Top Ten People That Have Shaped My Character (and why)

DISCLAIMER: For privacy reasons, I will be using pseudonyms for most of these people’s names. These top ten people are not necessarily in order either.

“Almost everyone has people that have shaped the way they think, speak, and behave in one way or another. Some have influenced us positively, and others have not been such a positive influence. However, here are the ten people that are in or have been in my life that I think have shaped my character to the way it is today, aside from my Lord and Savior Jesus, who I believe has shaped me the most dramatically, and why:

  1. My dad–My dad has had a profound influence on my character and the way I see life. First of all, he is very hard working. He usually works at least 10 hour days, at least five days a week. When he comes home, sometimes he even helps my mom around the house. I have strived to imitate him too. I try to work very hard at my job, not only to please God but also because I have been influenced by seeing how hard my dad works and how rewarding hard work can be. Also, he is a generous man.  I believe that if a family member or friend needed it, he would give the shirt off his back!  I want to be that way too. I want to care for others the way my dad cares for my family and others. However, I want the best for people, not just necessarily what they want.
  2. My mom-– My mom also has had a profound influence on my character. She also strives to be generous and providing what we need. She has worked tirelessly and selflessly to provide for our family.  When my brother or I needed something, she would always be willing to provide it for us.  She doesn’t worry about things too much but trusts that things will turn out good in the end. I want to be more like her in this and have not so much fear and anxiety about the future. It is something I am working on for myself.
  3. My brother–My brother has shaped my character in major ways as well. First of all, like my parents, he is willing to give up self for the good of his family and others. When I was visiting him at his home, he made sure I was taken care of and that I felt at home.  He even offered his bed, so that I could sleep comfortably, but I told him that I was willing to sleep on his sofa so that he didn’t have to go through all the trouble. He is also very thoughtful and kind in his gifts to my parents and me on our birthdays and Christmas. He never gets something on the fly. He puts much thought in what we would like and what to purchase or make for us.
  4. J- J has taught me to be more independent in my thinking and more confident in who God created me to be. When I first met her, I was depressed and still looking for work. After several years, she helped me get a job and built my sense of confidence and self-worth so much that I now have greater energy and drive to do things like write in this blog! 🙂
  5. Betty– Betty was my discipler, and like J she has also encouraged me and validated me when I was down and out. She helped me to see things in a new light. She worked with me to know God better and to strengthen my faith in Christ. She was (and still is) a godsend!
  6. Veronica–Veronica taught me about joy and life. I did not know this until recently, but she is a prayer warrior too!  Her positive attitude about others, always seeing the best in them, has helped her through the tough trials in her life. That she almost always seems joyful and bubbly are the traits that I want to emulate for myself in order to impact other people’s lives for the positive, because if you are always negative, who would want to be with you?
  7. Erica— Erica’s devotion to God and to His priorities are amazing!  Like my parents, my friend Erica also has a strong work ethic and is diligent in accomplishing what God wants for her.  She has also helped me to accept myself by her accepting me for who I am, and not trying to change me into what she thinks I should be. Like Erica, I also strive to accept people the way they are, without endorsing sinful behaviors, of course.
  8. Holly--Holly has taught me so much about life.  Her dedication to social justice issues and the way she articulates her views inspire me to do the same. She has influenced me to be more compassionate and understanding about where different people from different walks of life are coming from in their views. She has helped me to understand people who are suffering better and how to best help them.
  9. Chris (one of my managers)–What a journey I’ve had with Chris! He has helped me not only to get my current job but has taught me much about life. He has helped me to be more patient and compassionate towards him and others.  He has even helped me with the logistics of my job and of some of the functions of a lower-level manager.
  10. Frank Taylor–My former pastor (also one of my faith heroes; see here ), in my opinion, is one of the most humble people I have ever met. When a bunch of people at the church I attended at the time was offended by something he said in a sermon, he didn’t excuse himself but humbly sent a letter to everyone apologizing for the offense, even though he didn’t even mean to offend. I was (and still am) very impressed by this act of humility. He also didn’t force me to respect or trust him, but he allowed me to get to know him better and see for myself his character.
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Biggest Lie Society Taught Me To Believe (and how to counter it)

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by a question asked of writer Todd Brison on Quora. You can find his website here.

The lie that society has taught me to believe since I was about two years old when I was rejected by people at a daycare center, is that one’s worth is dependent on how much you accomplish and/or are to other people. Maybe there are some of you who have or are still believing this very lie. It’s easy to believe, especially if you live in a developed country like I do. The phrase “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” comes from this mentality. It says that, basically, we should be self-made and need minimal, if any, help from others. This mentality also does not take into account or value those who are disabled or otherwise cannot do certain things all by themselves. It may see people who need help of any kind as  “weaker,” more “useless,” or somehow “less valuable,” than their able-bodied counterparts.  The only benefit to believing this lie is that it forces you to be diligent and not lazy. However, the drawbacks, in my mind, are not worth this benefit.  First of all, it devalues people. It not only devalues the disabled or sick but also everyone else because it reduces our worth to be only what we do and if we are “useful” to society or not. Racism and other forms of prejudice derive from this mentality that other people are worth less because of what they do or don’t do in society.  Also, this lie is a form of pride.  Believing this lie does not allow one to get the help and support they need, because of the stigma of shame and embarrassment of feeling “worthless”  if they admit they need help. If one accomplishes success in society’s eyes, this person may become arrogant and look down upon others. Finally, this lie sometimes influences people to spend their life on things that are not as essential, such as becoming a workaholic to the expense of his or her health and loved ones.  Because this society is accomplishment driven, some people may chase after money, power, sex, or work to the point of being obsessed with them and delve into becoming an addict, which is never good.  If this society based someone’s worth more on how they beautiful and unique they are, for instance, instead of just what they can contribute to society, this wouldn’t be such an issue.

Here are some ways we can counter this lie and its effects:

  1. Value people.–I have written several times on how we should value people. For these posts see this and this.  However, it is worth repeating.  One way we can value people more is to thank people for the good that they do to us and others. For instance, if you see a colleague or a boss take the initiative to help you with some of your work because they see it may overwhelm you, say ” Thank you. I appreciate your help.”  They are not obligated to help you, but the fact that they did anyway needs to be acknowledged not only for their sake but also for yours as well.  Another way we can value people is to encourage people when they feel upset or depressed. Tell and show people that they are still worthy of love even if they don’t accomplish everything they desire or hope.
  2. Demonstrate and encourage humility.–One way to demonstrate humility is to genuinely apologize when you make a mistake or offend someone. Never say, “I’m sorry, but…,” because you are just excusing what you did, which is not a real apology.  The correct way to apologize and make amends with someone you offended is to a.) I am sorry I did x and that I hurt you by doing x. I will promise to try to never do that again. Will you forgive me?” b.) Work to not only offer restitution for the loss the offended party incurred by your mistake or sin but also to never offend them again. Another way to show humility is to be willing to be vulnerable. Never be afraid to ask for someone else’s help or admit that you are not perfect.  Yes, it is a risk sometimes. Many people aren’t willing to be vulnerable because they are afraid of what others will think of them and that they will be rejected. That used to be me too in the past. Now, I am not so afraid anymore, because I now know that their opinion really doesn’t matter. It is what God thinks of me that really counts. Also, the people that reject us for being vulnerable and honest with them are probably insecure themselves, and striving to please them is really a waste of time because they will never be satisfied with anything we can give them anyway.
  3. Be successful in things that will matter for eternity, or for your eternal memory, not just on things that will only last in your earthly life.–Yes, it is good to be successful at one’s job or career, or get good grades. I don’t object to this at all. In fact, I encourage it!  However, what I’m saying is don’t focus so much on worldly success that you miss what really counts or what memory you will leave on this earth after your life ends.  In order to be truly successful, I believe one of the things people should focus on besides God is the relationships you have on this earth with other people. How are you treating those you profess to love or care about? This is something I think (me included) can do better. Do not be so focused on worldly goals that you miss the eternal and the spiritual, and your relational goals.

If we do these three things, this lie can be seen for the farce it is. People are inherently valuable, not because they can do a lot of good for us, or even the world, but because each person is unique and special in how they were created to be. Value and cherish others today, and never think that we are only as good as what we do.

Things I Learned in Childhood

I know I don’t talk much about my childhood. Although compared to many people, I had a pretty happy childhood, I did experience some trauma, mostly at the hands of peers my age. However, I did learn some valuable life lessons that I carry to this day when dealing with situations in my life.  These three things have shaped how I see the world, with some modifications, of course:

  1. Don’t avoid or neglect to do something just because you don’t like to do that thing. Do it efficiently and quickly the first time, so you don’t have to do more later. –I was talking to one of my managers last night, and he was amazed that I am consistently the first one to arrive at the straightening (even though I must admit, sometimes I hate it), and one of the first one to get things done. What I failed to tell him at the time, was why I do this.  This motivation actually stemmed from an incident in fourth or fifth grade when I consistently failed to do the assigned readings on the Gold Rush each day because I hated it. I mean, I hated the book! It was as boring as reading a how-to manual on assembling something one doesn’t care about.  However, the time came where I had to present something from that book.  I knew if I didn’t at least skim the book, that I would probably fail the whole class, and my parents would be absolutely furious at me for not even trying. I quickly gathered up as much information as I could from gleaning the book, and passed the project presentation by the skin of my teeth (i.e to my parents’ satisfaction).  From then on, I never tried to avoid doing something unpleasant if it was important just because I didn’t like doing said thing.  I might do it reluctantly or just to get it over with sometimes, but I will do it so I don’t have to stress out in the end.  During this past year as I have grown in my faith and love of Jesus Christ and others,  I have also tried to find something pleasurable in that unpleasant task and remind myself that I am to do said thing with excellence so that it pleases God and because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Kids can be cruel, but sometimes adults are too.  –I won’t name any names of course, but there were some teachers I observed that were mean to others and me. Maybe they weren’t always deliberately cruel, but sometimes would lash out in anger or because they were too stressed out to respond in a calm and validating way.  There were a few students that were particularly disruptive in their behavior. They did things like talk out of turn in class, spit on students, or fail to do their homework.  Some(not all) of the teachers that I observed didn’t even try to figure out why they behaved that way, and just started disciplining them and a few even mocked them a few times! None of the teachers, from what I observed, even took the time to actually care for and encourage these students very much when they behaved well. I was mocked by a few teachers from everything from my ethnicity to the way I dressed. I have seen this scenario repeated even in some of the places where I have worked, sadly enough.  These events from my childhood shaped my view in that now I get angry (even rageful sometimes) at people who mock others for things that can’t be controlled or that I think don’t matter in the face of eternity.  Sometimes, I must confess that I even thought (but not done) of taking vengeance on the perpetrators on behalf of the victims of the bullies.  These events have also motivated me to care more about people who are hurting, partly so that this scenario I witnessed in childhood does not repeat itself in any way again.
  3. Sometimes you must compromise to be able to successfully work with others, but never compromise your moral beliefs and values. –When I was maybe in fourth grade and below, I used to want everything done efficiently and my way, so much so that one of my peers told me in no uncertain terms that I was difficult to work with, and that comment cut to the heart and I remember it to this day.  Sometimes I hated working in groups, because a.) No one would choose to work with me, and I had to work with random people I didn’t know or care about. b.) Either the person ended up wanting to take over everything, leaving me with nothing to do, or I had to do everything because the person wasn’t willing to carry his or her weight.  However, these experiences of working in groups with different and random people from my classes prepared me to deal with people in the “real” world.  These experiences taught me that I had to compromise and allow for others’ ideas because it was not all about me and getting things done my way.  In the process, I may have even learned a thing or two and understood others’ perspectives better.  These experiences were valuable to help me cope with other associates and customers that I interact with today!

These are three things that I learned in childhood that I consistently apply to my life today.  These lessons have proved valuable in helping me be a more successful and well-adjusted person. What lessons have you learned in your childhood that you still carry today? How have they been applied to your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

How God’s Love Has Changed My Life

When someone or something comes into your life and just changes the course of it forever, they will leave an indelible mark on who you are and the way you see things.  This is what God has done for me personally when He came into my life nearly seventeen years ago.  The more I have gotten to know God, the more He has changed me, and thus my life as well. Here are some ways He has done just that:

  1. He has worked in and through me to help me love people more.–As I have shared in previous posts, before God’s love took hold of my life, I was a very selfish and rigid person. As far as I can remember, as a young child, I don’t really recall me being very compassionate and caring of others. I did not understand why a lot of people refused to be friends with me. However, when God took hold of me, all that changed. Hearing stories about adults being abused as children and some of my peers getting bullied started to really bother and upset me, whereas before I didn’t care as much.  God even showed me the pain some ex-churchgoers experienced as a result of being hurt by professing Christians in churches, and that caused me to help others as I had never done before. In this past year especially, God has really been teaching me how to live more and more for Him and others, and less for just myself.  He is teaching me that I have to sacrifice my own conveniences and comforts for the benefit of others, especially if it would help them.
  2. God has revealed to me things that I need to change about myself and has given me the motivation to change.–The more God has taught me about Himself, life, and myself, the more I realize that I still have a long road ahead of me. This has given me the motivation to continually improve myself and strive for excellence in everything I do because if I thought there was nothing left to improve about myself, I would have little motivation to learn and become better. I don’t believe God reveals these things because He is tyrannical or wanting to smite us but for our own good, as to help us not to hinder our own relationships.  This fact, coupled with the fact, that I believe He is merciful, has helped me want to change for the better.
  3. God’s love has brought me tremendous blessings and abundant joy.—The more I know of God’s love, the more I realize how blessed I am. Yes, things get very difficult for me sometimes, and yes I have been through some trials and struggles. However, I consider myself blessed.  Before God’s love really started to shape and mold me, I had few friends.  I felt alone and was lost.  Now, God has blessed me with the type of support and love through Himself, other Christians, and other good friends of various faiths, that I had never thought existed!  For the first time in my life, I felt understood and loved by people other than just my immediate family!  He has also provided me with a good job in which I can do well.  His love has given me the freedom to enjoy His natural and human creations.  I now feel that I can better enjoy life without fear of being alone and abandoned, and I have the confidence and trust that He will always provide for me no matter what. His love has only proved that!

These are the major ways that God has changed my life.  One of the pastors at my church taught that God’s love for us will never cease and will never go away.  This is the confidence which I personally strive to live my life and share with others. How has God or a loved one’s love changed you? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Why Care: Finding Meaning in Life


Being presumptuous, according to my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf (and I agree with him), is having a rebellious and/or an “I-don’t-care” attitude about life and morals.  Many people who have been presumptuous about life or about grievous sins (moral wrongdoing) in my experience, have gone to either jail or have died! For instance, people in ISIS who bomb innocent people just going about their daily lives because they don’t agree with the precepts of their religion have at least a degree of presumptuousness.  They don’t care if their targets have families or what pain in their lives they carry. They just kill because their god told them to (supposedly).  Even though few people are as callous and as uncaring as ISIS suicide bombers or the most vicious murderers out there, we all (me included) need to be cautious of having a presumptuous attitude about life and about morals.  Here is why we should care–particularly about others and what kind of life we are leading. :

  1. Caring about others and the legacy we want to leave brings purpose and meaning to our lives.–Personally, before I became a Christian, I was very selfish and was searching for purpose and meaning in my life. Now, I don’t mean that people who don’t share my Christian faith are selfish and uncaring. On the contrary, I know a lot of people of various beliefs other than my own, who are extremely caring and selfless too. It’s just for me, that was my experience.  However, what I am saying is that if we don’t care about others and what legacy we are leaving, life will feel empty and meaningless.  When I got to that point, I felt like life was no longer worth living.  You can only live for just yourself for so long until you start to think about, “What am I doing? Why am I here with everyone else, when they are not benefiting me?” However, when you start to live for the benefit of others and you start to build a lasting legacy that you want others to follow, life starts to become more exciting because you have an end goal or goals in mind that you want to strive for regularly!
  2. Caring for others and leaving a good legacy changes the world.–One of my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, changed millions of lives because she lived a life of caring for others, especially those who were friendless or otherwise in need. Over 1,000 people attended her funeral, and it was televised on CNN.  Some sources even say it was more attended than the funeral of Princess Diana!  Her father, Darrell Scott, also founded an organization called “Rachel’s Challenge,” which helps promote the lifestyle that Rachel led and discourage bullying.  This organization coupled with Rachel’s influence from her writings and the life she led have helped millions of people.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Scott) When you care for others from your heart, you can change the world for the positive. If you don’t quit caring and living for good, you will leave a good legacy for others to follow after your time on earth is up. I am striving to live to that end. Yes, I may fail (sometimes lots of times). However, when we fail, we have to just get back up and try again and persevere to the end.
  3. Caring for others and leaving a good legacy is ultimately joyful and rewarding.–Even if caring for others sometimes gets exhausting or people don’t appreciate you right away, to care for others ultimately brings you joy and has its rewards.  Seeing others joyful because they know someone (perhaps you!) cares about them ultimately should bring you joy as well.  That is its own reward! Not only that, but a few people may follow your example as well!  This will start a chain reaction of more people caring enough to change the world for the positive and not being apathetic about others or about life. People will start to respect us more because they know we can be counted on to care.

To care about others and about the legacy we are leaving for others to follow are very important because this is one of the major ways we derive meaning to our lives, changes the world, and is ultimately joyful and rewarding not only to the ones we care about but also to us as well.  Who needs your care today? Who can you show love to today?  What legacy do you want to leave? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

When I Say “I Love You”

This post is based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (KJV), where charity=love:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

DISCLAIMER: This post can be for everyone, but is dedicated to all those who have made a positive impact in my life, especially my family and friends. Thank you!

 

When I say, “I love you,” I strive to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always wish the very best for you and your future.

When I say,  “I love you,” I will always strive to treat you kindly and with respect. That means I will never think I’m better than you or better off without you. I will always do my best to respect your boundaries. This includes when you don’t want to be hugged, I won’t hug you. When you don’t want to talk about something, I won’t force the issue. When you can’t do this right away, I will try to be patient and wait for you.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my very best never to think evil thoughts about you, never to slander you or talk behind your back.

When I say, “I love you,” and you wrong me and I get upset at you, I will a.) Get the issue between us resolved quickly  b.) Not allow bitterness to take root in my heart. c.) Have my anger at you subside as soon as possible.

When I say, “I love you,” and I wrong you, I will quickly ask for your forgiveness, repent, and try to make things right between us.

When I say, “I love you,” and you accomplish something special and good, I will always be there to support you in it. I will be happy for you and not be jealous and scheming against you.

When I say, “I love you,” it means that I will always encourage the best in you and try to bring that out.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always appreciate everything that you do for me and others.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my best to always show my authentic self. Since there are no pretenses in true love, I won’t hide who I really am either. And I expect that you will not be afraid to show your authentic self to me either.

When I say, ” I love you,” it means that I will sometimes call you out on things that bother me about you that need to be changed. However, I will also strive to do this gently and in love.  This is not to put you down, but this is to bring out the best you possible.

When I say, “I love you,” I do my best to sacrifice myself and my desires if I think it will help lift you up in any way.

When I say, “I love you,” it does not mean I will never fail you or fail in my love, but it does mean that I will never give up on you or on our relationship.

When I say, ” I love you,” I will always strive to show how much God loves you through my words and actions to you.

What I Learned (or re-learned) from God Today

Disclaimer: This has content from a Christian perspective. Please, no disparaging comments or they will be deleted.  Thank you and happy reading. 🙂 This was originally written August 16, 2017, and will be up a few days later.

A few months ago, after having a very satisfying time with God, I decided to have what I call “God Day” again today. God Day is where I devote most of or all day to God to get to know Him better and to learn new things and re-learn old things from Him.  Everyone who calls themselves a Christian should try to do this at least once a year, preferably a few times a year.  Some people even do several days of God Days! At any rate, here’s what I have learned from Him during my time today and for the last several days:

  1. God is sovereign in control of everything.–I learned that I need not worry about my present and future circumstances. No matter what may go wrong or right, God is still in control. I believe that God will take care of me. No matter what. Always and forever. Even if someone hurts me physically or emotionally, God can still use that situation to bring about good in my life. Even if some of my prayers go unanswered, God is still in control. He is in control of the ultimate outcome of our lives. Yes, we make decisions (I don’t know how that works, but anyway…)  that can impact this, but ultimately it is His will that will win out.
  2. Everything that God does is to either bring us closer to Him or a way to bring us good and Him His due glory.–Even the annoying phone call I received from a scammer in the middle of my God Day today (Ugh, how irritating is that ?) helped me to rest in God’s grace. When I wanted to escape a bad situation that I had at work, God didn’t allow me to because he was using that situation to refine my character and grow me to be a more loving and patient person.  It was like God was saying to me, ” You don’t want to deal with [situation] anymore? How will I grow you then? Not going to happen until you deal properly with the situation at hand.”  My illness three years ago with my gall bladder? I believe it was to bring me to a greater appreciation of life and all that He had given me. I believe every situation in your life is allowed by God in order to make us a better, stronger person, even the bad ones. I’m not saying that it is good that you had to suffer through these things (I hate seeing or hearing of others suffering, and still do!), but that your situation is not hopeless even if you think it is! It is still redeemable!  Been rejected or abused? That experience can help you to treat others with more compassion. I have been rejected tons of times, and I know that these awful experiences have helped me to carry out God’s purpose and mission for my life with greater love and compassion than if I hadn’t been rejected by anyone at all. Lost a loved one? This experience of heartache and sadness can help you to help others through their losses and can help you value the people that are still with you more.
  3. I need to look to God and His character for love and approval and not other people.–In my experience, I have tended to look to others to draw upon my self-worth and how I thought I was. I now know that was a mistake, and I still struggle with this sometimes. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can attest that other people’s perceptions of you aren’t always 100% true or even accurate. This is why it is so important for everyone to stop feeding on another’s love and approval as indicators of how lovable or valuable we are! The truth is that we all are inherently valuable no matter what other people say or do to us.  Whether you are Black, White, or anything in between, rich or poor, straight, gay, or bi, transgender or cisgender, republican or democrat, thin or fat, short or tall, or any other human identifier, we are all inherently valuable and should be loved and treasured as fully human, more valuable than gold or even platinum! For me, when I look to God for my worth, I know that I am His child and inherently valuable and cherished, no matter what other people say about me. So, if another person says that I am worthless and stupid or something to that effect, I can laugh in their face and acknowledge in my heart that they are lying, and not take them seriously at all! When I look to God, I know He loves me so much that even when I was at my worst, He gave up everything for me! (See Romans 5:8). 

These are some of the lessons that God taught me today. I know that today I can rest assured of God’s peace and presence in my life, even though things around me may be chaotic because He is my constant.  What has God and/or your life experiences taught you?  Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Why What You Do Matters

Have you or someone you know ever thought that what you do for a living, the kind deed that no one ever even said “Thank you” to, or just anything you do in life doesn’t matter or won’t count for anything?  Well, there were times in my life when I felt that way.  However, this is a lie from the pit of darkness!  I know a lot of people go through life just “existing” because they feel no one gives a care about them.  And this is very sad. However, know that anything you do, whether good or bad, matters. Here’s why:

  1. There is are rewards and/or consequences to everything you do.–For instance, if you work hard at your job or at school, or whatever you do, in general, you will reap the rewards of so doing.  If you break the law, you will most likely end up in prison or at least have to pay a hefty fine. Even if you don’t see immediate reward, I believe it will come to you. You may have to be patient to see the reward or you may not get it in this life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get rewarded in eternity.
  2. Everything you do affects, positively or negatively, at least one other person, if not more.–For instance, sometimes when I go to work and I feel discouraged and unappreciated, but I still try to work hard despite these feelings, some people still take notice. How do I know? I have had people come up to me and say good things about my work.  I don’t say this to brag about myself, but to show you that even when you don’t feel appreciated or loved, if you still strive to do your best, people will eventually take notice. The reverse is also true. When you do something bad, people take notice too. For instance, if you always yell at and are rude to people, other people who don’t even know you but hear about you, will either be more cautious around you or avoid you altogether.  So, I encourage everyone to do their very best, because it will affect someone–and someone will eventually take notice.
  3. Every little thing you do will build up or tear down your legacy (i.e. how you will be remembered after you die)–This goes along with points one and two, but everything you do either builds up or tears down what you want your legacy on earth to be. For instance, if I want to (and I do) carry Rachel’s torch and I compromise my morals because I wrongly think that it doesn’t matter what I do or say or that I will make little difference anyway, I would not only be disgracing Rachel’s legacy as a sold-out follower of Christ, but also ruining my legacy of how I would like to be remembered when I die and with what I will leave this world.  However, if I want to be like Jesus Christ, and I strive every day to be loving, forgiving and kind as he was, knowing that everything I do matters, then I will leave quite a different (and more positive) legacy than if I were to compromise who I am for the sake of temporary pleasures on this earth.  So, how do you want to be remembered after you die by your family, friends, and others that know you? What you do matters.

This is why everything you do matters, whether small or great.  So, if you have a job, work hard at it even if no one else seems to. Be different, stand out, and make a positive change in this world. If you are a student, study hard and do all your homework (or even go beyond what is required sometimes), even if 90% of your classmates don’t. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” And I wholeheartedly agree!

On Loneliness and Love

Mother Teresa once said, in her book, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa,

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/139677-the-greatest-disease-in-the-west-today-is-not-tb)

And I totally agree with her. I am not discounting the pain and suffering felt by people afflicted with physical ailments or who are starving for food. However, if you are surrounded by a group of people who love and care about you during that period of suffering, you will most likely come out of the situation much stronger and be able to endure anything better, than if you have no one.  Also, if everything else is going fairly well for you, but you have no one with whom to share these accomplishments and triumphs, then you may begin to think life is pointless.

Loneliness and the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for are the worst situations any human being or even animal can ever have to endure. This is because loneliness and feeling unloved, uncared for, and unwanted cut to the very depths of one’s soul. Here’s how we can combat these feelings if we feel them ourselves, and how we can help others who feel that way:

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

  1. Do something kind for someone else.—Often when I feel lonely or rejected, the best thing for me to do is to go out and do something kind for someone else. Usually, not as a means to an end, but as a kind of “side-effect” to our good deeds, when we do something kind for someone else, and they appreciate us in return (and sometimes, even when they don’t but you know in your heart you did right by them), we feel more connected to the recipient of our kindness. We open doors for people to want to get to know us better.
  2. See rejection, not as a personal failure on your part, but a chance to learn from mistakes and others.— For instance, when I was rejected for the chance to work at that bookstore, I learned quickly that this wasn’t where God wanted me.  Though I was discouraged for a long time because many people in my life had rejected me for even a friendship and found me difficult to get along with, God taught me through those painful experiences that a.) He was there for me and b.) To be more compassionate and loving to others who may also feel rejected and unloved by others (or even me).
  3. Get involved in your community, or even online.–To combat loneliness, do not become a hermit 24/7. Engage with others, and get involved in getting to know people around you. This could be the neighbors you live with, people who live in or near where you live in the greater community,  people at the religious institution where you worship,  or even people you interact daily with at your job, or where you most frequent outside your house.  Even though it’s not exactly the same, you can also get involved in online communities and form online friendships there.  It may be difficult to get initially involved.  For instance, when I switched church communities last year, I didn’t know many people there and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. However, as time went on, I started to feel more at home and found that this was a good change for me. So, don’ t give up on a new community just because you feel uncomfortable or anxious at first.

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

  1.  Never give up on them.–Some people are difficult to handle. I get it. However, these same people may be reacting out of fear and anger at the larger society around them that has callously rejected them for something they can’t control such as their ethnicity, disability, or any other human identifier.  Understand that such people actually need extra love, not less of it.  I know sometimes investing in those people gets exhausting and tiring, but if you strive never to give up on those who hurt the most, most people will eventually see you as a friend and confidante, as opposed to an enemy.
  2. Intentionally reach out and care for them.–At work, sometimes I give encouraging notes to people who may need them. This is partly so that the people I work with will know that they are not alone and that someone out there gives a care and appreciates what positive things they have done. We should apply the same principle to those around us who feel lonely or rejected.  If they need to vent, listen with validation and compassion. You don’t need to “fix” their problems, but just listening to them can go a long way into showing them love and care. If the lonely person in your life needs help with something, offer to help whenever possible.  Be there for them, both in their trials and their triumphs. Be a friend.
  3. Always strive to be kind to them.--Be kind in your interactions with them by making them feel valuable and less alone.  If you fail to do this, be quick to apologize and make amends.  Include them in your interactions with others whenever appropriate.  Encourage them to cultivate the good personality traits that you find in that person or persons.  Try to prefer them over yourself.

There are many people in our lives who may feel lonely or unloved. Some of them are apparent to us, like someone who always sits alone at lunch.  However, some of them may seem to be surrounded by many people, but they feel empty inside and only have superficial interactions with others.  We need to be able to reach both groups with our love and compassion. If we do, we may just start a chain reaction. My wish and hope for this world is that eventually no one on this earth would ever have to feel alone and unloved again.

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!