Remember Who You Are

written on November 24, 2018

Don’t let the fire inside you die

Don’t let others tear down your soul

Don’t let them kiss your dreams goodbye

Or make you feel like less than whole


Because you are worth more than gold

Even if no one told you so,

Though you do not fit into a mold

You’re beautiful from head to toe


Become all you were meant to be

Be full of compassion and love

So that people will finally see

The gift you are from up above

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An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia

Lessons Learned From a Manager I Will Never Forget

It was a cloudy and cold February day in 2016. My mom and I just stopped by my current place of employment on the way from shopping and also to check the status of my application. The first person I met there was the HR manager, who, surprisingly, scheduled me an interview that same day at 1 pm—not enough time to prepare anything spectacular and change into nicer clothes, since it was almost lunchtime.

The second person I met was a woman, Anastasia,* who was also interviewing for a similar job, and she was dressed for the interview. We made small talk, while waiting to be interviewed.

The third person I met was the interviewer. I did not know this, at the time, but he was going to be my manager, Chris*.  I was very nervous while being interviewed. He asked me only one question, “How did you go above and beyond for a customer?” I answered, nervously stumbling over my words, that I would go to great lengths, even asking a manager for help if I was not able to help them myself, and praying for them if they wanted prayer.  Because I was so nervous, I was not even sure if I was going to be accepted for the job!

Chris was very busy, walking back and forth, between either stocking or doing returns and checking on the job offer process.  I had never seen a manager work that hard in my life!

About a half an hour after being interviewed, Anastasia and I both found out that we were accepted for the job! Anastasia accepted immediately, but I sought counsel from my loved ones, before accepting the job offer the next day.

After that, though I didn’t realize this at the time, that Chris would make such an impact on my life and teach me some important life lessons, I would never forget him:

Here are some of the lessons Chris taught me that can be applied to anyone’s life as well:

  1. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.–Ever since I first met Chris, he never did anything half-heartedly. He always worked to ensure each customer had the best possible service experience possible. I remember once he gave the customer a discount because the product wasn’t priced correctly. He also made accommodations for associates’ schedules, understanding that they have a life outside of work too. Once, Chris gave me a Saturday off so that I could go to my good friend’s son’s graduation party. He also worked hard at what he did too, working extremely long hours and sacrificing everything  sometimes to ensure that things got done that needed to be.  Because I saw that he worked with all his heart, I became inspired also to never to do things half-heartedly whenever possible. I, too, found myself wanting to work with all my heart. This resulted in me being able to gain the respect of others and striving to be even better in what I did, as an associate.  Even my friend Mark* commented recently that Chris always worked so hard, even though people didn’t really appreciate him.
  2. Strive to know each person’s life story before judging them.— During my first year of knowing Chris, I had such a difficult time getting to really know or understand him. Thus, we had many conflicts. It was very difficult for me to think positively about him, because I had already judged him a certain way in my heart. However, when Chris told me about all the sacrifices he has had to make every day for the people at my workplace, including me, I was so filled with remorse and regret about not valuing him as I should have that I later cried in the break room.  He forgave me, but I had learned an important lesson that day: Not to judge people before knowing what they have to go through.  Plato, or someone, had said to be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.  I find that when I learn each person’s life story, that I don’t judge them negatively anymore, but I become filled with more compassion and understanding of what they have had to go through on a daily basis. Thanks to the lesson that Chris taught me about this, I have met some of the most genuine and compassionate people through taking the time and effort to learn their life story a bit more.
  3. Work to value each person in your midst, or you will regret it when they are gone or leave you.— During that first year when Chris was my manager, I don’t think I really valued him. I never knew that one day I would be faced with the reality that I would probably never get to see him again, and that I would regret that year to this day. I was so consumed with anger and bitterness towards him, that I was blind to the light in his soul.  However, one of my pastors, Pastor John,* helped me to release that junk to God, and later our work relationship was able to be redeemed. Unfortunately, Chris would be moved to another area of the store altogether, and then to a different shift altogether.  I still got to talk to him, but much less than before.  My heart hurts knowing that I will never be able to redeem the time that I lost that first year to bitterness, anger, and resentment that should have never occurred.  I should have valued him much more—because not only did he give me the opportunity to be employed at my current job, but he taught and gave me so much that I will never be able to adequately repay.  So, we should learn to value each person that walks our path, because they all can teach us something to better our life. Sometimes, they can even change our lives for the better—and those are the people we should keep close to our hearts before we lose them altogether.

When we are passionate and diligent about what we do with our lives, when we learn about others before judging them and when we work to value each person that is in our midst, we will make the world a better place.  Though I know that my time with Chris, just as with everyone else, is limited, I will always be thankful for what he has done for my workplace and for me, and the impact he has made in my life.

 

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

On Gratitude and Entitlement

There is a mentality in most Western societies that we are entitled certain rights, such as freedom, respect, and the pursuit of happiness.  A few people have even taken this to such an extreme that they see most people as peasants serving them (the god or goddess) of the universe—a narcissistic mentality!  However, what if we lived lives that were opposite this mentality?  What if we realized that no one really owes us anything on this green planet, and that everything good we get is really a gift? There have been countless studies done that have shown that gratitude helps not only boost our mood levels, it can help alleviate many physical ailments as well.

One way we can show gratitude is in how we treat others.  I think one aspect of showing gratitude for the people that are in our lives is by treasuring them.  Never treat anyone as if they were dispensable or take someone for granted. Unfortunately, most people, including me, have taken someone for granted at one point or another in our lives. We assumed that they would always be there for us to serve our needs and make us happy. However, if we realized just how much of an impact they have made in our lives, and how limited a time we may have with these people, we might treat them more as royalty, rather than as slaves or servants.

Another way we can show gratitude to other people is by giving grace to them. My definition of showing grace to people is to loving them, flaws and all, being willing to learn from them, and by forgiving them. We love others by not giving up on them even after they have made a mistake or hurt you.  Yes, there may be situations in which we cannot be with someone after they hurt us because they pose a physical or emotional threat to our safety and that of other loved ones. However, that does not mean we should harbor hatred or bitterness towards them, as it will only hurt us in the end, not the offender.  I know several people who have hurt me emotionally, and who I initially had bitterness and anger towards them, but then when I forgave them, the relationship was able to be restored.  We should also be constantly striving to learn from the people around us, both for our and their benefit. We learn so that we can understand the people around us better and form stronger connections with others. We also learn from others so that we can better care for those around us. Finally, we learn from others in our appreciation for their uniqueness and what they contribute to this world—including ourselves.

However, when we harbor an entitlement attitude, this erodes our ability to be grateful for those in our lives. First of all, an entitlement mentality brings about complaining and judgments against others, especially when they don’t meet what we perceive to be our needs. For instance, the gunman in the recent Mercy Hospital shooting had wanted the engagement ring from his ex-fiancee back so badly that he felt like he had to kill to get it.(1) In other words, the gunman felt that she owed him the ring that he gave her back because they broke up, and he judged her to be a wicked person because she probably did not want to give it back to him.

This same entitlement attitude also impedes forgiveness and reconciliation because of the element of pride in entitlement.  Proud people are not inclined to forgive others because they think they are always right and that the other party “deserves”their anger and bitterness.  Forgiveness requires some measure of humility because part of forgiveness is the willingness to share in some of the consequences of someone else’s sin.  For instance, if you forgive a family member for their alcoholism and the effects of it, you may still have to deal with their recovery process or deal with a couple of relapses. However, if you are not willing to forgive and feel that they owe you something back, then reconciliation and freedom from the effects of the offense will not really be possible. 

Another way we can show gratitude is by being thankful for the material possessions given to us. One way to be grateful for our material possessions is by enjoying them.  Enjoying them does not mean being wasteful or taking what we have for granted.  Enjoying our material possessions means to be joyful in interacting with our gifts. It also means being grateful to those who gave them to us.  Another way we can be grateful for the material possessions we have is to see them as gifts, not as wages owed us. When we see possessions as gifts, we are often more appreciative of them, especially when we know that someone sacrificed financially to give them to us.

However, an entitlement attitude completely destroys our joy and gratitude in the things we are given. This is because it completely devalues the gift and giver, since instead of something to be treasured and enjoyed, we have it because we “deserve” it,or it is “owed” to us.  We may not enjoy the gift or gifts as much, because of the fear of it being destroyed or devalued.  Also, an entitlement attitude toward the material possessions we have encourages greed and selfishness, because it breeds the further mentality of being “owed” more than we have now. It also breeds selfishness because, with an entitlement attitude, we are often less willing to share our material goods to those in need. We think we “earned” these gifts,and that no one should take them away from us.

What a difference we could make if we strove to be more grateful for each person and each gift we were given! However, when we have an entitlement attitude and are ungrateful for the grace that is given to us each day, we lose our joy and love in life and for others.  Since it is a time to give thanks, who in your life, can you thank today?  Maybe write them a note of gratitude, or tell them in person how much they mean to you. As for the many material gifts we are blessed with, enjoy them, but also be willing to share with those in need so that they can have joy too.

Sources:

  1. Gorner, Jeremy, Annie Sweeney and Elyssa Cherney. (2018, November 20).Gunman in Mercy Hospital attack had threatened to shoot up Chicago Fire Academy, officials say. Chicago Tribune.  p. 1, Retrieved from : https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-mercy-hospital-shooting-juan-lopez-20181120-story.html

Power of Identity

Our church has a special class on Thursday nights that has helped me overcome my bad habits and has gotten me more insight into living in a more godly way. Last Thursday, in that class, the teacher–Pastor Jack Lezza– taught on identity.  One of the questions he posed to us was this: Why do children dress up on Halloween?  Well, why does anyone like dressing up in a costume?  He said that people dress up because they want to pretend that they are someone else.  This is the many wonders of children’s imagination. The problem becomes when adults morph into identities that negatively influence their behaviors and course of life. Take Cesar Sayoc, who mailed bombs to kill various government officials that he hated, for instance.  He wanted to be a crusader that got rid of what he saw he were “evil” people in this country.  His identity and those he identified his enemies as had great influence on the destructive behaviors that have now landed him in prison.

I believe that most of us start seriously identifying who we will become as adults in our adolescent years. We start asking ourselves, mostly subconsciously, the question–“Who am I?”  Some teens rebel against their parents’ rules because they are trying to solidify their own identity, apart from who their parents, or anyone else, for that matter, would like them to be.  This is also the time when most parents give their children significantly more independence, like the ability to drive a car, for instance.  Teens also look for a peer group, often called “cliques” that they identify with and with which they want to belong.

 However, sometimes during that time, and even, in some cases, during childhood, we can start claiming identities for ourselves that have the potential to be a destructive influence on our behavior and course of life. I call these broken or destructive identities because of their negative impact on one’s behavior.  For instance, for a long time, I have believed (and am continuing to struggle to let go of) the identity of “Miss Never-Good Enough.” Yes, this identity has helped me to have high expectations of myself and not be lazy, but the destructive part of this identity is that it has not allowed me to make mistakes, even as part of the learning process. This broken identity also has caused me, in the past, to be too reluctant to learn how to do things that I wasn’t confident in doing. Thus, I had a hard time moving forward in my learning process because of my tendency towards perfectionism and my claimed identity of “Never Good Enough.” I had claimed this identity because many people didn’t believe in my God-given abilities to do certain things and because of many years of bullying by some of my peers. 

We can claim broken or destructive identities mainly through negative experiences, especially if we were being verbally abused by people who we had once admired or had great authority over you—such as a teacher or close relative. This verbal abuse greatly influences us to believe and claim these broken and destructive identities and eventually becomes part of who we are (or believe we are) as a person. 

In order to change these identities, we need to change the way we think about ourselves.  We need people on our side that will encourage us to live in a more positive identity and will not reinforce our broken identity in any way.  For instance, in my case, I have some good friends at church, my mentor J,  and also some at my job who encourage me to break up with the “Miss Never Good Enough” identity by reminding me of the good I have done and how I have positively impacted their lives.  Without these people, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. We also need to constantly remind ourselves that we can make a positive difference in others’ lives and that we don’t have to be said broken identity, whether it is Ms. Or  Mr. Not-Good-Enough or the false, destructive identity of Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Worthless, or any other destructive identities that we have believed ourselves to be. We need to replace these broken and destructive identities with a positive identity that will help us to be successful and more motivated to be who we were meant to be. 

Positive identities are those that encourage us to live out who we were meant to be all along.  These true, positive identities may include such identifiers as Mr. or Ms. Kind, Compassionate, Caring, Intelligent, Generous, Gracious, and Forgiving.  My personal favorite identity is “Child of God” and “Ms. Perseverance.” One way you can cultivate a positive identity for yourself is to think of things that others like about you and make yourself a name tag that has that personality characteristic on it.  For instance, if others say you are a thoughtful person, make yourself a name tag, “Ms.” or “Mr. Thoughtful” and put it somewhere prominent where you will be reminded to live out this identity.

How we identify others also has great impact on us and our behaviors.  When people develop prejudices against others, for instance, their negative identification of a group of people other than them impacts how they treat them and those around them.  For instance, the gunman who recently murdered 11 people in a synagogue had deep-seated hatred for Jewish people. If said gunman instead had served and loved Jewish people or didn’t have any prejudices against Jews, this incident would have never happened. 

So, how exactly do we overcome our prejudices?  First of all, when we get prejudiced ideas about a particular group of people, it is best to learn about them and their ways.  When we learn more about the people we had hatred or prejudice against before, we often find that they are not that different from us. Moreover, we can understand them better and their true identity, and often find beauty in their identity.

Another way we can overcome prejudice and placing negative identities on another person or people, is to replace these with positive identities.  For instance, there were several people at work that I did not get along with in the past, but when I purposely tried to see the light in them, that is, their positive personality characteristics, I was able to have more love and compassion for them than I have ever had before!  This helped me get along with these people a lot better. When we strive to identify, even our enemies, positively, instead of negatively, we can change the world for the better. 

As you can see, identities—both the ones we give ourselves and the ones we assign to others-greatly influences our behavior.  When we cultivate negative identities for ourselves and others, we only cultivate destruction and negativity. However, when we cultivate positive identities for ourselves and others, we can better live out what we were meant to be. 

My Hero, My Friend

You are a gift from the great God

Your sunshine grows more every day

As I see the light in your heart

Even when miles pull us apart

 

Your service has protected me

From many dangers and despair

I’m so sorry I couldn’t see

The great hero in front of me

 

But now I see your gallant love

For your country and fellow man

Your great compassion from above

And the great beauty in your soul

Precious

-written 11/4/2018

I have seen you struggle all your life

Among others you have had much strife

People treating you like just a toy

For them to just use and then destroy

 

But they don’t know the light in your soul

The light that makes you awesome and whole

They don’t know the joy you brought to me

Or how precious you will always be

 

Don’t let their dark extinguish your light

Remember your value in my sight

Because you’re unique and set apart

And that I love you with my whole heart