Open Letters On Forgiveness

Written on    1/12-13/2018

Dear Anyone Who Has Hurt or Offended Me,

For some of you, I have held on to my anger and bitterness towards you for a long time. God convicted me today and told me to let it go. And I intend to do just that. If you had offended me, what you did was probably not right and I am absolutely not excusing your behavior. However, my response to you was not right either, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that lashing out in kind and wishing evil on some of you. I am sorry that I hadn’t reached out to you in reconciliation and mercy earlier mainly because of my stupidity and pride that got in the way. I understand if you never are able to forgive me for this or don’t want to reconcile. However, if you would like to, I want both of us to strive not to hurt one another deeply again, and I want you to know that I have your back now and wish only the best for you.

Sincerely,

Patricia

 

Dear Anyone Who Has Been Hurt By Me or Others,

 

Hurt by others: If you have been hurt by another person (other than me), I am sorry. If you were ever abused by someone who was supposed to love and/or protect you (such as a family member), I am deeply sorry, and please take as much time as you need to process everything and heal.

 

However, for those hurt by someone who has not severely scarred you (though at times it may feel like it, I know.)I have these three words for you: Let. It. Go. Don’t try to let it go for their sake, but for yours!

 

What criteria I personally use now to determine if another’s hurt is worth holding on to or addressing in any major way:

1)            Are they hurting God—meaning are they blasphemous or against directives that He laid out in the Bible?

2)            Are they hurting my family or other loved ones?

3)            Are the issues/offenses at hand morally and/or eternally significant for their sake (i.e Are they committing a serious sin)?

 

If two to three questions’ answers are “Yes,” then it is worth getting concerned about, but if not, I just try to let it go. Even if the answers to these three questions are “Yeses,” I still try to speak the truth to them in a loving, but firm manner.

For instance, though, some people hold a grudge against another simply because someone did not say “Hello” in return to them. Yes, it can be upsetting if we are not acknowledged and it is rude for them not to acknowledge you, but is this worth remembering or getting so upset about? Also, someone not saying “Hello” to you or ignoring you, assuming it’s not family, will not hurt your loved ones! Also, no one will go to jail or get kicked out of anything simply for not acknowledging you, or at least it would be absurd if they did!

Let it go.

I understand why someone would hold a grudge against someone else though. I confess that I once was a grudge-holder, and then wondered why it was so difficult for me to grow spiritually and emotionally! I realized I held grudges for so long because I thought that by holding on to the hurt and anger and giving the offender or offenders the harsh, silent treatment, I was, in essence, “punishing” them for the hurt they caused me.  However, what often occurred was that the offender either didn’t care about the incident or the hurt they had caused me, or they didn’t even know how much they had hurt me! In essence, God gave me this epiphany one day that by holding on to these grudges, I was only hurting myself and the loved ones that hadn’t hurt me at all!

When I finally let go of my hurt and anger that some others had caused me, it was like a burden was lifted off me.  I no longer had to exert angry and hate-filled energy for that people and anyone associated with them and the incident anymore.  Most of all, I felt peace. I was open to reconciliation, and I was free of the bind of emotional pain that the offender or offenders had over me.

Let it go.

For your sake and for those that love you.

For those I hurt:

I do apologize and am so sorry that I hurt you. I don’t ask for forgiveness only for my sake, but also for yours. I want you to be free of the anger and hurt that I caused and that comes from bitterness and resentment. I will do anything in my power to repair the damage that I caused, and I will strive never to repeat the offense again.  Know you are valued and loved by God and by me. I only want the best for you. And I know that is what God wants for you as well.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

My Goals in 2018

I used to not participate in New Year’s Resolutions or Goal-Making. I felt it was setting myself up for failure, especially if I did not achieve what I wanted in life.  So, I used to avoid doing resolutions, almost like the plague.  However, in 2017, God has given me a greater motivation to make and achieve goals. The goals that I will make for the year 2018, I believe, not only feed my drive for success but cater to my two overarching purposes in life:

  • To glorify God in everything.
  • To show people the love that God has already constantly shown me.

Here are some of my 2018 goals and how I strive to achieve them:

Spiritual/Personal Goals

  1. Cope with my anger issues more effectively
    • Count to ten before expressing my anger.
    • Take deep breaths when anxious or uncomfortable.
    • Think about the positives of the current situation (even if it is a mostly negative situation)
    • Try to refocus on my overarching purposes in life (Glorify God and show people God’s love)
    • Try to think about the negative consequences of inappropriately expressing my anger, and so avoid becoming angry in the first place.
  2. Get out of my comfort zone to glorify God at least once a week.
    • Do something kind for another person even if it inconveniences me a little bit.
    • Don’t complain or get upset when asked to do something uncomfortable, but see it as an opportunity to glorify God and die to self.
  3. Read through the Old Testament in a year and also part of the New Testament (since I will have already read through it this year. At this time of writing, I am only 5 or 6 chapters away from finishing Revelation)
    • Read at least 2 Old Testament chapters a day, and 1 New Testament chapter on Weekends.
    • If I miss a day, do the readings on the day that I missed.
  4. Don’t worry as much about things.
    • Think of ways to solve the problem/issue at hand other than worrying
    • Memorize Romans 8:28.
    • Focus on how God will bring good out of the situation and focus on His goodness and that He’s not trying to hurt me.
    • Memorize Jeremiah 29:11.
  5. Think more positively about others.
    • Say to myself, “This person is not out to maliciously hurt me. They just want to get through the day.”
    • Remind myself that everyone has a story and is probably going through something or has gone through something that is painful or challenging. (Re: “Be kind quote”)
    • Recall positive qualities about said person or persons.
    • Thank everyone that does something truly kind for someone (including me).

Work (Day Job) goals

  1. Get a reward (a pin) by providing excellent customer service.
    • Ask myself, “How can I go above and beyond for this person?”
    • Walk the customer whenever possible to the item they are looking for.
    • Apologize if you cannot find the item the customer is looking for, and ask someone else who knows the item better than me.
    • Look for every possible way (if possible) to help customers find the item or items they are looking for.
  2. Pass the test to become a department manager
    • Learn at least 3 department manager related things
    • Be more intentional about being a “to-be leader” in my department
    • Take the test by August 2018.
  3. Get returns done in an average of less than 45 minutes
    • Walk the department before work or the first few minutes of work to see if there are any changes to the mods to know the department even better.
    • Be willing to work different areas of the store, so to know other departments too.
  4. Learn at least 3 department manager related things
    • Set up times with manager I (or whoever the manager is) to learn DM stuff.
    • Take the iniative to ask the current department manager or managers about how to do certain things.
    • Practice more DM things, over and over, until I am good at said thing.
  5. Be a trained cashier.
    • In January or February of 2018, ask to train for cashiering.
    • Train at least 2x a week.
    • Memorize and learn what is needed to be known for cashiering.

Blogging Goals

  1. Get started with affiliate marketing.
    • Find a Hosting Website
    • Join at least 3 affiliate marketing programs/companies.
    • Review products for them at least 2 to 3 times a week.
  2. Earn money from affiliate marketing (see goal #1 under blogging)
  3. Write a total of at least 200 posts (combined from this year and 2015 year)
    • Consistently write at least 2 X a week.
    • Write a variety of posts but sticking to the motivational/spiritual/social justice themes.
    • Write more poetry or how-to posts.
  4. Get up to a total of at least 500 posts total.
    • (See goal #4 under blogging)
  5. Write a blog post at least 2x a week
    • Set up a time before or after work to write OR write at least a blog post each of the two days that I am off work.
    • Have at least 10 different topics to write about each month (probably more) so I will have content to write about.
    • Write a little more poetry reflecting on spiritual/ motivational/social justice themes, of course.
  6. Get more followers on Pinterest and Twitter
    • Join more blogging groups
    • Engage more with others on these websites
    • Promote other people’s content

These are some of my goals for the year 2018. I know it is quite a hefty list, and I may not achieve all of them. However, this list will motivate me to live better and become a more engaged and motivated individual in life. What are your goals in 2018? Do you also avoid making goals like I did in the past, or do you make resolutions every year? Please feel free to comment.

Gifts I Want the World To Receive

Amidst all the negativity and strife in this world today, I would like to focus on something a little more positive—gifts for the soul. Even though we live in a time where more countries and more people are enjoying economic prosperity and technological advances, there has also been more people that are either dissatisfied with their lives or with the state of this world today. Many people are either stressed out or depressed, or both. However, if more people in this world would receive these gifts into their lives, I believe this world would be a better place. Here are some of the “soul” gifts that I want more of the world to receive by Christmas and why:

  1. Peace and reconciliation—Almost everywhere I go, there seems to be a sense of unsettledness and/or stress in people’s lives. Sometimes, at work, I hear people arguing and yelling at each other. There have been hurtful words exchanged between political and governmental leaders. Cyberbullying seems to be rampant these days on the Internet. However, what if we, as a nation, as individuals, received peace and reconciliation in our lives? There have been people in my life that have hurt me emotionally, sometimes very much. I was able to reconcile with many of them, and I can tell you the feeling of unity and joy that returned to my soul as a result of me putting aside that bitterness, anger, and hurt for love and peace made not only me feel better, but our whole relationship much better as well. I would love it if some of the people at work who felt hurt by either other co-workers or other managers tried to work it out with the people that they felt offended by and/or forgive them, not because the offending party “deserves” it, but to free the offended from the chains of hatred and bitterness that would consume their souls. I would also love it if some of our government leaders humbled themselves and asked for forgiveness and worked hard not to hurt the people that they have ever again.  Is there someone in your life that you feel hatred and/or bitterness against? Yes, you can hold on to the hatred, but it will destroy your soul and eat you up from the inside.  It is better to be able to let that hurt and anger go and move on with your life so that you will feel free to love everyone else in your life without a barrier of hurt from your offender blocking intimacy with people who haven’t even offended you.
  2. Joy—Especially during the holidays, while there are many people who feel joyous, there are some people who struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness, and worthlessness, and there may be a good reason for that disposition too. Maybe they have lost a loved one, or maybe they hold memories of abuse from other unhappy people during this time of year, or maybe they won’t get to see loved ones this year. Whatever the case may be, having joy this Christmas season is a struggle for many people.  However, there can be some joy to be had, no matter what situation one finds themselves in this holiday season.  If you believe in God, focus on His great love for you and the gifts He has given to you this year, and really, all throughout your lifetime!  Focus on the people and things you have that you love and cherish, rather than the people and things you don’t.
  3. Purpose and Passion—I see the majority of people I know go to work to survive. However, a lot of them are working without really wanting to be there (i.e. They do it because they have ) or without aim or purpose. Some people go through life the exact same way—for survival, just because it’s not right to “give up.” True as that may be, when we go through the motions in life without knowing what or why we are doing what we’re doing, we will be more prone to give up when times get tough and we miss the excitement and joy life can offer. Going through life with a particular aim or goals in mind, having a particular focus, and doing it with all your mind, heart, and soul can generate joy like you wouldn’t believe!  When I work with a particular aim in mind, I get excited about reaching each step towards that big goal, and I work as hard and best as I can to accomplish that goal. For instance, my overarching goal in life is to share the love of God with others.  If I work with that goal in the front of my mind, I will more likely be proactive about loving others at my job, my family, and others I see on a regular basis better. However, when I lose sight of that goal, or when I forget this goal, I go into “survival-do-this-to get-it-over-with” mode.
  4. Compassion—We, as a society, I think, have become increasingly calloused to the needs of others and are taught to look out for number one instead. This has created a consumerist, entitled me-first culture.  The effects of it include sexual violence and entitlement attitudes, arrogance, violence on the streets, and even terrorist attacks. I am not saying that you, the reader, have a lack of compassion, but just society in general does. If the world received the gift of having compassion for others, people would aim to be kinder and more understanding of each other. We would have less wars and violence in the streets and everywhere.  We would think of others before ourselves. Everyone would be provided for because more people would see a need, and try to fulfill it, rather than watching someone else suffer in blind callousness and disdain for them.

These are the four gifts that I believe the world should receive.  If the world had more peace and reconciliation, relationships would be restored. If the world had more joy, the holidays would be great and enjoyable for everyone, not just the privileged and the blessed.  If the people in this world had more purpose and passion in their lives, then they would not have to go through life in survival mode, but have renewed joy in their lives. If the world had more compassion, more people in need would be cared for, instead of ignored and left to suffer alone. What are four gifts you think the world could benefit from receiving? Please feel free to comment.

How To Find Joy at Work

 

According to a Gallup Poll on the workplace in the U.S (where I come from), 67% of full-time employees are either “actively disengaged” or “disengaged” from their jobs, and do the bare minimum.  Many people hate their jobs or simply don’t care about what they do. That is very sad, because we spend an average of 8 hours (almost half of our days) at work. So, most of the day, or at least a good portion of the day, we are either apathetic or miserable, or both.  As an applecart upsetter, I try to buck this trend by actively doing the opposite of what most people do at work.  Even if the work seems mundane or thankless, this is what I have found gives me the joy I need to thrive at work:

  1. Work with a purpose.—Every day when you go to work, set goals for yourself. For instance, at my job if I found out that I have to make price labels for shelves, do returns, and straighten two different departments, all in the evening and by the end of my shift, I visualize and prioritize. For instance, if it is going to only take 10 minutes to do labels, I may do that first, if it is priority, but last if it doesn’t need to be done right away. Then, since returns take a long time to do, I get that out of the way first. When I straighten a department, I set a goal time for when I want to have it done. For instance, my regular area in my department it takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to straighten everything nicely, but more time if it is busier with customers. So, on a busy day, I allow myself extra time to get things done so I am not in a panic or rush to get it done. I also do one section at a time, and not try to get overwhelmed by the whole area. Also, reward yourself when you reach your goals. For instance, if I finished early with my area, I may reward myself by going on break earlier.
  2. Work with the mindset of serving others, rather than just earning a paycheck.—Way back when (probably more than 10 years ago), I used to work hard, but with the mentality of “I want a fatter paycheck” rather than serving others. When I had to do things that I didn’t want to do, it was harder to do them. Why? Because my focus was all wrong. Yes, we do work to earn a paycheck, but that should not be the only purpose we have in working. When we work knowing that we can make a positive difference, we are more likely to work with passion and with more joy.  For instance, on Friday, I was tired and just wanted to “get through the day,” (i.e “do” my eight hours of labor), and consequently did not have a very good day that day. However, yesterday I refocused on why I was working there—to serve others and to show people God’s love, and ended up getting a lot done and having a much better day, despite staying an extra hour. Even though I stayed that extra hour, I was much more joyful and content in what I was able to accomplish than on Friday because rather than focusing on myself and my needs, I focused on other people in my workplace.
  3. Think about the positive things at your job, and do not dwell on the negatives.—Try not to take to heart the complaints that pour out from the people with who you work, and try to keep your own complaining to a minimum. Think about the positive things about your job. For instance, it helps me to remember the benefits that I get as a part of my company, the friends that I have made at work, and everything that I have learned from others at my job that I can apply to other areas of my life and be more successful at my job and in my career.  If you have learned anything beneficial from your job, there is something positive about where you work, no matter what other negatives lurk in your job. Yes, acknowledge things that need to be changed at your job and be an advocate for positive change, but do not dwell on the negative and be a voice of complaint. Not only will you not be pleasant to work with, but you will find your job to be increasingly unbearable for you.

These are the things that I have found that help me cultivate joy in my workplace. I work with a purpose and a clear vision of what I want to accomplish that day, and reward myself if necessary to help keep me motivated to do well.  I strive to work with a mindset of serving others and work as a team, rather than just earning money for me.  Finally, I think of all the positive aspects of my job. While I acknowledge things that need to be changed and continue to try to be a positive change agent at my job, I don’t dwell on the negative aspects at work.  What have you found that helps you enjoy work more? What do you think one should do to cultivate joy at work? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

How To Think Deeply

Besides sin, there is a malady that affects most of us at one time or another, and that is something my pastor calls “lazy thinking.” Lazy thinking, in my definition, is superficial and not concerned with the “why” and the purpose of life, but just the “now”.  It is primarily concerned with self.  Deep thinking, on the other hand, is concerned with the “whys” of life and the “points” or purposes of life. It can be concerned with self, but usually extends to how we affect others around us and leaving a good legacy for future generations to follow. Many people never get to experience the joys and the fulfillment of thinking more deeply or philosophically about life. One can think deeply, no matter what one’s beliefs are.  Here is what I have learned about how to think more deeply and how to apply this type of thinking to all facets of your life. :

  1. Think about the legacy you’re leaving or how you want to be remembered: Although I was often depressed during the toughest years of my life (for more information, see this post), I was able to think a bit more about the legacy I was leaving and what I should change in order to have a good one. I think this is a good practice, even if you are not depressed.  You don’t have to think about your death or how you want to leave this world every single day, but periodically to make sure you’re on track to leave a good mark in this world.  If you don’t leave a good legacy, few, if any, will miss or remember you after you are dead, and that is never a good thing.  However, if you strive now to live purposely to have a good legacy, you will more likely to be remembered well after you die. For instance, Jesus left a lasting legacy because He constantly thought of how He was impacting others for God, and tailored His attitudes, words, and actions to that goal. Ghandi and Mother Teresa similarly did the same. We should follow their lead, and periodically evaluate ourselves to see if we are living the life we would like to live and positively impact others.
  2. Think about how you are affecting others, not just yourself: The problem with a lot of people, including myself sometimes, is that we do things without thinking about the impact we’re making on others and how we are affecting other people’s attitudes and actions. For instance, when we are upset with someone, words often spew out of our mouth (reflecting the state and content of our hearts, sadly enough) without pause or thought. For instance, in a previous post, I talked about how people said things out of anger to me without thinking, and how I have sometimes said some hurtful words back to them.  At the time, we are not probably thinking, “Oh, if I say ‘A’ I will hurt that person and our relationship will be strained for years. Furthermore, he or she won’t be able to forgive me and we will both have hate and bitterness in our hearts.” We may just want to get the anger off our chests and are only thinking about ourselves and our feelings, not the other person’s.  However, when we think more deeply, we are not only less likely to get upset and bitter at others, but we are also able to understand and love them better.  We will think about how what we want to do will affect the other person, and be more willing and open to learning and understanding about other people.
  3. Think about why you do what you do: For every action you do, there is most likely a reason why you do it. We may not always think about why we are doing what we’re doing, but there is always a reason. Thinking about why we do what we do has several benefits. One of them is that you will start to do things with purpose, and not just to do them. For instance, if I really thought about why I work, I would come up with these reasons. A.) I work to earn money, so I can live. B) I work to serve others so that I can impact the world positively and more importantly, glorify God.  C) I work to glorify God—I work because God says it’s good for me, and also to make Him happy.  Knowing and thinking about these “whys,” I then am able to tailor my attitude and actions towards this goal. When I am thinking about these goals or credos, I am more likely to work harder and to keep a positive attitude. If, however, I am stressed and/or not really thinking about my purpose in working, the quality of my work starts to suffer and my attitude often sours into an “I-don’t care” mentality or “Let’s just get this done and over with” frame of mind.  This thinking about the “whys” in your life can extend to all other areas of my life as well. For instance, if you are a breadwinner for your family, and are thinking about why you are providing for them you may come up with these reasons. A.) To glorify God—to make Him happy and give Him the worship He deserves.  B) To serve my family well.  C) To be a good example of service and care for my children.  Then, you can tailor your life to these goals by, for example, a.) Excelling at your job. b) Cook or help your spouse cook.  ) joyfully serve my family

These are just some of the benefits of thinking deeply. When we think about the legacy we’re leaving, think about how we are affecting others other than ourselves, and think about why we do what we do, our life will be much more fulfilling and purposeful.  We will also think about what we are doing when we are tempted to hurt someone with our words or actions. We will have a much better attitude towards others. Drink of the deep today, and think about what and why you do what you do.

The Grinch of Christmas: Harms of Commercialization

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I want to know, what does Christmas mean to you? What do you think it is supposed to mean? For many, it means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and all He represents.  For others, it may mean spending more time with family and other loved ones.  For still others, it means getting people the best gifts ever.

Though Christmas and the holiday season are supposed to be joyous times, many people become stressed and even disillusioned. One of the major reasons why people may be disillusioned is reflected in the results of a Pew Research poll*, where 33% of those surveyed dislike the commercialization of Christmas, and I agree with the 33%. Here is why I believe the commercialization of Christmas is harmful to the holiday and to us:

  1. It misses the point.—Christmas is primarily not about the gifts we receive from loved ones, but commercialization makes Christmas only about the material things we give and receive. Commercialization is very superficial in this aspect. Commercialization can make us so affixed to the gift aspects of Christmas, that we completely miss the real point of Christmas—celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and what He means to us.  The word Christmas even contains “Christ” in it!  We are supposed to remember the founder of Christmas—Jesus, not just see if we can get the best gifts or give the flashiest and most elegant gifts.
  2. It creates more stress than is necessary.—Besides missing the point of the true meaning of Christmas, it creates a lot more stress than is needed for this time of year. A lot of people, because we have created a society of entitlement and materialism, stress out about what gifts to give others.  They think if they don’t give just the right gift the receiver will not only be disappointed come Christmas, but also may think less of them (the giver).  Some people also stress out about how much they can afford (more on that later) and how much they should or shouldn’t give a particular person. Also, a lot of people buy and cook elaborate meals for this holiday. Now, I am in no way against people cooking good food and having elaborate meals to celebrate Christmas and other December holidays,  but sometimes they get so stressed during the preparation of the meal that they are unable to enjoy themselves or their loved ones, a lot like Martha in the Bible who was trying to prepare an elaborate meal for Jesus and the other guests there without taking the time to get to know him or anyone else there.
  3. People that are marginalized are left out of the celebration when the holidays become commercialized.—Because of all the emphasis this time of year on gift giving, people who are struggling financially or in other ways, are often left out of being able to participate in this aspect. Imagine seeing your friends being able to afford fancy jewelry for their loved ones, and you would like to give one of them to your mom who is sick or dying, but not having enough to buy it. However, if the true meaning and the more spiritual aspects of Christmas were emphasized more, the joy and the hope that Christmas has to offer would be able to be realized by even society’s marginalized!  The privileged in this society would give to those who are more marginalized because they would know and understand that everyone deserves joy and peace this Christmas, not just themselves.  More people would be less materialistic and put more time in to help the hurting and needy, and spend more time with those who matter most to them.

 

These are just some of the harmful aspects of commercialization. Of course, I am not against shopping, as I do a share bit of that myself. However, rather than stress out about food preparations and gifts to give loved ones and friends this holiday season, let’s think about the true meaning of Christmas, and cherish those we love. Finally, let’s bring joy and hope to those who find this time of year difficult.

 

 

*Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/18/celebrating-christmas-and-the-holidays-then-and-now/

 

Characteristics I Value Most in People and Why

Working in the sales realm full-time and writing this blog, I meet a lot of people, both offline and online.  Although I strive to value each person I meet, there are few people, if any, who meet all of these following characteristics that I value the most. I don’t even meet them all myself, but I strive to do better each day at meeting them.  However, most people I have met will meet at least some of these valued character traits. Here they are and why I value them so highly:

  1. Genuineness– This is one of the traits that I value most in people, if not the very top one. This is why I believe Jesus was so irritated with the Pharisees—because they did not exemplify genuineness at all. They had the appearance of being religious, yet inside they were full of evil and corruption.  I also hate when people have the appearance of being godly, but inside, are full of evil and something other than who they display themselves to the “real world.”  In fact, I would rather have someone who I expect to be not nice to tick me off, than to have someone who is all sweet to me all the time to my face, go behind my back and betray me for no good reason. I value people who are willing to be honest with me even at the cost of their reputation.  I will not reject 90% of the people that have the courage to tell me what’s on their heart and who they really are. However, I will be much less accepting of fake liars.
  2. Caring—I value people who care about others more than just themselves. They live and work with a definite purpose of serving and caring for others.  For instance, a lot of the members of the church that I am part have this characteristic. I can see it when they bring meals to the sick in our congregation and/or pray for them on a regular basis.  I see this with some of the people I work with at my job. One of my co-workers not only cares for his family at home but also helps out others at work.  I would like to strive to exemplify this better and more.  People who care about others make life worth living to everyone around them. They inspire me to keep going when I feel like I have nothing left to give.
  3. Diligence—I value people who are willing to put in the effort into things. One of my managers, *Chris, exemplifies this trait by doing the best he can as long as he can. His attitude does not allow for excuses to be lazy or quit in the middle of a task that needs to be accomplished.  I also do not like to quit in the middle of a task (though I have been tempted to at times), and will often get what I can done before someone else forces me to quit!  I hate being lazy and love keeping busy.  Striving to be diligent also gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
  4. Faithful—I value people who are willing to put up with me through the long haul. I understand and accept people leaving because they are being led in another direction. However, I do not like when people quit on others or me just because they get “tired” of us or aren’t willing to put in the effort to sustain the relationship anymore. People who are faithful either to another person or at their job tell others by their actions that they can be relied on and trusted. When a spouse is faithful to the marriage, he or she is willing to hold on to the other person even when things get tough.  Being faithful shows that you will be committed to a cause or person for the long haul and have staying power.
  5. Humility—I value people who are humble because it shows that they respect others and are grateful for everything they have. People who are arrogant and have an “I-deserve” attitude, in contrast, show they don’t respect anyone but themselves because in their thinking, they say, “ I deserve everything I have. I am the best. Everyone else is dung. Give me what you owe or else.” However, people who are humble, say, through their thoughts and attitudes, “I don’t deserve anything. Everything I have is a gift from above.  I am no better than anyone else. Everyone has value and I am grateful that they are in my life because I can learn something from them.”
  6. Forgiving—I value people who are willing to forgive others because they know that everyone makes mistakes and sins. When someone is willing to forgive me for something I did against them, especially if it hurt that person very much, shows not only courage on the part of that person, but mercy and grace that I don’t deserve. By forgiving me, they are actually helping me want to never want to hurt them again.
  7. Affirming—I value people who are able to encourage, especially when one is going through a rough time. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with everything that is said or done. However, it does mean not acting in a condescending or a condemning manner to that person.  It also means not giving unsolicited advice and listening to another’s concerns more than hearing you talk to them.  It means upholding the value of the other person.  For instance, if a friend of yours tells you that he or she was abused or bullied, telling them that they are valued and that it was not their fault is affirming them.  However, telling him or her how to overcome the abuse and that they should forgive their abuser when the abuse is still fresh in their minds, is not, no matter how helpful you make this seem. Yes, there is a time and place for good advice, but what they need right now is affirmation. What they need to know is that their feelings and experiences are valid and important to you, and that you are willing to listen to them, not just yourself.

 

I value these characteristics because I believe these are essential to not only success in life and our relationships but also to be a godly and moral person. I strive to exemplify these characteristics every day to those that I encounter, though I admit that I am not perfect in exemplifying these qualities.  What characteristics do you value in people? Why?  Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*not his real name

What I Learned From the “Be Kind” quote

The quote, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle,” is widely misattributed to Plato, but actually Ian MacLaren, or John Watson, is said to be the original source of this quote. (source: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/06/29/be-kind/). God has been putting this quote in my mind a lot recently, in the wake of stress and my wanting to be less upset and irritated by people and things around me.  Here is what I have learned from meditating on this quote that can be applied to anyone of any belief in every walk of life:

  1. Being kind is rooted in our gratitude.—When we are ungrateful, it is hard to think that others deserve anything good at all. We feel entitled to our “stuff,” that we lose sight of other people’s stories. However, when we see each day and each thing as a gift that is not necessarily deserved, we are freer to be able to give to others our kindness and our gifts. When we realize what some other people go through are harder than what we are currently dealing with, we appreciate our lives more. For instance, a lot of people I know don’t have a lot of supportive family and friends and have gone through some very rough times in their lives with little help. When I hear their stories, I appreciate that I have my family and my church community to help me through rough times in my life. I am kinder to those that have less support because I want them to be able to have the help that I already have.
  2. Being kind is rooted in how much we care for others.—When we care about other people, we are more likely to be sympathetic and empathetic to their hurt and pain in their life. We are more likely to do more than just to offer superficial platitudes, and instead, try to do something to help alleviate their pain and get through their tough situation in life. We don’t feel burdened down by our own problems, because we are not self-focused, but are willing and able to give our love and support to others as well.  If I am stressed and burdened by my own problems, I am much less effective in helping others through theirs because not only am I being self-focused but my capacity to care and think about others is also decreased.  Yes, there are times when our problems will seem insurmountable and burdensome, but when we try to also look outside ourselves and our pain, we are not only able to help others overcome their difficulties, but our own problems will also seem less intense and heavy.
  3. Being kind is rooted in our humility—Being arrogant, to me, is thinking that you are better than everyone else, that everyone else is inferior to you. When one is arrogant, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be kind to others. When one realizes that their needs are not necessarily more important than another’s, they are more able to be kind and care for others effectively.  When your mindset is to be kind to everyone because everyone is going through something that may be harder than the burden you are carrying, you are valuing others and are not thinking with a “poor-me” attitude.  You are submitting yourself to another’s needs because you know that other people have value and need your support too.

Though being kind is sometimes difficult and takes a lot of thought and care, it is better than being unkind and rude to others.  Being kind is rooted in our thankfulness of what has been given to us, because our gratitude is expressively linked to how kind we are able to be to others. It is rooted in how much we care about other people and their lives.  Finally, being kind is rooted in being humble because it is necessary to be able to prefer another above yourself, in both their needs and desires.  Who can you be kind to today?

Like a Child: Qualities That Adults Should Emulate

In many parts of the world, children are seen as dispensable and unimportant. You may have heard it said that children should be seen, not heard. However, in the Bible, in Matthew 18:2-4 (KJV), it says, “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” These verses are saying that children are so important to Jesus, that He has made being like one a requirement for people to go into heaven!  Although there are characteristics of children that we should absolutely not imitate (to be discussed in another post), there are several that absolutely should be a part of most, if not all, of an adult’s character as well. These following traits of most children are what can make our lives more joyful and fulfilling:

  1. The wonder/awe of a child.—As a sales associate, I get to see children on almost a daily basis. Although some of them do things that most adults may seem annoying, I love the awe and the curiosity that many children have. They love to learn and explore new and different things.  This attitude is essential for adults to have as well. For instance, I try to have the wonder and awe of a child when I am learning a new task at work.  When people lose their sense of awe and wonder at their job, their performance usually suffers because they no longer care about what and how they are doing. These people aren’t willing to try or learn new things.  When we have the wonder of a child, we are more open to be able to learn new things.
  2. The creativity of a child.—Most children are very creative because of their wonder and awe of everything around them. They love to create and learn new things. I know this was true of me as a child as well. When I was disciplined and had to do a quiet activity like reading or writing, instead of doing something more fun, I used to write little stories about the world around me and/or the world in my head. A lot of children when asked to draw their family, for example, have very creative ways of expressing their families and how they look like to them. Creativity is also essential for adults. Because we have more life experience, having the creativity of a child coupled with this experiential wisdom can help us grow as people because we can constantly do things more efficiently and/or look at things from different perspectives. Looking at things from different angles, as opposed to being closed-minded, can help adults be more unified with one another and with children in a positive way, and can help us understand others better.
  3. The trust of a child—that they see the best in others.—When I was very young, I was very trusting of others. Yes, this could have been a problem when people wanted to take advantage of me, but all in all, the faith of a child is beautiful because it sees the best in others. Unless severely abused, most children are not cynical or suspicious of others.  They see the best in others. This was true of me as well.  For instance, when I didn’t see or hear Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, I did not suspect that my parents were lying about him, but that he must have come in quietly or that he was just delayed.  However, as I got older and had more life experience, that trust of others quickly ebbed away. However, I would like to regain the trust of others that I had as a child, seeing the best in others, because being cynical and negative about others creates friction and is not a good way to live. When I don’t trust others, I cannot bond with and love them the way that I need to in order to sustain a lasting relationship with them. When someone wrongs me, but I still strive to see the good in them, I create an atmosphere of grace, instead of judgment and condemnation that is so often created when one is wronged by another. Having the trust of a child can help one spiritually as well. For instance, I believe in the goodness and the faithfulness of God. However, when I fail to trust God as I believe I should, my spiritual life and my mood suffer.
  4. The innocence of a child.—Very young children typically don’t curse others (unless it is a regular occurrence in their home) and they usually aren’t allowed to see some of the evil that adults often do. Some parents don’t allow their children to see certain movies or television shows because they want to preserve the innocence of that child.  When the innocence of a child is shattered, usually by abuse or being exposed to certain evils that are beyond their grasp, these children are scarred forever. These things not only take away their sense of innocence but also their trust in others and the world around them.  However, when a child’s innocence is allowed to remain for an appropriate period of time, I believe that they are more likely to be well-adjusted and have a positive view of the world around them.  Although most of us adults have seen enough evils of the world not to be able to have the absolute innocence of a child, I believe we can regain some of it back by choosing not to participate in some of the things we believe are evil in the world around us. For instance, I see rape culture as not only degenerating to people but also as evil. This is why I will not watch movies, listen to music, or read books that glorify rape or the treatment of people as objects.  When we regain some of our childlike innocence, we can begin to have a more positive impact on this world.

These are some of the qualities of children that adults should emulate. If we had the wonder and awe, the creativity, the trust, and the innocence of a child, I believe that this world would be a better and more productive place in which to live.  What are some childlike qualities that you, as an adult, want to imitate today? If you have children, what qualities do you see in them, would you like to incorporate in your own character? Please feel free to discuss this in comments