I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every
person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics.
No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently
embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in
close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to
embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:
The most important trait that my close friends all have is
authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy,
and genuine. They do not act one way towards
others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior
motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something
from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their
lives. Also, another part of how they
are authentic is their honesty. For
instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me
the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth
because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked
upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth! I appreciate this about my friend because her
honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed
trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling
me that I am worth what is true. Sure,
some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that
because it shows that she values honesty.
Another trait that my closest friends all have is a
servant’s heart. All of my close friends
have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve
others. Some are serving the Lord as
missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has
abandoned them. Still others are serving
their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the
same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to
die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those
of the one who would eventually betray Him!
They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make
the world a better place for everyone.
Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the
willingness to be vulnerable. I define
vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and
victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I
see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not
always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no
one, except God, is really perfect. Mark
Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t
doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we
don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being
vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her. In years past, I admit I have struggled with
being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me. However, I have realized over the past five to
ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share
their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond
between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each
other. It also enables others to help us
through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in
our pain and struggles.
Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is
thoughtfulness and care towards others.
Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the
needs of others. One of my close
friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness
that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would
help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings
that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday. I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of
that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other
very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about
several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to
take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she
sensed that I was hurting and sad. I aim
to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants
moral support in a time of need. All my
close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give
them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.
Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have
spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life
more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these
friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around
them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level
with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in
this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows
this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about
these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ
to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to
relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to
church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate
better to the world around them.
I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you
know who you are—who embody these characteristics. I pray that we all would strive to embody
authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our
lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from
their pain and fears.
Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability.
What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world. Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears. Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”. I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure.
I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.
However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later.
Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long.
However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well. In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.
But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.
The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between. Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly.
The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told. God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me. God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.
A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.
We were all created for community. Even when Adam was
surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least
one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the
man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even
Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be
surrounded by people, at least some of the time. Believers in Christ or not, we are all
created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the
context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind
of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with
my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I
struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood. Many people, especially the younger
generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up.
Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other
than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also
be more isolated. While we may have more
virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have
suffered. Because many people may see
that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this
problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality. For instance, in my personal life, I found
that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more.
One of the things that God has taught me through all that,
is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I
couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!
However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school
class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.
Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me
through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place! Also, when we are part of a community, there
is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic
communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In
that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until
I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be
accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25,
Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t
neglect your local church community).
Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating
loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge
idols. I know several people who have
turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a
number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or
loneliness, in their lives. One of my
pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a
mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.
So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true
loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for
any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.
One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry
is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character. In my class that I attend Thursday nights at
church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave
or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more
aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt
stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a
community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some
of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap
God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely
because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may
crave it. This may be due to a number of
reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with
people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they
are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again. They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or
betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness
than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it
will ruin them as well. I used to be one
of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others,
and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I
became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely,
but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in
life. So, how was I able to be more
“real” and “vulnerable” with others?
First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best
interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest
times. I also strived to forgive those
who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I
had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people
respected them, I sometimes felt alone.
However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think
good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships
with these managers also started to improve dramatically! Also, in order to not feel lonely for a
prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with
others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be
rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on
relationships completely. Also, God may
want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.
We were not created to be alone. That is why children and
adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have
irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience
true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community
in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.
EDIT: Many people in my shoes would be unhappy about having to work tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day) in the U.S, but I’m thankful that I have a job and that they will serve a meal where I work. I am so blessed! According to a recent survey, by the Conference Board, only 46% of those surveyed in the U.S were “satisfied” with their jobs. I hear people complaining about their work every day at my job, and in other companies as well. However, for me, though there have been some days where the stress seemed overwhelming, I can say with confidence that I am grateful for my job.
One of the main reasons why I’m thankful for my job is because of how God allowed me to get this job. Before I got employed at my current job, I had an interview at a bookstore about twenty five minutes from my home. I really wanted this job, because I thought it would be my “dream job” and that I would thoroughly enjoy it. However, the interview didn’t go as well as I planned, and I quickly realized that I would not get the job and was not adequately qualified for the job. I was despondent and disappointed, but luckily I did not quit trying.
One wintry day in February, I just happened to stop by my current place of employment to get a few items, and God’s Spirit happened to impress on me that I should check the status of my resume since I hadn’t heard anything back for a couple of weeks. Long story short, I got an interviewed scheduled for a few hours later. Even though, I was super nervous during the interview and wasn’t sure I would be accepted for employment, I got a job offer not even an hour after the interview! The next day, I accepted, and the rest is history.
Another reason why I’m thankful for my job is because of all the things I learned that I can apply to other places. The first day I worked there, I knew next to nothing about working at my current company and was unable to help customers as well as I can now. I did not even know how to operate a cash register, which is essential in retail. However, my now-former manager Elizabeth* allowed me to train on the register for at least 15 minutes every week, even though many people discouraged me from doing it because they thought it would be too stressful or anxiety-producing for me. Because Elizabeth continued believing in me and refused to listen to the negative voices about me that surrounded her, I was officially a trained back-up cashier about a year ago today. Someone told me that the CSMs (the Customer service managers that are responsible over managing the cashiers) would probably never call me up to ring. However, just two days ago, I was called up to ring, and the day before that I was cashiering for one and a half hours, which is a long time for a back-up who also had to straighten up two departments and do returns afterwards!
I also learned how to relate to different types of people. Because of the diverse crowd that shop at our store, and the associates that are employed there, through different experiences that I have been through, I am constantly learning how to relate to different types of people. Even if I fail at an encounter, I do better next time, and thus God is using my relational experiences with all these people, both good and bad, to help strengthen my character and to help me see something about Himself. For instance, I had a difficult time with a fellow associate, but through a series of circumstances, I learned how to forgive them and realized that I was sent by God to be a light to them and to be an encouragement to them, and not have them blaspheme God’s name because of my un-Christ like actions.
Even though I am not considered wealthy, by societal standards here in the U.S, I am grateful for my job because it provides income and benefits. I am also grateful for the meals that my store provides the employees each year on Thanksgiving because it shows that they appreciate us working that day. I also am grateful that I am able to be full-time at my job, which means more hours and benefits.
Even though there may be many reasons why I could be unhappy at my job, I am happy because God has given me everything I need at my job and in life. When I make God and doing His work my primary focus, I find that I am happier and that I am able to have purpose in my work that goes beyond just getting a paycheck. That is where I can find true joy and gratitude in my work.
All my life, I had wanted to be happy and be
loved. According to Pastor Mark Jobe, it’s a desire of 95% of people you may
meet randomly on the street. I even remember reading an article ( I don’t
remember which one.) that quoted A.J McLean of the Backstreet Boys saying, “
What do people want? They wanna be happy!”
However, the longer I have lived, the more I have realized that the
pursuit of happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found that for many
people that their pursuit of happiness often turns into self- indulgent
hedonism that can quickly spiral out of control if one isn’t careful. But being
happy isn’t a bad thing. Moreover, if these things are true in your life, you
may be well on the way to true and
In order to be truly happy, we must live with
an other- centered focus. If we live with a self-centered focus, we will most
likely sprout seeds of discontent in our lives because there will always be
some people and situations that won’t comply with our wishes! We will also miss
opportunities to truly make a positive difference in others’ lives because we
would be too busy thinking about ourselves. A self-centered focus always
demands more for itself, and thus is never satisfied with what one already has.
However, if we live to see that others are happy as well, we will be too busy
serving them to even think selfishly. Moreover, we may even see the fruits of
our service to others, and there is great satisfaction and joy in that. For
example, my former pastor served faithfully at my current church for over 40
years, and, as a result of the relational investments and services he made to
others, many people he mentored are either now in leadership positions in my
church or on the mission field. These people are likewise also actively serving
in their communities. Thus, we are able to make a great impact on the world and
the heavenly Kingdom as well.
Another thing we must practice in order to be truly happy is being grateful for all God has given us. I have observed and realized that people who constantly complain are one of the most miserable people on the planet because they only focus on what is wrong in their lives, completely ignoring the positives. Gratitude is why the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11, is able to say, “[I] have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (KJV) One way to be more grateful is not to compare yourself with people having “ more” of what you desire than yourself, but to compare yourself with those having less than you. This thinking has not only helped me be more grateful for what I have, but also be more compassionate to others in need.
In order to be truly happy in life, along with being grateful and other-centered, we must strive to try your best in life. One area we could do this in is our jobs. Most people I encounter approach their work and/ or careers as simply a means of earning a paycheck. But what if we approached our work as a way to serve others and make a great impact on changing our world for the better? What if we served God in our jobs wholeheartedly, instead of only doing the minimum required to “get by”?
Why should we give our best, not only at our jobs, but in all aspects of life? Not only because we will feel better about ourselves and reap the rewards of doing right, but because we will greatly please God and glorify Him. We will also reap much greater rewards if we know we have done our best we could in serving God with our whole lives than if we just did the minimum or accomplished something with minimal effort because we will be able to have a much greater impact and influence when we are passionate about living life positively the best we can.
True happiness, otherwise known as “joy,” had
eluded me for many years. I have struggled with depression on and off for more
than half my life. However, thanks to God, and to all my past and present
teachers of God’s pure and unadulterated Word, I have learned these secrets of
joy– having an other-centered focus, being grateful for all I have, and giving
God the best in my life, and serving Him with my whole heart. May you,
likewise, live in true happiness today by applying these secrets of joy to your