Importance of Authenticity

Do you ever wonder why, in many countries, bringing in knock-off high-end merchandise can elicit fines and the confiscation of said items? Do you ever wonder why so many people are turned off by pretense and lies from another?  There is something about having authenticity that trumps having an imitation or, let’s say, a knock-off of something real. Having something that is authentic, both in merchandise and, more importantly, in one’s character, bring much value to the person or item in question.  This is why it is so important to strive to be an authentic person.

In order for us to be able to be authentic in our character, we must first know what being genuine is not. First of all, being authentic is not just being a good person. It is especially not just trying to “earn” one’s way into heaven. Being authentic goes further than just being nice to get a return for a kind deed.  Moreover, if you are trying to do something nice for someone and do so to expect to get even a “thank you “for it, you are not really being authentically kind to that person, but more to get good feelings for yourself. Also, being authentic is not simply being really honest, to the point of hurting someone’s feelings without regard for that person.  Yes, honesty is a vital component to authenticity, but a truly genuine person does not need to hurt others in order to get true respect from others.

So, then, what components do comprise a truly authentic person? Well, first of all, a truly genuine person is not afraid to be who they were made to be, no matter the cost. For instance, I have read and heard about in various sources that both Fred Rogers and Rachel Joy Scott strove to be kind to others, no matter who was watching them, and even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Being authentic sometimes involves what I call “upsetting the applecart,” and not going with the crowd if your truly believe that your way is better or to correct an injustice you see in this world.  Another quality of an authentic person is their willingness to be vulnerable when necessary without fear of what other people may do or think. They regularly apologize and admit their failings when they make mistakes. They don’t feel the need to hide their failures, especially if those shaped who they are today.  Finally, a truly authentic person not only values honesty in themselves and others, but loves without pretense or compromise. For instance, an authentic person would never pretend to befriend someone in order to manipulate them for their own gains. They would also understand the importance of loyalty; their family and friends would know exactly where they stand with the authentic person. There are no games involved in their relationships—what you see in them is exactly what you will end up getting.

Yes, being authentic can be tough sometimes, and it does involve sacrifice sometimes, but it is so important and so needed in a world that can be full of drama and duplicity.  One reason why being authentic in character is so important is because genuineness is a vital component to having strong, lasting relationships.  While relationships based on lies can last maybe a few years, they will eventually break and the lies will eventually be found out causing immense pain to both parties involved. If there is no authenticity in a relationship, true trust cannot be built and it will eventually fall under the pressure of trials and temptations. However, if you have an authentic relationship with someone, then love and trust can flourish. You will know where you stand with each other, because there will be open and honest conversation between you and the other person.  No one will be afraid to be who they really are, or feel that the other has hidden motives in the relationship.

Because being authentic allows for strong and loving relationships with others, it will bring joy to us and the people with who we commune. Also, the people in both parties will feel free to be who they really are without worrying about being judged, rejected, or lied to by the other person.

However, if we are fake, and not authentic, our lies and hidden motives will eventually be found out, and we will become less desirable to be around.  People won’t trust us anymore because of our duplicity and will second-guess our motives because of our previous lies.  For instance, some of the Hollywood actors who have been accused of sexual misconduct had the guise of being family man or someone “charming” to be around. Since their real selves have been revealed, many, not only in their acting community, but also those in the general public, are now disgusted with them and don’t want to even be associated with them anymore.

When we are authentic though, our integrity is built up and we are considered by people as someone that can be trusted.  We not only gain respect from others, but we have confidence that we are doing the morally right thing.  Sadly, having great authenticity in character is a rare find these days. However, if we strive every day to be more and more genuine in our character, not only will that help us gain confidence, but also help change the world for the better.

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Effects of Bullying

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about the author or any other bullying survivors  Triggers for talk of abuse, references to suicidal thoughts, and talk of bullying.

Bullying can impact almost anyone, regardless of any human identifier, though it is more likely to happen to those that society perceives as “different” or “inferior” in some way.  According to the website, StopBullying.gov, from about 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 students in the United States has experienced bullying (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying).  Unfortunately, I am part of these statistics, having been bullied at school since the third grade until about the ninth grade, though there were several incidents of more sporadic bullying later as well, in my life.  Bullying has many forms, including verbal abuse and taunts, social exclusion, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other related abuses.  The effects of bullying can be devastating and life-altering for the survivor of such behavior.  People experience bullying and are affected by this demoralizing behavior in different ways and in different degrees. No two people have exactly the same bullying experiences in their lives. However, many of them share similar effects.

However, this is my story of how being bullied for years has impacted me personally. I share these three major effects of being bullied, not so people feel sorry for me, but so that people will realize the gravity of this demoralizing behavior and that more people will not have to experience what I went through.

Effect#1 of me being bullied—Low self-esteem/insecurity

In third grade up to eighth grade, I was regularly teased and mocked because of the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, and even how I looked like on the outside.  I don’t remember one classmate or teacher at that time tell me that I was “beautiful.”  Some of them even wanted to “re-make” me into their image of what they thought was acceptable, not accepting the way I was made or looked like.  To add to this torment, I did not feel very close to any of my peers during that time.  Some people would pretend to be friends with me, only to have them callously “reject” me later.

As a result of this torment that I experienced during my childhood years in school, I have struggled (and still struggle) immensely with insecurity and low self-esteem.  For instance, when I get criticized or put down (especially harshly) , even by strangers, I often get a sense of discouragement and hurt.  It’s like I am unconsciously keeping in mind the times when my classmates and even teachers taunted me for either my appearance or something that was a struggle for me. Like people who have been abused by family members, criticism can be especially hard to take by people who have been mercilessly bullied by peers and even authority figures in school.  We can tend to take criticism as rejection of who we are as a person, rather than something we just need to correct to become a better person.

Another result of this torment that I had experienced was the feeling that what I do is never “good enough.”  I am a tenacious person. I do not give up easily, but sometimes never feeling like you measure up to any good standards can threaten to undermine my tenacity.  I sometimes (wrongly) think, “Why even try when no one will accept you and your work anyway?”  I struggle with the concept of doing good just because it’s the “right thing to do” sometimes, because I feel that if we are not rewarded in some way and if we are not going to change anyone else’s lives for the better, then why do anything good at all? Sometimes, I felt that if I just did x then the bullying would stop and that people would love me as I was.  This is another effect of being bullied by others.

Effect#2—Fear of trusting God and others/paranoia

When I was little, I had a very trusting nature. However, people would use that to take advantage of me and hurt me for their own pleasure.  For instance, they promised if I gave them x thing, then they would be my friend. So, I did, but they just continued to belittle me or ignore me.  Because a lot of people pretended with me, and were not very honest or genuine towards me, I began to have a blanket paranoia of almost everyone around me. By high school, I was dubbed in my last year there, as “most paranoid.” Moreover, some well–meaning friends tell me to “believe the best in people,” not knowing that I have had a history of being bullied and taken advantage of by others by doing just that! However, to their credit, when I become paranoid, everyone seems evil and self-aggrandizing in my eyes, and I become cynical and bitter. I have met and talked to some abuse and bullying survivors that have had similar experiences of becoming paranoid and cynical to the world around them because of how many times they have been abused and taken for a ride, so to speak. This paranoia has also led me to sometimes have this immense fear of what people think of me and could do to me.

Effect#3—Depression

Ever since I was little, I have also struggled with depression.  Because of my experiences of people bullying me and simultaneously excluding me from their gatherings, I felt this impending sense that no one outside my family would really want to know me as a person, with both my blessings and flaws that I bring to this world.  No one wanted to know my story.  I felt alone, bored, and miserable, especially during my early teenage years. I struggled with several mental health issues that I tried to keep hidden from the outside world and deny, even to myself, that I had.  It has been said that bullying increases the risk of suicide in its victims. Yes, people have died from the torment that they endured from being bullied at school by their peers and others.  This is why the fact that there is no law against bullying is a sad indicator of what our society values more. (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying)

Healing

However, because of the supports that has been graciously provided for me through a variety of means, I am happy to say I am beginning to heal from the effects of being bullied.  However, this has taken many, many years.  I am thankful for the consistent support that I have received thus far from my friends, both near and far, for my co-workers and managers at my current job, for my mentor J, and last, but most importantly, support from my family and my God.  Because they have believed in me and encouraged me, I am slowly able to heal from the years of pain inflicted on me in the past. Though I still struggle with these effects, I have great hope that things will continue to get better for me.  If you have been bullied, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for you. If you are reading this and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline). Remember, there is always hope when you are alive.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (September 28, 2017). Facts about Bullying. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.

Characteristics I Value Most in People and Why

Working in the sales realm full-time and writing this blog, I meet a lot of people, both offline and online.  Although I strive to value each person I meet, there are few people, if any, who meet all of these following characteristics that I value the most. I don’t even meet them all myself, but I strive to do better each day at meeting them.  However, most people I have met will meet at least some of these valued character traits. Here they are and why I value them so highly:

  1. Genuineness– This is one of the traits that I value most in people, if not the very top one. This is why I believe Jesus was so irritated with the Pharisees—because they did not exemplify genuineness at all. They had the appearance of being religious, yet inside they were full of evil and corruption.  I also hate when people have the appearance of being godly, but inside, are full of evil and something other than who they display themselves to the “real world.”  In fact, I would rather have someone who I expect to be not nice to tick me off, than to have someone who is all sweet to me all the time to my face, go behind my back and betray me for no good reason. I value people who are willing to be honest with me even at the cost of their reputation.  I will not reject 90% of the people that have the courage to tell me what’s on their heart and who they really are. However, I will be much less accepting of fake liars.
  2. Caring—I value people who care about others more than just themselves. They live and work with a definite purpose of serving and caring for others.  For instance, a lot of the members of the church that I am part have this characteristic. I can see it when they bring meals to the sick in our congregation and/or pray for them on a regular basis.  I see this with some of the people I work with at my job. One of my co-workers not only cares for his family at home but also helps out others at work.  I would like to strive to exemplify this better and more.  People who care about others make life worth living to everyone around them. They inspire me to keep going when I feel like I have nothing left to give.
  3. Diligence—I value people who are willing to put in the effort into things. One of my managers, *Chris, exemplifies this trait by doing the best he can as long as he can. His attitude does not allow for excuses to be lazy or quit in the middle of a task that needs to be accomplished.  I also do not like to quit in the middle of a task (though I have been tempted to at times), and will often get what I can done before someone else forces me to quit!  I hate being lazy and love keeping busy.  Striving to be diligent also gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
  4. Faithful—I value people who are willing to put up with me through the long haul. I understand and accept people leaving because they are being led in another direction. However, I do not like when people quit on others or me just because they get “tired” of us or aren’t willing to put in the effort to sustain the relationship anymore. People who are faithful either to another person or at their job tell others by their actions that they can be relied on and trusted. When a spouse is faithful to the marriage, he or she is willing to hold on to the other person even when things get tough.  Being faithful shows that you will be committed to a cause or person for the long haul and have staying power.
  5. Humility—I value people who are humble because it shows that they respect others and are grateful for everything they have. People who are arrogant and have an “I-deserve” attitude, in contrast, show they don’t respect anyone but themselves because in their thinking, they say, “ I deserve everything I have. I am the best. Everyone else is dung. Give me what you owe or else.” However, people who are humble, say, through their thoughts and attitudes, “I don’t deserve anything. Everything I have is a gift from above.  I am no better than anyone else. Everyone has value and I am grateful that they are in my life because I can learn something from them.”
  6. Forgiving—I value people who are willing to forgive others because they know that everyone makes mistakes and sins. When someone is willing to forgive me for something I did against them, especially if it hurt that person very much, shows not only courage on the part of that person, but mercy and grace that I don’t deserve. By forgiving me, they are actually helping me want to never want to hurt them again.
  7. Affirming—I value people who are able to encourage, especially when one is going through a rough time. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with everything that is said or done. However, it does mean not acting in a condescending or a condemning manner to that person.  It also means not giving unsolicited advice and listening to another’s concerns more than hearing you talk to them.  It means upholding the value of the other person.  For instance, if a friend of yours tells you that he or she was abused or bullied, telling them that they are valued and that it was not their fault is affirming them.  However, telling him or her how to overcome the abuse and that they should forgive their abuser when the abuse is still fresh in their minds, is not, no matter how helpful you make this seem. Yes, there is a time and place for good advice, but what they need right now is affirmation. What they need to know is that their feelings and experiences are valid and important to you, and that you are willing to listen to them, not just yourself.

 

I value these characteristics because I believe these are essential to not only success in life and our relationships but also to be a godly and moral person. I strive to exemplify these characteristics every day to those that I encounter, though I admit that I am not perfect in exemplifying these qualities.  What characteristics do you value in people? Why?  Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*not his real name

Why Lying Hurts You

Lying is so prevalent in today’s society that it is often difficult to know who to trust. From the “little white lie” to the lies of a more serious nature, not telling the truth hurts everyone, including the speaker of the lie. Here is how lying hurts you and why honesty really is the best policy. :

  1. Lying destroys relationships.—When you lie to someone with whom you are supposed to have a close relationship, such as a family or a close friend, lying creates a barrier between you and the other person. Not only that but if that person finds out that you had lied to them, they won’t trust you anymore or believe anything you say to them, even if that time you were telling the truth. Trust is essential to a good relationship. If you don’t trust someone, you won’t want to be with them. Lying destroys relational bonds.
  2. Lying corrupts your character.—When one consistently lies to others, their character becomes corrupted, and eventually, ruined! For instance, this effect is illustrated in Scripture when King David lies to himself and to Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in order to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Then, because Uriah does not want to go back to his wife (and so David’s adultery would not be covered), David has Uriah killed in battle! After Nathan confronts David and David repents, he (David) still feels the effects of his lie, when one of his sons, borne by Bathsheba, turns against him to usurp his kingship, forcing David to hide from his son. In a modern example, Harvey Weinstein is accused of being sexually abusive to many women. If he had admitted his fault publically with the first woman he is alleged to have abused or had an affair with, he and his company would not be in the trouble they are in today. Instead, he intimidated them further by trying to silence them and lied to himself and others by telling them, in essence, that it was “acceptable” or “ok” behavior, when he knew it was not!
  3. Lying is presumptuous and arrogant.—Lying to others (or even yourself), shows contemptible pride because it refuses to face reality and be genuine. When we lie to ourselves and others, we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, a necessary component of growth and positive change. We are trapped in our own delusions. When we lie, we refuse to confront reality in the eye and do the hard work of beginning to make necessary changes to our character and situation. This is because lying often casts you in a better light than we really are.

These are some ways that lying hurts you. So, if you don’t want your name or reputation to be tarnished if you want others to be able to trust you, and if you want to avoid becoming arrogant and presumptuous, be honest. Honesty really is the best policy of life. Who can you be completely genuine with today? Discuss in comments.

Why Arrogance Angers Me So Much

 

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

The Merriam-Webster dictionary website defines arrogance as:

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

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

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

How arrogance manifests itself:

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

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

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

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

 

How to be a Friend to Sinners

DISCLAIMER: This post is based on the ideas contained in the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. Please no religious/Christian debates or demeaning others or me, or your comment(s) will be deleted.  Otherwise, ALL positive comments always allowed and happy reading. Also, this post is directed primarily for those who identify as Christians, but I think anyone can identify with at least some part of this post.  Here is the LYRIC video to the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns:

 

We are all sinners (i.e..morally corrupt or imperfect). To say otherwise, is to not face reality and the fact that no one (except Jesus) is perfect.  However, when we judge the wounded and even the sinful by relishing in their condemnation and judgment by God, we are doing a disservice not only to them, but to our testimony of the gospel message as well. Many people who don’t go to church have told me in so many words that they feel that they need to “clean up their act,” so to speak, not to be right with God, but to even feel loved and accepted as a fellow image-of-God bearer at a church! How sad!  The church should be a hospital for the broken, not a prison where we point fingers and try to hide our imperfections because of fear of judgment or reprisal!

From what I have learned in my life, here is how I’ve found are the most effective ways to relate to people (i.e..sinners) both Christian and non-Christian, particularly those who are struggling…..

1.) Make every effort to make people feel loved and accepted by you.—This does not mean never judge someone’s actions, especially if they are living in a sinful way and profess to be a Christian. However, this does mean being a light in a dark world. It does mean to help a person see that despite any of their sinful habits or choices, that God can and will always forgive a repentant heart, and that you will always love them. No matter what.  It also does mean to never judge a person’s heart or intent, especially if you aren’t 100% sure what it is. Leave that judging to God.  This also means seeking out the best in them, and helping cultivate those qualities. It means investing in their lives.

2.) Live a Christ-centered life– Make sure that if you are a Christian, your life reflects Christ. Repent of anything that is not Christlike in your life, and offer to make amends for your sins.  Have integrity—-This means not only being honest in all of your dealings, but also being forthcoming about your shortcomings and failures as a person.  This means striving to be honest even if it costs you something.  If you are married or dating, be faithful to your partner or spouse.  Make sure you are making a commitment to be regularly spending time with God in His Word and prayer. Make sure you are committed to a community of believers that can help you through your journey of faith.

3.) Realize how merciful God has been to you, and impart the same to others.–When we realize how much grace and blessings we get from God that we don’t deserve, we find it easier to impart the same to others. Out of an overflowing and grateful heart, we want to give the same mercy He gave us to others. This means not only forgiving someone who has hurt you, but extending some measure of grace to someone who has fallen into sin or shame.  This does not mean we tolerate the sin or continue allowing the sin to take control of their lives. However, this does mean gently pointing them back to Christ and helping them to repent of their sin.  One way someone can help another not repeat a sin and/or be repentant of it is to help them come to a realization that they don’t need the sinful habit/attitude/ behavior to make them fulfilled or happy. For instance, if someone is an alcoholic because they are still mourning a breakup of a marriage or a dating relationship, you can help the person by showing them how much Jesus Christ loves them and wants the best for them.  You can do this by first encouraging them to give up drinking and go to AA meetings and/or get treatment for this problem, but you can also additionally help them by showing bible verses on how much God loves everyone and how He (God) would make them feel joyful and fulfilled in ways the partner or spouse couldn’t and can’t.

4.) Realize you are no better than anyone else, even if you are a Christian.—This is because it is only in Christ that we have ANY righteousness at all! Be humble. This means not only being honest with your shortcomings, but also aiming always to reflect more and more of Christ. Remember that you yourself were once also lost and an outcast, and know how that felt like to you. If a Christian forgets where he or she came from before he or she met Christ, he or she will tend to be more self-righteous and less discerning of his or her OWN sins.

5) Find common ground- Instead of just telling someone how they are different or are “diverting”  from Christianity, see if you can find something you can both agree on. See if you can even find some common interests in common. That will not only create a bond between you and the other person, but it will also help you to see things from a different perspective (though you don’t have to necessarily agree with it) and help you to be less judgmental of them.

I hope this will help you in helping others feel loved and cared about by you, and to anyone who has been hurt by the church, another Christian, and/or me, I am deeply sorry and I hope you will give us another chance.

From Ignorance To Faith: My testimony

Disclaimer: This is my personal testimony of how I became a Christian. Please no judgmental or disparaging comments about me or anyone else I write about here, or your comment will be deleted. Thank you. Also, I have written and re-written my testimony over many years, to make it more current and add things God has been teaching in my life. The most recent revisions I made was yesterday (April 5, 2017), with a few tweaks here and there today. Enjoy!

Before Christ : Life had no meaning. I was bored, and because of that and other reasons I wanted to end it all. Schoolwork was piling up, and I felt like no one really cared about me, except maybe my family. In one of my diary entries that I wrote when I was still in high school, I had written: “ I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”
God didn’t really have a place in my life. My schoolwork and my grades were my idols with what I was trying to fill up that God shaped hole.. I never went to CCD or any other religious class, so I also held the commonly-believed notion that I was a good person and that because of this, I would automatically go to heaven if I died. My family and I rarely went to church, although I wanted to go more, but generally I felt I was okay spiritually. But in Jr. high school till my sophomore year at high school, I felt more and more depressed. After that, I felt a little happier and found solace in music, but after awhile I just knew that wasn’t going to really satisfy me for long.
Bible Study: When a friend invited me to a bible study, I decided to attend just to see what would happen and to make her happy. When I went into the Bible Study at school, I felt stupid for not knowing what the others had already known. I knew then I had to know more about Christianity and if I wanted to really know Jesus Christ.
“Legalism” Problems: While I started to listen to Christian music, I began to have a legalistic attitude towards things. I began to judge those who listened to explicit music and ‘nsync as “bad” and “against God and all things good.” I became very hypocritical online and started cursing and swearing to those online (especially the ‘’NSYNC fans and those that made fun of Christianity and Christian music. NOTE: I don’t do that anymore, nor do I care one way or another about other people’s music tastes). Worse yet, one of the bad messages I wrote at the site became a featured message on that site. I don’t really think I was a Christian at the time, or I was still very young and uninformed in my faith.
The Happening-This, by far, had the biggest influence on me when I was still young in the faith. I learned how to really love and show compassion to others. I learned that the type of music a person listens to is not reasonable grounds for judgment or condemnation. I learned it’s the personality and the godliness of a person that really matters. God led me to be actively involved in Happening activities, and later, at school, with aiding for a teacher and disabled students. It was during these times that I felt I really accepted God’s gift, Jesus Christ into my life, accepted His forgiveness for my wrongdoings, and grew in my faith.
The fall: My first semester at my college was almost a disaster. I felt like I had no friends and that I should maybe drop out of school.. People who were friends with me before (I felt) were slowly distancing themselves from me. They got tired of me because I was always depressed and sick. I threw up the cafeteria food, but I wasn’t bulimic. I felt sick and utterly hopeless except that God was with me. I thought I had not really accepted Christ. I felt alone.
The rise: When I went to Praise and Worship the next semester, I felt a renewal in my faith and in Christ. Again, I started to realize I needed God and to take him more seriously, instead of going to self-pity or self-centeredness. I gained interest in knowing about Catholicism. I enjoyed talking about my faith with others.
Dave Burchett: I accidentally went across his book “When Bad Christians Happen To Good People” one day when I was looking in the SWAN catalog (An online search catalog that enables one to borrow things from other libraries in a certain area), but, as it turned out, it was the best book I had ever read, aside from the Bible. God has taught me a lot through this book. His book taught me what genuine Christianity really was, and why forcing faith on or ridiculing non-Christians never works.
While I was growing in my faith outside of a formal church service, I felt I wasn’t really growing in the church I went to. Also, I felt I really didn’t know as much as the others at church. I felt bored and cynical towards the church because of this. I felt most people (including me) were only going to go through the motions there. Despite my friends’ urges that I stay in the Catholic Church (and I respect their beliefs), I didn’t feel like it really fit me.
Evangelical Church– I went to an e-free church for about three years. At first, I really liked it. But as time went on, it was apparent to me that this church wasn’t a good fit for me. Also, I didn’t feel the sermons challenged me enough anymore.
New Song Church-Then I went to NewSong. I think they emphasize the need for salvation from our sins, and the cross which in my previous two churches was not emphasized as much. Pastor Marty and his wife Stephnie left New Song to pursue church planting and other ministries in 2008. We had THE BEST interim pastor the church could have had at the time- Pastor Marty Voltz. He and his wife Shari really helped New Song through a particularly trying time and imparted his wisdom to the pastor at the church at the time, Pastor Frank Taylor. At first I didn’t trust Pastor Frank, but as time grew, he and his wife Stephanie proved to be not only very trustworthy, but also one of the most humble and genuine Christians I had ever met in my whole life! However, he left after being called to be a pastor in Maryland…and New Song became absorbed by my previous church I attended, and many people (and I) felt it was time to leave. I left after about 10 years being there. It was very painful and trying for me, as I had to leave a lot of people, but I felt that God had other plans for me.

Epiphany of grace -Though I have been a Christian for awhile, it has only been recently that I finally understood some part of what grace was. I knew intellectually that it was unmerited favor given by God to save us from Hell via His sacrificing Jesus on the cross. However, I didn’t know how it was supposed to impact one’s life very well, that is until I watched the movie “The other man” which showed me the consequences of idolatry, and especially when I read the book “Jesus +Nothing=Everything” by Tullian Tchvidijian. I realized I needed to forgive people that I felt hurt me in the past. More than that, I realized I was free. Free of the worry about what other people thought of me because His is the only opinion that matters above all else. Free of the worry about my future because I know God will take care of me. Free of bitterness and unforgiveness because I know God will make things right in His perfect timing and that He will heal all my hurts.
Tullian Tchividjian says in his book Jesus +Nothing=Everything- “Because of the gospel we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, to prove ourselves to people, to make people think we are something that we are not.” This is because I have security in that God still loves me even when I miss the mark (ie.. sin) and even though I know I don’t deserve to enter heaven or even His presence. God doesn’t love me more or less depending on how “good” I am to Him because He doesn’t see my imperfections, but Jesus’ perfection! I am free to be me without reservation! I don’t need to worry about earthly things so obssesively anymore because I have an even greater better life waiting for me on the other side with Him and because even here He is still with me. That is the gospel!

Independent Baptist Church– Now, I go to Independent Baptist Church. It’s very different from New Song was, but still good. I have met some very good people here, and Pastor David Shoaf’s (as well as the other pastors and speakers) sermons and bible studies are very good and biblical. His son (also a pastor at the church) helped me to have a more fulfilling devotional time with my God. God is also using people at my current church and my time with Him (God) to help serve people at my job as a sales associate.

However, I’m still not perfect, of course-just forgiven. I still battle pride and occasional thoughts of revenge-particularly against those I hear on the news that abuse children. However, I also learned that the world is not my real home and how to be more caring and compassionate to those who feel lost, alone, rejected, ridiculed, and abused as well as to everyone else.