My Hope-Givers and How To Give Hope

-written 11/27/2018

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday that traditionally is slated by non-profit organizations to encourage charitable giving.  Indeed, many people all around the world need hope—from the poor and needy, those in prison, those starving for love and affection, those struggling with a mental or physical illness, and many others.  Today, I want to celebrate hope-givers and encourage all of us, me included, to be hope-givers ourselves, and, in so doing, give a bright future to the people in our world.

As you may already know, I have had about a twenty-five year struggle with depression.  However, even in my darkest pit, God always provided people to give me hope that I could come out of the pit, more victorious and alive than ever before. By listing these people, I have the hope that in your own struggles, that you will be encouraged that there are people in your own life that will also give you the hope you need at the right time.  I also want these people to know that they are important and that they have made a difference in my life. Here are some of the following people that gave me hope when I needed it the most and how they provided it for me:

  • My parents and brother: They were there for me during my toughest times, and did their best to support me through it all. They always encouraged me to never give up, even when I wanted to. Because of their persistence and love, I was able to come out the other side of depression a stronger person.
  • My mentor J: She always encouraged me that I was not the stupid, not-good-enough, failure I had imagined myself to be. She always saw the best in me, and encouraged me to never put myself down, especially for things beyond my control.
  • My friend Veronica*: Once when I was having intense suicidal thoughts and was visibly upset, she was able to convince and encourage me to see hope and joy again in my life. Also, because she has so much joy and hope in her own life, while still being real about her struggles, I have been inspired to follow suit.
  • My friend Holly*: Holly has always given me hope that I am not alone in my struggles, and she always has words of validation and encouragement, even when she herself was experiencing very difficult things in her life.  Her unselfishness, along with her uplifting words, helped me to know during the tough times, that there was always hope for me.
  • My friends Anna* and Karen*: Karen and Anna have always been there for me as good online friends, who have encouraged me through the tough times, and shared with me the good. Their honesty about their own struggles in life and how they have persevered through them, have given me hope that I, too, could come out victorious over my depression and other issues in life.
  • My manager Elizabeth*: My current manager always gave me hope that even when I mess up or feel insecure, she has my back, and she believes in my abilities as an associate and as a person.
  • My manager Chris*: Chris was the one that gave me the opportunity to work at my current job in the first place. He also has believed in my abilities as an associate and as a person, and has encouraged me to work diligently and wisely.
  • My friend Laura*: Laura has encouraged me to see me how God sees me. She gave me hope that even in the dark throes of depression, that she was willing to be there for me when I needed her the most. One time, when I was particularly struggling with self-hatred, she had sent me a most precious forward about the beauty she saw in my heart with her caption “This is you.” I will never forget that.
  • My pastor John*: My pastor was instrumental in helping me redeem a work relationship that I thought was past redeeming. God used him to do a work in my heart, and the relationship I had at work was reconciled.

How To Give Hope

Giving hope is not only about giving encouragement, though it sure may be a very important element in it. Giving hope is about looking at someone and seeing the golden nuggets in their soul, like most of my hope-givers have done for me.  Hope-givers see what those who have despaired or lost hope are blind to—the beauty in their soul and the hope in their futures. For example, I have several friends who are unable to work. The world may see them as lazy or useless, but I see them as those who still can give others encouragement and perseverant, as they wake up each day fighting the illnesses that try to defeat them.

Giving hope is about being a shining light into someone’s life, when he or she feels alone or forlorn by others. Sometimes, I have felt that way during certain situations, but my friends Veronica and Holly have always encouraged me by making me feel less alone. All my hope-givers have helped me find the light in my soul and helped it to shine. We, too, can be the shining light into someone else’s life that desperately needs it.  We can do this by being there for them whenever possible, by helping them through their pain, and by speaking words of hope and positivity into their lives.  Saying things like, “I’m sorry you are struggling so much today, but I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are not alone, “can make a whole world of difference in a person’s life.

Giving hope is also about being hope in their lives. For instance, my manager Chris, not knowing me as a person yet, took the chance and gave me the opportunity to work at my current job.  Had he not given me the chance to work where I am now, I don’t know where I would be today. He gave me hope of a new opportunity to shine.  Also, my mentor J, gave me hope by helping me find work and giving me the tools that I needed in order to get out of my rut of depression and hopelessness that I had felt for years. I try to give hope myself by sharing my love for others through my writings and also helping them feel valued and encouraged through thanking them when I see the positive difference they have made in others’ lives, including mine.

When we give hope, we give life to others. Who around you is dying for love and hope today? Maybe be there for them and give them the encouragement that they are still valued and needed, because being a hope-giver for them could save their lives.

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

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Remember Who You Are

written on November 24, 2018

Don’t let the fire inside you die

Don’t let others tear down your soul

Don’t let them kiss your dreams goodbye

Or make you feel like less than whole


Because you are worth more than gold

Even if no one told you so,

Though you do not fit into a mold

You’re beautiful from head to toe


Become all you were meant to be

Be full of compassion and love

So that people will finally see

The gift you are from up above

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia

Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be

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.

My Top Deal-Breakers in Friendships (and their counterparts)

Even though I am happy to meet and cultivate friendships with many different kinds of people, there are some things that I will never tolerate if you consider yourself a close friend. These deal breakers are not prejudiced against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or any other human identifier, but have more to do with the person’s character.  These deal breakers include: 1) Hurting me or my loved ones in some way, and not apologizing or repenting of your actions.  2) Betraying me in some way. This includes pretending to be my friend in order to manipulate me in some way.  3 )If I find out one is abusing children or animals in some way.  All these deal breakers involve people who may think they are my friend (or not), but do not demonstrate the authenticity or the care needed to be a friend to me—or to anyone else.  Here is why:

The Deal Breakers

If I find out one of my friends is hurting either me, or more likely, my loved ones in some ways, this is a definite deal breaker for me.  First of all, I will not surround myself with people who intentionally want to hurt my family or my friends who I love. If they change their behaviors and attitudes towards my loved ones, then I will most likely forgive them.  However, if they don’t, then they are a distraction and a harmony-breaker, and are not someone with whom I would ever want a close relationship.  I do not need friends who bully or attack those I Iove in my life, and I will not tolerate them. For instance, if my parents or brother lets me know someone is or was hurting them, and this person hasn’t apologized or repented of their actions, I may still talk to them or be cordial to them, but I will not allow them to examine the depths of my heart—or that of my loved ones.

Another definite deal breaker for me if I have considered you a friend is if you do something to betray me in some kind of way.  One thing I absolutely hate is when people fail to be honest with me! When someone lies to me, it not only calls their character into question, but it also calls the friendship and how much they really value me into doubt as well.  One way to lie that is an absolute deal breaker for me is to be my friend only to use me for your pleasure or purpose! I do not tolerate narcissistic people who I know are using me and not really being genuine in their intent or friendship with me.  For instance, I have found out, probably much too late for my good, that several people that were in my life only wanted to be friends with me because either a.) They felt sorry for me and only wanted to be friends with me to “feel good” about themselves, and when they did not want to do the work of a real friendship, they faded away.  b) They wanted people to give them unconditional support and if I tried to correct them (even gently), they became upset with me, showing their true intentions.  C) They wanted to be “friends” with me just so they could do with me according to their pleasure, never thinking about what I needed or wanted from them.  These people definitely merit my INFJ (What is an INFJ? Read this, for more information) door slam! A door slam is basically a sudden form of going no-contact with someone, either emotionally or physically, or both.

The third, and perhaps, most serious deal breaker, is if I find out one of my friends is abusing children or animals, or any other of the most vulnerable in society. I can tolerate many things from many people, but cruelty is not one of them.  If you are cruel to this point, I probably don’t even converse with you.  Cruelty to children, animals, and any of the most vulnerable in society, not only saddens me, but enrages me as well. Unfortunately, sometimes I have had vengeful thoughts against those who would be so cruel to others, and if I find out you are like this, are not repentant, and still want to be my friend, I will cut off all contact with you, no questions asked.

The Counterparts

I did not want to finish without focusing on the positive characteristics I most appreciate in those I consider good friends.  They are:

Authenticity—Most of the deal breakers I described above are evidence of people who are not genuine and have very calloused souls. However, I am happy to say that all my close friends have characteristics of authenticity.  My one friend, Veronica*, for instance, is not afraid to be vulnerable with herself or with the struggles that she is facing in her life. I appreciate that kind of honesty and openness in her.  My other friend, Kelly,* is also honest about her struggles and always strives to care for and appreciate her friends, as much as possible.  I know that some people may be afraid of sharing their struggles, because they are afraid of being judged. Don’t be.  It is better for you to be unapologetically who you are, flaws and all, no matter what others think, than to be some plastic image of perfection.  If you don’t want to be friends with someone, say so, and then distance yourself from them. I know I may sound a bit harsh, but it is better to do this, than to pretend to be friends with them, when what that person probably needs is a genuine and caring presence.

Caring—All of the deal breakers had focused on people who are basically manipulative, cruel, selfish, and apathetic to the damage they cause to the ones around them. However, I am blessed to have friends who exhibit none of those traits.  My friend Erica* is giving her life right now to help those in need.  My friend Kelly* is a registered nurse, who wants to travel to restore the health of those who are sick or injured.  My friend Veronica* also has a passion for others finding the joy and love she has found in Jesus.  We care for people when we think of others besides ourselves and our own needs.  We care for others when we think through things before we do them, to discern if the action will also benefit others.  We care for others when we seek to love others and share the joy that we have found in life with those around us, especially those who need it most.

Hard-working—One of the characteristics I almost always appreciate in people is when they strive to do something with all their hearts, rather than to just meet the “status quo”.  I am glad that Kelly* is able to become a nurse because I believe her drive and passion for helping others makes her the best qualified for a career like that. I appreciate that many of my managers strive to work hard, even coming in on their days off sometimes, to make sure the work is done well.  I appreciate that many of my friends, especially those closest to me, are very hard working and strive continually to make the world around them a better place.

 

So, the best way to have a good friendship with me—and with others as well, is to be authentic, caring and kind, and hard-working.  However, the worst way to try to be friends with me is to be inauthentic in some way or to be callous and mean-spirited toward my loved ones, towards those who are most vulnerable in society, and to me. What are your deal breakers in friendships? Why? What are the characteristics that you value in your friends? Why? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=not their real names

Dangers of Apathy

I have heard countless stories on the news about parents who abused and then killed their children, about terrorists beheading their victims, and countless other reports of violent atrocities committed against humanity and  animals.  The perpetrators of these acts have often ceased caring about their victims and much of all humanity, as well, except themselves.  Some of them probably think they can a.) Get away with their crimes or b.) Don’t care about what will happen to them in this life, or sadly, the next.  My pastor has warned our congregation repeatedly about the consequences of apathy in life and about other people.

Here are some of the dangers that we can put ourselves and others in when we get apathetic:

When we are apathetic towards our lives in general, this is generally a sign of major depression.  I have experienced this somewhat in my life during the depths of my depressive episodes.   Not only did I have few, if any, close friends, but I also became bored with almost any activity that I tried to do.  I was just “surviving,” so to speak. There really wasn’t any joy or purpose in my life at the time. When people get to the point in their lives where they “just don’t’ care about anything,” they need a serious mental health intervention.  Even though most people do care about their lives with their loved ones, I know of many people that hate their jobs so much, they just do the bare minimum, with no passion or joy in what they are doing whatsoever, and they wonder why they feel so miserable. When people are apathetic of an important aspect of their lives, or even all of their lives, their performance in that area often suffers greatly. They no longer feel motivated to do their best or come up with new ideas. Sometimes it is because they do not receive the needed encouragement to get motivated, as is in many cases, with people hating their jobs. Another reason they may fall into apathy is that feel that nothing they do is good enough, so they stop trying. Since apathy can be a symptom of depression, if one gets apathetic for too long, he or she can quickly become suicidal and/or self-destructive in other ways.

When we are apathetic towards our loved ones and/or most of humanity in general, this leads to destruction. In fact, as I have heard and witnessed myself, when a person stops caring about others, he or she becomes a monster.  I don’t mean the cartoonish ones on television, but the evil, angry menace that is embodied in all true monsters.  Apathy towards humanity not only devalues them, but also leads to destruction. In fact, most, if not all, murderers have some degree of apathy towards their victims. Apathy towards humanity and/or our loved ones not only destroys others’ lives, but also our own.  When one realizes the destruction their apathy has caused, it is often to relate to rectify their actions.   Apathy comes from a heart of selfishness and narcissism.  Apathy towards humanity isolates people because it cuts off our ability to have compassion towards another’s pain or misfortune, and this leads to them not wanting to relate to us anymore.

So, how do we avoid being apathetic about life or about other people? How do we avoid this destruction in our lives?  Reversing apathy takes hard work, but it is well worth the cost.  One thing we can do if we struggle with apathy is to learn how to love others again.  One way to do that is to learn how to have compassion for others. We can volunteer in our community or help out where needed at our jobs, not just for our benefit, but for others’ benefit as well.  We can also learn about the trials and the struggles our loved ones are facing and know how that will affect our own lives, as it should.  Then, we should actively try to encourage and support them in any way we can.  Intentionally invest in other people’s lives and try to influence their lives for the better, not the worse.  Another way to love others is to be willing to make any necessary sacrifices for them and/or be willing to give of our time, talents, and resources to help them. Learning how to be generous and sacrificial of ourselves is not only a great way to combat apathy, but also a wonderful way to have joy and be grateful for what we already have!

Even if it seems that many people in society are becoming increasingly apathetic about life and/or other people, we can upset the applecart, so to speak, by having a motivation to better the lives of others and our own as well.  Apathy is a slippery, steep slope to destruction of all kinds.  Apathy can take a while to recover from, but with hard work, renewed passion, and perseverance, it can be done.   Let’s live our lives with passion today, because as my pastor has often said, “Time is life.”