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The Sabbatical

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I can somewhat relate to Simone Biles, but on a smaller scale, of course. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and being pressured to be the Best by oneself and those around you. I can also relate to the feeling that you have let everyone down if and when you fail. I can relate to the burdens of having to conform to 1,080 (a hyperbolic estimate) or so expectations of you placed by those around you. However, God used my feelings of stress and overwhelm to teach me many things about being human and coming back stronger.

Last year, in late October, I became so overwhelmed with the pressures and stress of work that I had to take a leave of absence from work. I had just moved from the state where I lived in all my life, about six months prior, and suddenly I felt like everyone had just abandoned me because I didn’t meet their expectations. Additionally, since this was in the midst of the pandemic, I could not attend church or meet new people. I thought my life was over.

However, even though I had significant stress even in my leave, one of the good things God brought me from this situation is to make time for self-care. Often, Olympic athletes like Simon Biles and Kerri Strug are pressured to do so much for others’ viewing pleasure that they are forced to neglect rest and self-care. This needs to change. The Bible says self-love is wrong and is one of the negative qualities listed in 2 Timothy 4. However, I don’t think the Bible means that taking care of one’s physical and emotional health is wrong. What I think was meant by that passage in 2 Timothy is one that is self-indulgent to the point where they neglect others’ needs or that they love themselves in such a way that they become vain and self-serving. Also, not taking care of one’s own emotional and physical needs in order to meet someone else’s expectations could also be considered the self-love that is condemned in the Bible because we are withholding part of ourselves just so that people would see us a certain way or as stronger than we really are.

Another good thing that I learned during my time off work last year is to not worry so much about other people’s expectations of me. One of the things my friend Alex taught me is to be more comfortable in being who God has created me to be, and to weed out those who try to change me into the image that they think I should be. What if we valued these Olympic athletes, and more importantly, those we say we love and cherish the most, by demonstrating in word and deed that they are loved unconditionally? After all, the Lord also loves us unconditionally. It even says in Romans 5:8, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV).” Even when we were yet sinners, God loved us. Even when we were actively rejecting Him and His ways, He still loved us.

I still struggle with not worrying about others’ expectations of me, but I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am becoming more confident in how God made me, and this has in turn made me more able to minister to others who are struggling.

Through this trial, God also taught me to not be paralyzed by my fears. He has helped me through times even more recently where I felt like my performance at work wasn’t as good as it could be, and not delve into the belief that I am a complete failure. God has made me realize that being true to myself and glorifying Him are more important than meeting all the metrics that people may expect me to meet. Yes, I still want to do the best I can at work performance-wise, but I don’t want to stress if I cannot do as well as I (or others) may expect or want of me. I can also remember what one of my managers said to me, “ I assure you that all of the management team know your work ethic and how consistent you are so don’t stress out if you have a slower [performance] occasionally.”

I also wish all the Olympians and anyone else who feels pressured to perform at a certain rate would know that it is OK to fail sometimes or not be able to be the Best all the time. I wish those around them would remind them that they are still worthy as human beings even when they show vulnerabilities and shortcomings because we all do. No human is perfect, but every human has intrinsic value. That is what I ultimately learned during my time off work last year.

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What I am Learning About Letting Go

originally written: September 7, 2018

Edited: April 25, 2021

Dedicated to my friend Alex, who taught me how to let go of all that holds me back and to love freely

I have found that as I go through life, I have not been able to do everything that I wanted, say everything I have wanted to my loved ones, or even see everyone I have wanted to see at certain times in my life.  I had to learn to let go of these expectations and desires. In fact, my pastor said, to a mostly younger audience, something like, “Don’t wait until you’re old to let go of things. Do it now while you are still young.” He also explained that as one ages, that one has to let go of more things, until things, both literal and figurative, fall out of their grasp. The three main areas I am learning and/or have learned to let go include: a.) past hurts and offenses.  b) my possessions   c.) my expectations, with c , being the toughest for me to release.

When I was even a decade younger, I had the most difficult time letting go of grudges.  I would hold on to internal anger for years, if I deemed the offense serious enough to merit that much wrath.  Every time I would see the person or person that hurt me, I had a mixture of terror and disgust. This grudge-holding greatly impaired my ability to fully be myself even around my closest friends. I was afraid that they, too, would hurt me, like my offender did. However, about a year and a half ago, I was able to finally let go of the grudges I had against several people. I remember that my grudge against one person was so bad, that I thought of how angry and hurt I was, even in church! The anger was so intense; I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The grudge I had against them became all-consuming.  When I finally saw the light and let go of my grudge, I found that I was able to feel compassion and even love for them. I realized I didn’t want to die holding a grudge against anyone. I wish I had let go of my grudges earlier, because I would have been a much easier person to be around.  I would have become less bitter and less angry. I want to be able to love freely without a barrier between anyone else and me.

I have also been learning how to let go of some of my possessions. One of my friends has had to let go of almost everything he once owned or stewarded, including things he treasured. However, in letting go of these things, he has learned that he is able to love more freely. Through him, and what he has given me, I have learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive! Also, over time, certain things that I have had in my possession have either broken or gotten old.  I have also  learned to let go of certain material possessions because I know someone else needed it more than I did.  In my sophomore year of high school, I remember getting really upset because someone had stolen my yearbook with people already having signed it! I recently gave my dad my old mp3 player because he needed one for our last vacation.  Although that one is better than the one I have now, I don’t have much regret because I know that mp3 player will bless my dad.  Over the years, through church and my jobs, I have learned the value of generosity and sharing, and that it is not good to hold on to “stuff” too tightly.  One of the congregants in my church had described the process of letting go of stuff in this analogy:

Everything we own is on a big conveyor belt—our cars, our televisions, our houses, our food, etc. We are also on the conveyor belt enjoying our stuff. The conveyor belt is moving very slowly. In fact, it is moving so slowly, you don’t even realize it’s moving.  But then, at the very end of the conveyor belt is a dumpster. Everything we own is ultimately going to be put in the dumpster—to be thrown away.  Then, we get off the conveyor belt. The ‘getting off’ part signifies our passing from the earth.

The last thing that I am learning to let go (and still struggle with releasing) is my expectations.  I absolutely hate it when circumstances turn out worse than I expect! For instance, I expect a day at work to be easy, but then it turns out to be a really stressful one.  I tend to get upset at God and everyone else when that happens.  One thing that I used to get really upset about is when I expect traffic to be smooth, but it turns out to be very jammed.  However, when I went to where my relatives lived, I had to deal with consistently jammed traffic almost every day I was there. This situation helped me to let go of my expectation that traffic always be smooth every time I wanted to go somewhere, and also appreciate the relatively good traffic system here! Yesterday, I expected to be able to buy a book I needed for a class/bible study I’m taking at church. However, since my pastor (who was substituting for the pastor and teacher of this class/bible study) couldn’t find the books that the teacher had ordered, I will have to wait until at least Sunday to be able to get them. At first I admit I was a bit annoyed, but I quickly was able to enjoy and learn from my pastor without really worrying about the book.  I learned that sometimes I have to adjust and make the best of the situation at hand, and not get upset and complain that things should be different. I also recently learned that even through these tough situations, God is still there for me and will give me the grace to handle these situations in a godly manner. 

Everyone has to let go of, at least, some things in life.  Even though we may not be able to do everything we want, say everything we want to say, or even see our loved ones and friends sometimes, we still can be content in our circumstances by letting go of the expectation that we have to get what we want when we want it.  In letting go, I am realizing more and more, that there is a freedom in just letting things be.  What do you need to let go of today? What are some things that you struggle or have struggled with letting go? Feel free to discuss in comments.

anthem, caring, eternal matters, goals, God, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, stories, truth, work

How Passion and Purpose Bring Joy

I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before.  This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.

However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable.  The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be.  Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.

When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework.  Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.

When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.”  That is, find joy in the work you are doing now.  Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work.  Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do.  This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me! 

Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?”  First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever.  Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted.  Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic.  This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard.  Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually  lead to my work quality getting better.

Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department.  If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work.  For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area.  After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store!  This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.  My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me.  Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me.  Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up.  Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy.  When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
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On Embracing Diversity and Loving Others

There has been much division and enmity in this country between Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Immigrants and people who have been born here, and between many other societal identifiers. Then, my good online friend introduced to me to Fraggle muppets, and in particular, Gonzo, who embodies who I would like to be like in some ways.


For years, I have struggled to accept who God created me to be. When I was growing up, I was on the outside looking in, and frantically trying to achieve good grades in my classes to somehow someday be truly loved and accepted as I am, and, in turn, accept myself as well.

Though I still struggle sometimes with accepting myself as God created me to be, when I discovered Gonzo and more of who he was and is as a Muppet “Whatever”/alien, I realized many things about appreciating and embracing diversity, including my own.

Gonzo is a very unique creature with a personality that can be described as “eccentric,” “eclectic” or “weird.” However, Gonzo also strives to embrace his life and those around him fully. Gonzo is secure enough in who he is as a Whatever/Alien that he doesn’t try to change his personality or being just to be approved or accepted by others. Gonzo’s personality and attitude toward life has taught me that I am GOOD the way I am. I don’t mean to say that I don’t struggle daily with sin (I do) and that I should not try to change my sinful ways and repent of them (I should). However, what I mean is that the way God created me is inherently good. Also, I do not have to constantly seek approval or validation from other people to confirm this fact. Also, if people do not like the way I am, and it is not for some sin I committed against them, but for something that is a part of how I was wired, I do not have to doubt if I am worthy to be alive or if God truly loves me or not.

Gonzo and his friends have also taught me some important lessons about how to truly love others. When we truly love others, we will accept them for who God created them to be without trying to change them into something they are truly not. Gonzo’s friends, and especially his girlfriend, Camilla, who is a chicken, do not really care if he is weird and do not really try to change him into being more “normal.” Also, my real friends and others who are on Team Me will embrace me the way Gonzo’s friends have. If I am a really friends with someone else, I will not try to change them into the person I want them to be if that is not how God created them or how they were wired by Him in the first place. I will love them unconditionally. Gonzo also demonstrates this to his girlfriend Camilla by not trying to stop her from expressing herself in “chicken talk” or by forcing her to change some aspect of how she was already created. Even though Gonzo and Camilla are very different from each other, they truly love each other even and because of their unique qualities.

We should too. Instead of having enmity against the other “side,” so to speak, maybe we should seek to understand where they are coming from. Instead of mocking or shaming the “weird” or “eccentric,” or letting other people bully or mock them, we should stand up for these unique individuals and learn from them. Maybe, we could make a new friend. After all, there is a Gonzo-like uniqueness in all of us that helps us embrace life fully, with all that there is.

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Power of Belief: How Positive Influencers Helped Me Achieve the Impossible

Being on the autistic spectrum, I knew full well my limitations. For many years I had struggled to find a permanent job, a problem all too common for autistics like myself.  In fact, according to an article by MoneyWatch, a whopping 85% of college graduates affected by autism are unemployed!  (1)Many people who knew me well thought that it would already be good if I found a part-time job, though I had wanted to work full-time.   Some people thought I would also never be able to drive myself places, and achieve many of the goals that I wanted to accomplish. 

However, that all changed when I met my mentor Jill* and a couple years later, my then-manager Elizabeth.*

When I first met Jill, I really didn’t think anything would change in my life, but, at the same time, I unconsciously hoped that life would get better for me. I was also going through some changes in my life of which I was still trying to adjust, as change is especially difficult for those on the spectrum who need more routine. However, Jill kept insisting that I learn to drive myself and that I could eventually find a job that would suit me.  I did not believe her. Even my parents thought I needed a job that I had minimal interaction with people, and that even those kinds of jobs would be very difficult to find!  I eventually did learn to drive myself a few months after I met Jill, but I still did not think I would ever be able to find any job—part time or full time.  Jill then helped me to find an employment agency that would assist me in finding a job.  After climbing through many hurdles to find an agency willing to work with me, we finally found a friendly and determined person from the employment agency that would work with me to help find me a suitable job. About six months later, I finally got a call to get interviewed at a thrift store.  Because God was with me, He helped me to be confident enough to make a good impression on the interviewer and I got the job.  I worked very hard there, but I did not know if I would last long at the job.  Fortunately, I was able to be there for two and a half years before I sensed in my spirit that God wanted me somewhere else.  I was ready to take the next step in my employment journey—finding a full time job.  However, some of the people at the agency thought it was already good that I was even employed, since it is difficult for people on the spectrum to even find any type of jobs! However, Jill was confident in my ability to find a full time job.  So, we pushed through and the same person from the agency that worked with me last time was willing to work with me again to find me a full time job. It took several months before we found anything.  Then, one wintry February morning in 2016, God intervened and I got interviewed at a store in the company I am with now. Though at first I was part time, about six to seven months later, I was instated as full time. The day I got promoted to full time, I  was overjoyed.  (To see more details on how I got my first full time job, please see this link:  (https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/a-godsend-my-current-job/).  If it were not for Jill always believing in me and never giving up on me, I do not know where I would be today. 

About a year later, I met Elizabeth. When I first met Elizabeth, I did not know how much she would change my perspective on life and the trajectory of it.  Like Jill, she always believed in and never gave up on me, even when other people around me did.  For instance, when I approached her about wanting to learn the register, she immediately suggested that I could train for twenty minutes each week until I felt comfortable enough to be a certified backup, which was my goal, but I did face some backlash from others.  My now ex-friend told me not to continue training for cashier because she thought  I couldn’t handle it when there were difficult customers and that it would be too stressful for me. Another manager commented, “ A CSM [customer service manager] would never call you up to ring.” Thankfully, I listened to Elizabeth instead of the people around me, and a month before Elizabeth left our store, I was instated as a backup cashier.  Moreover, the customer service managers called me quite often, and as the number of register-trained associates dwindled, I became one of the few who were register-trained.  Most customers were satisfied with my speed and efficiency in my service to them at the register.  Elizabeth also believed in my abilities so much that she trained me on some of the things that a department manager, and not a regular associate like me, does.  With her, I not only continually learned new things in my work; I gained more and more confidence in my God-given abilities.

I learned from Jill and Elizabeth not to doubt my own God-given abilities and to not listen to the naysayers who doubt that I could achieve my goals.  Jill and Elizabeth instilled the power of their belief in me into my life, which motivated me to prove the naysayers wrong and to realize the dreams that I had held inside for so long.

Sources:

  1. Pesce, Nicole Lyn. “Most college grads with autism can’t find jobs. This group is fixing that.”  MarketWatch.  April 2017. Republished  2 April 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2020. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-college-grads-with-autism-cant-find-jobs-this-group-is-fixing-that-2017-04-10-5881421.

*=Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.

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Faith’s Role In Beating Depression

Recently, I had an epiphany! I was complaining to my mom about something so minor that I can’t recall what it was right now, and she said these words that had a profound effect on how I saw God and my situation: We accept what God gives us.

Not only did those words convict me of my complaining, but they also gave me a new perspective on how I could choose to view the trials and cares of my life.

I have been struggling on and off with depression for more than twenty five years now and have just recently begun to realize that most of the triggers that fueled my depression stemmed from some type of discontentment that I was feeling , whether it was dissatisfaction with some aspect of how God made me (Why am I so short? Why did He make me have this type of personality, rather than someone more agreeable? ), my situation (Why am I experiencing this? Why don’t people like me? Why am I so burdened by “X” problem or problems? ), and so on.

One good example of me being depressed (or, in this case, more upset and anxious) because of discontentment was in my work relationship with one of my bosses I had.  I had prayed for one and half years for the relationship to be repaired and/or improved. I was so faithless that I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of my problems with this boss! One day I was so upset that when I went to church on my day off, I was visibly distraught about this situation and felt like if I didn’t have help soon, I would blow up and totally lose my cool in front of my boss. Thankfully, my pastor made me look in the mirror and see how I contributed to the problems I had with my boss.  The Holy Spirit ended up prodding me to write a note to my boss apologizing for the anger and bitterness I had held against him.  From that day on, our work relationship dramatically improved. Now, I am happy to say that he was one of the best bosses I have ever had! Had I accepted that God gave me my boss for a reason and how God was working, I would have probably enjoyed a better work relationship with him much earlier!

God also helped me see why I should accept what He gives us in life. He gives us the answer in Romans 8:28(KJV) – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do we know that all things work together for good to them who love God? Because God is always good!  

This is where the devil tempts us to doubt, and thus sprout seeds of discontent in our lives.  He has been doing this ever since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, with the forbidden fruit.  The devil tempted Eve by saying to her, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5—KJV).  In other words, Satan was saying to her that God did not have her best in mind when He forbade her and Adam to eat of the fruit—that God was withholding good (“ye shall be as gods”) from her and Adam for His own benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Satan does the same thing with us!  

For instance, when I complain about how God created me, Satan has successfully convinced me of the lie that God made a mistake, that He did something wrong and bad in the way He created me!  When we complain about a situation or a person that God has put in our lives that we don’t particularly like and it seems that either the difficult situation will never end or the difficult person hangs around in our lives forever, we believe the lie that God is trying to make us “suffer” or maybe that God does not have our best interests in mind when He allows the situation or person to linger more than we’d like.  We fail to realize that maybe God wants to teach us something through that person or situation, or that He wants to use them to refine our character and make us more like Himself! We also demonstrate lack of faith that God can make something good come out of that situation and person.

However, I find that when I trust God completely and when I accept what God has given me, I feel much more content in my life.  God then opens my eyes to see all the ways He has blessed me, and I begin to realize just how blessed I truly am! I begin to see how God is working in my life, and how I can reflect His light.  In contrast to the hopelessness that depression often brings, having faith in God’s goodness and plans for us gives me great hope. Faith has helped me to learn to trust that everything God does is for my good, even the trials in my life. No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV) I find that when I start to get burdened by all that is going on in my life, but then come to Jesus for rest, I find that I am significantly less depressed and anxious.  In that I find great hope for my life!

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Light of Hope

written June 3, 2020

This world is dying

People are crying

Lives are being taken

God is being forsaken

By much of mankind

Darkness surrounds me

Pain envelopes me

But I remember you

And I cry out for you

Because you hold light

When you are in sight

And in my deepest soul

Making me again whole

So I know there is hope

When I’m on my last rope

Because you are with me

Even when you I cannot see

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All You Need

All You Need— written on : 7/29/19

You have been searching all your life

For a hope—lasting and real

To fill your empty and hollow heart

Before you fall completely apart

 

All the glory in this flawed world

All the things money could buy

Will never fill your God-sized hole

With what would make you whole

(image by Robert Allman)

But I have found that lasting hope

When I was on my very last rope

My Savior filled my lost, weary soul

With everlasting love and hope

 

He is all the love I truly need

Because He is always good indeed

I pray you taste and see His love

And see your life filled with joy and hope

 

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My Journey To Trust

written on October 1, 2019

I admit that I still carry the scars of having been bullied and abused by certain people in my past.

Thankfully, they are no longer a part of my physical life.

One of the residual effects of anyone who has survived abuse is lack of trust in people, and oftentimes, this translates into a lack of trust in God as well.

In high school, I was voted the “Most paranoid”.

What most of my peers didn’t know was that I trusted people quite easily when I was a little child.

But life and stuff happened.

I still deal with effects of “stuff” today.

I admit that there was an hour of my day today where I failed to trust God and His provision for me.

I thought God was being unfair and relished in making me “suffer”.

But God never gave up on me.

Even when I wanted to give up on Him—and eventually myself, too.

But God stayed with me, pleaded with me, and seemed to say to me, “JUST TRUST ME, PATRICIA!”

However, I thought, “ Will He take advantage of me like many others have? Will He leave like everyone else seems to? “

Then, God whispered these verses into my spirit and heart:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”–Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

“I will never leave thee, or forsake thee.” –Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)

So, today God took all the broken pieces of my life and put them back together again.

My brother may have moved to Texas…

My friends may move away.

My managers may leave and may never be able to come and visit me again.

My pastors may retire…or find a new calling

But God will always be there through everything and for all of time.

God will also be there for you… even if you, like me, struggle to trust Him sometimes.

God will always give you everything you need.

He may not give you everything you desire,

But He will always give you what is best.

God was my reason of hope today when it seemed that there was almost none.

I know I still will have struggles, but I also know if I remember God’s great love for me, I don’t have to fear anymore.

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Qualities of my Closest Friends We Should Strive to Have


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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:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Servant’s Heart
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Thoughtfulness/Care
  5. Depth

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.

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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.

Source: “Casting Crowns: The ‘Lifesong’ of Mark Hall.” Accessed 12 May 2019. < http://www1.cbn.com/music/casting-crowns:-the-‘lifesong’-of-mark-hall>.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons