullying someone else at school or in the workplace, condemn the act immediately and stand up for the victim! Do not be a bystander or even worse, participate in the bullying or teasing yourself!  Also, do not support any media platform which glorifies the degradation of others in any way.  For instance, if a movie or television show promotes or romanticizes people being degraded, either physically or verbally, don’t watch it!  This is why I personally have made a commitment to not knowingly watch a movie or television show that emphasizes and promotes sexual and other types of violence anymore.  There is way too much degradation and devaluation in the “real world” already, why would I want it to enter my fantasy life too? This is not to be “prudish” or to judge those that enjoy watching or listening to these types of things, but to emphasize the need for all of us, me included, to value people more by thinking of people as beings with precious souls, not tools to be used for our own selfish desires.

Human degradation is a big problem in the world today, but if we each do our part to help combat it, the devaluation will slowly fade away. Yes, it seems like a gargantuan task to accomplish, and no one can fight this alone.  Together, though, we can each do something small (i.e.. eating a giant candy bar, one bite at a time, so to speak) to chip away at this problem. Then, the people around us will feel more valued and loved again, and they will see that there is still love and hope in this world.

sources:

1)http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/one-man-s-dream-destroyed-millions

2) https://www.ijm.org/slavery

My Good Friends: Qualities We Should Emulate That They Have

I have met many people, and I believe that each person has at least one positive and one negative personality trait.  I also believe that this world needs to cultivate more of the positive traits in people and not focus so much on the negatives.  These are a list of my closest friends, both offline and online, and some of their positive qualities that I believe should be emulated by everyone.  For privacy reasons, I will be using pseudonyms for their names. However, rest assured, these ARE real people I know!

  1. Erica--If you ask her for her opinion, she will give you her honest assessment. She will not dance around the truth or lie to make you feel better. I like that about her. She also strives to be always considerate of others’ feelings and experiences. When I don’t like something, she will not pressure me into it. She will also compromise her wishes for others’ if that would encourage and make them feel better unless of course, it is an issue of morality or her faith in God.
  2. Kelly-– She is generous and kind. She will listen to you when you tell her something that is important to you.  She almost always has fun activities and/or meals made whenever I visit her. I always feel that I can relate to her struggles because of her openness and honesty about them. She is one of my favorite friends with whom to spend time.
  3. Veronica--One of the first things I saw about her that has left a lasting, good impression on me is her utter joy and love for people and for life. 90% of the time she has a big smile on her face. Due to privacy reasons, I will not show you her face, but I wish I could because whenever she comes into a room her joy, humor, and love just light up the room! When I first met her, unfortunately, I wasn’t as joyful as she was. In fact, I was still slightly depressed. However, as time goes on, I have wanted to emulate her (as well as encourage others to, too) in her positive attitude towards life and people.
  4. Jennifer–Jennifer is my friend from work. She has always been patient and kind to me, even when I have been stressed. Additionally, she has the right words to say to encourage me and help me through issues. She also allows me to vent without judgment or condemnation when I am having a bad day.  I enjoy hanging out with her because of her great love for others and me, and that she has been a loyal friend to me.
  5. Terri–Terri is a newer, but great, friend that I met when I first started attending my current church. She always prays for others and has compassion for those in need.  She is vibrant and passionate about her faith in Christ, yet she isn’t pushy or preachy.  She devotes her life to serving God and others in what she does, says, and thinks.  When I had an issue at work, she would always pray for and/or encourage me through it.
  6. Anna– Anna is one of my online friends. She knows how to encourage people and validate them.  She also strives to persevere through life despite illness and other difficulties that may come her way.  I also love how she is passionate (like me) to make sure people with mental health issues get treated better and more like humans, instead of like animals that have to be caged or controlled.
  7. Betty- Betty was my discipler at my former church.  What I appreciate most about her is that she is always honest about things and does not shy away from the truth. She is also caring for me, even being willing to visit me at work when she had only a few days with her family when she was in my town.
  8. K--Like Erica, K always tells you the truth when you ask her opinion on something. She is also very supportive of others and me and is always willing to be there for me when I need to chat. She doesn’t take nonsense or manipulation,  but if you have a legitimate need that she can provide, I believe she will do that for you. Like me, she loves animals and has two pets of her own. Unfortunately, for me, I cannot have pets right now, but I would love to someday.
  9. Ted— Ted is another one of my friends at work.  Like Jennnifer, he always allows me to open up about stressful issues without judging or condemning me. He also helps me with my work when he has time and because he believes that we should work as a team. He is also one of the hardest workers at my workplace, coming in even when he was in physical pain sometimes! I wish more people would have such determination and drive to persevere despite tough circumstances, including me!
  10. Holly- Holly has taught me so much about life! She is a master validator and supporter of others, even though she hasn’t been supported as much herself.  She always knows the right words to say to make people feel loved and encouraged. She is also very intelligent in her words and in her speech.  If you ever read her works, you would think she was a graduate student!  She has also taught me to be more compassionate and considerate of others.

Value- a poem

 

Value – 9/29/2017

*based on the quote by Jefferson Bethke, which says, “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.- Psalm 139:14 (KJV)

 

You are precious in His sight

You are certainly worth the fight

The fight called life

Including the joys and the strife

 

You are more valuable

Than just a toy to be used

Or something to be abused

Or tossed away like trash

 

You are more valuable

Than silver or gold

Or all the riches of this world

Or anything you can behold

 

Never let anyone tell you

That you don’t matter

Because you are so valued, my friend

And you will be loved until the end

Top Ten People That Have Shaped My Character (and why)

DISCLAIMER: For privacy reasons, I will be using pseudonyms for most of these people’s names. These top ten people are not necessarily in order either.

“Almost everyone has people that have shaped the way they think, speak, and behave in one way or another. Some have influenced us positively, and others have not been such a positive influence. However, here are the ten people that are in or have been in my life that I think have shaped my character to the way it is today, aside from my Lord and Savior Jesus, who I believe has shaped me the most dramatically, and why:

  1. My dad–My dad has had a profound influence on my character and the way I see life. First of all, he is very hard working. He usually works at least 10 hour days, at least five days a week. When he comes home, sometimes he even helps my mom around the house. I have strived to imitate him too. I try to work very hard at my job, not only to please God but also because I have been influenced by seeing how hard my dad works and how rewarding hard work can be. Also, he is a generous man.  I believe that if a family member or friend needed it, he would give the shirt off his back!  I want to be that way too. I want to care for others the way my dad cares for my family and others. However, I want the best for people, not just necessarily what they want.
  2. My mom-– My mom also has had a profound influence on my character. She also strives to be generous and providing what we need. She has worked tirelessly and selflessly to provide for our family.  When my brother or I needed something, she would always be willing to provide it for us.  She doesn’t worry about things too much but trusts that things will turn out good in the end. I want to be more like her in this and have not so much fear and anxiety about the future. It is something I am working on for myself.
  3. My brother–My brother has shaped my character in major ways as well. First of all, like my parents, he is willing to give up self for the good of his family and others. When I was visiting him at his home, he made sure I was taken care of and that I felt at home.  He even offered his bed, so that I could sleep comfortably, but I told him that I was willing to sleep on his sofa so that he didn’t have to go through all the trouble. He is also very thoughtful and kind in his gifts to my parents and me on our birthdays and Christmas. He never gets something on the fly. He puts much thought in what we would like and what to purchase or make for us.
  4. J- J has taught me to be more independent in my thinking and more confident in who God created me to be. When I first met her, I was depressed and still looking for work. After several years, she helped me get a job and built my sense of confidence and self-worth so much that I now have greater energy and drive to do things like write in this blog! 🙂
  5. Betty– Betty was my discipler, and like J she has also encouraged me and validated me when I was down and out. She helped me to see things in a new light. She worked with me to know God better and to strengthen my faith in Christ. She was (and still is) a godsend!
  6. Veronica–Veronica taught me about joy and life. I did not know this until recently, but she is a prayer warrior too!  Her positive attitude about others, always seeing the best in them, has helped her through the tough trials in her life. That she almost always seems joyful and bubbly are the traits that I want to emulate for myself in order to impact other people’s lives for the positive, because if you are always negative, who would want to be with you?
  7. Erica— Erica’s devotion to God and to His priorities are amazing!  Like my parents, my friend Erica also has a strong work ethic and is diligent in accomplishing what God wants for her.  She has also helped me to accept myself by her accepting me for who I am, and not trying to change me into what she thinks I should be. Like Erica, I also strive to accept people the way they are, without endorsing sinful behaviors, of course.
  8. Holly--Holly has taught me so much about life.  Her dedication to social justice issues and the way she articulates her views inspire me to do the same. She has influenced me to be more compassionate and understanding about where different people from different walks of life are coming from in their views. She has helped me to understand people who are suffering better and how to best help them.
  9. Chris (one of my managers)–What a journey I’ve had with Chris! He has helped me not only to get my current job but has taught me much about life. He has helped me to be more patient and compassionate towards him and others.  He has even helped me with the logistics of my job and of some of the functions of a lower-level manager.
  10. Frank Taylor–My former pastor (also one of my faith heroes; see here ), in my opinion, is one of the most humble people I have ever met. When a bunch of people at the church I attended at the time was offended by something he said in a sermon, he didn’t excuse himself but humbly sent a letter to everyone apologizing for the offense, even though he didn’t even mean to offend. I was (and still am) very impressed by this act of humility. He also didn’t force me to respect or trust him, but he allowed me to get to know him better and see for myself his character.

Things I Learned in Childhood

I know I don’t talk much about my childhood. Although compared to many people, I had a pretty happy childhood, I did experience some trauma, mostly at the hands of peers my age. However, I did learn some valuable life lessons that I carry to this day when dealing with situations in my life.  These three things have shaped how I see the world, with some modifications, of course:

  1. Don’t avoid or neglect to do something just because you don’t like to do that thing. Do it efficiently and quickly the first time, so you don’t have to do more later. –I was talking to one of my managers last night, and he was amazed that I am consistently the first one to arrive at the straightening (even though I must admit, sometimes I hate it), and one of the first one to get things done. What I failed to tell him at the time, was why I do this.  This motivation actually stemmed from an incident in fourth or fifth grade when I consistently failed to do the assigned readings on the Gold Rush each day because I hated it. I mean, I hated the book! It was as boring as reading a how-to manual on assembling something one doesn’t care about.  However, the time came where I had to present something from that book.  I knew if I didn’t at least skim the book, that I would probably fail the whole class, and my parents would be absolutely furious at me for not even trying. I quickly gathered up as much information as I could from gleaning the book, and passed the project presentation by the skin of my teeth (i.e to my parents’ satisfaction).  From then on, I never tried to avoid doing something unpleasant if it was important just because I didn’t like doing said thing.  I might do it reluctantly or just to get it over with sometimes, but I will do it so I don’t have to stress out in the end.  During this past year as I have grown in my faith and love of Jesus Christ and others,  I have also tried to find something pleasurable in that unpleasant task and remind myself that I am to do said thing with excellence so that it pleases God and because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Kids can be cruel, but sometimes adults are too.  –I won’t name any names of course, but there were some teachers I observed that were mean to others and me. Maybe they weren’t always deliberately cruel, but sometimes would lash out in anger or because they were too stressed out to respond in a calm and validating way.  There were a few students that were particularly disruptive in their behavior. They did things like talk out of turn in class, spit on students, or fail to do their homework.  Some(not all) of the teachers that I observed didn’t even try to figure out why they behaved that way, and just started disciplining them and a few even mocked them a few times! None of the teachers, from what I observed, even took the time to actually care for and encourage these students very much when they behaved well. I was mocked by a few teachers from everything from my ethnicity to the way I dressed. I have seen this scenario repeated even in some of the places where I have worked, sadly enough.  These events from my childhood shaped my view in that now I get angry (even rageful sometimes) at people who mock others for things that can’t be controlled or that I think don’t matter in the face of eternity.  Sometimes, I must confess that I even thought (but not done) of taking vengeance on the perpetrators on behalf of the victims of the bullies.  These events have also motivated me to care more about people who are hurting, partly so that this scenario I witnessed in childhood does not repeat itself in any way again.
  3. Sometimes you must compromise to be able to successfully work with others, but never compromise your moral beliefs and values. –When I was maybe in fourth grade and below, I used to want everything done efficiently and my way, so much so that one of my peers told me in no uncertain terms that I was difficult to work with, and that comment cut to the heart and I remember it to this day.  Sometimes I hated working in groups, because a.) No one would choose to work with me, and I had to work with random people I didn’t know or care about. b.) Either the person ended up wanting to take over everything, leaving me with nothing to do, or I had to do everything because the person wasn’t willing to carry his or her weight.  However, these experiences of working in groups with different and random people from my classes prepared me to deal with people in the “real” world.  These experiences taught me that I had to compromise and allow for others’ ideas because it was not all about me and getting things done my way.  In the process, I may have even learned a thing or two and understood others’ perspectives better.  These experiences were valuable to help me cope with other associates and customers that I interact with today!

These are three things that I learned in childhood that I consistently apply to my life today.  These lessons have proved valuable in helping me be a more successful and well-adjusted person. What lessons have you learned in your childhood that you still carry today? How have they been applied to your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

How God’s Love Has Changed My Life

When someone or something comes into your life and just changes the course of it forever, they will leave an indelible mark on who you are and the way you see things.  This is what God has done for me personally when He came into my life nearly seventeen years ago.  The more I have gotten to know God, the more He has changed me, and thus my life as well. Here are some ways He has done just that:

  1. He has worked in and through me to help me love people more.–As I have shared in previous posts, before God’s love took hold of my life, I was a very selfish and rigid person. As far as I can remember, as a young child, I don’t really recall me being very compassionate and caring of others. I did not understand why a lot of people refused to be friends with me. However, when God took hold of me, all that changed. Hearing stories about adults being abused as children and some of my peers getting bullied started to really bother and upset me, whereas before I didn’t care as much.  God even showed me the pain some ex-churchgoers experienced as a result of being hurt by professing Christians in churches, and that caused me to help others as I had never done before. In this past year especially, God has really been teaching me how to live more and more for Him and others, and less for just myself.  He is teaching me that I have to sacrifice my own conveniences and comforts for the benefit of others, especially if it would help them.
  2. God has revealed to me things that I need to change about myself and has given me the motivation to change.–The more God has taught me about Himself, life, and myself, the more I realize that I still have a long road ahead of me. This has given me the motivation to continually improve myself and strive for excellence in everything I do because if I thought there was nothing left to improve about myself, I would have little motivation to learn and become better. I don’t believe God reveals these things because He is tyrannical or wanting to smite us but for our own good, as to help us not to hinder our own relationships.  This fact, coupled with the fact, that I believe He is merciful, has helped me want to change for the better.
  3. God’s love has brought me tremendous blessings and abundant joy.—The more I know of God’s love, the more I realize how blessed I am. Yes, things get very difficult for me sometimes, and yes I have been through some trials and struggles. However, I consider myself blessed.  Before God’s love really started to shape and mold me, I had few friends.  I felt alone and was lost.  Now, God has blessed me with the type of support and love through Himself, other Christians, and other good friends of various faiths, that I had never thought existed!  For the first time in my life, I felt understood and loved by people other than just my immediate family!  He has also provided me with a good job in which I can do well.  His love has given me the freedom to enjoy His natural and human creations.  I now feel that I can better enjoy life without fear of being alone and abandoned, and I have the confidence and trust that He will always provide for me no matter what. His love has only proved that!

These are the major ways that God has changed my life.  One of the pastors at my church taught that God’s love for us will never cease and will never go away.  This is the confidence which I personally strive to live my life and share with others. How has God or a loved one’s love changed you? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Why Care: Finding Meaning in Life


Being presumptuous, according to my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf (and I agree with him), is having a rebellious and/or an “I-don’t-care” attitude about life and morals.  Many people who have been presumptuous about life or about grievous sins (moral wrongdoing) in my experience, have gone to either jail or have died! For instance, people in ISIS who bomb innocent people just going about their daily lives because they don’t agree with the precepts of their religion have at least a degree of presumptuousness.  They don’t care if their targets have families or what pain in their lives they carry. They just kill because their god told them to (supposedly).  Even though few people are as callous and as uncaring as ISIS suicide bombers or the most vicious murderers out there, we all (me included) need to be cautious of having a presumptuous attitude about life and about morals.  Here is why we should care–particularly about others and what kind of life we are leading. :

  1. Caring about others and the legacy we want to leave brings purpose and meaning to our lives.–Personally, before I became a Christian, I was very selfish and was searching for purpose and meaning in my life. Now, I don’t mean that people who don’t share my Christian faith are selfish and uncaring. On the contrary, I know a lot of people of various beliefs other than my own, who are extremely caring and selfless too. It’s just for me, that was my experience.  However, what I am saying is that if we don’t care about others and what legacy we are leaving, life will feel empty and meaningless.  When I got to that point, I felt like life was no longer worth living.  You can only live for just yourself for so long until you start to think about, “What am I doing? Why am I here with everyone else, when they are not benefiting me?” However, when you start to live for the benefit of others and you start to build a lasting legacy that you want others to follow, life starts to become more exciting because you have an end goal or goals in mind that you want to strive for regularly!
  2. Caring for others and leaving a good legacy changes the world.–One of my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, changed millions of lives because she lived a life of caring for others, especially those who were friendless or otherwise in need. Over 1,000 people attended her funeral, and it was televised on CNN.  Some sources even say it was more attended than the funeral of Princess Diana!  Her father, Darrell Scott, also founded an organization called “Rachel’s Challenge,” which helps promote the lifestyle that Rachel led and discourage bullying.  This organization coupled with Rachel’s influence from her writings and the life she led have helped millions of people.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Scott) When you care for others from your heart, you can change the world for the positive. If you don’t quit caring and living for good, you will leave a good legacy for others to follow after your time on earth is up. I am striving to live to that end. Yes, I may fail (sometimes lots of times). However, when we fail, we have to just get back up and try again and persevere to the end.
  3. Caring for others and leaving a good legacy is ultimately joyful and rewarding.–Even if caring for others sometimes gets exhausting or people don’t appreciate you right away, to care for others ultimately brings you joy and has its rewards.  Seeing others joyful because they know someone (perhaps you!) cares about them ultimately should bring you joy as well.  That is its own reward! Not only that, but a few people may follow your example as well!  This will start a chain reaction of more people caring enough to change the world for the positive and not being apathetic about others or about life. People will start to respect us more because they know we can be counted on to care.

To care about others and about the legacy we are leaving for others to follow are very important because this is one of the major ways we derive meaning to our lives, changes the world, and is ultimately joyful and rewarding not only to the ones we care about but also to us as well.  Who needs your care today? Who can you show love to today?  What legacy do you want to leave? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Ten Common Myths about Mental Illness and its truths

Everyone has struggles whether it be a physical ailment or disability, a mental illness, financial issues, or other life issues.  I know many people that have struggled with some form of mental illness, some for many, many years.  What I find that all of us who struggle with mental illness have in common is that many people around us believe at least one (if not several) of these commonly held notions about mental illness. Here’s some of them, and the facts that counter these myths:

  1. MYTH: People who struggle with mental illness are “crazy.”  FACT: This is a hurtful and often, untrue characterization of people who struggle.  The fact is that many of us may be depressed and trying to overcome past traumas.  If you were in our shoes, you’d probably react similarly.  Also, we should try to refrain from using the term “crazy” to describe anyone, because it is similar to using the word “retarded” to describe something or someone who you deem “stupid.”
  2. MYTH: People who are suffering from depression, should just learn to “get over it” or “deal with things better.”  FACT:  This is also a very hurtful myth that a lot of people believe. When I am stressed at work, some people (I won’t name names) think I should “just get over it.” The fact is that people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses are often doing the best they can to do better to avoid the stigma that comes from their illness, but they can’t do it alone.  It’s not like we have an on and off switch that makes the illness go away in only one or two days. It often takes years to overcome. Otherwise, we wouldn’t struggle!  What we need is validation. What we need is understanding, someone to come along side and help us.
  3. MYTH: Taking psychiatric medication is sinful (i.e morally wrong). FACT: I don’t understand why certain people in certain religious circles believe this!  They certainly don’t typically believe this about heart medication, or medication to treat ulcers! If something is wrong with the wiring in your brain, you need to treat it somehow. Therapy doesn’t always work for this, nor is it always effective.  If you take medication for heart problems, for instance, then taking psychiatric medication should also be morally permissible, no questions asked.
  4. MYTH: People who hurt themselves (i.e self-injure) are often doing it for attention. FACT: First of all, many people I know who hurt themselves don’t want the attention. They just want to be loved and understood.  This is why in my own research, I have found that people who self-injure often hide their scars underneath clothing or other things. If they really wanted attention,  they would probably not even bother to hide anything! A lot of my friends I know who struggle with self-injury have a low sense of self-worth and may be self-injuring to relieve unbearable pain and anguish. Again, validation, love and genuine support are the keys to help them be able to stop self-harming.
  5. MYTH: When someone is considering self-harm or suicide, you should always call an ambulance so they can get the help they need. FACT: This is only true if they are actively suicidal or planning to do major self-harm.  Some (but certainly not all) people use this method as a cop-out so that they don’t have to actively support and encourage them themselves. Many people don’t know how or simply don’t really care.  Yes, it can be emotionally difficult to care for a person struggling with these deep issues, and you shouldn’t do it all alone. However, unless the person is actively considering major self-harm or being actively suicidal, calling an ambulance or sending them to the hospital, may create more problems for them in the end than good.  First of all, the mentally ill are often not treated well in hospitals, because people are afraid they will become violent or self-destructive.  However, if we took the time to try to understand and love them better, sending them to the hospital would not be needed. Also, a lot of mentally ill people are in therapy, so if you don’t have the emotional energy needed to support them, actively encourage them to talk to their therapist or doctor before they do anything harmful to themselves.
  6. MYTH: People struggling with depression or anxiety should just “get out more.” FACT: If we could, we would. The truth is these illnesses are often debilitating and disabling. This is often why it is a struggle to “get out and enjoy life.” What we need is guidance and a gradual introduction to the “real world” when we are better and are able.  What we need is encouragement and understanding from loved ones, who will be there when we want to talk about what’s going on inside our minds.
  7. MYTH: (A lot of people may believe this in one form or another, or unconsciously) People with mental illnesses are emotionally “weak” or “lazy.” FACT: This couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve heard a lot of people imply or even say to me that because I get stressed about certain things or cry sometimes, that I am a “weak” person emotionally. The truth is that people who suffer from mental illnesses are often the ones that have had to deal with the most emotional baggage in their lives. Many have experienced abuse or bullying, or both, during some period in their lives.  Some of them have experienced deep, personal losses.  The fact that we are able to cry and “open” up shows that we are not weak, and in fact, strong and not afraid to be vulnerable to others.  Often, being able to let the feelings come out and talk about things with people, is the first step towards healing and dealing with underlying issues.
  8. MYTH: People suffering from mental illness just need therapy. FACT: Therapy can be very useful and helpful, but it is not a “one-size fits all measure” for everyone suffering from mental illness. Some people have struggled with getting the right therapist because of continuing stigma against their illness. For instance, someone who has a borderline personality might not be understood by a lot of therapists because of the commonly held notion in the medical community that they are very difficult to deal with and understand.  Also, therapy alone is often not the answer. We need not only therapy but often times medication and a strong support system to help us through the tough days.
  9. MYTH: People who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be violent, so we need to put protective measures in place. FACT: This myth irritates me more than some of the other myths out there! Yes, there may be a few mentally ill people who can get violent, but most of them are not violent at all.  To treat everyone who is mentally ill like wild animals needing to be caged is not only perpetuating this myth, but I believe it is inhumane as well.  I have heard of people being chained to their beds even though they wouldn’t hurt even a fly!  Or that they can’t enjoy music because the medical facilitators are afraid they may hurt themselves with earbuds! If one is that afraid, then watch them. Don’t suck the enjoyment out of an already bad and stressful experience for them!
  10. MYTH: Referring to people who struggle with mental illness: “It’s all in their heads.” FACT: Mental illness does not only affect people mentally but physically as well. For instance, in addition to feeling bad mentally,  people with clinical depression often don’t eat or sleep well, can have headaches, cramps, or an upset stomach, or feel much more physically exhausted than usual. (source: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1).  Also, people with anxiety disorders often experience physical ailments as well, such as sweaty palms, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and sleeping problems. (source: http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1-3 )

These are just some of the commonly-held myths about people suffering from mental illness. I think we need to remove stigma about these illnesses and treat everyone, including people afflicted with mental illness, with more love and compassion.  What are other myths you have noticed people believing about mental illness? What can we do to dispel them? Please feel free to discuss in comments. Absolutely NO disparaging comments or your comment will be deleted! Thank you.

When We Have to Do Something: Caring for others in trouble

Earthquakes. Famines. Wars and rumors of wars.  Pestilences.  Heartache. Betrayal. Strife among people. Hatred and apathy. The problems in the world can seem very overwhelming at times. When we compound it with our own problems, they can seem unbearable! In fact, sometimes things can seem so insurmountable, we do and say nothing.  We are paralyzed with fear and anguish.  However, all these things can also propel us to right action, if we know how to help some of those in need.  Here are some situations either in the world around us or perhaps in our own lives that can seem “big” or “heavy,”  but we can redeem for the benefit of those involved in these problems. Here’s how YOU can personally make a difference:

The natural disasters in the world

  1. If you are spiritual, pray for those affected by the wildfires in California and surrounding areas, the hurricanes that have ravaged or are ravaging Texas, parts of Lousiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Carribean Islands.  Pray that they will be provided with all that they need and for replacement of all that was lost. Pray for peace, comfort, and strength for those affected by the storms and their families that are concerned about them.
  2. Donate to a reputable organization that will give (and are giving) to those in need in the affected areas.  Some of them are: a.) Red Cross b.) Convoy of Hope c.) others. <—this article of organizations focuses on relief for Hurricane Harvey, but many of these help people affected by the other disasters as well.
  3. If you can, go to these affected areas and volunteer in the rebuilding and the relief efforts there.
  4. Spread awareness for these people being ravaged by these catastrophic events.  Let people know that these people are hurting and in need of help. That way, everyone will be aware of what’s happening and can also help in any way they are able.

Those affected by abuse and bullying

  1. Never ever blame the abuse or bullying survivor for the abuse. — Remind them that the abuse was not their fault.  Abuse is totally and will always be the abuser’s fault.  They are able to control their actions. No one can make someone else abuse another.
  2. Encourage the survivor of their inherent value.-– Many times abuse survivors have been made to feel worthless and useless, even unworthy of love.  If we want to be allies to these people, we remind them of their inherent pricelessness again!  This not only means that if they do something right, praise them, but also reminding and demonstrating to them they are still priceless and loved even if they make a mistake or sin. We can do this by helping them through their failures and doubts, and by striving to be committed to being there for them whenever they need us.
  3. Make sure to model good boundaries to them.— This means striving not to control or manipulate them in any way. Bullied and abused people usually (if not always) have had their boundaries or safety violated in some way, and their trust shattered.  Do not attempt to make decisions for them, unless you are already in a position of authority over them. Never use them to your own ends, otherwise, they will feel abused all over again, by you!  For instance, if you want to show affection to them, but they are hesitant to, respect them and restrain your wants and desires.  This is not about you! If you wrong them or make a mistake, sincerely apologize to them and commit to never repeating the same mistake again. Show you can be trusted.

EDIT: Many, but NOT all, people who have been abused also struggle with mental health issues because of the trauma. It is important to note though, that NOT all people with mental health problems have been abused. But if someone you know has been abused AND is struggling with mental illness, this is a GREAT resource: https://ashipofmyownmaking.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/10-ways-you-can-help-a-mentally-ill-friend/

Those affected by poverty

  1. Donate to reputable organizations such as the Red Cross and Unicef. –These organizations help by giving much-needed food and water to those in need.
  2. When you give to them, expect nothing back.–When you give to the poor, whether your time or finances, make sure it is with pure motives. Do not give to them, just to get a tax break, or to get something in return from them later.  Give because it is the right thing to do. Give because it gives you joy to see them happy and fulfilled. Do it for them, not yourself.
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or other organization—Look for opportunities in your area to help those affected by poverty.  One organization, for those living in the Chicagoland area, is called Feed My Starving Children. They pack food for people in need around the world. You can help by volunteering to help pack these meals. Their website is: https://volunteer.fmsc.org/register/
  4. Spread awareness about the issue of poverty.–Write about the struggles of people living in poverty, not to embarrass or shame them, but so that people will know how serious an issue it is, and also to dispel myths about people living in poverty. I know a lot of people who think that if you live in poverty, you must be lazy and/or uneducated. However, I have found through my own research and listening to others’ experiences, that this is often not the case, and the causes of poverty are more complicated that one thinks.

These are just some ways to care about people in need. What are some ways you can think of to help those in need? Encourage and love someone today. You can perhaps help save a life!