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On Rules

written 1/24/2021 by: Patricia G.

Photo by Luke Barky on Pexels.com

Some rules have had a legalistic effect on me. Instead of reminding me of boundaries to keep me from sinning, many of the world’s rules have put unnecessary burdens and pressures on me, and have restricted my expression of who God made me to be. However, I am also not talking about all of the world’s rules necessarily, but those in particular that only serve to bog down (i.e…red tape, so to speak) or that really only serve those with privilege and power.

An example of those kind of rules are man-made morality rules such as not being allowed to cry at certain times or rules for autistics like me about what kind of stims are “acceptable” to society. These rules are found nowhere in Scripture or any other religious holy book that I know. To be honest, most of these rules only serve to ease the discomfort of people who are considered more “normal” or privileged, so they don’t have to confront or serve those who have some kind of marginalized identity. For instance, there is this unspoken rule that one is not allowed to cry at work. I understand the rule if it keeps us from serving the people we are paid to serve, but how about a worker crying in the breakroom or in a certain office space where there are no clientele around?! What if said worker’s family member or spouse just died? What if the boss was so overtly critical of them, that the worker was so filled with anguish and anger and did not want to spew words of anger at the boss, so he or she just cried? Yes, it may make some people around them a little uncomfortable, but what if a crying co-worker or subordinate would also teach us how to be more compassionate and caring of others in need? If we refused to abide by another unspoken, man-made social rule that we are supposed to either ignore or stare at those “crazy” people who have cried at work or in public, and instead compassionately try to help and comfort them? What if we killed the expectation that people are supposed to have everything all figured out and hold it all together for everyone, and hide all the pain they feel inside, just so we don’t feel uncomfortable? What if because they tried to follow this expectation to hold everything together and “be strong” they one day completely shut down or explode, tired of wearing a façade 24/7?

Another example of this kind of rule is the expectation that one must never talk to oneself out loud. First of all, we talk to ourselves all the time in our heads, anyway. Second of all, it can restrict creative artistic expression. Sometimes, when we talk to ourselves it can help us figure out things in our lives, like correcting erroneous ways of thinking or helping us figure out how we will do a difficult tasks as we talk through the instructions to ourselves. However, some people think it is “weird” or “inappropriate,” and I have heard some people even fear people who talk to themselves. Why? Talking to oneself does not equate to committing an act of murder or adultery. Yes, it may be outside of the “norm,” but who determines what is normal, and how does just talking to oneself hurt other people?! I am convinced some rules are just there to ease the privileged’ discomfort and of them having to confront a unique and/or hurting world.

However, God’s rules are never supposed to have this legalistic effect. God’s rules, in contrast, bring one into an awareness of one’s sinfulness and into a magnitude of His grace for you, even if you break one, some, or all of His rules at some point. Also, God’s rules do not restrict freedom of expression to who He has made you to be.

God’s rules, or commandments, still allow my Gonzo-ness to come out without restraints of anything other than His perfect and good moral guidelines. It is when people add to His rules things that were never mentioned by Him or things that just burden people under the red-tape of legalistic and nonsensical obligations that our uniqueness and beauty as people are stifled.


Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon me and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (KJV). His yoke are the commandments we are expected to obey as we abide in Him by His power and grace. If you find that following certain commands have become burdensome and demanding, then maybe part or all of the rule that you are following does not come from Him, but are probably man-made in some way.

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On Embracing Diversity and Loving Others

There has been much division and enmity in this country between Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Immigrants and people who have been born here, and between many other societal identifiers. Then, my good online friend introduced to me to Fraggle muppets, and in particular, Gonzo, who embodies who I would like to be like in some ways.


For years, I have struggled to accept who God created me to be. When I was growing up, I was on the outside looking in, and frantically trying to achieve good grades in my classes to somehow someday be truly loved and accepted as I am, and, in turn, accept myself as well.

Though I still struggle sometimes with accepting myself as God created me to be, when I discovered Gonzo and more of who he was and is as a Muppet “Whatever”/alien, I realized many things about appreciating and embracing diversity, including my own.

Gonzo is a very unique creature with a personality that can be described as “eccentric,” “eclectic” or “weird.” However, Gonzo also strives to embrace his life and those around him fully. Gonzo is secure enough in who he is as a Whatever/Alien that he doesn’t try to change his personality or being just to be approved or accepted by others. Gonzo’s personality and attitude toward life has taught me that I am GOOD the way I am. I don’t mean to say that I don’t struggle daily with sin (I do) and that I should not try to change my sinful ways and repent of them (I should). However, what I mean is that the way God created me is inherently good. Also, I do not have to constantly seek approval or validation from other people to confirm this fact. Also, if people do not like the way I am, and it is not for some sin I committed against them, but for something that is a part of how I was wired, I do not have to doubt if I am worthy to be alive or if God truly loves me or not.

Gonzo and his friends have also taught me some important lessons about how to truly love others. When we truly love others, we will accept them for who God created them to be without trying to change them into something they are truly not. Gonzo’s friends, and especially his girlfriend, Camilla, who is a chicken, do not really care if he is weird and do not really try to change him into being more “normal.” Also, my real friends and others who are on Team Me will embrace me the way Gonzo’s friends have. If I am a really friends with someone else, I will not try to change them into the person I want them to be if that is not how God created them or how they were wired by Him in the first place. I will love them unconditionally. Gonzo also demonstrates this to his girlfriend Camilla by not trying to stop her from expressing herself in “chicken talk” or by forcing her to change some aspect of how she was already created. Even though Gonzo and Camilla are very different from each other, they truly love each other even and because of their unique qualities.

We should too. Instead of having enmity against the other “side,” so to speak, maybe we should seek to understand where they are coming from. Instead of mocking or shaming the “weird” or “eccentric,” or letting other people bully or mock them, we should stand up for these unique individuals and learn from them. Maybe, we could make a new friend. After all, there is a Gonzo-like uniqueness in all of us that helps us embrace life fully, with all that there is.

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com
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
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Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

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

Being Different, Being Me

written February 26, 2019

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

And I like it that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Beautiful Life

Poem written on : 8/8/2018

Through many trials

Through some regrets

I came to see

A beautiful life

 

Had it not been for surgeons

Had it not been for pastors

Had it not been for doctors

Had it not been for teachers

 

Had it not been for my family

Had it not been for friends

Had it not been for managers

Had it not been for you

 

Who knows where I’d be

What gifts I wouldn’t see

What love I would miss

What joy be absent

 

What a beautiful life I lead

Though I may miss some worldly success

Had it not been for all of you

I may not have ever succeeded

anthem, boundaries, bullying, caring, community, consent culture, credos, diversity, eternal matters, family, friends, genuineness, heroes, inspiration, integrity, life, life lessons, love, positivity, truth

What I Learned From the #Metoo Movement

According to the Me Too Movement website ( https://metoomvmt.org/ ), the MeToo Movement was founded over a decade ago, in 2006, by Tamara Burke, but this movement only recently gained popularity in the wake of the scandal involving Harvey Weinstein. The #Metoo Movement has been an iconic symbol for cultural and revolutionary change for woman, not only to gain more equality, but also to fight for respect and dignity as human beings.  I have personally witnessed or heard many women, including myself, experience sexual or other types of exploitation simply because of our gender. From the #metoo movement, I have learned plenty of things, including what I believe are four of the most important credos that I hold that stem from the values of the #metoo movement that we can all apply, regardless of religious or political persuasion:

  1. Survivors of sexual harassment and/or abuse need to be valued and respected as the brave people they are, and not condemned or judged.—One of the first things that I learned that the #Metoo Movement gave me an awareness of is the horrible ways that many survivors of sexual abuse and harassment are treated when they report these incidents. Their allegations are not only often dismissed or ignored, they are, in some cases, judged or condemned, as if they were all “false” allegations. Yes, there have been a few incidents where allegations have proven to be lies and drama, but more often than not, I have found that many of the people who dismissed these allegations felt that they had to protect the perpetrator or perpetrators for some reason, even if they knew these people actually abused these survivors! I also have found that many survivors of harassment and abuse have been afraid to speak out because when other survivors have spoken out they are not only accused of lying, but are often risk ostracization from their communities, and even, in some cases, their families as well. The #Metoo movement, for me, brought this problem to light, and motivated me to speak out against devaluing people, especially abuse survivors, who have already been devalued enough.  We need to value everyone, but especially survivors of sexual harassment and abuse. It doesn’t matter what the person was wearing. No one deserves abusive or creepy behavior.  One may say that if I wore suggestive clothing that I am, in effect, “asking” to get sexually abused or exploited. Nothing could be further from the truth! If someone has a temptation to abuse me just because of what I’m wearing, they have issues of self-control. This person can choose not to look my way, if he or she, is really being tempted in that way. They can also get help for their issues, instead of blaming their target or acting on their impulses. As my pastor has said repeatedly (that serves for everyone, regardless of religious belief), “Our response is our responsibility.”

 

  1. Don’t excuse bad behavior. Ever! Speak out against this behavior.—I believe sexual harassment and abuse, especially of women, have gone unchecked and unchallenged by society for far too long. However, when several women in the movie industry spoke up against once-powerful movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, many people, including once-powerful and influential men from all walks of life, were being held to account for their allegedly inappropriate sexual behaviors. Also, men and women from all over the world, from all walks of life, bravely shared their stories of how they were sexually exploited and/or abused.  I believe the #Metoo movement has unified survivors and social justice advocates together to finally hold to account some of the perpetrators that held a powerful reign on the survivors and the values of society for far too long. Many times, I have heard people defending abusers just because they have familial or other strong ties. However, I don’t think this practice does anyone any favors.  For instance, if I found out that someone I loved abused their spouse, I would pull no punches with them, or defend or explain away their actions. My actions, by some, may seem traitorous, but in the long run, I would be helping them by influencing them to change their behavior. In  most churches that I have attended, there is a thing called “church discipline,” that progresses all the way to excommunication if a congregant or attender is not repentant (changes their bad behaviors) of their sinful actions. The purpose of church discipline is to bring repentant change to the congregant or attender, not to judge or shun them.  So, is what we can do for loved ones who engage in damaging or hurtful behavior to others, by not excusing or defending their wrong behavior.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to be an “applecart upsetter.”– You can bring positive change by not always maintaining the “status quo.”- Most people are often like “ducks” following after the Leader Duck, and doing whatever the Leader says, without questioning or thinking about what they are really wanting from us. This is how many people function in regards to believing and acting upon the values society imposes on us.  When we really think about why we do what we do, and question some of the things that society values in order to bring about positive change, we can be an effective applecart upsetter.  For instance, the founder of the #Metoo Movement wanted to upset the applecart of the societal silencing of survivors of abuse, especially of women of color, by bringing to light this problem.  Also, when I am working, if the environment seems stressful and negative, I try to upset the applecart by working hard and trying to stay positive, even if everyone around me feels stressed and depressed.

 

 

  1. Humility needs to be more accepted as virtuous, rather than seen as weakness, in our society. –One thing that the #Metoo Movement has brought to light is the problem of arrogant entitlement in our society. In many societies, humility is seen as a weakness, an admission of guilt. However, this could not be further from the truth. From this false view of humility, I have found that this has resulted in many immature, arrogant people becoming powerful and having a further negative impact on society, so that even some of their most ordinary citizens get a narcissistic sense of entitlement in their own lives.  Think about what happened in Germany and the Roman Empire as a result of arrogant people coming to power.  Because Hitler was able to come to power, unchallenged by a significant part of society, he was able to order the genocide of over six million Jewish people, including women and children!  In contrast, one of the reasons why Jesus Christ of Nazereth was (and is) able to make such a difference in the world is because of His humility.  He died a criminal’s death, even though He had done nothing to deserve it.  Also, the reason my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott and Mother Teresa were able to make such an impact on the world around them was because they were able to humble themselves, and be associated with people no one wanted to be around, in order to make a positive difference in their lives, and others’ as well.  I have found and learned that the #Metoo movement wouldn’t even be necessary if more of the perpetrators just a.) learned to control themselves, and not think they were “better” than women  b) admitted their wrongdoings and really strived to treat others more respectfully and with more value.

These are some of the things that the #Metoo Movement has taught me.  First and foremost, we need to recognize and acknowledge the value of all people, especially survivors of abuse, because when we hold them dear we will learn much from them and be one step closer to peace and joy in this world. We also need to stop excusing bad behavior, even from loved ones and friends.  Also, we need to not be afraid to upset the status quo sometimes, because, sometimes, only then can positive things happen. Also, we need to uphold humility as more of a virtue, like patience is seen as, and not as a weakness or a vice. When we fight for justice, equality, and the general good of society, and model virtue, then change can be brought about. As Ghandi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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Effects of Bullying

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about the author or any other bullying survivors  Triggers for talk of abuse, references to suicidal thoughts, and talk of bullying.

Bullying can impact almost anyone, regardless of any human identifier, though it is more likely to happen to those that society perceives as “different” or “inferior” in some way.  According to the website, StopBullying.gov, from about 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 students in the United States has experienced bullying (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying).  Unfortunately, I am part of these statistics, having been bullied at school since the third grade until about the ninth grade, though there were several incidents of more sporadic bullying later as well, in my life.  Bullying has many forms, including verbal abuse and taunts, social exclusion, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other related abuses.  The effects of bullying can be devastating and life-altering for the survivor of such behavior.  People experience bullying and are affected by this demoralizing behavior in different ways and in different degrees. No two people have exactly the same bullying experiences in their lives. However, many of them share similar effects.

However, this is my story of how being bullied for years has impacted me personally. I share these three major effects of being bullied, not so people feel sorry for me, but so that people will realize the gravity of this demoralizing behavior and that more people will not have to experience what I went through.

Effect#1 of me being bullied—Low self-esteem/insecurity

In third grade up to eighth grade, I was regularly teased and mocked because of the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, and even how I looked like on the outside.  I don’t remember one classmate or teacher at that time tell me that I was “beautiful.”  Some of them even wanted to “re-make” me into their image of what they thought was acceptable, not accepting the way I was made or looked like.  To add to this torment, I did not feel very close to any of my peers during that time.  Some people would pretend to be friends with me, only to have them callously “reject” me later.

As a result of this torment that I experienced during my childhood years in school, I have struggled (and still struggle) immensely with insecurity and low self-esteem.  For instance, when I get criticized or put down (especially harshly) , even by strangers, I often get a sense of discouragement and hurt.  It’s like I am unconsciously keeping in mind the times when my classmates and even teachers taunted me for either my appearance or something that was a struggle for me. Like people who have been abused by family members, criticism can be especially hard to take by people who have been mercilessly bullied by peers and even authority figures in school.  We can tend to take criticism as rejection of who we are as a person, rather than something we just need to correct to become a better person.

Another result of this torment that I had experienced was the feeling that what I do is never “good enough.”  I am a tenacious person. I do not give up easily, but sometimes never feeling like you measure up to any good standards can threaten to undermine my tenacity.  I sometimes (wrongly) think, “Why even try when no one will accept you and your work anyway?”  I struggle with the concept of doing good just because it’s the “right thing to do” sometimes, because I feel that if we are not rewarded in some way and if we are not going to change anyone else’s lives for the better, then why do anything good at all? Sometimes, I felt that if I just did x then the bullying would stop and that people would love me as I was.  This is another effect of being bullied by others.

Effect#2—Fear of trusting God and others/paranoia

When I was little, I had a very trusting nature. However, people would use that to take advantage of me and hurt me for their own pleasure.  For instance, they promised if I gave them x thing, then they would be my friend. So, I did, but they just continued to belittle me or ignore me.  Because a lot of people pretended with me, and were not very honest or genuine towards me, I began to have a blanket paranoia of almost everyone around me. By high school, I was dubbed in my last year there, as “most paranoid.” Moreover, some well–meaning friends tell me to “believe the best in people,” not knowing that I have had a history of being bullied and taken advantage of by others by doing just that! However, to their credit, when I become paranoid, everyone seems evil and self-aggrandizing in my eyes, and I become cynical and bitter. I have met and talked to some abuse and bullying survivors that have had similar experiences of becoming paranoid and cynical to the world around them because of how many times they have been abused and taken for a ride, so to speak. This paranoia has also led me to sometimes have this immense fear of what people think of me and could do to me.

Effect#3—Depression

Ever since I was little, I have also struggled with depression.  Because of my experiences of people bullying me and simultaneously excluding me from their gatherings, I felt this impending sense that no one outside my family would really want to know me as a person, with both my blessings and flaws that I bring to this world.  No one wanted to know my story.  I felt alone, bored, and miserable, especially during my early teenage years. I struggled with several mental health issues that I tried to keep hidden from the outside world and deny, even to myself, that I had.  It has been said that bullying increases the risk of suicide in its victims. Yes, people have died from the torment that they endured from being bullied at school by their peers and others.  This is why the fact that there is no law against bullying is a sad indicator of what our society values more. (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying)

Healing

However, because of the supports that has been graciously provided for me through a variety of means, I am happy to say I am beginning to heal from the effects of being bullied.  However, this has taken many, many years.  I am thankful for the consistent support that I have received thus far from my friends, both near and far, for my co-workers and managers at my current job, for my mentor J, and last, but most importantly, support from my family and my God.  Because they have believed in me and encouraged me, I am slowly able to heal from the years of pain inflicted on me in the past. Though I still struggle with these effects, I have great hope that things will continue to get better for me.  If you have been bullied, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for you. If you are reading this and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline). Remember, there is always hope when you are alive.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (September 28, 2017). Facts about Bullying. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.

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My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

community, credos, diversity, errors, eternal matters, genuineness, integrity, life, life lessons, love, truth

Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 1

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“Only by pride cometh contention.” This sentence is found in Proverbs 13:10 (KJV), and I see the fact in this phrase playing out in my everyday life, not only by those around me, but even, sadly, by myself at times.  We see this in the verbal attacks coming from within governmental doors. We see demonstrated this in schools, in the workplace, in places of worship, and most sadly, in our own homes.  We see the poison of arrogant pride.  The four forms of pride I most often see are, what I call, prejudicial pride, “better-than-you” pride, false humility, and materialistic/monetary pride:

I define prejudicial pride as a natural inclination to disdain or look down upon another because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, social class, or any other human identifier, and to believe that you are somehow better than them.  For instance, in my country, there has been a 300-plus year history of racism against African Americans by some White people.  This began by the importing of African slaves into the United States by wealthy landowners, and because of the imbalance of power between the slaves and the landowners, the landowners had absolute control over these slaves, often beating and degrading them to their own sinful desires.  This degradation of African Americans continued until the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement.  However, despite major positive changes in the way Whites and Blacks have generally treated each other, there still remains much contention between these two ethnic groups to this day. Virtually, every religious group has had some history of others persecuting them in some way.  Many Christians around the world have been imprisoned, beaten, lost their jobs, and been put to death in a most torturous way because of their faith. There have also been many moderate Muslims who have been persecuted, harassed, beaten, or even killed because of their faith and because people have wrongly associated them with the cowardly actions of a few who claim the name of Islam.  As you can see, prejudicial pride creates much contention, destruction, hatred, anger, and bitterness, and does absolutely nothing to cultivate understanding or even a sense of love and compassion for its targets.

The first thing one can do to combat prejudicial pride is to confess your own prejudices against others.  Confess with humility and a desire to change your ways, as with this man in this video.  The next thing to do is to resolve to learn more about the people or peoples you have harbored prejudice against. For instance, if you are rich and you realize you have prejudices against those who are in poverty, go to the library or order books or videos about how people in poverty live. This not will only probably awaken a sense of compassion in you, but also help you understand others better. Moreover, the more knowledge you gain about someone, and the more you understand them, the less likely you are to harbor judgment and hatred against them.  Finally, resolve to interact with the people who you had previously harbored prejudice against, and do so as someone who is truly willing to be a friend to them, rather than treating them as just a “sympathy” case or manipulating them to your own ends.

Another type of pride, that also includes prejudicial pride, is what I call “better-than-you” pride.  This kind of pride says that because I can do or be X, and you (in my mind) cannot be or do this, you are worthless, but I am entitled to unconditional respect and honor. This is the type of pride often displayed by narcissists, who often think of themselves as more special than others.  In many workplaces and in some other hierarchies, the people who display this type of pride are often at the top of the authority chain (bosses and CEOs) or somehow have connections to these people, and think they don’t have to listen to anyone, even if others have authority over them.  They think they are invincible, and are not accountable to their own actions. This type of pride can ruin morale and cause these prideful people to have a colossal moral and career fall, if they act in illegal and/or immoral ways, and are eventually found out by authority that they can no longer escape or denounce. Think about famous people like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize that they do struggle.  This may involve confessing and repenting (changing one’s ways and attitudes) of one’s pride.  Another way to combat this type of pride in ourselves is to realize that everyone has flaws, and we are no exception.  Also, we need to think about the many times where we have received mercy, meaning not getting the punishment we deserved, and grace, meaning getting the blessings we did not earn or merit.  For instance, if you realize that you are tempted to think that you are somehow “better” than a co-worker because he or she struggles in areas that you don’t, think about the areas that you struggle with that they don’t.  In evaluating ourselves rightly, and not thinking ourselves more highly than we ought, we realize we are often no better, or worse, than anyone else.

The third type of pride manifests itself as humility, but is really pride all the same. This is what I call false humility. False humility is degrading oneself in a way that exhibits that you think you are hopeless to ever change or get better. I admit that I sometimes struggle with this because of my depression.  The reason why this is a form of pride is because false humility says that you are so special that mercy, grace, and love cannot change or touch you, so I don’t need or I can’t get proper help.  This is not only pride because of the apparent twisted, entitlement attitude towards not getting help, but because of how it manifests itself as humility.  When someone says to you, “Everyone likes you,” and in your insecurities, you say, “They are only pretending to like me. No one will would ever really love or like a lousy person like me.” you are demonstrating false humility.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize the implications of what you are saying and to realize that you have a problem.  Then, you should also try to look at yourself outside of your own negative self-focus lenses, and through what others really are thinking about you.  If you don’t really know what people think of you, ask! However, do it in a subtle way, and not in a pushy, insecure way. Also, realize that whatever flaws you see within yourself, know that there is always hope of change as long as you don’t give up. It may be a difficult and long road to change, but with enough determination and hard work, you CAN change.

The fourth type of pride is pride in material things and in one’s wealth. This manifests itself in one bragging about the stuff and/or the money one has.  They take very good care of the stuff they own, but to the exclusion to taking care of or loving their family and/or those around them.  The reason why this type of pride is so harmful is because its focus is on things that won’t last very long, and it excludes the people that are often much more relevant.  Some ways you can combat this type of pride is by being able to let go of some of the things you own, and by being generous and willing to share what you have with others.  Another way you can combat this type of pride is to focus more on cultivating relationships with others, and less time on material things.  For instance, instead of playing games on your smartphone at dinnertime, take time to talk to those around you.

As you can see, prejudicial pride, better-than-you pride, false humility, and materialistic pride are all common, but harmful forms of pride that often creates destruction, contention, anger, bitterness, and despair when no longer fed the way it wants to be.  This way to get rid of these symptoms is addressing the root problem of pride.