One thing that COVID-19 has taught me, with the suddenness and the severity in which it could strike, is that we all have a limited time here on earth.
Even Pre-COVID times, I have been taught this lesson. I almost died in June 2014, because if I hadn’t gone to the ER when I did, my gall bladder would have burst. If that happened, I would not be here today!
As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have spent too much of my life angry and hurt. I had spent too much time holding grudges and arguing with people who won’t even be there for my funeral! I spent too much of my life worrying about things that would be resolved within days of the incident or things that have no eternal impact at all.
In 2020, I have observed people around me fall into similar patterns. I see people against who they voted for in the last election. Mind you, many of them are not arguing with close family members or friends who they see often, but people gone from their in-person life, or someone who they haven’t seen in twenty or so years. I’ve seen people arguing with a store employee who they probably don’t have to deal with on a daily basis anyway about rights and mask wearing. I’ve known people who have lost sleep over things that were resolved within days of the incident.
If we do things like I have observed from various people this year and like I have done when I was younger, then we are wasting our lives! No one will say on their death bed, “ I wish I had spent more time arguing with person X about “xyz”” On their death bed, no one will care about whether a particular store requires us to wear a mask or not or anything related to that. We will not be concerned with work-related stresses or, on the other hand, anything related to entertainment, such as how a favorite team is performing.
Most people will think about what they had wish they had done differently in life, whether it is how they treated people or opportunities they wish they had taken. They will want more time to make things right in their world, but at the same time, regretting that they hadn’t used the time they were given more wisely.
Don’t let that be you. Don’t waste your life!
Ask yourself when you are tempted to get in a heated debate with someone: Will that person even be in my life a year from now? Is that person even in my daily in-person life today? When I die, will the person most like be there for my funeral after I die? If the answer is “No,” disengage and walk away from the conversation.
Spend time with people who are supportive of you. Minister to those around you who you can have an impact for the positive. Smile at a person who is having a rough day, and encourage their soul. Be determined to be a peacemaker and a life saver in someone’s life today.
Ask yourself when you are worried about something: Will this even matter a year from now? Does this situation have eternal significance? If not, QUIT worrying about it! Also, remember what it says in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” and Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In other words, God will give you peace when you give your worries to Him and trust that He will bring you through the situation for our good and His glory.
When we begin to have an eternal perspective on things and live like it could be our last days on earth, not only will we most likely have more joy in our lives, but our lives will never be wasted again!
I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general. Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad. Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.
Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life. Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another. I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies. I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins. For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride. Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset. However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have. In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours! Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).
When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!
It has been said in both media and general
health circles that artificial flavoring, colors, and additives can have
harmful effects on the body. I can
attest from personal experience that artificial people can also have harmful
effects on us. What do I mean by
artificial, or “fake “ people? I do not mean that they physically do not exist
in reality or that they are worthless, but, rather that these people display
behaviors that regularly hide who they really are and their true intentions.
For instance, fake people will be “kind” to you only if you are beneficial for
them and do exactly what they want. When they realize you are a unique person
with your own dreams and desires, or when you no longer can meet their desires,
their true intentions will show.
In our society, many people tend to strive for
power and prestige of some sort, whether it be popularity, money, or some other
kind of status. This has led some to become so desperate, that they feel the
need to impress and hide their true selves. There also seems to be a
narcissistic tendency in these people and in societal culture in general.
I used to, when I was growing up, want similar
prestige, thinking if I worked hard enough and succeeded in school, I would
somehow gain the love and acceptance from others I so craved. However, when
Jesus took a hold of my life, I realized that I really wanted authentic acceptance and love, things
that only happened when God helped me open up and not fear who I was inside.
I don’t do fake.
I don’t do fake, because fakeness creates
distance and separation between people. I have a problem with people who have a
facade of never having trouble or personality deficits, because it 99.9% of the
time means they are hiding something from you, while simultaneously pretending
to be someone who they are really not. In fact, in my life, I have had to limit
contact with several people like this, because I realized my friendship with
them would no longer be sustainable if I wasn’t able to trust them. Fake- ness
separates people and creates walls between them.
One of the reasons I created this blog is to
strive everyday to live vulnerably and authentically. I have realized that if
we are open to others about our struggles, it frees others from the fear of
condemnation and judgment, and allows them to be more able to share their issues and struggles.
I don’t do fake because fake- ness impairs
one’ s ability to truly love. Because many people wear facades and become
“fake” to advance and/ or protect themselves, they become so self-focused, they can give little or
nothing to others around them. True love, by definition, is giving oneself for
the benefit of another. When we are authentic, we are more free to give of
ourselves because we are not tied down by fears of being exposed or rejected on
a basis of our lies. When I was able to be more authentic with people in my
life, I found that I became more confident in myself and my ability to give
something of value to them.
I don’t do fake because it is deceptive and
disappointing. Satan is the “Father of Lies,” and thus fakeness too. Christ was
never fake! He always told people
what He really thought and didn’t hide His true self from anyone, including His
deity! In fact, He was so authentic that it irritated and angered the
Pharisees, who lived in hiddenness and hypocrisy in order to maintain their
power and prestige over the common people! I strive to be like Christ by not
being afraid to show my true self to others. Of course it can be scary to show
one’s true self because not everyone will accept you, but it’s better than
being “loved” for who you are really not.
Also, there will be people who will appreciate and accept your
authenticity, and how freeing is that!
Also, the truth will always be found out in the end. Yes, one may get away with
being inauthentic for a while, but the day will come when they will be exposed
as the fraud they had been all along. Don’t let that be you!
I don’t do fake because it devalues oneself
and others. When someone hides from me and masquerades into someone who they
are really not deep inside, they are, in essence, telling me they don’t think
I’m worth the truth! When we
consistently hide our true selves from others, we are also devaluing ourselves
because we are unconsciously telling ourselves that we are not worth loving for
who we really are. We thus say to
ourselves that we have to create an “ideal” self to be acceptable to us and
I don’t do fake, and neither should you. Shine
forth as the unique and beautiful person you were created to be, and strive not
to be afraid of your struggles and flaws because everyone has them!
It was a cold, wintry February day, right after my birthday when I got interviewed for my current job. I sensed in my spirit to ask about the status of my resume. I honestly did not think anything would happen, but when the HR coordinator told me to come back for an interview, a couple hours later, I knew there was hope.
Since I didn’t have time to go home, I couldn’t adequately
plan for the interview. When I came back to my current workplace, another
interviewee, Anastasia * was already there, and we made some small talk, as we
waited to be interviewed. Anastasia was
interviewed first, and after she came out, I was interviewed. The interviewer,
I found out later, was also going to be my manager, Chris*! I was very nervous
during the interview. All Chris asked me was, “How did you go above and beyond
for a customer.” Nervously stuttering, I answered how I made sure the
customer’s questions were answered, and how I would pray for them if they
wanted me to.
I didn’t think I was going to get the job because I was so
nervous, but to my surprise. Anastasia and I both got job offers! Anastasia
accepted immediately, but I waited until the next day to accept after seeking
counsel from my family.
During orientation, Chris kindly sat down with me to give me
my schedule for the next couple weeks. It was many more hours than I got at my
previous job. The only time I had ever worked that much, was during the
Christmas season! I was very pleased. But then Chris went on vacation for two
weeks, and everything changed….
Because I didn’t take the time to get to know Chris as a
manager or a person initially, we had many conflicts. There was always a period
where things were good again, but then there would be more conflict, that grew
more intense, as time went on. This cycle repeated itself for one and a half
years! During the worst of the conflicts, I flirted with the idea of switching
departments or even quitting my job! However, God, in His sovereignty, didn’t
allow me to follow through on these options
When the conflicts got really bad, I had also tried avoiding Chris completely, as I had dreaded seeing him every day, but that only lasted a few days. However, I knew I had a serious problem when, on my day off from work, I came to church still very upset about the situation with Chris. I was not only dreading possibly having to see him again the next day at work, but I also became consumed with thoughts of how much he had hurt me and so on. The bitterness and anger inside my heart, at the time, was like a whale about to consume its food whole!
I saw my pastor, John, and immediately sensed that I had to
seek counsel about my situation with Chris, because I was afraid if I didn’t
get help soon, I would eventually blow up at Chris, get myself disciplined and
even lose my job!
these concerns to my pastor, John*. I also told him, “I tried to be nice to my
manager, but I don’t think anything is happening.” In retrospect, I wasn’t even really working
hard in being that nice to Chris. That
is when Pastor John told me to turn to Romans 12:12-20, and Matthew
5:44-48. The particular verse, Romans
12:20, struck me. It said, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he
thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
Then, Pastor John said, “How do
you know God is not working in Chris? Patricia, you have to trust God’s
timing. God may not bring about the
changes now, but how do you know he won’t make the changes later, in His own
perfect timing.” The verses in Matthew
5:44-48, about loving your enemy, and Romans 12:15-20, about serving someone
who you view to be the enemy, as to soften him or her, and what Pastor John
said about God’s timing, made all the difference. I had renewed hope that
things could change for the better between Chris and me. And it did!
That night, I sensed God telling
me that I should apologize to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had against
him, so I typed up an apology note to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had
held. The next day, I wanted to give it to Chris but the department manager
ended up doing it for me since another manager wanted me to straighten some
aisles in the store right that second! After my break, I caught Chris doing
freight, and asked him if he had read the note. He said he had. There, we
worked things out, and that day, things really started to become better.
After that next day, I felt so
much better and so hopeful that things would get better for us. The barrier and slime of hatred and
bitterness that I had for Chris melted away within days, if not hours, of me
talking to Pastor John. I started to be
able to look at Chris with eyes of love and compassion, and not the revulsion
and disgust that I had earlier.
However, several months later,
Chris was moved to a different area of the store altogether. I would no longer
have the opportunity to show the love and respect to him in the same capacity I
did when things were tough between us. I
was sad, but now I know having Elizabeth* come on as my new manager was part of
God’s good plan for me.
Several weeks after that, Chris
switched areas again to cover for someone else, who worked nights. However, since Chris did such a good job
covering for this other manager, the store manager kept him in that position
for almost a year.
One wintry day in February of
last year, I wanted to work overnight for Chris because many people had called
in, due to a severe blizzard ensuing outside. I felt really bad for him that he
had to do all of this work with only a few people to help him. However, when
Chris realized that I lived more than a few minutes from work and I had already
worked since two in the afternoon, he told me that working overnight that day
for him wouldn’t be a good idea. He, in essence, said “I care about my
associates. I would rather have you safely home, than to worry about getting
all this work done.” That care he had for me contributed to me being physically
safe that day. I listened to him and
went on my way, at a decent time. The
next day, the storm was so bad that I called in. Had he not cared about my safety and just let
me work for him, I don’t think I would be alive today.
After that, Chris and I got
along much better.
Then, a few months ago,
Elizabeth told me she had accepted another opportunity at another company. I
cried, as I never thought she would leave that soon, and besides that, I
considered her one of the best managers I have ever had! I was also anxious because I didn’t know who
would replace her or what would happen to our department.
Some people who know me well may think to themselves why I didn’t just quit when I felt Chris was hurting me, because when most people feel as hurt as I was, they will make sure that they never have to face that person again. They won’t take time to think about how they may have contributed to the conflict, or even think that things could ever be redeemed between them and the person who they have harbored anger and bitterness against. I confess that though I had prayed for one and a half years for things to be improved between Chris and me and for God to take away my anger and bitterness away from me, I never really thought anything would happen. God, however, in His grace,proved me wrong.
What people don’t understand is how the power of forgiveness and redemption changes you and allows you to see the light in someone you may have once hated. Upon seeing the light, you know you can never give up on that person again. You start to see beauty in that person, and the anger and revulsion will start melting away. That is how I saw Chris was worth the fight.
Epilogue: Chris is no longer with my company, but I will always remember him as someone who always worked hard and believed in me and my potential. I will never forget him. I wish him years of joy and success in wherever he ends up next in his life.
I recently watched a video about a husband who wanted a divorce from his wife, but she had a request before he could go through with the decision—He had to carry her to the front door of their home each day for a month. He did so, and as the days went by, she grew increasingly thinner. Something also happened inside him, and he began to feel renewed love for his wife, even telling his lover whom he had an affair with that he no longer wanted to divorce his wife. However, by that time, it was too late. His wife had died on his way back home to her. She wanted her husband’s love so badly that she made him carry her just as he did when he first married her. The thing is that her husband did love her in the end, but it was too late for her to know that. You can see this video at: https://www.facebook.com/powerofpositivity/videos/1015526229483237/
I am not married, but this video can apply to all of us,
married or not. After I watched this
video, I almost cried because I thought about all the people that were hurting
in my midst, that I didn’t know about, some of whom I had taken for
I’m speaking to myself, as much as I am to you, the reader,
but I beg you—Do not be that husband in that video who almost divorced his wife
and was too late in appreciating all the things she did for him. Do not be the parent, child, friend,
employee, teacher, student, or boss that realized too late what your loved ones
and those who cared about you have done for you. Do not be so busy with life, or your own
self-serving desires that you emotionally and psychologically kill the souls of
those who you love the most. Do not be
so self-absorbed in your own little world that you forget the needs and the
struggles of those around you.
If we don’t appreciate all that has been given to us—the
things that we failed to appreciate will be taken away from us.
For our family–Do you have a wife, husband, father, mother,
or child that serves selflessly for the entire family without expecting
anything in return? Has a family member or members sacrificed everything for
your happiness and joy? Do not think that they will always be able or willing
to do that for you. Do not take them for granted. Sincerely say to them, “Thank
you and I love you. I appreciate all you have done for me.” Treasure them as greater than anything that
this world has to offer. Be willing to
serve them with no expectation of return. Be willing to sacrifice your life for
For our friends—Do you have a true, blue friend who doesn’t
leave you when you face troubles or trials in life, always encourages you to be
your best, and who loves you as you are?
Do not take advantage of them for your own selfish desires—lest you lose
someone great and wonderful! Thank them,
and be willing to return the favor should such an opportunity arise for
you. Treasure them as more valuable than
gold or silver. Be a friend to them.
For our co-workers—Do you know a fellow co-worker who has
always helped you out when you were in a snag? Do you know an employee who
consistently goes above and beyond, not only for their own benefit, but for the
good of the whole company? Thank them. Bosses, you don’t have to give them extra
perks, or treat them better than others.
Bosses and employees—take the time to appreciate those who make your
work life something that you can enjoy or, at least, make more bearable. Do not wait until the employee quits, gets
transferred, or somehow leaves the company to let them know how much you
appreciated them or to realize how much they contributed to your life. Notice these people now, before it is too
late for you—and for the company you work for.
For our teachers —Is there a special teacher or teachers
that have positively impacted your life? Do not wait until it is too late to
thank them for the impact they made in your life. Let them know they are
appreciated and that you are learning valuable life lessons from them. Often, teachers get the brunt of the blame
and criticism when things go wrong, but when they do something good, it is
either brushed aside, or it is barely noticed.
Thanking them and doing what you can to show you care for them will keep
these teachers motivated to keep doing the good they have done.
Who in your life have you taken for granted? Who in your life do you need to thank? Take time to thank them today. If we take time to appreciate each of the people in our lives that has positively impacted us, not only will the other person feel loved and valued, but you will also have the joy and peace in knowing that you said everything that you needed to say—before it was too late.
There has been so much turmoil, hatred, and division in this
world. People are being torn apart—both physically
and emotionally by these wars waged against one another. Maybe you are in the midst of a relationship
today that has been torn apart by the spirit of deception, abuse, anger, and/or
betrayal. Maybe there is a family member
who has deeply hurt you, or maybe it is a co-worker or classmate who has
bullied or hurt you in some other way.
Whoever has hurt you in life, whoever you may have hurt, and whatever
may have caused the rift in one or more of your relationships, there is always
hope for restoration if both parties are willing to do the hard work of
repairing them. Here are some of the essential
ingredients that must be present in order to have a true restoration in a relationship
with another person:
In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must apologize for their part in the rift and/or forgive the other person for past hurts done to him or her. –A relationship cannot be restored if one or both parties still have bitterness and anger against the other. Moreover, not only does holding grudges and being bitter prevent relationships from being restored, they destroy one’s other relationships as well because there is a barrier to transparency that develops with bitterness. Also, the party that wronged must sincerely apologize for his or her offense, in not only words, but also by changing their actions and/or making amends. They must aim to seek restitution and restoration with the other party that they wronged, and not have an entitlement expectation that the offended party will do something for them in return.
In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must demonstrate humility to the other.—Being humble means not lording the hurt that caused the relationship to break apart over the person that offended you. Being humble also means owning your part in the rift, even if it is just your response to the person that hurt you. Yes, it probably wasn’t your fault that your offender hurt you, but your response is. As my pastor has repeatedly said, “Your response is your responsibility.” Don’t lay blame on the other party for the rift, even if it was primarily their fault. Placing blame never restores relationships, but forgiveness and humility do.
In order for a relationship to be restored, we must forsake selfishness.—If we still are thinking, what will I get out of restoring this relationship, you are not ready for restoration. We must do not only what is best for us, but for all parties involved. We must do what we can to uplift and encourage the person in the relationship. In fact, when I was having a conflict with someone, one of my pastors said exactly this. In other words, we are to love those we consider our enemies, or those with whom we find ourselves in conflict. This means not only saying nice things about them, as opposed to mean and nasty things, but it also means a willingness to help and support the person with whom we had a rift. When we show that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, most people are willing to open up to us again. I am not saying for us to let ourselves be taken advantage of consistently for others’ selfish pleasures. In that case, we may need to set some boundaries. However, we must be willing to serve them in ways that truly will be beneficial to their emotional and spiritual well-being.
In order for a relationship to be restored, we must be patient.—We must remember that complete change and restoration does not usually occur immediately, but over time. We must be willing to wait for the relational trust and love that we had before the rift happened to be rebuilt. Even if it takes a really long time, we must not give up on the relationship if we want it to be restored. We must be willing to work hard at restoring and renewing our relationship for the better.
When we incorporate these four elements into restoring our broken relationships, with time, most of them can be restored. Though it does take both parties for a relationship to be truly and fully restored, we must strive to do our part to be agents of reconciliation, especially with people who we interact with regularly. Yes, there are relationships that may not be able to fully be restored because of abuse or other things, but we must not let those broken relationships rule how we conduct our other relationships. However, when we are agents of reconciliation and restoration, we will make the world a better place.
I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials. As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl. Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life. Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace. Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:
Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling. Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given. For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives. The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful! If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy! Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy! Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to. Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck. They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it! Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.
By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.
Have you ever wondered what some of the root causes of your broken or failed relationships are? I have, and I think it is useful to know because if we know what is ultimately causing destruction in most of the broken relationships we find ourselves entangled in, we could begin the process of repairing and restoring at least some of them. I have found that most of the broken relationships that I have been in, or have witnessed, have been caused, at least in part, due to one or both parties’ selfishness. Selfishness is the very nucleus of narcissistic behaviors, which then cause the other parties’ needs not to even be considered or met. Narcissism is a big problem in much of the world. Some may even submit that the president of my country has problems with narcissistic behaviors and attitudes. However, I think narcissism not only affects leaders of countries, but even ordinary people as well. Also, the majority of humanity has some issues at some times with narcissistic attitudes or behaviors as well.
In order to understand why narcissism is so bad and how to combat it, we must first understand what it even is. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, narcissism can be defined by, “too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities.” 1) According to the Mayo Clinic and the DSM V criteria, some of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (i.e an illness characterized by excessive interest in self) are: a.) Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance b.) Having a constant need for admiration and entitlement. c) Having an arrogant, boastful, and pretentious way of behaving. d ) an unwillingness or inability to look to the needs and desires of others. (2). All in all, narcissistic people worship themselves. They think they are gods, and most important in the whole universe. Because all of us are humans, we all sin (do wrong morally) at least on occasion and thus have struggles with some aspects of narcissism, though probably not enough to have the illness! Though it may seem that narcissistic people have too much self-confidence, I have read and heard that most of them, in fact, have little or no confidence in themselves whatsoever. When something really breaks their spirit, they most likely will have a complete mental breakdown. However, in order to protect themselves from this, they cover themselves by presenting in an arrogant and often, belittling, attitude towards others. Though not many people are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or even meet all the necessary criteria for it, the narcissistic mindset is becoming more and more prevalent in our worldly culture, and it is destroying relationships all around us.
When we have even a little of a narcissistic mindset, this attitude produces callousness in our heart. When we think of ourselves, to the exclusion of any other people, we eventually stop caring about the needs around us. I have found this mindset prevalent when people talk about the poor around us. They say, “ I would love to donate money to those in need, but I need to take care of myself and my family first.” To them, I would say, “Why can’t you do both?” Of course, providing for one’s family is essential and probably more important than caring for those you may not know, however, we are also called to donate money to those who need it. This self-centered mindset can also present itself at work with our co-workers. For instance, we want to take a break and catch up with a co-worker and friend who we haven’t seen in a week. However, there is another co-worker who feels overwhelmed in her work. A self-centered mindset would ignore the co-worker feeling overwhelmed for our own desire to talk to our friend. However, a selfless, caring mindset would sacrifice our desires in order to help a stressed-out co-worker in need. Also, a narcissistic mindset ultimately hurts others, especially those who are suffering or in need, because it is apathetic to them. Your own needs trumps others’ needs, creating a relationship where your needs are full, while the others’ are lacking. This creates both friction and an abandoning both of the relationship and that person’s value to you. If we become clinically narcissistic (i.e having the disorder/illness), this mindset will ultimately hurt and destroy ourselves because it will break off our connections with others. People will not want to be with us willingly in relationships, and you will fail to see the value and depth in a person. Narcissism ultimately results in deep loneliness and rejection.
Because of the harms of a narcissistic mindset, we must learn how to combat it in ourselves. One of the most effective ways I have found in combating a narcissistic mindset is to practice gratitude. For me, when I write or say my prayers, I include at least three things that I am thankful for that day. Other people I know have created a gratitude jar, of all the things that they are most thankful for. Even writing thank-you notes to those people who have most positively affected our lives can be helpful in cultivating an appreciative attitude towards others. Another effective way to combat narcissism is to live to serve others. Always ask yourself, “How can I serve today?” For instance, if you are married with children, ask yourself, “How can I help my spouse feel loved and appreciated by me? How can I help my spouse be a better husband/wife? How can I help my children to be loved and a better person? How can I cultivate a grateful and joy-filled attitude towards the world around them?” This servant mindset demands we look at others’ needs as more important than our own. Yes, there is a time for self-care when things get too overwhelming and stressful for us. Sometimes, we do need to fill ourselves so that we have more to give to others. However, as a general rule, we should look to serve and help others without expectation of return. Some people may be afraid to serve others because they think they may be taken advantage of by some. While that does happen, when we trust that our good will be rewarded, even if not this side of eternity, and that we are doing the right thing for some higher cause, we will not hesitate to reach out to help others. Because people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa thought of others before themselves, they changed the world for the better. They created, at least, awareness that each human being should be treasured or loved, regardless of their social status or income, or any other human identifier.
Thus, a narcissistic mindset is excessive admiration and thought for oneself to the point of self-worship. This attitude can harm others because it devalues and discounts them and their needs. This attitude also harms the person with this mindset because it produces a spirit of callousness and apathy within their heart for others, especially many of those who have suffered because of their self-centered behaviors, and this mindset ultimately ruins all their relationships. However, when we are vigilant to combat narcissism in ourselves and become selfless instead, we are then free to love and serve others with joy and contentment, both for ourselves and for others.
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.
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)
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.