How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

How to Deal With Difficult People-More Detailed Version

There are often people that can rub us the wrong way. Whether it is a family member, an acquaintance, a boss at work, a teacher at school, or even a stranger that was rude to you once, we all have at least one person we don’t get along with as well as others in our life. We can either choose one of two things: a.) Continue in conflict and/or have resentment, anger, and bitterness towards that person or persons. OR b.) Resolve to be at peace with that person or persons to the best of our ability. We all can do a.) naturally, but b.) takes more work and time. However, though I am still learning, here’s what I found are the keys to deal with difficult people successfully.:

Three Basic Principles (and explanations) of Dealing With Difficult People Successfully:

  1. Be humble.– If you are too proud to admit your part of the conflict or part in causing the conflict, then you will most likely never be at peace with that person or persons. You will develop a “victim mentality,” meaning when you think that person is only out to hurt or use you when it could be a false assumption. Admitting your part in the rift, no matter how small, can open doors to reconciliation and change on both sides. Being humble tells the person you are having problems with that you are not out to hurt them but that you are the bigger person.
  2. Be unselfish.–If you are only out for number #1 (i.e. what you call, me, myself, and I)  then you will never be able to resolve conflict with that difficult person. However, if you try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to show them, sacrificial love, they will start to “melt.” This principle, found in Romans 12 of the Bible, is called “heaping burning coals on one’s head.” You “heap burning coals” by overwhelming the difficult person with love and care. Basically, you teach them how to love. Warning: You must love sincerely without expecting anything back, otherwise they will see through you and you won’t be able to have the effect you want in them changing their behavior towards you.
  3. Be patient.–Difficult people don’t change overnight. Even implementing these principles takes concerted time and effort. But be patient with them. Don’t give up on trying to work things out with them just because you don’t see immediate results. Sometimes, this may take years. Continue loving them, and if you are religious, pray for them.  Don’t let them affect how you see other people, but also don’t give up hope that one day they can either change or else suffer the consequences of their actions.

Difficult People in Authority: Principles to Follow

In addition to the above general principles, here are others that can be applied when specifically dealing with a difficult person in authority, such as a boss or a teacher:

  1. Never argue.–If your boss or teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do unless it is immoral or illegal, don’t try to argue yourself out of it. In fact, try not to argue about anything they say to you! First of all, if you argue against them, you will never “win.” More than that, you may also not only get them irritated or upset with you, but you might get disciplined as well.
  2. Never defame their character.–People often gossip or even slander about authority figures they hate or dislike. Don’t fall into this trap! If you do, and it gets back to them (as it most likely will), at the very least you will get a verbal tongue-lashing from them because of the anger and hurt they feel towards you for having said those bad things about them, and you can even get severely disciplined or even shunned by everyone around you because of the effects of your gossip and/or slandering. Instead, build them up. Only speak to their positive qualities to others. In this, you will retain your integrity.
  3. Always phrase any questions you may have in a non-threatening manner. –For example, if something they said shocks you or you don’t quite understand what they just said, you can ask in a neutral tone of voice, “I didn’t understand quite what you meant by that. May you please explain it to me again?”

If they snipe at or criticize you, and at least some part of the criticism is true, ask what they think you can do to fix it or do better next time. Always maintain a humble attitude. For instance, if my boss tells me that I did labeling of items wrong and that I am too slow, I could say, “How would you like me to do the labeling instead? Is there any way that is effective that you use to do your work more efficiently that I should imitate so I can improve my work speed?”

Difficult People in the Family:

The most difficult people may be in one’s own family.  If there are major issues with abuse, you may only be able to do #1 most effectively, but for other situations, #2 and #3  do work wonders.  However, one should strive to be kind and unselfish to everyone, even though it may be a long and difficult road. Also, dealing with one’s family is the cornerstone for growing and coping with other relationships you have.

  1. Have limited contact, if possible.–If the difficult person does not live with you or is a distant relative, you don’t have to have constant contact with them. Love them from a distance.  Don’t be drawn into interactions with them that can create conflict and chaos. If you live with them or have to see them on a regular basis, see principles 2 and 3.
  2. Show them kindness.–You don’t have to like someone to show them kindness. Yes, it is easier if you do get along with them, but you can show people you don’t like kindness as well.  Intentionally show them love and grace. For instance, if the person you don’t get along with in your family has constant physical pain, you can help them with tasks that if they did them by themselves would exacerbate the pain. This way you show care for their pain and suffering and are telling them that they don’t have to suffer alone. This can open the door to reconciliation if you do these tasks with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  3. Prefer them over yourself.–I have often said, and this is true, that the most difficult people in our lives are often the ones in most need of love. Preferring the difficult person over yourself says that you are willing to work to be at peace with them not only for your benefit but for theirs as well.  It will also show this difficult person that you have their best interests at heart and are not out to hurt them.

Strangers/people you don’t meet every day:

There are people that you don’t meet every day, but they still are difficult to handle, such as the person who cuts you off in traffic, the person who writes disparaging comments about you on YouTube or Twitter, or the person who cuts you in the grocery store line and has a thousand items when you only had several.  Here are three principles specific to them on how to deal:

  1. Don’t take what they say or do personally.–Some people (wrongly) take their bad days or difficult situations out on other people. I’m sure most of us have done this too at some point in our lives. These people are probably not trying to purposely hurt you though, so try not to take them personally. For instance, if someone says something nasty to you on Twitter or YouTube, try to chalk it up to their stupidity and ignorance, and not someone out to personally hurt you.  Usually, anonymous people who hurt others (often called, “trolls”) do so for attention or to get a rise out of people. Don’t give them the attention they don’t deserve.
  2. Ask sincerely, “What can I do to help you?”–This applies to only certain situations. For instance, it can apply to the person who cuts you in the grocery store line, or when a customer or client complains about something.  Asking “What can I do to help you?” in those situations shows the person that you are willing to attend to their needs, and are not bent on just hurting them or getting what you want. It shows both unselfishness and kindness, things that can go a long way to make peace with someone.
  3. Let them vent; Don’ t tell them to “calm down” or criticize them.–Often when a stranger or a person you don’t meet regularly is upset, they are not upset at you. Even if they are, never tell someone to “calm down” or, worse yet, condemn or criticize their response.  First of all, telling someone to calm down invalidates how they are feeling. Also, telling them something like, “Don’t be so rude!” or “You’re so selfish!” will only make things worse for them and for you.  Let them vent. Try to validate how they are feeling. Even telling them, “I”m sorry that you are feeling that way. It must be tough, ” is better than criticizing them or telling them to calm down.

Being Civil Online and Preventing Cyberbulling

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, especially among teens, where more than 1 in 3 have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Cyberbullying may also be an issue even among adults and young children. In a society where anonymity online can be used as a weapon against people who either a.) hold different views than the perpetrator or b.) are hated or that the perpetrator is disgusted by, we need to be vigilant against cyber bullying and make sure we don’t become perpetrators ourselves. I’ve seen many people on even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rail against each other and call someone they don’t even know personally nasty names or even tell other people to end their own lives over petty issues.

This is why we need to be sure we are always civil online and do our part to ensure that the Internet trolls don’t successfully hurt others or ourselves.
Here’s how:

Being Civil Online

  1. When you disagree with something or something someone wrote or said online angers or irritates you, do yourself and that other person a favor: Don’t say anything nasty to them. –I made the mistake of biting back and saying some crude things a very long time ago when someone made rude remarks about the type of music I listened to. In retrospect, I should have just left it alone. Sometimes bloggers (and I read a lot of blogs since I’m part of a blogging group now) say things that disgust, upset, or irritate me. Not all the time, not often, but once in a blue moon. I have found the most effective and most civil way to voice my disagreement over their post is to say nothing at all. If you feel, however, that you must say something to them, do it civilly. Find points in common. For instance, in the example of the people making fun of the music I listened to, I could have said, ” We both listen to similar kinds of music, but just different groups. I am sorry that you feel that way about [name of group], but I respectfully disagree with you.” OR “It looks like we both like different groups, but maybe we both have another artist we both like. What are some other music artists you like?” Lastly, ask questions and try to learn about why they think that way. For instance, if you live in the U.S and you really don’t like Trump and the person you are engaging with really likes Trump, you could ask, “What have you found that Trump does well?” or “What led you to vote for him?,” but say it in a neutral, wanting-to-learn tone of voice, and not an accusatory, judgmental tone of voice.

When someone attacks you:

This is harder because it’s personal. They want to hurt you, perhaps to make a point or put you down. It doesn’t matter. It is not right for them to do that, but there will be trolls. Internet trolls are, according to Wikipedia, “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.” Often trolls either want to hurt you personally out of anger, or for their own amusement. However, we can prevent ourselves from stooping down to their level by taking these measures:

  1. Don’t respond to them, if possible.— Yes, even if you angry inside (and I would be too, to be honest) the best way to not attract the kind of attention the troll wants is to be silent. Don’t give them the pleasure of a crass, emotionally-laden response. They want that, but if no one responds to them, the troll will die down and look for targets elsewhere.
  2. If you do respond, keep your responses simple and/or robotic.—If they say something about or to you that you know is untrue, say so. But that’s it. You don’t need to add about how they angered you or how rude they are (They already probably know, but they don’t care.). Just say, “This is not true.” or “What you said isn’t true.” If they insult your character, and the criticism isn’t warranted, but you feel the need to say something, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that isn’t how I see it. ” OR “That isn’t true.”
  3. Report them to the moderators.–If they keep escalating, tell it to the moderators of the board. Don’t get overly emotional with your complaints. Just say, for instance, “So-and-so [person’s name here] keeps telling me that I lie and cheat on others when I have done nothing of that sort. And he (or she) keeps bad-mouthing me to other people. For instance, [tell of first instance, and other specific incidents thereafter]. Could you please tell him or her to stop? It not only hurts me, but the other people around me, and more importantly, it hurts the integrity of this whole board.” If the moderators don’t do anything about it or blame you for telling them about these incidents, don’t say anything bad or inflammatory back, just get out of that forum.

Preventing Cyberbullying:

First and foremost, don’t be a cyberbully yourself. Always communicate your responses and writings with love and grace to those who will read it.— If you disagree with someone, even strongly, be respectful of him or her. Don’t be judgmental or condemning, but speak the truth in love. If you want to give advice, make sure the person is welcoming of them. Never give unsolicited advice. a.) The person will get upset at you for “helping” them, and you both won’t feel better after the interaction. You, because you wouldn’t be appreciated by them, and them, because you will seem overbearing and like a busybody to them. b.) They probably won’t listen to said advice anyway, and you will waste your time trying to “help” them.

Second, if you witness someone being cyberbullied or attacked online, do something! — If you don’t want to engage with the attacker (and sometimes it’s wisest not to), report the attacker to the moderators/administrators. If they don’t do anything constructive about it within a reasonable time period (but give them some time, don’t be impatient), then get out of that forum! If you can engage, engage with the victim first. Stand up for him/her. For instance, if someone is attacking him/her because of his/her disability, tell the person something encouraging like, “I think you are a beautiful and unique person. You may have this disability, but don’t let it stop you from accomplishing your dreams and don’t listen to [perpetrator]. That is just not true.” Also, tell the perpetrator, “Attacking [name/screen name of victim] is not acceptable in this forum. If you don’t stop and/or apologize to [name/screen name of victim], I will report you to the appropriate people. Thank you.”

These are some ways I have found effective in dealing with the serious issue of cyberbullying. What are some other ways you have found to help combat cyber bullying? Please discuss in the comments. Also, may we all join forces to combat this issue so that the Internet will be a place of peace and love for all.

For related content, please see my friend Kat’s blog on:  Preventing Slut Shaming

sources: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

How To Die to Self

Dying to self is not an attractive or a popular concept in today’s culture. Even our advertisements cater against dying to self! Think about it. When was the last time an advertisement encouraged you to benefit someone else, without expectation of benefiting yourself also?  Obviously, in this context, dying to self does not mean commit suicide, which often has more to do with suffering from a mental illness or wanting to get out of misery or pain, rather than what I am speaking of here.

Dying to self is often a difficult and painful process, and can take years or even a lifetime to develop maturely.  The apostle Paul, a devout Christian, says in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” So, the concept of dying to self, at the minimum, involves counting everything as a loss, for the sake of another or others. 

“Why would anyone want to die to self?” you may be thinking.  Well, when you find out that thinking of yourself all or even most of the time is impeding your relationships with others and is making you not as joyful and free as you could be, then you realize that at least part of the problem may lie within.

While there is certainly time for self-care, dying to self involves self-sacrifice and devotion to helping others. Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) is involved with dying to self:

  1. Be intentionally kind to another person for their sake, not yours.–While you will probably feel good after doing something kind for someone else (We can’t really get away from that, nor should we.), don’t let that be the primary motivator in doing the kind thing. Let the kind action be done because we want to improve their lives, and make them happy and loved.
  2. Prefer another before yourself–This means thinking about how the other person feels and what they want, instead of just what you feel or want.  This is called empathy. Some people (like me) may have some trouble doing this, but with practice, everyone can get better. Another example of preferring another before yourself is letting someone go ahead of you in line, especially if they are in a hurry because you don’t want them to be late to wherever they have to go next.
  3. Lose Entitlement–A big barrier to dying to self for a lot of people, including me, is the sense of entitlement or “rights” we think we should get. This is a big thing, especially in the country where I live. I’m not saying having rights is a “bad” thing, but it can be idolatrous if we are not careful.  For example, at work, some people think that if they are full-time, they should always get 40 hours, no more, no less and that they have a right to not do more than they should.  If their rights are violated or intruded upon, they naturally get upset and complain. However, dying to self means, in a way, “losing our rights.” So, if I were in that example for work, I would not complain if they had to cut me to less than 40 hours if I am full-time, and if they want me to do extra work, I will do it, not just for my sake, but for the sake of the whole team at work.
  4. Lose pride.–Another huge barrier to dying to self is pride.  Pride, in this context, means arrogance. Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others. Losing pride means, for instance, not looking down upon people that are poorer than you, or who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t work, just because you work. It also means being willing to give and receive help when needed, and not worrying about “saving face.”
  5. Be grateful and trust what you have is already and will always be enough.–Jealousy and ingratitude are also barriers to dying to self. In order to truly be able to die to self, you need to come to a place where you realize what you have is enough for that moment. Being thankful for what I have and realizing how many people have made a positive impact in my life, helps me in this area and ultimately leads me to die to self a little bit more.  Being thankful helps me realize how much I have and how privileged I am, and that fact compels me to share what I have with others, whether it is material things, my abilities, or my time. I also learned though there will always be people who have more than I do materially, or who are better people than me, that God made me unique for His purposes, and that I don’t need to compare myself to others.  I just need to serve them the best I can and be thankful for them being in my life so I can have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice for others.–This means forgoing something for the good of another. For example, if a friend enjoys a movie you don’t really like, but he or she really doesn’t want to go alone, dying to self would involve offering to come with that friend to see that movie.  You would forgo your time and your preference, for that of your friend. NOTE: Going to the movie, but complaining through the whole thing or otherwise having a bad attitude, is not dying to self, but “playing the martyr,” which is the opposite of dying to self. Another theoretical example would be if your friend forgot to bring their lunch and has no money to buy one for themselves, either giving your lunch to them and fasting that meal, or sacrificing part of your earnings, and buying lunch for them so they won’t go hungry is dying to self.

As you can see, dying to self is very difficult and involves a new way of thinking.  Often times, I fail too. However, dying to self is a process and takes a long time to do well.  It is often when selfishness starts ruining our relationships and communities, that we really wake up and start thinking that dying to self might not be a bad idea.
As I said, dying to self is very difficult to do and takes time, but I believe we must strive to at least try to do this if we want to improve our relationships with others and be truly fulfilled in this life.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (But Notice What’s Important)

DISCLAIMER: Please no negative or disparaging comments about the guest author or me here. Thank you. Also, this post is guest written by my friend and co-worker Ron Weimer, and also by myself.  This post was made through interviewing and collaborating our thoughts and ideas together.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” right?  It may be difficult for many people to do, but we believe it is necessary to live a successful and joyful life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff basically means not to worry about the little things of life or things that are beyond our control. If we don’t sweat the small stuff of life, we will be better off for it. However, this is how to not sweat the small annoyances of life and what to do when big stuff does overwhelm you:

How not to sweat the small stuff:

  1. Don’t think about the little worries, but keep focused on the task at hand.—If someone calls you “stupid,” cuts you off in traffic, or bumps you in line, we can choose whether we will be so upset with them that it will ruin our entire day, or to shrug it off and just chalk it up to their rudeness. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing them and honking your horn, just shake your head at them and continue driving.  It’s no use to get angry at every little rude thing that people do to you.  If someone calls you a name like “stupid,” you don’t have to retaliate or get upset, though I admit it’s difficult not to, just try to walk away from that kind of verbal abuse, and continue on the task at hand.
  2. Try to always do better and stay optimistic. —When you make a mistake, just try to find ways to improve yourself. As I (main blog author)  said in the last post, making a mistake, even a moral one, does not necessarily mean you are a “bad” or “horrible” person.  Everyone makes mistakes. We are humans, not machines.  It takes time to learn something new or form a new habit (most sources say about 90 days).  Also, stay optimistic. Try to see hope even in the pain. I know it can be difficult, but one way to stay optimistic is to ask yourself, “What can I learn about this?” or if you are religious, “What is God teaching me through this?”  There is always a lesson to be learned from everything, sometimes even multiple lessons!
  3. Don’t give up.–I (main author of this blog) always tell people that as long as you are alive, there is always hope. In many ways, that is true!  Don’t give up on life, even when you feel like giving up.  When you give up, you stop learning, and you stop being able to be better as a person. I know I have struggled to keep afloat in life many times, but thankfully I have people around me who encourage me not to give up on myself or others.

Four principles that can help you and others not sweat the small stuff, and should be done regularly, if not every day: 

  1. Laugh–Find humor even in the most annoying situations.  For instance, when a client or customer calls you “stupid,” and you have graduated from high school and/or college, you can laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement rather than get offended at that person. You can chalk it up to their ignorance and lack of knowledge of reality, just as if someone said to you, “You’re purple! ” when you are obviously not at all purple!
  2. Cry– Ron and I don’t mean crying at everything that offends or hurts you, or in anger at someone, although that sometimes is OK too.  However, we mean to cry at something that moves you emotionally–like a thoughtful card, a heartfelt compliment, or seeing someone else do something nice for another person. I recently cried when I watched a movie that moved me.
  3. Never give up.–Ron and I agree that everyone should keep on keeping on and not give in to failure.  If you fail at something, at least you know a way not to do it again. Mistakes can be good for you because you can learn from them. Making mistakes or sinning does not mean you are a failure or irredeemable, but human.
  4. Make a lot of friends--One way to do this is by simply following the Golden Rule–that is, treating people the way you want to be treated yourself.  For instance, if you would like people to validate you, look in the mirror. Do you validate others? Another way to make more friends is by not only talking about yourself and your interests but taking an interest in others’ lives.  Ask them about their hobbies, their passions, their past,  their goals in life. Also, genuinely take an interest in them as a person. Never use people solely for your own benefit or needs, though one benefit of having a lot of friends is you can network more easily.  The more people in your group, or network, the more support you are going to have and can be available to help when you have a problem or an issue.  However, also be sure to be willing to be available for your network of people if they need support.

What to do when big stuff overwhelms you (DISCLAIMER: This is not an all exhaustive list of “Big Stuff” but these are the ones that Ron and I discussed and are most common to everyday people.):

Death of a loved one

  1. Spend time with loved ones.–When you lose a loved one–whether a family member or a dear friend,  spend time with the ones that knew them best. Exchange stories about the good and/or the funny memories you had with the lost loved one. Exchange the best and most memorable photographs you had of that loved one who passed away. Imagine with your other loved ones how great life would be when you all get to see him or her on the “other side” if you are religious or spiritual.
  2. Make time to grieve your loss.–Don’t hold in all your sadness and grief.  Spend a couple days to a week at least to grieve.
  3. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Rest physically and emotionally from anything that tends to drain you. This may be a job that you have or a person who is more challenging to you. Rest from those people and things that drain you the most. I don’t mean to completely cut that out of your life but just take a break.

Losing a friendship/ relationship

  1. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Also, allow yourself time to think. Ask yourself: What happened to cause the loss of the relationship or friendship? Is this anything I can change? If so, how can I change this? Did I do something to offend the other person, or did we just become distant naturally?
  2. Talk to another friend, if you have one. If you don’t, take the time to evaluate yourself and your principles. Ask yourself: What is it that drives people away from me? Why am I a friend/relationship magnet for toxic people?
  3. Seek professional help if necessary.– Sometimes things get too overwhelming for you to deal with on your own, and even for people around you who are untrained to deal with emotional or psychological issues well. It’s OK to ask for professional help. In fact, Ron and I agree that everyone probably should at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t do this alone.  Seek out recommendations from friends or reputable websites to see if they have a good trained counselor or therapist in your area. Someone once said, ” A person who doesn’t seek help when they have a problem, will create the same problem with another person.”

Losing a job:

  1. Take time out, especially if you got fired.–Take time out to regroup and reflect on the situation at hand.  Ask yourself: Did I do something wrong? And if so, what can I do to improve? What was the reason for the loss of the job? Being depressed or disappointed is a natural feeling of losing a job. Embarrassment is too. Nothing is wrong with you if you feel these emotions. They are valid.
  2. Tell your family.–If you got fired, or even if you got laid off, tell your family or loved ones the truth. They may be disappointed in you, but they may be even more disappointed and upset if you hide the truth from them, and then they find out the truth from some other source. Moreover, they probably won’t trust you as much anymore.
  3. After a few days or weeks- Start looking for a new job. Tell the supervisor (s) at your old job if you got fired that if you use them as a reference that they won’t mention your firing and the circumstances surrounding it. Most of them will be supportive and want you to find a better fit for you.  Also, never lie on an application. The truth will find you out eventually. Always tell the truth!

This is how to not sweat the small stuff, and how to overcome some big obstacles in your life.  Never give up on life, because your life can be used to be a benefit not only to yourself but to others. Also, life is too short for sweating the small stuff.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.

What I Learned From My Pastor’s Sermon

For a videotaped transcript of the sermon I’m referring to (May 21st sermon) see this page: https://www.facebook.com/ibcbolingbrook/.

I had a bad day yesterday. It was really busy at work, and both the managers and associates were in really bad moods.  I was so angry at several people, and just…it wasn’t a good day.

Today, this morning at church, I came in a really sour mood and just wanted to be left by myself, yet at the same time wanted someone to confide in about yesterday, so I wouldn’t feel so alone.  Then, I heard my pastor’s sermon.

He talked about Genesis 6, where humankind had become so evil that God grieved in His heart that He had even conceived creating them! Noah and his family were the only ones that even had an inkling of gratitude and worship towards God.  My pastor talked about how hard it must have been for Noah to keep a righteous attitude towards people who were continually mocking and demeaning him, his family, and his God. My pastor also talked about God’s grace. From this sermon, here are some things I learned that I think could be applied to everyone, even if you are not a Christian, to your daily life:

1.) Don’t test anyone’s patience by continually disrespecting or mocking them, especially God.

I learned that even God’s patience has a limit. This can also be applied to people as well. A person can take only so much abuse and disrespect before they break and/or totally go ballistic against their abuser, unless a.) They find a way to stay away from their abuser or abusers. b.) They find a different way to interact with them, so the emotional pain and investment is not as great.  In the case of Genesis 6, God was very patient (waited literally years) towards the people he created. He waited for longer than most people even live now, for His creation to stop mocking and disregarding Him, and instead give Him the respect and worship He deserved. They never did, and so God got so angry at them, He sent a flood to wipe them all out. I have heard a story about how a wife who was regularly abused and degraded by her husband finally seeks revenge by shooting him to death. I have heard stories about abused children finally having enough and killing their parents for the horrific abuse they (the children) suffered at their (parents’) hands.  I’m not saying what the wife or the children did was right or OK, but that it is understandable given the circumstances.

2.) Give grace to people even though they may not deserve it.

This one really got me. My pastor told us that Noah was a righteous man who preached (read: warned) the people of his day about the impending flood, so that they would hopefully turn back from their wickedness and make things right with God and each other. However, they did not, and instead not only did not take him seriously, but (I believe) mocked and degraded him, his family, and God as well. Since it says in the Bible that Noah was a righteous man, it can be implied that he probably treated these wicked people with at least some of the grace God gave him as well.  God treated the evil people with grace too, in that He allowed them to live for a long time and enjoy some of the fruits of the land to sustain themselves.

This can be applied to our lives as well. Do you have a person in your life–maybe it is someone in your family, maybe it is someone at school or at work, maybe it is a friend who has betrayed you–with whom you have a difficult relationship? I know it may be counter -societal, but show them grace.  Show them you are not like before, or like everyone else. Everyone else may give them a difficult time (in reaction to them acting like a jerk) too, but when you show them grace it shows that you are different, that maybe they do have motivation to change and become a better person to you and everyone else around them. It may take a long time for them to realize this, but you must strive to do the right thing and not give up on them completely. (Disclaimer: If you are in a dangerous or abusive situation, you probably should give up on them –and this does NOT apply, at least until they start to change, but you still can treat them with grace if a situation comes up and you somehow encounter them.)

3. )*this is for primarily Christians*: God will always be there with you and will give you grace, even through the tough times.

My pastor broke his arms many years ago, but he says God still provided him with grace because it is through that experience, that he experienced the kindness, caring, and patience of many people that helped him.  Yes, he suffered, but a lot of good things came out of his experience, even according to my pastor himself.

Yesterday was a bad experience for me. I was upset at several people, and didn’t even really want to talk to anyone there anymore.  I thought if I talked to them more, I would have said something that I would have regretted for the rest of my life, and I would be, at the very least, disciplined. I didn’t even feel safe. However, God taught me several things: a.) He will be there with me when I go back to work tomorrow. b.) He taught me to treat the people who hurt me yesterday with more grace, even though they don’t deserve it. By the way, the very definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” c.) He taught me to forgive those who had hurt me, and just let it go. d.) He taught me to think about things, before I react.

So,  if anyone is hurting or if someone has hurt you, it is important to keep these things in mind, so that anger and hatred don’t consume you. We should also be careful not to hurt others, so that we don’t destroy our relationships with them, and if we do, that we apologize contritely, so that the relationship can possibly be salvaged.

Qualities We Should Emulate of My Favorite Manager

This post is made in honor and appreciation of my favorite manager at my current job. This list is in no particular order, and for anonymity purposes we will call this manager, Tom* (*=Not his real name). Hopefully, we can all cultivate these characteristics in our own lives, and not only if we want to become a manager or some type of boss over people:

  1. Tom gets along with almost everyone.—Sure, like everyone else, Tom sometimes has conflicts with people, but he never really lets them eat away at his soul or personality. He even tries to get along with people that anger or annoy him. He doesn’t seem to hold grudges against anyone, at least in my job. I’ve only heard one person ever really complain about him, and that person is no longer with the company. Almost everyone at work I know has at least some respect for him.
  2. Tom is honest.–He doesn’t tell associates only what they want to hear, but has the decency to shoot straight with them when necessary.  When someone asks how he is doing, and he is feeling badly, he doesn’t just tell people fine, as 90% of us would do. He would tell you honestly that he is feeling badly. I appreciate that kind of frankness in him, because it shows that he can be trusted.
  3. Tom has a good sense of humor about may things.–I believe that Tom’s humor shows up even when things are terrible or stressful for him. For instance, his job is often long, tiring and stressful. However, he still takes time to joke (well, in this case, only half a joke) with me, and I with him, about him needing a nap. I would say, ” Do you need a nap?,” and he would reply, ” Yes, I really need a nap.” in a half-jokingly way. Also, when I was straightening a particular area of the store, knowing and believing I did well, he tells me in a mock-stern voice, something like, ” I need to talk to you.” Not knowing him well at the time, I got scared that I was in some type of trouble. Knowing I was scared, he says, “I’m just kidding. You did great on [name of particular area here]!” Then, we both laughed.
  4. Tom is organized.–We used to (sometimes still do) have nightly store meetings, so the associates know what section to straighten for the night and any new news that we need to know about the store’s operating procedures.  Tom doesn’t have long-winded discussions or take a long time rounding up people to come to the meeting. He does things fast and efficiently, so we can be more productive at work.
  5. Tom has reasonable expectations for everyone.—He knows that some associates need to complete their computer training in a timely manner, so he allows them some time to do them so they can get caught up if they are behind.  He is understanding if someone has an illness that prevents them from doing certain things in the store, or if they have a family emergency that prevents them from being at work for awhile. However, he also knows if people are trying to trick him into giving them more leeway than they deserve or if they are just being lazy, and he doesn’t tolerate that.
  6. Tom is able to keep his cool in front of people.—I’ve never seen him yell at a customer, and I have only rarely heard him yell at an associate.  When he is upset, he knows to not say or do something he would regret as a manager or a person later. He is very level-headed and doesn’t let his emotions eat at him. This is something we, me included, could really learn from him.
  7. Tom is fair to everyone.—He doesn’t only help certain people all the time, and not others. He helps everyone who needs his help the best way he can.  He also doesn’t show he favors one person over another.
  8. Along with having reasonable expectations, which I already discussed in #5, Tom has clear expectations of what he wants of associates. — He gives clear directions on how and what he wants done.   I don’t often leave confused as to what he expects out of me.  He has expectations, and sticks to them.  For instance, if he wants us to greet a customer who is within ten feet of us, he expects just that. He won’t waiver on that.
  9. Tom knows his limits.–When he is too tired or stressed, he knows to go home to his family.  Also, he knows to make time to spend with his wife and children whenever possible. He doesn’t stay at the store all day, if he has other obligations, unless upper management requires that of him.

From these characteristics, we can see that Tom is a good boss to have. He is not just a good boss, but a good person as well. May we all see something of value in Tom and apply one or all of these characteristics to our own lives.

The Importance of Integrity

Note: This post is made in honor and at the suggestion of my good online friend, Katrin Rosinski, whose blog can be found here.

It is not an understatement to say lying and a lack of integrity is prevalent in our world today. According to a 2002 study by the University of Massachusetts,  60% of adults cannot hold a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once (bold emphasis mine- source: http://mentalfloss.com/article/30609/60-people-cant-go-10-minutes-without-lying). That is more than half of all adults and is a sad indictment of our society today.

I have mentioned in another post five character traits that  people I admire have, and one of them by far is integrity. Everyone needs at least some integrity, and I would vouch—almost complete integrity to make a long-standing positive difference in their world.  These are some reasons why having integrity is important, not only to me, but also the entire world:

  1. Integrity shows genuineness of who you are.—If you pretend to be someone else, no one will ever know or like who you really are. This may seem “safe” and “comfortable,” especially when one has something to hide or if they are afraid of their real selves being rejected and tossed like garbage. This is why I try to never reject anyone, except if my physical or emotional safety is in danger. However, in the long run, your real self will be exposed anyway, because we are not made to “hide ourselves.”  Why not just be forthright and honest in the first place? If people don’t like that you are honest with who you are, then they are not the people you want as friends and confidants in the first place!
  2. Integrity shows that you can be depended upon.—One of my pet peeves with people is when they say or promise they will do something, and then they don’t do it.  I understand that people get busy or forget, but if that’s the case, then apologize.  Tell the person you promised, “I’m very sorry I forgot about doing x. How about I do it at x time–or a time convenient for you instead?” This lets the person know that you weren’t trying to lie to them about doing x thing, just that you got sidetracked.  Otherwise, when you promise something, by all means, do it! Even if you don’t feel like doing x thing that you promised anymore, still do it!  This is called “keeping your word.” When you show people that you can be depended on, people will not only admire you, but will also respect you more.
  3. Integrity shows you can be trusted.—When you don’t lie to people, it shows people that they can trust you. One of the ways one can show integrity is to not share other people’s secrets with another without the secret-bearer’s permission. Of course, in certain cases, like if the person tells you to keep secret that they are planning to hurt themselves or others, then of course this does not apply.  For another example,  when you find a sizable amount of money or a credit card that does not belong to you, instead of helping yourself to them, you strive to give it back to its owner.  In these examples of someone expressing integrity, the person bearing the results of the one with integrity should be able to trust him or her because of his or her honesty and trustworthiness.
  4. Integrity shows you are willing to sacrifice yourself or your reputation to defend and honor truth.–This is certainly the case when one is truthful about a mistake he or she or someone else made, even when it costs something to him or her.  For instance, let’s say a vendor undercharged a person by $2.00. Most people will just think to themselves, “Yay! I am getting a $2.00 discount on this thing.” and just leave it at that. However, a person with integrity would go back and tell the vendor, “Hey, you undercharged me by $2.00. Here’s the $2.00,” and hand them the bill or bills.  Most people would probably think, “Why is the person so stupid? He or she could have saved $2.00 by not going back to the vendor.” Maybe so, but the costs of lying–such as not being able to be trusted and being looked on with suspicion if the vendor does find out about the $2.00, is not worth saving a couple dollars.  Also, when you make a mistake and you are able to admit it, it not only shows selfless sacrifice of your reputation in order to defend what’s true, but it also shows great humility. My life experiences (and probably yours too) have shown that there are more people who respect and admire humility than an arrogant person who claims to “do no wrong.”

I’m sure that there are many more reasons why having integrity is so important. Integrity is much needed today, and we all need to do our part to make sure that we live as people of integrity and truth, and not as fake liars.  I understand that some people hurt and are afraid to tell the truth, but as they say, “The truth will set you free.” As I share more of my life with people, I know this to be the case.  Having integrity and being willing to seek and defend truth, and being willing to love and sacrifice, is what will truly make this world a better place to live.

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.