Saving Grace

written on:  9/30/2018

 

I watched you die inside

Tears fell from my one heart

As I watched you suffer

And your life got rougher

 

Don’t you know I love you?

How much I care for you?

You have been seeking love

A love that is most true

 

People have lied to you

They have abandoned you

But I’ll always be there

And give you so much care

 

I will always be true

To you, for all of all time

I will never hurt you

And I want to save you

 

Save you from all the lies

Save you from the empty pain

Save you from much disdain

Giving life in your soul

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What Rejection Has Taught Me

When I was just two years old, I had already experienced my first battle with rejection.  I was a very active and naughty child, and so the daycare I was in didn’t want me.  Growing up, I struggled to make and keep close friends.  I felt some people, even adults,  tried to change me into a person who I was never meant to be.  Thus, I have struggled with a gnawing sense of insecurity and fear of being unloved almost my whole life.  Despite all this, I would change very little about my life.  Rejection, especially in my past, has taught me some crucial life lessons that have shaped the person I am able to be today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Rejection has taught me to persevere.—I know many people would want to give up after being rejected so many times, but for me, it has built my tenacity.  I didn’t want to be stuck and miserable, wallowing over how many people didn’t accept me as a person.  For instance, before I got my current job, I had wanted to work at a bookstore. I was ecstatic when I finally got an interview at a location where they were opening a new bookstore.  However, when I got interviewed, I was not only too nervous to be really effective in articulating myself, but I also quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit for the job.  I never got a call back from them.  Yes, I was crushed, but that experience also taught me that there must be a better fit out there for me.  A week or two later, I wanted to check on the status of my resume at my now-current job.  That is when the HR scheduled an interview for me for 1 pm. I went there, not really expecting anything to come out of it, but my whole outlook changed when I got a job offer, and I accepted a day later.  I have learned so much from my current job that I would never have learned if I had been accepted at the bookstore.  Rejection has taught me to try different experiences and things until I found what was right for me.  When I struggled to find a job in my career field, I volunteered first.  Then, through many tries and stops, I finally found a job that was a good fit for me.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it.
  2. Rejection has taught me to forgive.—This has been the toughest lesson that I have been learning and have had to learn.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I used to be very bitter and angry at the people that rejected me. I felt that if I was physically dying, for instance, they would just abandon and not help me.  However, even from their rejection, they have actually contributed to me being a better person in a way.  I have learned not to judge some of them as harshly as I did, because of the pain I may have put them through and also because of their own personal pain that had little or nothing to do with me.  Also, I see Jesus Christ’s example of how He was able to persevere through rejection by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as He hung on the cross to die.  I also want to follow Jesus’ example, not only because I am a Christian, but also for my own healing from the rejection.
  3. Rejection has taught me to value others more.—This has been one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from being rejected.  I know the pain and hurt that I have experienced because of some people unfairly rejecting me, and I never want anyone else to have to experience that with me.  That is why when my co-workers and friends feel unappreciated, unloved, or having a bad day, I strive to be encouraging to them and have them see the value that still resides in them.  When I was relating a poem that I wrote referring to my experiences with being rejected in the past, someone said to me, “Do you know that many people here love you?” I said that I did. Furthermore, because of my experiences with past rejection, I actually value the people in my life that love and support me more than I would have if I had never been rejected in my life!  I have learned that people should always be loved and cherished for who they are, and not to be molded in the image of whom you want them to be. 

Despite the pain and hurt of being rejected, good still has come out of these negative experiences. I still hate being rejected, but instead of wallowing in anger and bitterness as in the past, I will strive to take these and other rejection experiences as life lessons to persevere, forgive, and value others who do accept and support me, more.

Restoring Broken Relationships

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Healing From Abuse and Bullying

I am a survivor of bullying and emotional abuse.  I was bullied primarily from third grade until my freshman year of high school.  Then, later, I was emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher, who thankfully is no longer teaching at my alma mater.  So, if you have ever experienced abuse or bullying, you are not alone.  I get so upset when I hear or see someone abusing or bullying someone else, because I know the healing process is often long and painful.  However, if you are a survivor of these traumas, know that healing and joy in your life IS possible.  Here is what I learned about healing from the effects of abuse and bullying:

  1. Be nice to yourself.—When I was being bullied, I struggled with thinking (and still do) anything good about myself. I questioned my worth as a person, and I thought of myself as lower than an animal sometimes! (All lies , by the way!).  Often when one is being bullied or abused, the perpetrator instills in their victim a feeling of powerlessness and worthlessness.  Unfortunately, even after the abuse is over, the survivor still can very much struggle with this low sense of self-worth. That is why it is important for survivors to have or seek out genuine people in their lives who can restore in them a sense of confidence and the reality of their intrinsic worth.  Also, try to do things on occasion that you genuinely enjoy or help you relax.  Tell yourself positive things, not negative criticism all the time. 
  2. Set good boundaries.—Part of setting good boundaries is learning how to say “no.”  When I would attempt to set boundaries or express my displeasure at the bad things that my perpetrators were doing to me, they would either get upset or disregard what I had to say.  This increased my anxiety and my bondage to their bullying tactics. When I discussed with one of my managers (and mentor) about this, she told me not to care about if the perpetrators get upset or not.  I think this is very wise advice, because, as she told me also, the people that get upset at you when you try to set boundaries or disregard them are not your real friends anyway.  Being apathetic (in a good way) to people who disregard your reasonable boundaries  by not being bothered if they are upset at you  will also help you find new people who do respect your boundaries and you as a person.
  3. Don’t let your perpetrators diminish your love for others.—For years after I was bullied, I struggled with forgiving almost anyone who hurt me emotionally or verbally. I would hold grudges for years! Don’t let this happen to you! When I let my former perpetrators make me a bitter and angry person, I realized that I was giving even more power to them.  Finally, in the past five years, I was able to let many of these grudges go. Thus, I was able to love more freely and more powerfully than I ever did before.  When you refuse to forgive your perpetrator or perpetrators, they have more power over you to make you an angry and bitter person. You may think they are getting the “justice” they deserve by holding a grudge against them, but I have realized that the person who it really hurts the most is you!  The perpetrator often does not care how you feel about them, and will not care if the relationship is damaged or not. Moreover, when you hold a grudge, your relationships with others will be stunted too, because you may not trust that these people are really “on your side.” Barriers to trust stunt the relationship because it inhibits our ability to be vulnerable with others. Forgiving a perpetrator does not mean you still can’t pursue justice or the legal system, if they have committed a crime against you. Furthermore, you still can request amends be made.  Also, you don’t ever have to reconcile or see them again! However, forgiving the perpetrator means you are releasing the need for vengeance against them to the powers that be.  This frees you from thinking about them or being chained by your anger and bitterness to them.  It also frees you to be able to bond with your loved ones and friends more deeply than you were able to before.
  4. Get some counseling.—Whether it be counseling from your religious leader or a therapist, it is best to be able to have some emotional and moral support from a trained professional.  A good counselor will help you get your life back on track and deal with the after-effects of the abuse.  It make still take time to heal from abuse, but the time spent with someone supportive , I believe, is worth it.
  5. Finally, be an advocate against all forms of abuse and bullying.—This does not only include signing a petition online to stop abuse. Being an advocate also means defending and standing up for the bullied at school and/or at work.  It means comforting a child who has been unfairly berated by his or her parents. Being an advocate means being supportive and validating of all those you know personally who have suffered abuse or bullying. 

If you or someone you know has been abused, there is hope and help out there. You are not alone, and remember the abuse is NEVER your fault!  The fault of the abuse lies in the hands of the perpetrator or perpetrators, who always have the ability to control their actions in some way.  I am very passionate about helping abuse and bullying survivors heal and have their joy and dignity restored to them.  From my own experience and those of many around me, healing and hope from abuse

How to Cultivate Gratitude

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness    9/14/2018

Seeds of bitterness invaded my soul
A flaming rage was consuming me whole
Even a momentary glance your way
Evoked feelings of revulsion and dismay

But when I saw the agony you were facing
And the endless burdens you were carrying
The wrath burning in me melted away
The barrier that was between us gave way

My heart of wrath melted into one of love
Being able to give compassion to you
And give you forgiveness that was true
Because someone had forgiven me too

Why Love is Worth It

Too many times I hear on the news, stories like these: a man kills his pregnant wife and two children, because he had an affair with another woman; people in the government spewing words of hatred and vitriol at each other because they can’t stand the others’ criticism,  several teenagers beating up a man because they believed he was Muslim. The man beaten up, as it turns out, wasn’t a Muslim at all. He was Sikh, but no matter. The point is, news stories like these reflect the problem of apathy and hatred in our society.  Moreover, hate is ultimately not worth it—not for those around you, and also not for you either.

Wouldn’t you rather hear stories like these, anyway:  a.) A caring police officer saves the life of a little girl trapped in a hot car for twelve hours.   b) A teenage girl touches many lives by seeking and encouraging the new in her school, the hurting, and the disabled.  After she is martyred, many people share with her parents what an impact she had made on their lives.  c.) Many people band together on social media and volunteer to return a lost dog to its owners.

While hate ultimately destroys everyone and everything in its path, love restores, renews, and redeems. Love, as I define it, is not simply a romantic gesture, but the real life, gritty, lavish, life-changing, joy-filled sacrifice and life that both believes the best in others and seeks their best.

This love, though it may be tough to live out sometimes, is always worth it. Here is why:

  1. Love positively changes others’ lives: – Love can influence people’s hearts. Heart, as defined here, is the soul of someone—with all their emotions, thoughts, and passions. True love can soften someone who previously was callous and cold.  When you show sacrificial and genuine love to someone, their spirit is lifted up. We all want to be loved, and when someone shows us a deep, genuine love, we instinctively know we have value in their eyes. For instance, I know my family loves me because they have often sacrificed time, money, and their own interests to help me through something or because they know I would be impacted positively because of their sacrifices. When my friends and I show love to each other at work, I see our eyes light up and people’s hearts generally soften, even if they have a “tough guy or gal” mentality on the outside. Love also can cause a chain reaction. When Rachel Joy Scott touched many lives in her community by her kindness and generosity, after she passed away, many people have been inspired to touch lives the way Rachel did, including this writer.  Naturally, if a leader leads with kindness, their people are likely to follow their example. Love can also heal brokenness. For example, in my own life, there were several people at work I did not get along with for one reason or another. However, when I intentionally tried to be  kind and loving to them, I found that not only did these people softened towards me, but I also began to heal from the bitterness and anger I had felt for them. Also, when a survivor of abuse, bullying and other hurts is finally, truly loved, with no strings attached, they begin to heal from their pains dramatically.
  2. Love positively changes your life: When you truly demonstrate sacrificial love for someone else, your character will be built. For instance, when I was a young child, I was extremely rigid and self-centered. However, as I began to learn how to love and care for others, these tendencies began to become less and less. No, I am still not perfect, and I still do struggle occasionally with these self-centered and inflexible tendencies, but I can tell you that I am a much better person now than when I was ten years old! Love also helps you gain confidence in yourself and others. As you love others, and see the positive effects of genuine love in your life, you will see yourself and the world in a much brighter light. No wonder many counselors suggest that people who are depressed do something to love another person! Because of this confidence, love will help you have more joy in your life.
  3. Finally, love is worth it, because there is always hope in love: True love always perseveres, even when everything else has given up. For instance, some people were telling me to give up on someone that I had harbored a grudge against. Ultimately, though, my love for them didn’t allow me to give up, and I was able to forgive them.  There is always forgiveness in love. True love never holds grudges. Once you hold a grudge against someone for more than a day, you no longer love them.  True love also looks positively to the future and to the other person who is being loved.  A person who truly loves someone else never gets jealous, but truly wants the best for the other person, even if it doesn’t always include the lover.

Yes, it is tough to truly love sometimes, but it is certainly worth it. Not only will true love positively impact those around you, but it will also positively change your own life as well.  Also, if you don’t give up loving, even in the difficult times, there will be much hope for you and your loved ones in the future. So never give up on love, because it is always worth it!