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.”

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Healing

Author’s note: This poem illustrates how God has saved me from darkness and depression and has given me love, joy, and peace. This poem also illustrates how I aim to love others who are going through suffering and trials. Many interpretations are possible. I hope this poem gives you hope if you are going through a trial right now. 

poem written: 8/29/2018

The same things every day

You are tired of the drudgery

And of all of the hurt and pain

Hoping that you still stay sane

 

To the world you wear a smile

But inside your heart is breaking

From all the agony and guile

Of the people surrounding you

 

You ache for something true and real

You want an end to all this pain

You want to taste joy and love

You want peace from up above

 

I will hold your hurting soul

When you feel broken inside

I will heal your hurt and pain

So again you can be whole

 

I will give you all of my love

I will sacrifice myself for you

So you will know true, real joy

And the peace from up above

 

 

Don’t Waste Your Life- a poem

poem written on:  9/4/2018

Don’t waste your life

On the trivial

Don’t waste your life

On bitterness

Don’t waste your life

On not trying

Don’t waste your life

On the fleeting

 

Embrace each day

As the last one

Know you have done

The best you could

Forgive others

And show mercy

Be kind always

And most of all

Be a bright light

And show the love

From up above

5 Convictions I Strive To Live By Everyday

On this Labor Day (a holiday celebrating resting from work in the U.S, though, ironically I’m working that day!) Weekend, I have been thinking a lot about what my future may be, what I’m doing with my life now, and how I can improve myself and help others. What I keep coming back to, in pondering all this, are these following convictions on which I base my life.  These convictions have developed both by my growing relationship with God, and all the things that I have been learning from those that God has put in my life.  Here are these convictions, how I plan to continue to implement them into my life, and some of the people who inspire me to live these:

  1. Be authentic.—There is little else that angers me more than someone who lives to lie and deceive others, or who claim to have a life of truth and love, but their actions tell others, otherwise. On the other hand, I appreciate those who are able to be honest and vulnerable, even at the risk of their own reputations. I aim to be someone who appreciates, encourages, and lives authenticity.  I want people to be able to be real with me. I do not appreciate when people lie because they are too afraid to tell the truth. When people share their hearts with me without hesitation and with all honesty, I always strive to value that. One person that I believe had an authentic soul was Rachel Joy Scott, one of my faith heroes, who was murdered in a school shooting, almost 20 years ago.  She didn’t hesitate to write about and discuss her struggles with her faith, and she lived her faith in Christ well–loving others as she had been loved by God and others through caring about the new people in her school, the disabled, and the hurting.
  2. Do your best.—My dad always encourages me to do my best, even when doing so, may not always produce desirable results. My dad does not expect perfection of my brother and me, but he does expect our very best.  However, I did not fully heed this practice until an incident in fourth or fifth grade, when I refused to read a book about the Gold Rush because it bored me to death. However, when I had to do a presentation about it, I had to read (or at least, skim) the book in order to do well on it. I ended up passing this portion by the skin of my teeth. Since then, I have almost always strived to do my best with what I could. This has led me to try my best to achieve what I can in many areas of my life, including my job and my relationships with others.
  3. Never stop caring about other people.—I wrote once, as my Facebook status, that we become monsters when we stop caring about others. I have seen that monstrous part come out in even myself when I stop caring about other people. Too many times, I have seen or heard about it coming out in others who stopped caring, even if only for a moment, too.  Thus, I aim to never stop caring about others, as much as possible.  Yes, sometimes constantly caring about those around me can be exhausting and even overwhelming, but I think it is still worth it.  When you genuinely care about others, you can change lives for the better.  When I try to encourage those who need it, I find that they are more joyful and have at least some of the needed boost to their day.  We care about others mainly by assigning value to them.  One way you can do this today is to write a heartfelt note to someone who has made a positive difference in your life or by verbally and sincerely thanking them.  Sometimes we all need the encouragement that our good deeds and efforts matter in this life, and that someone cares about us.  My favorite aunt has always striven to care about others.  I have written in a previous post, that when she offered to host us during our trip to see her and the rest of our relatives, she became very ill. Despite this, she continued doing what she could to care for and accommodate us.  I aim to be like her in caring about the people in my life.
  4. Live with passion.—For many years, I have lived with little passion. Sure, I had, what I would call, “bursts of passion,” but they never lasted more than a couple of weeks. However, since getting my current job and being part of my current church, I have had renewed passion for life. I aim to be passionate about everything I do.  For instance, at my job, I do not just want to do enough to “get by,” but I want to do my very best, with a positive and energetic attitude. Yes, sometimes I will fail at this, but this is my goal every single day.  I do not want to delve into a depressed or passionless life anymore, but I want to do everything with meaning, purpose, and/or joy.  My friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) lives with passion.  Not only does she aim to care about those around her, but she aims to live with passion and joy in everything she does.  Her smile and her infectiously joyful spirit are the attitudes I want to possess also for myself.
  5. Look for the best in people always.—With all the negativity in the world and in social media, I want to “upset the apple cart,” so to speak, by looking for the best in humanity, rather than dwelling on the worst in humanity. I aim to watch more positive videos, both on YouTube and elsewhere, about people doing kind and uplifting things for others. I aim to try to remove myself from conversations where people are speaking negatively and gossiping about someone else.  In my aim to encourage people, I want to be able to look to the best in the people who I surround myself, and help the light in them shine and grow.

These are the five convictions I strive to live by, not only to be successful in my own life, but, more importantly, to share the love I found in God and others, with those in my life.  We should always be authentic, so we can give others the chance to love us for who we really are, not just an image we project to outsiders.  We should always do our best so we can be satisfied that we did all we could in life, and have no regrets about what we did or didn’t do.  We should care about others, so that we can make a positive difference in this world and bring love to others.  We should live with passion, so that we always have hope and purpose in our lives.  Finally, when we look for the best in others, we can help the sunshine in them grow and thrive.

5 Destiny Encounters That Changed My Life

We all have those moments where just one person, one situation, or one moment can have an enormous impact on our lives. When I was growing up, I do not remember many, if any, such moments, even though I’m sure I had some. However, in the past ten years (mostly in the past five), I’ve had several such moments, that, as far as I know, will be forever seared in the memory of my heart. Of course, I know some of us may have destiny encounters that impact our lives in a negative way, but that is not my focus. All of these following encounters from my life have changed me for the better and have happened within the past ten years (with four out of the five happening within the past five!). In chronological order, these are my destiny encounters that have changed my life:

  1. Meeting my mentor J (circa February 2011-2012): After having a tough year in 2011-2012, because I was trying to get adjusted to a new pastor and also struggling through several relational issues with people, I needed a wise and caring mentor badly! I was also very frustrated because, although I was ready and eager to work, and had been looking for a job for some time, it seemed no jobs were the right fit for me. So, in February of that year, I met J for the first time. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting her to have that much of an impact on my life. However, over the years, she has helped me not only make peace with various people in my life, but also was instrumental in helping me land one of my first jobs. She, and some other people, also helped me find my current job, which has also made a huge impact on my life.  J has also been a tireless advocate and encourager and the first person to truly believe in my abilities and my potential.  Because of all her help, and some intervention from (I believe) God, I have much more purpose and meaning in my life than I have ever had before! My depression, which had dragged on and off for years, has finally, subsided substantially. Yes, it took a lot of work on my part to get to where I am now, but if it weren’t for J’s encouragement and help, I would not be where I am today.
  2. Meeting Veronica* (circa 2014-2015): I was at my previous church at an event. I don’t remember if it was some kind of celebration or party, or if it was a young adult bible study for people aged 18-35. I remember there being a crowd of people all around me, not really engaging with me, and seeing this young woman who I had not seen before, finding her way around the crowd and trying to engage with the others. So, wanting to engage with the crowd and especially to know more about this new woman, I went and introduced myself.  As it turns out, this young woman would become one of my closest friends! Veronica* and I are still in contact until this day. She has had an indelible impact on my life because of her infectious smile, general positive attitude about life, her genuineness, and her deep care for others, especially those who are hurting.  For example, one day, when I was having suicidal thoughts and was generally feeling close to hopeless after enduring an especially stressful day at work, her encouraging words and support gave me renewed strength to face the next day. I was no longer suicidal and had renewed hope in life and humanity. Through seeing and hearing about her serving the broken, hurting, and/or even the undeserving, she really opened my eyes to how to best care and encourage others, just as she had for me.
  3. Getting my current job (Feb-March 2016): There is a longer version of this event, here. After being turned down for one of my dream jobs at a bookstore, which turned out to not be a good fit for me anyhow, I was a bit discouraged. However, one wintry morning, when my mom and I happened to have to go to my current workplace, I asked the Home Office Coordinator about the status of my application, since I hadn’t heard back from them yet. When I asked her, she decided that I could interview at 1 pm! Because my workplace was a bit far from my house and my mom and I had other errands to run, I didn’t have time to change into decent interview clothes. When I was being interviewed, I was so nervous that I stumbled and stuttered over my words. I thought for sure I had flunked the interview. To my surprise, about an hour later, they offered me the job! However, I wasn’t sure if this job would be the best fit for me at the time. After seeking wise counsel from my family, I decided to take the job because of the opportunities that it presented.  About six months later, I was discussing wanting to be full time with one of my managers, and because she admired my work ethic and generally positivity, she eagerly changed me from part-time to full-time. And the rest is history!
  4. Deciding to come to my current church (October 2016): Many things were happening at my former church. It seemed like everyone was leaving, and some things were falling apart for me there.  My pastor there, who I admired and wanted to stay many more years, had been called to a different church.  We were being taken over by another church, which didn’t seem to be the right fit for me.  So, despite ten years of mostly good and encouraging memories and building relationships with the people there, I knew God was calling me somewhere else. I first tried attending a church down the road from my old one, but that one didn’t seem a good fit for me. Then, I attended my current church for the first time.  I knew of one person that went there—a friend of a friend. To my surprise, I found another friend who also went there and sang in the choir! I was so happy and surprised to see her and her husband there! Also, everyone was so friendly, but not overly so. People there seemed genuine, and the sermon touched my heart. However, I did not know if this was going to be my church home or not. I went several more times, and was so pleased with both the genuineness of the people there and the great, biblical quality of the sermons, that I decided to become a member less than a year later, in August 2017. The people in this church have deepened my relationship with God and others, a pastor there helped me to be able to study the Bible more effectively, another helped me forgive several people at work, and many people there helped me have not only more passion and love for God, but also for the people that I serve every day.
  5. Meeting my friend Ann* (circa January 2017): One day, when I was sitting in the break room and after praying, I heard a woman sitting with one of my other friends, talking about spiritual issues. I wondered if she was a Christian, because she used many of the same words a believer in Christ would, So, I asked her if she was, and she said something like, “Of course!” Because of our similar beliefs and passion for loving God and others, we began working together to impact our workplace positively with God’s love and kindness. For example, if someone is having a bad day, we try to encourage, or pray for them (if they allow us to). We also strive to demonstrate a hard-working ethic and a positive attitude to be a good role model for the others there.

These encounters all changed my life in ways that are only beginning to manifest themselves. They all gave me purpose and hope in my life where there was lack before. So, I encourage everyone to strive to be encouraging and uplifting to others, especially those that are hurting in some way. Who knows? Like my friend Veronica or my mentor J,  you may leave an indelible impact on someone else’s life.

*=not their real name

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!

On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!