Power of Forgiveness

I have struggled with forgiving people for a long time. I had thought that by withholding my forgiveness and affection towards those that hurt me, that I would, in effect, force them to “pay me back” for all the hurt they had caused me. Thus, they would never hurt me again, or so I thought.  However, about a year ago, I had an epiphany that made me realize my bitterness and resentment were futile in getting my offender or offenders to actually change. I also realized that, not only did the offender not change their behavior towards me, but also, in many cases, they had either no idea or didn’t care that they had hurt me! I also found the incredible power of forgiveness and how it can changes lives—not only mine, but yours, as well.

The first thing about forgiveness that I found is that it gives the forgiver the power to love again. When I was bitter and resentful of some people I knew, I found that it significantly stunted my ability to love, not only them, but all those around me, even those who had never hurt me and had nothing to do with the offender or the hurtful incidents. However, when I forgave the people that hurt me, I found my love for everyone grew stronger than even before the offender had hurt me! In some cases, I even found myself compelled to be kind and reach out to the offenders!  Another example of how forgiveness has helped people love again I learned from history.  During the Rwandan civil war, when the Hutus and Tutsis were fighting so much that the Hutus wanted to commit genocide against the Tutsis, some of the Tutsis eventually forgave the Hutus, ending the war and paving the way for reconciliation.

Forgiveness also gives strength.  Some people think forgiveness gives a free pass to the offenders or excuses their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, the fact that someone needs to be forgiven says that they did something wrong. Second of all, one can forgive someone, and still expect justice to be served, but not out of a heart of anger and bitterness. Finally, radical forgiveness often requires much thought and emotional strength on the part of the forgiver to let things go that he or she naturally would want to hold on to, such as the desire for the offender to hurt like he or she has been.  Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives and to love more radically.

Finally, forgiveness gives the forgiver power to bring about positive changes to the relationships. When I forgave several people at work who had said and done things that I considered hurtful to me, I often realized that despite all that happened, that there was still hope of reconciling our relationship.  Moreover, I was also able to gain a deeper understanding, and sometimes an even greater appreciation of their perspectives on things. I have become more conscious of what I may have done to contribute to the strain in the relationship, often including my bitterness and resentment towards them, and resolve to treat them with more grace and mercy, even though I may feel that they don’t deserve as much.  Thus, I found that the people that initially offended me later softened up and treated me with more consideration after I had genuinely forgiven them.

As one can see, forgiveness is a very powerful force in this world for good.  Yes, it is often difficult to do. However, the benefits of persevering in forgiveness are considerably great. Forgiveness gives us the power to love again and like never before. Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives so that we are not trapped by our past.  Finally, forgiveness can invite reconciliation and bring positive changes into the once-strained relationship. Who do you need to forgive? Who have you forgiven? I don’t know about you, but forgiving others has given me such freedom and such peace with others.

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How to Give Hope to the Hurting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.

 

In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live!  The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!

Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:

One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives.  One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note.  Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life.  When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.

Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out!  However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them.  When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before.  When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts.  They feel like their hard work is done for naught.  If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.

Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps.  If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot.  Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.

If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again.  Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses.  You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately.  2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them.  3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e  give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them.  4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.

One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside.  By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future.  We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.

When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world.  There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.

Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.

So Much Time

So Much Time– A poem written on 5/26/2018

I spent, oh so much time

Being angry and holding grudges

Against those I now love

Or the people I now rise above

 

I spent, oh so many years

Stumbling in misery and regret

I cried, oh, so many tears

Because I hadn’t conquered my fears

 

I spent, oh so much time

On things that have profited me none

But now I’m totally done

Done with throwing away precious years

 

I will spend these fewer days

On who will matter most to me

I will love them fervently

And let everything else on earth ,be

Effects of Bullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effect#3—Depression

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

Healing

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

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

My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

Soul Healer

written : 5/11/2018

dedicated to  J, Erica*, Veronica*,  Kelly*, Alice*, Holly*, Anna*, and my managers Chris* and Hope*  (*= all are pseudonyms) 

I was alone and in pain

I was also going insane

I felt so much shame

And I was in despair

 

I felt so unworthy of love and care

I dared never to lay my soul bare

Because I knew they’d condemn me

And all I came to be

 

But then, as water

That refreshes the soul,

On a hot, dry day

You came to me

 

You affirmed me with your love

The one from up above

You gave me a reason to hope

When I was on my last rope

 

Now I want to always love you

And bare my soul to you

Because you saved my life

And showed me God’s love

How to Find Peace After Betrayal

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone or your comment will be deleted! Also, mild triggers for talk about abuse and bullying.

This is a blog post that I wish I wouldn’t have to write, much less, experience, time and time again in my own life.  I wish people would never have to experience betrayal in their lives. However, even my Savior did, when Judas betrayed Him for a paltry sum of money.

I know many of you have also experienced betrayal—whether it be by a family member, a close friend, a trusted person who held authority over you, or any number or varieties of people.  Many of you are, or were, very angry and hurt by their betrayal.  You may have been blindsided by it, as you did not expect this of them, or you did, but didn’t think it would be you. Whatever the case may have been, I know it can be absolutely very painful and difficult to pick up the pieces and live fully again.  However, we must not let the betrayers in our lives control us or keep us from accomplishing our dreams. Here is what I have learned about how to find peace after betrayal:

First of all, it is absolutely essential that you have or build some type of support for yourself.  –You will not heal very well or quickly if you have to deal with the aftermath of betrayal alone. This is especially true if you have just been abused and/or bullied by someone, and the wounds, whether it be physical and/or emotional, are still fresh.  If you or a loved one has experienced some type of criminal abuse, do not be afraid to report it to the proper authorities—police, attorneys, medical personnel such as therapists and doctors, etc.  The betrayer, as well as their supports, may dissuade, or even threaten you if you report the abuse. Do not be afraid of their threats!.  I know it may be easier said than done, but if you have the power to stop their cycle of abuse, even to the risk of your own life, to me (and to many others), you are a hero or heroine!  This will help others who may be also suffering at your abuser’s hands, and will help the abuser to repent of their actions and stop hurting others.  Besides reporting the abuse, make sure you seek out support for yourself to help you heal from the trauma of the betrayal and/or abuse.  This may include trusted family members, loved ones, friends, and therapists and clergy.  Make sure they will support you and will not either vouch for the abuser or play the devil’s advocate and blame the betrayal and/or abuse on you.  If access to these supports seems nonexistent for you, there are many online groups that support and validate people who have been betrayed and abused by others.  Please contact me privately if you would like to know a few of them that I’m a part.

Second of all, make sure you are having adequate self-care. –When I am betrayed by someone who I thought was trustworthy, I often delve into depression and self-pity. It is also very difficult for me to eat and sleep well, or even be kind to myself, as I tend to blame myself for the betrayal.  I think in order to get out of this pit, one needs a.) adequate outside supports and  b.) good self-talk. Good self-care includes educating yourself on the effects of abuse and betrayal and telling yourself that it is NOT your fault. Because when someone else abuses or betrays you, it is never your fault! That the person even schemed and thought to attack you means that they could have controlled their thoughts and temptations, but they chose not to!  Also, try to be kind to yourself by engaging in hobbies that you love to do. Of course, do not do anything that is against the law or that is not true to your moral beliefs. Doing something you love, should help you find peace and purpose in your life again, and not be held back by the betrayal you experienced.

Also, don’t let your experience of betrayal diminish your love for others. –At least for me, I have found that after I have just been betrayed by someone, I tend to snap at others more easily or even become paranoid of everyone.  I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I have learned that I should not let my experiences color my perceptions of everyone.  Not everyone is like your betrayer, even if it may seem that way.  Remember the betrayer is the one responsible for his or her actions, not everyone else, especially if they had nothing to do with the incident.

Also, continue to cultivate positivity to the other people who didn’t betray you.  Do not hold back your love or kindness from them because of the actions of someone else.  First of all, it is not fair to take out your anger and hurt on them because they did nothing wrong. Second of all, you will ruin the good relationships you have with them.  If you are angry and hurt at someone for betraying you, try to only focus your anger on them, not on everyone else.

Finally, forgive your betrayer.—This does not mean you have to reunite and reconcile with them. I read somewhere that it takes two to reconcile, but only one to forgive.  How true that is!  For instance, even though Jesus forgave the people that cruelly beat and taunted Him, He did not necessarily reconcile with all of them.  Also, though I am willing to forgive people for their betrayal, it does not mean that I will give up my trust so easily to them the next time.  You don’t even have to give your trust to the betrayer ever again.  Not only is it not wise to do that, but, if they haven’t earned back your trust, I learned that you are setting yourself up for more betrayals and heartache, as they will most likely take advantage of you again!

Forgiveness does mean letting go of your anger and bitterness towards them.  This is not for their benefit. I repeat; this is not for the betrayer’s benefit, but for yours!  When you let go of your anger and bitterness against your betrayer, you are, in effect, saying that you will not be tied down to or controlled by them.  You are saying that you let go of the need for avenging yourself, and that you will trust the proper authorities, whether it be police, the law, or God, to make this situation “right”.  You are saying that you move on with your life, and you will not let the betrayer tie you down to pain, anger, or bitterness.  You are saying that your love is stronger than their hate against you!

Betrayal is very painful and difficult to go through, but when one comes out of it and begins to heal, I found that inside of that person comes a very strong, determined, and compassionate person that will shine like the sun and fly like a butterfly.

 

image courtesy of: www.LumoProject.com.