How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

On Upsetting the Applecart

Upsetting the applecart, according to Dictionary.com, is to spoil carefully laid out plans.  (Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/upset–the–applecart) However, how I define upsetting the applecart, is doing anything that will upset the status quo. For instance, if everyone is supposed to wear red, and you are wearing blue, you may be upsetting the applecart.

Sometimes it is important not to upset the applecart. Examples and explanations of situations where it would not be so wise to upset the applecart would be as follows:

  1. In order to rebel against authority–Ninety percent of the time, it is not a good idea to upset the applecart by rebelling against authority figures in your life, whether it be the police, teachers, or bosses. Not only will you get in trouble, but you will also not likely to induce the changes you want to be made either by the authority themselves, or the peers around you.
  2. By doing something that is illegal and/or immoral.–If you are upsetting the applecart by doing something that is grossly immoral or illegal because you don’t like something or because you want to do what you want to without any regard to the consequences of your actions, that is being reckless. It is not really changing anything or really “upsetting the applecart” in any positive or significant way.

There are other times, however, when it would be very wise to upset the applecart. Examples of these may be as follows:

  1. When the people around you are doing something wrong or unproductive (i.e..when things that “have always been done this way” will not accomplish the desired result or results in the long run). –For instance,  if you work in an environment where people are regularly nasty to each other and are always fighting, you can upset the applecart, so to speak, by refusing to engage in that environment or instead be speaking encouraging things to those you meet there.
  2. When you want to accomplish sustained, positive change in the world around you.–For example, many countries in the past engaged in enslaving people that they thought were “inferior” to themselves.  Now we know that that is wrong. In the past, many thought it was just the way things were, but abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Fredrick Douglas, worked together to eventually put an end to slavery here in the U.S.   They upset the slave owners’ applecart, so to speak, to win the freedom of millions of mistreated African slaves in the U.S.
  3. When you want to be true to your values and convictions, even if everyone else around you is not in agreement.–For instance, my faith hero, Rachel Scott, made a dent in this world and upset the applecart, by being not only vocal about her Christian faith but also applying her faith to her daily life, even though it meant her losing all of her good friends at school.  Another situation where upsetting the applecart may be wise is when you see someone being unfairly treated or bullied, and you stand up for the bully’s victim even when no one else will. This is not primarily about making you a hero, but more about doing the right thing and instigating a positive change in your world.

Whether or not you choose to upset the applecart, the most important thing to remember is how to do it correctly.  Remember that upsetting the applecart may be difficult because you are going against the status quo, the grain, so to speak. Some people may not respect your convictions or what you’re doing, but if it is the right thing to do, do it anyway.  You may even lose some support along the way, but if you know that this is the right thing to do, don’t give up.

Here’s how to upset the applecart most effectively:

  1. Think about how you will upset the applecart.–For instance, if your work or school environment is a place where there are a lot of cliques and infighting, determine a way you will change that by not subscribing to the same things your colleagues or classmates are. In this example, I would want to upset the applecart by not participating in the gossip and infighting myself, and by hanging out with many different types of people, not just ones with whom I feel comfortable.
  2. Determine you will be different in some way than the status quo.–Stand out in some way. –Don’t be afraid to be different, or be yourself, in situations where upsetting the applecart would benefit others.   For instance, in multiple sources, Rachel Scott, my faith hero, is quoted as saying, “I won’t be labeled as average.” Rachel Scott was known for upsetting the applecart in a positive way.  Her faith and compassion for others stood out. She hung out and encouraged those who no one considered or wanted to be around.  She held firm to moral boundaries but rejected shallowness and fakeness.
  3. Hold firm to your convictions and beliefs always.–Never let what other people think of you and/or your beliefs hinder you in any way. Never surrender your beliefs and convictions if you know that you are right. Yes, be open to others’ wisdom and advice if you are wrong about something or to understand people better. However, never let someone change your beliefs and convictions based only on their benefit or just to please them.  Change only because you (or God) want(s) you to.

Upsetting the applecart allows us not only to stand out and be different but also to initiate effective change to our world and those around us. Change, and upsetting the applecart can be upsetting to some people, but they are necessary ingredients to improve oneself and the world around you.

 

Why Arrogance Angers Me So Much

 

Arrogance in our society has reached almost narcissistic levels.  Some people may consider humility in others or even themselves to be a trait of weakness and blind submission. Furthermore, a few people may consider pride and arrogance as a sign of “taking charge” of one’s own life, where they are the best and that everyone else is like servant peasants, bowing down to them and serving their every inclination and want. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary website defines arrogance as:

an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

(source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arrogance )

Arrogance (and I am not talking about having a “healthy ego” here)  angers me so much because it a.) devalues others b.) Inhibits learning and c.) Ultimately destroys relationships.

How arrogance manifests itself:

  1. Thinking that you are better than another person or a group of people.–This is commonly seen in prejudice.  For instance, some people think that certain races are inferior to theirs, and so treat these other people as objects or annoyances, kind of how you would treat a fly or other insect. Sad indeed.  However, this can also be manifested in our attitude towards another, especially people we don’t like or annoy us.
  2. Thinking that you are too good to receive help from another--This is a common mentality of people who need help, but want to do it themselves, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, so to speak. This can be harmful because it will prevent you from getting the help you need, and you will most likely compound your problems and suffering unnecessarily than if you accepted the needed help in the first place.
  3. Thinking that you know it all— This occurs when someone flaunts their knowledge on a subject or subjects and is unwilling to accept correction or further wisdom from another. For instance, if a professor at a college flaunts his or her knowledge on religion and thinks his or her ideas are the only right ones with little or no evidence to back it up. He or she is unwilling to accept or even listen to different ideas of his or her students or even other colleagues.

Why Arrogance is So Harmful (and why it angers me so much!)

  1. Arrogance devalues people.— The type of arrogance that thinks that you are better than another does this the most, but the other types do as well.  Arrogance is a barrier to, in Jefferson’s Bethke words, “[Treat] people [as] neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.” Arrogance is a barrier because it sees people as less than, and even, in some cases, as less than human, a pervasive and dangerous lie indeed!  This is why with arrogant pride, hatred is likely to form. If you see someone else as less than you, you will be more likely treat them with utter contempt and humiliation.  What I’ve begun to realize more and more is that other people, even ones that are different and/or people that I don’t get along with as well, are not really worse people than me.  Sure, I may be better than them at certain things, but they also may be better than me at certain other things too.
  2. Arrogance inhibits learning.– All of the types of arrogance that I mentioned inhibit learning. If you think that you are better than someone else, it will prevent you from learning anything meaningful or new from them. This is because, in the arrogant mentality, you don’t think you need to learn from the person to whom you feel superior.  You think you know better than them, so learning wouldn’t be necessary.  When you think you know more about a subject than anyone else, you are preventing yourself from growing in knowledge about the subject. For instance, if I thought I was such a good writer (I don’t, by the way.) that I didn’t need input from other writers about what I wrote, then my writing would never improve, much to my own disadvantage.  When we think we can do something without help when we clearly need it, then we may drown in our own problems and also inhibit learning, because we don’t know a different way to get out of our predicament other than what we already know and find ourselves.
  3. Arrogance destroys relationships.–Ultimately, if we are arrogant long enough without humbling ourselves, it will start destroying our relationships.  I believe this is one of the root causes of things like the divorce of a marriage and other broken or strained relationships in which may find ourselves.  Arrogance says that one is so good, that he or she is never wrong and never needs to apologize for mistakes. Arrogance thinks one is perfect, and everyone else is beneath them. That mentality destroys relationships because it does not allow for healing and accurate self-reflection. The truth is everyone makes mistakes, and no human being (except, in my opinion, Jesus Christ) was or is ever so perfect that they don’t need to humble themselves at least some of the time. Yes, humility is difficult for a lot of people, but it is a vital part of cultivating relationships successfully. One way you can show humility is to apologize to the person you offended when you have done something wrong, and if necessary, make appropriate amends. Arrogance also closes us off to certain people, especially if we think we are better than them, in the ways I described earlier and prevents you from wanting to get to know, love, and understand them better.  For instance, there were certain people at work with whom I had trouble getting along, but I found that when I actually and intentionally humbled myself to them and tried to learn from them, that I actually had a lot in common with said people, and now we get along great!

This is why arrogance angers me so much. It is a plague in modern-day society and needs to be countered with humility and love. Arrogance will not go away with hatred or more arrogance. Only humility and love will.  This is why, starting with me, I strive to look in the mirror, so to speak, more, and make sure that I am not looking down on anyone, either with my attitude, words, or actions.

 

How To Be a Coffee Bean (or Change Your World)

This analogy/story is inspired by one of my managers at work who told us this following story (origin–unknown) to motivate us during a meeting we had:

One day, a mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson, and so she told her daughter to buy these three ingredients: carrots, eggs and coffee beans. After the daughter bought these items, her mother told her to boil them and to tell her what happened.  So, after boiling these three items, this is what she told her mother: The carrots that were hard before they got boiled became soft after they were boiled. The eggs, which were previously soft, became hard, but the coffee beans stayed the same and permeated everything around them. 

Our manager told us not to be like the carrot which became soft under pressure (boiled). She told us not to be like the eggs, which hardened (became calloused) under pressure, but to be like the coffee beans that stayed the same under pressure and then permeated everything around them.  This concept, in Christian circles, is called “Being a Light,”  but can be applied to most anyone, regardless of belief. Here’s what I found are just three characteristics of people who positively change the world (i.e. “became a coffee bean”).

  1.  They invested in people.–These coffee bean-like people invested in others, not just themselves, or not just them and a few close family members and friends. This means they intentionally strove to positively interact with everyone around them.  This does not mean they succeed every time, but it also means they strive to make a positive impact on the majority they meet, not just a few people.  When I think of people like that, I think of all five of my faith heroes (for more on my faith heroes, see this post.), who inspired others to live their best life possible.  I think of my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf, who has served in the same church for over 40 years and has touched almost everyone he met there. I think of Chris* (NOT his real name) who makes sure people have time off work sometimes because he cares that people have families and lives outside the job and my manager Tom* (NOT his real name) who helps his workers succeed and strive for excellence every day.
  2. Be genuine.–What my faith heroes and coffee beans have in common are their genuineness. They both don’t change who they are because they are pressured to “fit in,” or because they “feel like it.” For instance, one of my faith heroes, Jesus Christ, did not change His purpose, mission, or personality just so that the Pharisees would like him. He always stayed true to His character. Also, another of my faith heroes, Rachel Scott, had lost all her friends due to her newfound faith in Christ. Even so, she was adamant about staying true to her belief and who she was, and not some tamed-down image of who her friends thought she should be. Never change who you are due to circumstances or people wanting to mold you into their own image of how you “should” be. Be true to yourself, while still willing to be open and teachable to change for the better, but change for your own reasons, not just another person’s.
  3. Stand Out.-Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be a true world-changer or coffee bean, you have to stand out. Rachel Scott has been quoted in multiple sources as saying, ” I won’t be labeled as average.” In order to be a true coffee bean, you have to want to be better than average in your mentality and attitude towards life. That is, you can’t just blend in, be like everyone else, and/or do the minimum.  For instance, at work, one way I am trying to be a coffee bean is to work hard every day, and sometimes even volunteer to do extra work when I have the time and when needed, to help others. Moreover, I strive for excellence in my work, and not simply to get things done. Rachel Scott stood out by being kind to everyone around her, not just the people she looked up to or with who she got along well.  She even was kind to those boys who would later murder her, and also to those who were shunned, looked down upon, or made fun of by everyone else in her school or by society.

These are the three things everybody who is like a coffee bean have and examples of how one can imitate them. Coffee-bean like people always have a positive impact in this world, and sometimes it is very great! Resolve to be your best–Be a coffee bean today!

Carrying Rachel’s Torch

One of my faith heroes has always been Columbine student Rachel Joy Scott, who was murdered in 1999 by two of her classmates. Rachel is my faith hero because of her great belief in God and because she has all the positive qualities I would like to embody in myself. Also, I must note that she wasn’t perfect so I can relate to some of her experiences very well, especially when I fall down or sin.

After I watched the movie “I Am Not Ashamed,” which is based on Rachel Scott’s life, God has inspired me not only to try to live out Rachel’s five challenges but also to carry her torch.

What is carrying Rachel’s Torch?

For Rachel’s 5 challenges, click here, and then click on the box where it says, “Program Challenges.” Carrying Rachel’s torch, to me,  involves not only striving to live out her five challenges every day but also to live a life that properly honors her life and legacy.

How do we (I) carry Rachel’s torch? 

Carrying Rachel’s torch not only involves living out the five challenges in Rachel’s challenge but also making these promises to yourself and to the community around you:

  1. I will strive to make a positive difference in my world and to do this with all my heart. –I remember that Rachel Scott wrote in her journal, ” I will not be labeled as average,” and so I don’t want to be either.
  2. I will strive to think of others before myself.– While Rachel wanted her peers to love and like her, sometimes they didn’t and outright rejected her because of her bold faith in Christ.  Rachel believed that others needed to know about God’s love, and she was willing to risk her own reputation so that people could know and experience Christ’s love. While she certainly didn’t believe in forcing people to convert, she did believe in sharing how He has impacted her life and even that sometimes shocked people.  She also sometimes risked her safety and comfort to help others in need. Her fellow torch bearers also will strive to live in the same way.
  3. I will strive to intentionally love and offer my friendship and support to people who are hurting or otherwise in need.–Rachel always intentionally strove to offer her love and kindness to those in need or were hurting. She even approached a formerly homeless man and offered to help him through his tough time. She also reached out to her killers before they committed the massacre and offered friendship to them.
  4.  I will strive never to hate anyone who hurts me.—Rachel never ever hated anyone, except maybe the devil. If someone gets upset and angry at her, it hurts her too, but she never (as far as I know) exacted vengeance on them. Rachel’s torch bearers should strive to do the same, and make an impact, like her, with love instead of hate.
  5. If I fail at any of these above objectives, I will shake the dust off my feet, so to speak, and carry Rachel’s torch again. –I bet Rachel sometimes failed at meeting her own standards, but like Rachel, we should not give up! We should keep trying!

Why the torch metaphor?
In the Olympics, a torch bearer in a marathon was to carry another’s torch and then pass it to others in order to successfully complete the race. Similarly, we are all running in a similar, longer race. It is called the “Race of Life.” We all want to be successful and belong somewhere.  In this instance, I use the torch metaphor in order to describe how we all can carry on Rachel Scott’s legacy not only so her positive impact on this world and the community around her will not be forgotten but also how we can all work as a team to finish the Race of Life well and to continue what Rachel started.

Epilogue

Personally, carrying Rachel’s torch will be a struggle for me, but this is what gives me a purpose and reason to live. Of course, this purpose pales a bit to glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, which will always be my number one purpose in life.  What do you think of carrying Rachel’s torch? Are you ready? Please comment here.

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Scott

https://rachelschallenge.org/

How To Die to Self

Dying to self is not an attractive or a popular concept in today’s culture. Even our advertisements cater against dying to self! Think about it. When was the last time an advertisement encouraged you to benefit someone else, without expectation of benefiting yourself also?  Obviously, in this context, dying to self does not mean commit suicide, which often has more to do with suffering from a mental illness or wanting to get out of misery or pain, rather than what I am speaking of here.

Dying to self is often a difficult and painful process, and can take years or even a lifetime to develop maturely.  The apostle Paul, a devout Christian, says in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” So, the concept of dying to self, at the minimum, involves counting everything as a loss, for the sake of another or others. 

“Why would anyone want to die to self?” you may be thinking.  Well, when you find out that thinking of yourself all or even most of the time is impeding your relationships with others and is making you not as joyful and free as you could be, then you realize that at least part of the problem may lie within.

While there is certainly time for self-care, dying to self involves self-sacrifice and devotion to helping others. Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) is involved with dying to self:

  1. Be intentionally kind to another person for their sake, not yours.–While you will probably feel good after doing something kind for someone else (We can’t really get away from that, nor should we.), don’t let that be the primary motivator in doing the kind thing. Let the kind action be done because we want to improve their lives, and make them happy and loved.
  2. Prefer another before yourself–This means thinking about how the other person feels and what they want, instead of just what you feel or want.  This is called empathy. Some people (like me) may have some trouble doing this, but with practice, everyone can get better. Another example of preferring another before yourself is letting someone go ahead of you in line, especially if they are in a hurry because you don’t want them to be late to wherever they have to go next.
  3. Lose Entitlement–A big barrier to dying to self for a lot of people, including me, is the sense of entitlement or “rights” we think we should get. This is a big thing, especially in the country where I live. I’m not saying having rights is a “bad” thing, but it can be idolatrous if we are not careful.  For example, at work, some people think that if they are full-time, they should always get 40 hours, no more, no less and that they have a right to not do more than they should.  If their rights are violated or intruded upon, they naturally get upset and complain. However, dying to self means, in a way, “losing our rights.” So, if I were in that example for work, I would not complain if they had to cut me to less than 40 hours if I am full-time, and if they want me to do extra work, I will do it, not just for my sake, but for the sake of the whole team at work.
  4. Lose pride.–Another huge barrier to dying to self is pride.  Pride, in this context, means arrogance. Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others. Losing pride means, for instance, not looking down upon people that are poorer than you, or who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t work, just because you work. It also means being willing to give and receive help when needed, and not worrying about “saving face.”
  5. Be grateful and trust what you have is already and will always be enough.–Jealousy and ingratitude are also barriers to dying to self. In order to truly be able to die to self, you need to come to a place where you realize what you have is enough for that moment. Being thankful for what I have and realizing how many people have made a positive impact in my life, helps me in this area and ultimately leads me to die to self a little bit more.  Being thankful helps me realize how much I have and how privileged I am, and that fact compels me to share what I have with others, whether it is material things, my abilities, or my time. I also learned though there will always be people who have more than I do materially, or who are better people than me, that God made me unique for His purposes, and that I don’t need to compare myself to others.  I just need to serve them the best I can and be thankful for them being in my life so I can have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice for others.–This means forgoing something for the good of another. For example, if a friend enjoys a movie you don’t really like, but he or she really doesn’t want to go alone, dying to self would involve offering to come with that friend to see that movie.  You would forgo your time and your preference, for that of your friend. NOTE: Going to the movie, but complaining through the whole thing or otherwise having a bad attitude, is not dying to self, but “playing the martyr,” which is the opposite of dying to self. Another theoretical example would be if your friend forgot to bring their lunch and has no money to buy one for themselves, either giving your lunch to them and fasting that meal, or sacrificing part of your earnings, and buying lunch for them so they won’t go hungry is dying to self.

As you can see, dying to self is very difficult and involves a new way of thinking.  Often times, I fail too. However, dying to self is a process and takes a long time to do well.  It is often when selfishness starts ruining our relationships and communities, that we really wake up and start thinking that dying to self might not be a bad idea.
As I said, dying to self is very difficult to do and takes time, but I believe we must strive to at least try to do this if we want to improve our relationships with others and be truly fulfilled in this life.

Things I Learned From the Movie “I’m Not Ashamed”

As of this writing (July 5, 2017–publication will come later), I watched the movie “I’m Not Ashamed.” Although it is slow in parts, this was a pretty good movie and has taught me some very important lessons in life. This movie is based on the true-life story of Columbine martyr, Rachel Scott, whose life of faith and love has inspired me to pattern my life after hers. I also consider her to be one of my five faith heroes I list on my blog’s front page.  Here’s what I learned about life through the telling of Rachel Scott’s story through this movie:

  1. Love, compassion, and perseverance go a long way.—Rachel’s love, compassion, and perseverance not only in this movie but also in her real life, have also inspired many (like me) to pattern their lives after hers.  For instance, Rachel sees a guy taking the pizza from her youth group and was looking standoffish, and then he quickly leaves. Instead of ignoring him, she follows him into the street where he incidentally was living and confronts him.  He later tells her that his name is Nate and to basically leave him alone. Knowing something is off about him, she persists and when he tries to steal food from a store to feed his ailing mom, she volunteers to pay for them with her meager paycheck.  She doesn’t just stop there but continues to show him love and compassion as he eventually accepts Christ and grows in his faith. He then ends up helping her through tough times too.  Also, when Rachel’s best friend Madison steals her then-boyfriend Alex, and Rachel catches them making out together, Rachel, by the end of the movie, ends up sending Madison a note of compassion and forgiveness for having betrayed her (Rachel).  Most people when betrayed would either try to take vengeance on the offender or stay away from them and cut off relations completely with them. However, Rachel persisted in showing kindness and forgiveness to Madison even after she was betrayed by Madison. By the end of the movie, Madison also is touched by the forgiveness and love Rachel showed her before she (Rachel) died.
  2. Christians are not perfect.–Rachel was not the perfect Christian. She got in trouble by drinking and smoking with her girlfriends and her attempts to pursue a popular, attractive guy in school put her in situations where she wasn’t comfortable.  She snuck out of her parents’ house–probably more than once. In the movie,  it was even shown that Rachel attempted suicide once by jumping off a bridge near her home because she was so depressed. This does not mean us Christians are  “bad” or “evil” people, but like everyone else, we come with problems and baggage. However, like I explained in #1,  Rachel picked the dust off her feet, so to speak, and tried to do better next time, just like we all do, regardless of belief or lack thereof.
  3. Everyone has a story.–In the movie, Rachel’s story was intertwined with those of her killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Also, there were snippets of the story of Nate, Alex, and several of Rachel’s friends. The point is, though, that everyone has a life story, and if we care about changing the world for the positive, we need to listen to these stories! Sure we can’t “fix” everyone’s problems, and we probably shouldn’t always be trying to either, but if we know where people are coming from and their life goals and motivation, maybe we can encourage and support them better.  Also, knowing other people’s stories helps us not only understand them better but also our own life story and how theirs can intersect beautifully with theirs.  For instance, I believe God is using the people I work with, especially one of my managers, to help create not only a better life story for me, but also for them as well.

Though no one is perfect or better than another human being, showing love and compassion like Rachel Scott did will go a long way to change our world for the better.  However, we must persevere even when life gets difficult in order to see results.  We must also learn others’ stories to help not only we understand them better, but also ourselves better. Be a light to this world; it may just start a chain reaction!

Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improve

DISCLAIMER: Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments about me (the writer), different political views, or others in this blog. Also, please no arguing about political stuff here. This is not the place to do it! If you break any of these rules, your comment or comments will be deleted. Thank you and happy reading. : )

In honor of the 4th of July, the Independence Day of the United States of America, I will discuss five things I am immensely thankful for that this country provides, and five things we as a nation could improve on. I am honored and thankful to be born in this country and to be able to enjoy many of the freedoms this country provides for me today.  However, I know this country is not perfect and that it has a lot of problems and issues, which I will delve into later.  Regardless, I am thankful God put me here not only to be successful for myself and my loved ones but also to help others.

Five Things I am thankful for in the U.S.A

  1. religious freedom–I can be any religion I want to be and be able to worship freely without fear of being sent to jail or tortured for my faith. I happen to be a Christian, but I see others of different faiths, having similar freedoms to me.  This is not true in many other countries. I hear and know of people being jailed, tortured, or even killed just for practicing their faith. For example, in North Korea, in general,  if you practice publically any religion other than the state religion, you are put in prison and tortured until you submit to their faith.  This is a freedom we Americans should all be thankful for and keep preserving for the next generations.
  2. freedom of speech–Here in the States, in general, I can openly criticize my local government, state government, and even federal government, including the President and Vice President,  without fear of losing my job, going to prison, or being tortured or killed for that.  I can even stage a protest against the government’s policies, if I wanted to, without getting arrested or jailed just for doing so.  I am very grateful I can do that openly or even publically, without fear of being arrested or losing my livelihood for doing so.  In many other countries, if you openly criticize governmental policies or the leader of the country, you will be arrested and jailed for doing so. A few nations even kill their own people for protesting against their government or their policies!
  3. Adequate water supply- We, as a nation, are extremely blessed by our many bodies of water!  In general, 90% of the country, can turn on the faucet and water comes out. This is not true at all in many parts of the world! Some parts of the world don’t even have faucets or clean, running water! In many parts of the world, people must carry buckets of water from miles away from their home, just to get enough water to live! In many cases, the water isn’t even completely clean or as pure, as it is in the States!  I see some people here in the States just running the faucet without using the water that comes out of it. What a waste! Think of the people that don’t have any water near their homes.  Try to appreciate that you are able to have clean, running water, and don’t take this for granted.
  4. A strong and courageous military force — We, as a nation, are blessed to have men and women who are willing to risk their lives to defend our country and its freedoms. I know several veterans personally and am thankful to know them.  I am grateful for them and all military personnel because many of the people who are or were in the military have to go through not only grueling training to help them prepare for the battlefield, not to mention the horrors and the heartaches of war and losing your comrades, but when they come back to civilian life, they are often underappreciated and/or forgotten.  You may not agree with the principles of war, and that’s fine, but the fact that these men and women are standing up for our freedoms and protecting us from terrorists and other evil people, is something for which we should be immensely thankful.
  5. The right to defend ourselves against invaders or intruders.–We, as a nation, are blessed to have the Second Amendment, in case someone tries to kill or attack us, and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it for whatever reasons.  Now, I would personally never own a gun, but for those that do, I respect them, especially if they live in high-crime areas or are in situations where they feel legitimately physically threatened or unsafe.  In 90% of the countries that I’ve ever visited or heard about, it is illegal for private citizens to own a gun or any form of defense, even if they do feel their lives are at risk. I do think there should be gun control laws, but I think the basic right for United States’ citizens who are law-abiding and will use a gun responsibly should never be abolished.

5 things the U.S could do better

  1. Respecting people with different political persuasions.—There has been so much strife in this country just because Trump was elected. Sure, he has his issues, and you don’t have to like him, but hating him or people that agree with his policies, will not solve any of our nation’s problems!  I was very saddened by a man who shot several people who were playing baseball for charity just because some of them didn’t agree with this man’s political ideas!  I see many people on Facebook and Twitter just taking jabs at people because of their political views. If we want to be united as a nation, we cannot keep doing this! Yes, there are many people who hold views that I don’t personally agree with, both politically and religiously.  That does not give me the right to personally attack them, either with my words or my actions. This, in my opinion, is no longer “freedom of speech,” it’s being a jerk!
  2. Taking care of the poor.–I know many people here in the States, both online and offline, who are struggling just to get by.  Some of you may be thinking that these people should “just get a job.” First of all, it’s not that easy! It takes an average of five or six months to get a decent job for most people, and some it can take years, and yes, they are actively looking too!  I’ve been there.  Also, some people are disabled and can’t work! Either they have severe mental problems, or they are physically unable to work.  Finally, even if the poor do get a job, how many jobs do they have to get to have a living wage, and be able to spend time with the ones that matter to them most.  Two? Three? Five? It’s so difficult these days to even find one job. let alone several! And where would even an average, able-bodied person find the time and energy to work, let’s say,  four jobs to support themselves and family, and still have time to spend adequate time and energy to spend with their loved ones outside of work? I’m not saying that an abled bodied person should just mooch off the government and not to do anything with their lives at all. I’m saying that we should do our part to take care of the poor and hurting, because it’s the right thing to do, and you never know what struggles and hurts another human being is going through. So, unless you are God or know everything about someone, try not to judge them! In fact, in several places, Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.”
  3. Loving immigrants .—Unless you are a Native American, you have no right to judge who should or shouldn’t be in this country.  Yes, it is upsetting to some people when people come here illegally and don’t pay taxes.  However, hating them and/or treating them like commodities instead of human beings with felt needs isn’t going to solve anything. I understand that a few people who have come into this country have done criminal activities or committed hateful acts of terrorism, but a.) This isn’t the majority of immigrants. Most are families coming here to better their lives because of all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. b.) There are criminals that are American-born citizens too!  So singling out immigrants as perpetrators of criminal acts is not only unfair, it is often untrue as well!
  4. Loving people who are different than us.–In the past two years, there has been much strife because some people aren’t willing to accept or love people who are different than them. For example, a few years ago, a white supremacist murdered several black Christians worshipping God, during a Bible study, in Charleston, South Carolina, just because they were black! I mean these Christians didn’t even do anything to hurt this guy, and he still shot at them!  How sad! Of course, the majority of Americans are not as mean and racist as he was, but we all would do well to look in the mirror sometimes and make sure we don’t even have a trace of hatred for people different than us! This doesn’t only include being free from racism (and not being prejudiced against other ethnicities) but also loving people regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, religious beliefs, or any other human identifier.  Loving them doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they may do or stand for, but it does mean being willing to be there for them and comfort them if another person hurts them, and it means actively trying to help them find joy and meaning in their lives.
  5. Thinking of others before ourselves.–This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership in the U.S  government.  I saw a government official on T.V enjoying the beach he closed to the public because of a lack of funds. I have several issues with this. First of all, if the beach is closed to the public, you and your family should not be enjoying it either! It’s only fair. Second of all, if you want to enjoy the beach with your family, and there are not enough funds to keep it open, a public servant should take it upon him or herself to finance it so that everyone could enjoy the beach, and not just you and your loved ones.  If you are in any position of leadership, be it in the government, or in a school or in a workplace, you should always think of others before yourself. For instance, if you are a manager, you shouldn’t just cut hours or lay off people just so you can save money for yourself or people like you.  Think of others first!

These are the five things I am immensely thankful for in this country, and five things we can improve.  What are five things you are thankful for if you live in the U.S (or if you live in another country–what are you most thankful for there?)? What things can be improved in your country? Please feel free to comment respectfully on this.

Five Women That Have Impacted My Life Most and Why

DISCLAIMER: I will be using pseudonyms or initials for all these people for privacy reasons, except my mom, who will bear the name “my mom”.

  1. my mom–Besides the fact that she gave birth to me, she taught me how to be more unselfish and sacrifice for others. She does everything for the good of our family, and not just herself.  Growing up, she even sacrificed some pleasurable things for herself so that my sibling and I could have them.  From this, I have learned (and am still learning) how to be more willing to sacrifice things for the good of others, and not just think about me, myself, and I all the time. Before I became a Christian, I was VERY selfish. Now, I am NOT saying that all people who aren’t Christians are selfish. On the contrary, some of the people in my life who aren’t Christians are some of the least selfish people I know! However, for me personally, after I became a Christian, my mom’s lessons and sacrifices became more apparent to me and I started to apply them more to my life.  For example, in the past several years, I have started to care more about hurting people in my life and online. I credit this partly to my mom’s example she gave to me of unselfish sacrifice over the years.
  2. J—She is my mentor and friend.  She has impacted my life in that she changed my future by believing that I could get a job and drive a car when I felt no one else did.  She also helped me go through the process of finding the job that I have now.  Her perseverance and her spirit of never giving up on me when everyone else seemed to, helped me through these past five years have hope and courage to recreate my dreams and even gave me the courage to write this blog!  Despite all the stresses in her life, she, like my mom, always puts others before herself.
  3. Erica* (*=NOT her real name)–She has been my friend for almost 11 years!  She has accepted and loved me even when I was being difficult or demanding.  She has a true heart for other cultures and wants to share the love of Christ with everyone around her.  She is one of the most genuine Christians I have ever met. Yes, like all of us, she does occasionally sin. However, she is honest and upfront about her struggles and most everything. She is also pretty level-headed and doesn’t lose her temper easily, if at all.  I also want to strive to be more like her in these ways. I, too, want to strive to be honest and genuine in all my dealings with people.  I strive to be loving and accepting of others, as she is.
  4. Kelly * (*=not her real name)–I’ve been her friend for about five, if not more, years.  Like Erica, she is also honest about her struggles and triumphs.  She takes the time to care about people in ways they may or may not normally expect. For instance, even though she is busy with school and work, she took the time to make a beautiful bracelet for my birthday, not to mention paying the shipping costs to get it from the place where she lives (not too close by) to my home.  She also tries her very best to listen to other people’s concerns. When someone tells her that they were hurt by her, she tries to resolve the issue where the other person got hurt by her. She doesn’t let things slide, or offer obligatory excuses.  I strive to go the extra mile like Kelly to make sure people around me, whether, at home, work, or church feel cared about by me.  For instance, at work today, one of my managers was having a stressful day.  He totally did not expect this, but one of my guy friends and one of my gal friends got together and decided to let him know that yes, we do care about him and hope he feels better.  We did this by buying him his favorite snack and by getting him a card encouraging him through this tough time. I don’t do this to brag on myself or even my good friends, but to let people know how much Kelly’s care for me has inspired me to “pay it forward,” so to speak.
  5. Veronica* (*=not her real name)–I’ve been friends with her for a couple years, but her joy and enthusiasm for God and people has changed my life. Also, she was there for me when I got very upset at a situation at work, and in my life in general,  and broke down in tears. I was really depressed and angry at that time. However, her joy and encouragement to me to seek God and that I had a good purpose in life was what I needed to get back up on my feet again, so to speak.   Her joy and enthusiasm for life, even when things get tough, is what I want to cultivate for myself in my life. Because of her, and because of my experience three years ago where I almost died, I strive to find joy in life everyday. Sometimes, I do fail, but people like her keep me going even when I feel like giving up.

These five women have impacted my life the most not only because of their love and kindness but also because of their unselfish and caring attitudes toward me and others. What five women have most impacted your life? Why? Please feel free to comment.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.