anthem, caring, errors, eternal matters, God, life, life lessons, positivity, purpose, regrets, truth

Don’t Waste Your Life

One thing that COVID-19 has taught me, with the suddenness and the severity in which it could strike, is that we all have a limited time here on earth.

Even Pre-COVID times, I have been taught this lesson. I almost died in June 2014, because if I hadn’t gone to the ER when I did, my gall bladder would have burst. If that happened, I would not be here today!

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have spent too much of my life angry and hurt.  I had spent too much time holding grudges and arguing with people who won’t even be there for my funeral! I spent too much of my life worrying about things that would be resolved within days of the incident or things that have no eternal impact at all.

In 2020, I have observed people around me fall into similar patterns.  I see people against who they voted for in the last election. Mind you, many of them are not arguing with close family members or friends who they see often, but people gone from their in-person life, or someone who they haven’t seen in twenty or so years.   I’ve seen people arguing with a store employee who they probably don’t have to deal with on a daily basis anyway about rights and mask wearing.  I’ve known people who have lost sleep over things that were resolved within days of the incident. 

If we do things like I have observed from various people this year and like I have done when I was younger, then we are wasting our lives! No one will say on their death bed, “ I wish I had spent more time arguing with person X about “xyz”” On their death bed, no one will care about whether a particular store requires us to wear a mask or not or anything related to that.  We will not be concerned with work-related stresses or, on the other hand, anything related to entertainment, such as how a favorite team is performing. 

Most people will think about what they had wish they had done differently in life, whether it is how they treated people or opportunities they wish they had taken.  They will want more time to make things right in their world, but at the same time, regretting that they hadn’t used the time they were given more wisely.

Don’t let that be you. Don’t waste your life!

Ask yourself when you are tempted to get in a heated debate with someone: Will that person even be in my life a year from now? Is that person even in my daily in-person life today? When I die, will the person most like be there for my funeral after I die? If the answer is “No,” disengage and walk away from the conversation.

Spend time with people who are supportive of you. Minister to those around you who you can have an impact for the positive. Smile at a person who is having a rough day, and encourage their soul.  Be determined to be a peacemaker and a life saver in someone’s life today.

Ask yourself when you are worried about something: Will this even matter a year from now? Does this situation have eternal significance?  If not, QUIT worrying about it!  Also, remember what it says in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” and Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  In other words, God will give you peace when you give your worries to Him and trust that He will bring you through the situation for our good and His glory.

When we begin to have an eternal perspective on things and live like it could be our last days on earth, not only will we most likely have more joy in our lives, but our lives will never be wasted again!

Image by AD_Images from Pixabay
bullying, caring, community, eternal matters, friends, God, heroes, life, love, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Reason to Live

-written September 6, 2020

I almost killed myself. Several times in my life. Recently, my friend related his interactions with a bullied classmate that was daily experiencing torment from his (the classmate’s) peers, before the classmate took his own life. Suddenly, I realized that had God not intervened when He did, that bullied classmate’s fate could have well been mine as well. 

As a female on the spectrum, I am no stranger to the experience of having been bullied, and eventually losing the will to live.  My peers teased me from everything from my appearance to my socially awkward mannerisms.  The ones that did not bully me either ignored me or hung out with me out of pity for my lack of friends and social skills.  They dared not become too close to me and genuinely get to really know me as a person with hopes and dreams.  These people may have meant well, but I could see through their veneers. 

In high school, after being emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher (Yes, you read that right. An. Adult. Teacher), I came to the brink of suicide.  With little intimate support, other than my parents who didn’t know what went on until later, I thought things would never get better. I had strong suicidal ideations. I was also jealous of my younger brother who I thought had everything I lacked.

Unlike my friend’s classmate, I did not end up taking my own life. God, in His goodness and mercy, slowly revealed Himself and His love for me. God slowly brought people into my life that helped me through the challenges of my season of life—People that believed in me,  that did not just pity me, but encouraged my God-given abilities and really wanted to relate to me as a person and know my life story. 

I have heard and seen some people say that if it weren’t for their pet (or insert “X” thing/person here), they would have no reason to live. I say, if I did not have God and He never intervened in my life, I would have no reason to live.

Thankfully, God is my reason to live, and He did intervene in my life numerous times when I needed Him the most! God has also motivated me to strive for excellence in everything I do, regardless of the temporal rewards that may await because eternal ones are much more valuable to me. God has also made me realize that there are people that need to hear my story of how He rescued me and gave me hope, because many people desperately need that right now.

They need to hear your story as well. So, whatever situation you are facing, don’t give up. Don’t. Give. Up.  You can save someone’s life in the future simply by not giving up on yours and triumphing through life’s challenges. Someone will need to hear your story. Let yours be one of hope and perseverance for others.

If you are feeling like giving up, there is help for you. You don’t have to go through this life alone. Please call 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline) if you or someone you know is feeling like giving up on life.  Remember, you are NOT alone, and there is hope for you as long as you are still alive.

bullying, caring, community, eternal matters, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, suffering, truth

Open Letter To Abuse and Bullying Survivors

Dear Survivor,

I know we have been through so much. I know that there are times you just want to give up on people and life. However, I want to tell you that no matter what your perpetrator or perpetrators have ever told you or done to you to make you feel like you don’t matter, that they are wrong! You have a powerful voice inside you that they want to shut up because it will mean their doom and your victory. Don’t let what your perpetrator or perpetrators of your past did and said silence your voice! Don’t let them determine your destiny.

Yes, I know it is very frustrating when our abusers “get away with it” and never pay for their crimes against us and others, at least this side of earth.  We want to hold in our bitterness, our anger, our despair.  I take comfort, though, in that our Lord will one day reap His vengeance against the people that hurt us and they will get exactly what they deserve.

I have realized recently that I have given far too much agency to those who have hurt me by becoming bitter and resentful against them and wanting to take vengeance against them instead of releasing them into God’s hands.  Don’t make the same mistake! Be determined to rise above their hateful and evil actions by serving others in need and helping others who have been abused or bullied. Bring awareness and understanding to those who may not know what it is like to be bullied and/or abused.

Our perpetrators may try to contact us via phone or online, or make besmirching comments in posts that we make.  Don’t respond in kind to them. If you are able, respond gracefully to them.  If not, delete and block them off your social media outlet.  Don’t let their comments ruin your day.

Finally, remember that you are a survivor; you are no longer a victim. God has helped you rebuild your life, and He will continue to help you by bringing supportive people in your life to affirm you and to motivate you to rise out of the ashes that were born out of the abuse and become a triumphant, beautiful and mighty warrior!  Don’t ever give up on yourself or on life. When you find yourself in trying circumstances, remember what God has already brought you out of and how it has made you a stronger, more compassionate person.

Love,

Patricia

caring, community, disabilities, goals, God, heroes, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth, work

Power of Belief: How Positive Influencers Helped Me Achieve the Impossible

Being on the autistic spectrum, I knew full well my limitations. For many years I had struggled to find a permanent job, a problem all too common for autistics like myself.  In fact, according to an article by MoneyWatch, a whopping 85% of college graduates affected by autism are unemployed!  (1)Many people who knew me well thought that it would already be good if I found a part-time job, though I had wanted to work full-time.   Some people thought I would also never be able to drive myself places, and achieve many of the goals that I wanted to accomplish. 

However, that all changed when I met my mentor Jill* and a couple years later, my then-manager Elizabeth.*

When I first met Jill, I really didn’t think anything would change in my life, but, at the same time, I unconsciously hoped that life would get better for me. I was also going through some changes in my life of which I was still trying to adjust, as change is especially difficult for those on the spectrum who need more routine. However, Jill kept insisting that I learn to drive myself and that I could eventually find a job that would suit me.  I did not believe her. Even my parents thought I needed a job that I had minimal interaction with people, and that even those kinds of jobs would be very difficult to find!  I eventually did learn to drive myself a few months after I met Jill, but I still did not think I would ever be able to find any job—part time or full time.  Jill then helped me to find an employment agency that would assist me in finding a job.  After climbing through many hurdles to find an agency willing to work with me, we finally found a friendly and determined person from the employment agency that would work with me to help find me a suitable job. About six months later, I finally got a call to get interviewed at a thrift store.  Because God was with me, He helped me to be confident enough to make a good impression on the interviewer and I got the job.  I worked very hard there, but I did not know if I would last long at the job.  Fortunately, I was able to be there for two and a half years before I sensed in my spirit that God wanted me somewhere else.  I was ready to take the next step in my employment journey—finding a full time job.  However, some of the people at the agency thought it was already good that I was even employed, since it is difficult for people on the spectrum to even find any type of jobs! However, Jill was confident in my ability to find a full time job.  So, we pushed through and the same person from the agency that worked with me last time was willing to work with me again to find me a full time job. It took several months before we found anything.  Then, one wintry February morning in 2016, God intervened and I got interviewed at a store in the company I am with now. Though at first I was part time, about six to seven months later, I was instated as full time. The day I got promoted to full time, I  was overjoyed.  (To see more details on how I got my first full time job, please see this link:  (https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/a-godsend-my-current-job/).  If it were not for Jill always believing in me and never giving up on me, I do not know where I would be today. 

About a year later, I met Elizabeth. When I first met Elizabeth, I did not know how much she would change my perspective on life and the trajectory of it.  Like Jill, she always believed in and never gave up on me, even when other people around me did.  For instance, when I approached her about wanting to learn the register, she immediately suggested that I could train for twenty minutes each week until I felt comfortable enough to be a certified backup, which was my goal, but I did face some backlash from others.  My now ex-friend told me not to continue training for cashier because she thought  I couldn’t handle it when there were difficult customers and that it would be too stressful for me. Another manager commented, “ A CSM [customer service manager] would never call you up to ring.” Thankfully, I listened to Elizabeth instead of the people around me, and a month before Elizabeth left our store, I was instated as a backup cashier.  Moreover, the customer service managers called me quite often, and as the number of register-trained associates dwindled, I became one of the few who were register-trained.  Most customers were satisfied with my speed and efficiency in my service to them at the register.  Elizabeth also believed in my abilities so much that she trained me on some of the things that a department manager, and not a regular associate like me, does.  With her, I not only continually learned new things in my work; I gained more and more confidence in my God-given abilities.

I learned from Jill and Elizabeth not to doubt my own God-given abilities and to not listen to the naysayers who doubt that I could achieve my goals.  Jill and Elizabeth instilled the power of their belief in me into my life, which motivated me to prove the naysayers wrong and to realize the dreams that I had held inside for so long.

Sources:

  1. Pesce, Nicole Lyn. “Most college grads with autism can’t find jobs. This group is fixing that.”  MarketWatch.  April 2017. Republished  2 April 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2020. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-college-grads-with-autism-cant-find-jobs-this-group-is-fixing-that-2017-04-10-5881421.

*=Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.

bullying, caring, friends, God, heroes, hiding, love, pain, poem, purpose, rejection, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Balm for the Pain

for T.K.

7/9/2020

Memories of darkness–

The cruel words that were said

The lies that I was fed

Invade my helpless soul

 

They flood back in an instant,

When my soul tries to heal

From untold scars and pain,

That again I must feel

 

These demons haunt my soul

As they trap me with fear

That my foes will be ones dear

And I would be left alone

 

But God sent you to me

He wanted me to see

That there was still much hope,

As dark would melt into light

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

4 Things All Professing Christians Should Stop Doing

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

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

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

caring, community, credos, eternal matters, friends, God, heaven, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, poem, positivity, prayer, purpose, suffering, truth

All You Need

All You Need— written on : 7/29/19

You have been searching all your life

For a hope—lasting and real

To fill your empty and hollow heart

Before you fall completely apart

 

All the glory in this flawed world

All the things money could buy

Will never fill your God-sized hole

With what would make you whole

(image by Robert Allman)

But I have found that lasting hope

When I was on my very last rope

My Savior filled my lost, weary soul

With everlasting love and hope

 

He is all the love I truly need

Because He is always good indeed

I pray you taste and see His love

And see your life filled with joy and hope

 

caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, truth

My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

caring, community, eternal matters, friends, genuineness, goals, God, hiding, integrity, life, life lessons, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth, work

Advice I Would Give To My Middle School Self

As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a memoir about things that I have had to overcome to be who I am now.  One of the toughest parts to write so far has been a period in my life where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and when I felt like I had little hope or future in my life. Those were my middle school years—when I was about 12-14 years old.  Sometimes, I wish I knew all that I know now, back then, so that I wouldn’t have been so miserable and hopeless.  However, if I didn’t go through what I did back then, I would have never become the person I am today either.  If I could go back and mentor my middle school self, this is what I would advise her:

  • God will always bring good out of suffering.–If I knew that all the pain, heartache, and hopelessness that I felt when I was in middle (J.R. high school) school was going to amount to something even half-good, I would have not felt as miserable as I did. The fact is because of the bullying and the pain I experienced in middle school, I am better equipped to help others who are struggling similarly.  Because God and others helped me overcome the pain I endured before, my story can give others hope that, they, too can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.  In fact, if you are struggling right now, or have struggled, and you don’t know if these challenges are going to add up to anything good, know that your story can one day give others who are struggling, hope,  if you don’t give up now.  Many times during that dark period in my life I wanted to commit suicide, but God, in His sovereign wisdom did not allow me. Thank God He didn’t, or else I wouldn’t be here sharing this!
  • If people don’t accept you for you, don’t try to please them or let them rent space in your life.—In middle school, I struggled to gain the acceptance and the close friendship of my peers.  All in all, though I may have appeared happy, I was really dying inside. I tried to learn from them sometimes in an attempt to mimic their behaviors, so I would be more “acceptable,” but it never seemed like it was enough.  The same people I wanted to impress probably saw through me, and, in the end, I was still in the same spot I was in the first place—lonely and unacceptable to my peers.  Now, I have learned that if people want me to change things that are part of how God made me, like how I look on the outside (like my ethnicity), or don’t want to accept that I am an INFJ on the spectrum, that I should not put stock in trying to please them.  In fact, I have had to let go of several people in the past ten years that haven’t really accepted me for who God made me to be.   It really is better to be hated for who you are, then “loved” for who you are not, as people will find out the Real You anyway. Be authentic to yourself and others.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
  • Grades aren’t everything.—I was so fixated on grades, that when I did poorly, I was deathly afraid that I would make my dad livid and more so, that I would flunk out of school.  Even though I tried my best to do well in school, and had decent grades, they had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me find the job I have now!  Some teachers may say to a student who is struggling that if they don’t improve, they will end up working at “McDonalds.” What these teachers don’t understand is that one could make decent grades and graduate from a half-way decent college, and STILL work at McDonalds!  Also, someone could graduate with a “C” average in school, but end up making millions of dollars in acting or even starting their own business if they know what they are doing.  I would still advise my middle school self to work diligently in school, but not get too anxious if I failed one test!
Image by Igor Link from Pixabay
  • Having convictions and drive will make you more successful in life than if you are just “getting by.”—Although I worked hard in school, I only did so to make my parents happy and for fear of failure. However, I have discovered in the past few years that my attitude back then is similar to how many people view their jobs, as just a way to “get by”.  Yes, we should make sure we are making enough money in our jobs to make ends meet, but it shouldn’t be about just that.  Although I don’t make even close to a million dollars a year at my job, I still strive to go above and beyond and do the best I can every single day. Why? Because I want to glorify God and show people that working diligently can be a more satisfying and enriching learning experience if you approach your job as a calling, and not only to make money. Because I am convinced God has placed me in my job to impact a certain group of people for a reason, I am more motivated to do my best, even when I may not get a raise for years.  If I approached my school as a calling, rather than just trying to gain the acceptance of love of people who were already set in their opinion of me, I think I would have been a lot happier.

I am convinced that if I had learned these lessons in middle school, I would not have struggled as much back then. However, I am glad that I did eventually learn these lessons, though, sometimes, like other things I have learned, sometimes I need to go back and review them.  I am glad for these lessons, because without them, I would have never grown into the person I am today.  And I am glad for the God that helped me learn them!

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

How To Speak Your Mind Gracefully

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

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

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

Image by John Hain from Pixabay