How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

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#Me too- Myths about sexuality and solutions

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mentions of sex and sexual violence and abuse. No disparaging comments, please! Thanks.

By now, you probably have heard of the #metoo movement, where women are taking aim at a societal culture that has devalued and often treated them as little more than sexual entities. It is a movement where some women–and probably men too– are sharing their stories about being sexually abused or harassed by people who devalued and/or wanted to use them as little more than sexual playthings.  I join and support these brave men and women who are coming forward with their painful and difficult stories in order to make sure this does not happen to anyone else ever again, and to change this culture to one that values all people as divine image-bearers and the preciousness that they are.

I think one of the main reasons why there are so many people doing sexually abusive and demeaning things to others, is because people have long bought into some or all of these following myths about sexuality:

  • Myth: You need to have a significant other to be truly happy and fulfilled in life. -Many single people believe or have believed (note to self: guilty as charged) the lie that if they just had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and eventually get married, life would be bliss and they would have no loneliness issues anymore. Married people or people in relationships may also buy into a form of this lie by trying to change their partner into their idealized image of who they think they should be.  Truth: You can just be as happy or happier single. I have been single for a VERY long time, and I have never been happier! Though a lot has changed, many parents still think if their children remain single, they will not be happy or fulfilled (what I dub, the “spinster theory”). I am living proof that this does not have to be the case!  I am not saying that people in relationships are never happy. However, it is not because of the relationship alone that makes someone happy or unhappy.
  • Myth: I need sex or a relationship to feel valued and/or powerful in life. Truth: Sex does not inherently make one feel “valued” or “powerful.” Think of how many women in the sex trafficking industry are treated–as less than animals! Maybe the people that hurt them feel more powerful, but not the day when they are held accountable for their evil actions they have perpetrated against these women! What really can help one feel more valued and powerful is what Jesus said in Matthew 20:27 (KJV)-“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” That is, whoever wants to feel more great and powerful, let him or her serve others. Doing good things for others not only makes you feel good,  but you also value people by helping others. However, it must be done with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  • Myth: Children should hug their relatives to show respect for them. Another version of this myth is: “People should hug me/each other to show respect for me/them.” Truth: Children (and even adults) should not be required to hug or touch anyone!  Some children don’t hug because they feel squeamish about hugging, and some children even have had some unspoken trauma over the person they are “supposed to” hug. Their bodies should be respected and valued by not requiring this of them.  Also, there are other ways for people to show their appreciation and respect besides touch.  For instance, we can use our words to uplift and encourage someone, and there are only a few, if any, that would object that to that! Also,  we should teach children and others to thank people who do something good for them, and say “Please” if they want something, instead of just demanding that person give it to them.
  • Myth: “I need sex to get ahead in life or be successful. “Truth: No, you don’t. What one needs to get ahead in life is integrity, hard work, and compassion.  And even if you are not successful, remember your worth is not dependent on what you do!

Here are some ways we should support women and others who have been sexually harassed and/or abused

  1. Know it’s not just women who have been abused–A lot of men have been abused too. Think of the boys that have been abused by priests or their athletic coaches.
  2. Accept others’ “No” without complaining or arguing.–For instance, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t try to argue with them about that in an attempt to force them to “want” to be touched.  Just accept that they don’t like touch. It’s probably not because you did something bad to them, but just a boundary they have for some people, or even everyone.
  3. If someone is attacking someone else sexually, stop the attacker if possible.– If your life is in danger or if the attacker has a weapon, this may not be such a good idea. In all other cases, however,  you can stop the attack by yelling very loudly, “STOP! STOP” and trying to get the perpetrator off the victim, or by saying nothing but running to get help for the victim as soon as possible. A life could be saved!
  4. Let the abuse survivor know it’s not their fault, and that whatever they feel is valid.–Do not try to get the survivor to forgive their perpetrator. Yes, there is a time and place for forgiveness, but true forgiveness cannot be forced!  What the survivor needs right now is validation and the feeling that they are not “damaged goods” and that they are a valued part of society. Affirm and validate them.
  5. Don’t listen to or watch things that glorify the devaluation of people.–Music or movies that glorify using women as sexual objects should not be part of your media diet if you really want to support the #metoo movement. Similarly, watching pornographic movies or tv shows doesn’t get you in the right frame of mind to be able to look at others with dignity and value.  Resolve today to only feed your mind with media that values others.
  6. Support or pray for (if religious) organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, who help sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.–These, and many other organizations, help men and women who have survived abuse or sex trafficking reclaim their lives. Other organizations like RAINN help survivors as well.
  7. Teach the next generation proper boundaries and consent.–If you are a parent, teach your child or children proper boundaries and consent. Telling your child, “Keep your hands to yourself” when they touch someone without their permission, for instance, is a good way to start to teach them appropriate boundaries and consent. Also, telling them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they have a right to say something and stand up for themselves, is another good way to teach boundaries and consent and show you value their body and soul.

With many men and women bravely coming forward about their times of pain and heartache at the hands of people that devalued and demeaned them, hopefully the abuse will stop and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.  However, we as a society must stop perpetuating a culture where people–men and women alike– are being devalued, and instead we must all strive to create a society where each person is treated as the valued, priceless treasure they are.

Top 10 People That Inspire Me

While there are many people that have impacted my life in a positive way, these following ten people have inspired me the most. Each of these ten people has overcome some great trials in their lives. (For privacy reasons, some of their trials may not be mentioned). They have persevered when they felt like giving up or when there was no way out of their dire situation.  Some of them have had great personal struggles which they have or are working very hard to overcome.  So, without further ado, the top ten people that inspire me are (and why they inspire me):

  1. My mom—The more I learn about her, the stronger of a person I realize she is. Even though many people have hurt her in the past, she still tries to keep a positive attitude about life and perseveres through life’s challenges. She doesn’t just give up on people or relationships if she thinks that there is even a slight chance of reconciliation. My mom inspires me because she is still willing to help people and persevere in life even through the trials in her life. I cannot say that of too many people in society today.
  2. My dad—My dad inspires me because even though his work is often stressful and difficult, he still has a pretty positive attitude about life. He never slacks off in his job, and he is willing to sacrifice for the good of others. For instance, if a co-worker is going on vacation, he is more than willing to cover for him or her.
  3. Holly*–My online friend Holly has gone through some of the most challenging and horrific things a human being could face, but she is one of the sweetest, most caring, and validating people I know. Also, her perseverance to go on despite all the challenges that she has to face is amazing. I don’t even think I could go on if I had to face all the things that she has had to face. I am amazed by not only her care for others, but also her wisdom with words.  She is a great writer and a creative spirit.
  4. K—My other online friend is also amazing. Battling some tough things that could make anyone bitter, she determines to see the positive in life and not be held down by her disability or obstacles that stand in her way. She inspires me to also work hard and not to let the tough stuff of life hold me down.  Also, she is very humorous and is a fun person to be around.
  5. Frank Taylor—He is my former pastor, but he has had a great impact on my life. Sent to a boarding school when he was a teen, God took a hold of his life near the end of his tenure there. His life is a testament to the miracles God has worked in his life! Though he has had to go through some very difficult things, he still has a humble and gentle spirit about him.  He has taught me to a.) never judge people by their public appearances and b.) to be humble even if it costs you something.
  6. Chrissy—My friend Chrissy has had to go through her share of trials too, and like my mom, a lot of people have hurt and betrayed her. Despite this, she still has a heart to serve and love others. She is not swayed by appearances or flattery. She loves singing for God and once led a food pantry for the needy in our area.
  7. Ted*–My friend Ted has gone through a lot in the two years or so I have known him. Not only has he had to deal with some loss, but he has also had to work through severe physical pain. The fact that he still is willing to work through the pain and doesn’t keep calling off, shows not only a work ethic stamped with integrity but also an unselfish heart. In fact, he often helps other co-workers, including me, with the work we had to do, even when no one asks or requires him to.
  8. Rachel Joy Scott—My faith hero inspires me because of her great, positive impact on a large number of people in society. Even when others didn’t see hope in her killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, she reached out to them in love, trying to convince them that there was a better way. She also reached out to the friendless and the outcast in her school and didn’t bully anyone.
  9. Donald*—I met my mom’s friend’s son when he was just three years old, and he was very mischievous. However, he inspires me because God took a hold of his life, and uses his job and time to bless others and to share the love of Christ with others. Though he has gone through a lot, he loves like he has never been hurt and his passion and love for God are not abated.
  10. Jim–Before my friend Jim gave his life to Christ, he lived a very self-centered lifestyle. Now, he lives for God with all the passion, vigor, and love that his heart can muster. His prayers are powerful and effective because he uses his life to bless others. For instance, when he saw a book that could be useful for me, he bought it for me and didn’t expect anything back.  He inspires me because I, too, strive to love God and others and bless them in any way I can.

These are the ten people that inspire me to live life with more joy and gratitude than I have had before. Though each of these people has been through their share of suffering and pain, they have either overcome them already or are working to push through them.  Who inspires you? Why? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=not their real names, pseudonym.

**=If anyone on the list wants me to add or delete anything on this list, please email me privately and I will do it. Thanks. 🙂

What I Learned From the Toughest Years of My Life

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of eating disorders, abuse, and suicide.  Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone, or your comment will be deleted! I will also put resources for anyone or a loved one you know that needs them. Remember, there is still hope as long as one is still alive!

 

On April 9, 1999, I wrote the following, a desperate cry from the depths of my soul: I feel dead without actually being killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. I want to get better… […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” This was a year before God took a hold of my heart, the year that my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott and thirteen other lives were taken in the infamous mass shooting in Colorado.  This was also the year that I was verbally abused by a teacher, and he instilled a fear so great that it was fifteen years later before I was able to overcome it.  I don’t recall having any close friends at all at this time. I remember having a lot of tough classes too.

The years before that were not so much better. Three years earlier, I struggled with an eating disorder, which thankfully did not end up with me being in the hospital, though it almost got to that point.  I struggled with being bullied and verbally abused by a good number of my peers. I don’t recall being invited to any parties or gatherings with friends, unless I asked them first, and even then people didn’t really want to hang out with me.

During those years, from 1996-1999, were the toughest years of my life. Though I thought the pain would never end and I didn’t know if there was anything different for my life, I learned so much from these years of pain that I continue to strive to apply to my life today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Don’t reject someone just because they are different or needy.—I felt rejected by a lot of people during those years. Some people probably didn’t want to be with me, simply because I wasn’t “cool” to them. I didn’t have the right clothes, the right look. Some thought I was unkind because I was a bit depressed at times, without them taking the time to figure out what was wrong and invest in me.  Yes, there are times when it may not be safe to invest in someone at the time, but at least don’t assume they are “rude” or “arrogant” without learning their story. What if that “rude” (read: really depressed or angry) person’s parent or spouse recently died or is being abusive to them? What if they are going through things that they don’t tell you about because they assume you are too judgmental to caringly listen to them? You never know what another is going through. For instance, some people at my job may seem rude and abrasive at times, but then I find out that they are going through some things that are really traumatizing and/or difficult, and because of my experiences during those tough years that I mention, God helps me to listen with compassion, and I try to encourage and be a listening, supportive friend to them.
  2. Be careful of hurting someone with your words. It can ruin or hurt their very souls.–This is what happened to me when a teacher (I am not upset at him anymore….and if you are reading this today, I forgive you and I wish you the best) verbally abused me so badly that he instilled a fear that took me a long time to overcome. I think I internalized what he had said to me, and just gave up hope of ever becoming competent in the subject matter that he taught.  It wasn’t until my mentor, J, pushed me, that I was able to overcome this fear several years ago. I was also verbally teased and berated by my peers at school, who made me feel like an outcast and a pariah.  This is why when I say something out of anger that could really hurt someone, I apologize as quickly as possible.  This is also why I try to build up people, rather than tear them down. I want to improve other people’s lives and prevent them from ever having to suffer as I did with hurtful words.
  3. Pain and heartache may last awhile, but it doesn’t usually last forever—During those tough years, sometimes I thought so much that my emotional hurt and anguish I felt would never end, that I wanted to end it all. However, I am living proof that joy does come in the morning, as it says somewhere in the Bible. The next year, not only did the pain subside, but God also came into my life! Shortly after I graduated from college, I met one of my closest friends to this day. Almost two years ago, I started this blog, God’s Whisperings.  About a year ago, I became full-time at my current job. There is hope, as long as you are still alive. The pain may take some time to subside, but hang in there, so you don’t miss the hope, the love, and the joy you can have if you persevere in life and don’t give up.

These are major things that I learned during the toughest years of my life. I hope if you are going through a similarly tough time, whether it be dealing with a loss of a loved one (My grandmother died in 1996.),  dealing with abuse or bullying, struggling with an illness, whether it be physical or mental, or any other tough situation, that you will know that you are not alone.  I hope you will know that there is hope for your life, no matter how desperate or bleak it looks right now.  And I hope that you know that good will come out of this tough situation, even if you can’t see it right now. Don’t give up.

 

Resources for those dealing with some tough situations:

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)- This is an organization that helps people and their families dealing with mental health issues.  https://www.nami.org/Find-Support
  • Suicide Hotline- https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
  • Grief counseling/support groups page—This is a webpage dedicated to helping those who have lost a loved one and are looking for support or ways to get through it. https://grief.com/group-resources/
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)—This is a website dedicated to those who have been sexually abused and/or assaulted. There is a hotline one can call in a life-threatening situation or just for support.  https://www.rainn.org/
  • Jodie Blanco—She is an advocate who speaks on behalf of the bullied, both people who are currently being bullied, and adult survivors of bullying. There are some great resources for survivors themselves, parents, and teachers. There are even some resources on how bullying in schools can be stopped. http://www.jodeeblanco.com/

 

 

Characteristics I Value Most in People and Why

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

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

 

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

 

*not his real name

Why Lying Hurts You

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

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

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

How I Overcame Depression This Year (and how you can too!)

On and off depressive episodes have been a part of my life since I was ten years old.  Sometimes, I cry for what seems like forever and a day, and sometimes I just become numb to everything around me, while hiding the turmoil inside. Though, when you meet me, I may seem happy and bubbly, for years it was only an unconscious façade to prevent myself from dealing with all the feeling of inferiority, self-hatred, and unfulfilled desires I had inside.

Then, some major changes in both my life situations and perspectives happened last year that fueled my motivation to beat depression once and for all this year. I still do struggle sometimes, but the depressive episodes are getting fewer and fewer. In my life situations, these four events fueled some major changes:

  1. My brother moved away.
  2. I got a new job.
  3. I went to a different church home after being at my previous one for over ten years!
  4. I started blogging more.

Here is what I learned from these events that have helped me overcome depression and enjoy some of the most joyful moments of my life. :

  1. I forgave those who hurt me.—There have been many people that have hurt me in the past. After several people hurt me emotionally a few months ago, I talked to one of the pastors at my church and he told me to “kill them with kindness” and directed me to the passages in the Bible where it said to “Love your enemies,” and “heap burning coals upon [my enemies’] head[s],” by loving and serving them anyway. It was in that moment that I realized what I wanted out of the people who hurt me and why it wasn’t working.—I wanted those that hurt me to stop hurting me! I had thought that by refusing to forgive them, I was, in essence, “punishing” them and giving them a taste of their own medicine that they deserved. However, in reality, what was happening was that I was hurting myself, and the people who hurt me not only continued to unconsciously hurt me because I was harboring so much anger and bitterness towards them, but also probably didn’t care or even know that they were still hurting me!  So, I believe God told me to “let go of the anger” because it really wasn’t accomplishing anything I wanted anyway, and I followed my pastor’s advice of intentionally doing good to them to help me heal from my anger and bitterness towards them.  Not only was I able to forgive these people, but our relationship was rekindled as well!
  2. I cultivated my dream of being a writer by blogging.—After starting and stopping blogging for about five years (I had accounts in other social media forms that are deactivated and I no longer use), I finally created this one in December 2015, but really made a commitment to regularly blog after getting my new job last year.  In addition to that, I joined a blogging group on Facebook, which has been a huge blessing and has helped me in many ways.  I am planning to monetize my blog sometime late this year or sometime next year, and/or do some affiliate work with this blog.  Writing has not only soothed me but has enabled me to communicate to others in ways I never thought possible.
  3. I woke up my motivation to learn about many different things in this world to increase my knowledge and so I could help and teach others.—This motivation and love of learning were really what woke up in me in two ways. First of all, my pastors’ sermons are always relevant to what I am going through and about the world around me. To apply what I learned, I felt that I could take what he taught and learn more about the topic. For instance, once he preached on creation, and that made me want to learn about how the world was created and about the different creatures that inhabit this planet.  Secondly, in the blogging group, I am a part, I have to read others’ blogs in order to get people to respond to mine and stay a good standing member of the group. This rule has helped me to learn about many different topics from fashion and travel to tips on how to better my blog! What are some things you can learn about the world around you?  What are some things that you can learn that your family and/or friends are interested in? I would try to learn about these things so you can better the world, make a difference in others’ lives, and also for your own enrichment.
  4. I embraced my spirituality more deeply.—As you may be able to tell from the title of the blog, “God’s Whisperings,” I take my Christianity quite seriously. However, before this past year, my devotions with God were lacking in quality and depth and I just didn’t feel as close to Him or to the people around me.  That changed when one of the pastors at my church did a bible study on doing devotions with God. Following his teachings, I was able to have a more effective and enjoyable time with God. Also, I tried to apply what I learned spiritually to other parts of my life too, such as my job and the friendships that I had with others, both in and out of work.
  5. I learned to enjoy and value my time more.—Before I got my current job, I felt that I was bored and had too much time on my hands. Now, with my free time being much more limited, I value my time more. I try to find something to enjoy in the moment I’m in now.  I no longer fear being bored or unfulfilled, because I now realize something always can be done, even if it is something as simple as prayer.  I learned that even if I have to spend some time with difficult people that something good still can be learned from them.  My pastor has repeatedly said, “Time is life.” I want to enjoy all the time that I have left because I can see all around me how precious life is and how limited time really is and how we should never waste it.
  6. I learned to love others more unconditionally.—As time goes on, I see all the pain and hurt that many people I know have to go through, often times on a daily basis. I also, unfortunately, see a lot of hate and indifference in this world, and I think that is tragic. So, because of this, I have resolved to strive to be different and counter all this hatred and anger with love and compassion.  I have tried (but still struggle with) being more patient with others, and putting others ahead of myself. I learned not only to forgive those that hurt me but to love people no matter what.
  7. I strived for excellence in everything I do.—It does me no good to just do something “to get by.” Nothing is more rewarding than to know that your hard work was all worth it. I strive for excellence in everything I do because it motivates me to constantly better myself and to learn new things.  Also, I have seen that when I do something with all my heart, that it is more rewarding than if I do something half-heartedly.
  8. I never gave up even though at times I wanted to, even though at times I failed in life, or even when obstacles had stood in my way.—There were a few times when I just wanted to give up. However, God didn’t allow me, and that has made all the difference. When I failed either morally or in other ways, yes I got upset, but then I picked myself up and tried again.  When obstacles stood in my way, there was always a way around it. When I wanted to give up, I thought of the negative consequences of actually giving up like not being able to accomplish my goals in life and not being able to be a positive influence in this world.  These things and often deliverance from a bad situation or situations gave me the motivation I needed to go on.

These are just some of the things I learned to do this year (and last) that helped me overcome my depression. How have you coped with or overcome depression, if you have struggled with it?  How has your life circumstances helped you to more effectively cope with life’s stresses? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

True Love: Why It Is Worth It

From the racially charged demonstrations about two months ago in Charlottesville, Virginia to the tragedy in Las Vegas just this month, there seems not only to be a lack of love, but people everywhere searching for hope, and more importantly, love.  They are searching for someone who will hold them and patiently listen to their pain and anguish in their lives, someone who will appreciate them for who they are, not just what they can do, someone who will be there for them when everyone else has deserted them, someone to give purpose and meaning to their lives. People need love more than ever in their lives!

Unfortunately, the word “love” has been tossed around like a worthless rag. Its meaning has been reduced to sensuality and good, mushy feelings, diminishing the true value of the word. However, true love is much more than that. Love, as I define it, can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, where “charity” equals love (KJV):

“Charity suffereth long and is kind. Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

From this verse, here is why I personally believe loving others is worth it:

  1. Love builds trust in relationships.— True love is not dependent on feelings or doing something kind only if one “feels like it.” True love willingly serves even in the face of adversity. Love means being there for another in the long haul. For instance, it is the husband who doesn’t leave his wife just because he doesn’t have loving feelings towards her at the time. It is the friend who does not give up on the other because he or she has found out something difficult or unattractive about the other person. This builds trust because the recipient of the love knows that the giver will never ever give up on them or the relationship.
  2. Love gives freedom to both the giver and the receiver.–For the giver, when one loves they become much less focused on the self and their own problems and more concerned about others. Thus, their own problems will usually pale in comparison and love gives them freedom to give more of themselves to others. This happens to me when I listen to or read about what others have had to go through in life.  Focusing on them and encouraging others through their issues helps me to put my own problems into perspective and usually helps me appreciate my own life more, that I am not facing that issue or that I have but now I am at a place where I can help others through that similar issue. For the receiver, love gives them the freedom to open up and be vulnerable without the fear of being judged and condemned by the person wanting to give the love. Furthermore, love gives them the freedom to just be themselves, without having to hide their true selves or “morph” into a more “suitable” version of themselves. Finally, when you someone truly loves you, they only want the best for you and they don’t continually think evil thoughts about you, so you don’t have to worry about their motives in trying to do good things for you,  or whether you have to “pay them back,” or “suffer in the end” for their good.
  3. Love gives purpose and meaning to our lives.–If you really love someone, you will invest in them emotionally, spiritually, and oftentimes financially and in other ways as well. This investment gives us someone to live for to ensure their welfare and their joy in their life. If you are spiritual, loving others will also bring you closer to God and His purposes for your life. In contrast, when we stop caring about and loving others, life becomes meaningless and empty. Your heart becomes hard and unmalleable to help solve any of the malaises of this world and make any positive difference in others’ lives.
  4. True love lasts forever.–If you really love someone, your love will never die. When someone loves you, their love for you will never die either.  Yes, even people we love will have to leave us (or the earth) sometime, but I believe if that person truly cares for and loves you, they will almost never forget you. A good indicator of if you really love someone is if they move to a different place, do you still remember them and how they look like? Do both of you make an effort to connect?  Do you still pray for or think about them? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” they probably have a special place in your heart. Also, true love never “disowns” people because it never gives up on someone. If someone gives up on you, they probably never loved you.  If they are there for you through thick and thin, then they probably do love you. True love lasts.

These are just some of the reasons that love is worth it. How can you love someone today? I don’t mean just the romantic or the mushy, gooey love either, but the true, agape love that Jesus gave everyone.  Trust me; because of the long-lasting effects of true love such as the building of trust in relationships, the giving of purpose and meaning to our lives, the sheer freedom it gives, and the fact that it lasts, love is definitely worth it.

 

Things One Should Say To an Abuse Survivor

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of rape and abuse. Absolutely NO disparaging comments allowed or your comment will be deleted! 

In the era where there are more people coming forward about being abused despite their perpetrators trying to silence them, there is still much work that needs to be done to help these survivors heal. One way this can be done is by saying things that will help the survivor heal and move forward despite all the horrible things that have happened to them. In my experience in dealing with people that have been abused and/or bullied, here are things that I think they need to hear from you:

  1. “I believe you.”–Many survivors suffer not only from the post-traumatic effects of having been abused but also from the stigma of not being believed, especially by family and/or friends of the perpetrator and sometimes even people in their own circle of influence. Saying to them that you believe what they went through was and is valid and real will help them heal because saying this validates their experience and feelings surrounding the traumatic event. It says you will be there for them and that you acknowledge their value and their worth.
  2. “This was not your fault.”–Many survivors also believe, at least to some extent, that the abuse was somehow their fault. This is what the perpetrators want them to believe because they (the aggressors) often do not want to a.) take responsibility for their actions and b.) believe that they are that bad of a person that they need to change their behaviors. However, this is NEVER true.  For instance, even if a rape survivor wore revealing clothing, it does not mean it is the survivor’s fault that they were raped! It is totally and completely the perpetrator’s fault for not controlling himself or herself and treating someone in a vulnerable position like an object of their twisted and selfish pleasures!
  3. “You are valued and loved.” —Many survivors I know struggle with low self-esteem or self-worth. Even people who are not survivors can struggle with this, but survivors even more so because the perpetrators have brainwashed these survivors into thinking that they are much less than they really are. Often perpetrators want their victims to think lowly of themselves, so it is easier for them to control their victims.  Survivors of abuse often struggle with this long after their perpetrators are out of their lives.  Telling the survivor that he or she is valued and loved, with a sincere heart, of course, will help them to regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.  Going a step further, and actually showing them that they are valued and loved, of course, can drastically improve survivors’ lives and/or outlook of their future.
  4. “I am here for you.”–A lot of survivors I know feel alone and/or struggle with depression.  This is often because the perpetrator often wants to silence them. If the perpetrator is successful in doing that, a survivor can feel that they have no one to turn to and that no one can really be trusted. Thus, they feel alone in their pain and suffering, and many can only tell their accounts of the abuse years after it happened.  Some, sadly, even take these accounts to their graves, or the perpetrator is believed instead of the survivor and thus is never punished or disciplined for their crimes. Saying “I am here for you,” will make the survivor feel less alone in their pain. It shows solidarity with them and will eventually open the gates of trust in their heart because saying this with a sincere heart will assure the survivor that they are not alone in their pain and that they don’t have to suffer alone.
  5. “You are beautiful.”–Abuse survivors, especially if they were abused sexually, often struggle with how they view the person staring back at the mirror in some way. Saying this in a platonic and sincere way can help survivors regain their self-confidence. However, one should also be careful to say this in such a way that it emphasizes their infinite worth as unique and awesome creation.  One should never say this half-heartedly or in a seductive manner!
  6. “You are not alone.”–As I said before, a lot of abuse survivors think they are somehow alone in their trial and anguish because they are often silenced or sworn to secrecy by their perpetrators especially if the survivors were abused as children.  Saying “You are not alone” to an abuse survivor can mean the world to them. Even though some may know logically that they are not alone, it is often refreshing for them to know that they a.) don’t suffer alone. b.) their anguish is not so unique that no one can ever understand or relate to them in some way.
  7. “I care about you” OR “I will support you.” –Some abuse survivors may feel that no one really cares about or supports them, especially if they have been told by some people in some way that their experience is not believable (even if what they experienced is 100% true).  Saying and demonstrating in some way that you care about them and are willing to support them can be a boon to them. This will mean to the survivor that they have a friend (you) who will help them through the up and downs of the recovery from their abuse and will show to them the perseverance of true love.
  8. Any other validating words.–What this world, and especially abuse survivors, need is love and validation.  Be careful when offering advice or criticism, because these things can hurt the survivor even more even if it is not intentional.  Often abusers control their victims by demeaning them not only physically, but also with hurtful and unnecessarily devaluing and mean words.  If you must offer advice or criticism, do so gently. Never verbally attack a survivor! Always think of them before yourself. Validate them by reminding them of their worth to you and to society, and do so sincerely. Most people can see through fake gestures of “kindness.”  Be sincere and kind in your words to others, especially survivors, always.

These are some things an abuse survivor needs to hear from you. If we validated everyone, especially people who have been through so much, I believe this whole world would heal from their pain and anguish, and it would be a much better place to live. Who can you love and validate today? Please discuss in comments.

My Pet Peeves (and how to avoid them!)

Disclaimer: Please, no disparaging comments about me or any of the commenters, or your comment will be deleted and blocked.  

Most people have at least one thing that annoys them about life or about other people. These are the things that make us tick. However, as with most things, we can either let them ruin our day, or we can persevere despite them. I want to be able to constantly choose the latter.  These pet peeves of mine may not be all exhaustive, but they are some of my major ones.  A pet peeve is something someone finds annoying or unpleasant.  Here are some of my pet peeves, why they annoy me, and how to avoid or cope with them.

  1. One of my major pet peeves is when someone tells me that they will do something, but then they don’t deliver on their promise.–I hate this because I feel like I am being lied to when people promise something but fail to do it. I know this is often not intentional, but it still hurts nonetheless.  If you PROMISE me something, you had better do it if you don’t want to annoy or upset me.  The exceptions are if you are sick or have a family emergency. Otherwise, do not promise me anything, or say something like, ” I will do x, God willing!, meaning if God allows it to happen, then you will do it.
  2. When people pretend to be someone or something that they are not.–Again, I hate when people are fake to me or pretend to be my friend to “make me feel better.”  I would rather have someone tell me up front that they don’t like me than to be “fake-friends” with me. Note: You will not make me feel better unless your friendship and love is genuine and from the heart. If I find out that you are faking being nice to me, I will attempt to avoid interacting with you for a very long time! Just be real with me.
  3. When people don’t respect my (or other people’s ) property.–I hate when people rifle through my things or read personal stuff I wrote without my permission! That is just so disrespectful! If you want to read something that is personal, that is not on a public platform like this blog, ask first before even glancing at it!  There may be a reason why it’s personal. Also, please don’t mess up my stuff. It is in a certain order for a reason so I can find everything without wondering where you put it.  I also hate it when people do this to others! It just seems so invasive and unnecessary. Of course, I also hate it when people steal others’ (or my) stuff. If you really need something, ask first. Usually, I will either let you have it or let you borrow it. If the person doesn’t want to give x thing to you, respect that or ask someone else.  Make an honest living.  Never steal.
  4. The phrase, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.”–This phrase irritates me to no end.  It is often used as a cop-out by people in authority who don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, and it is often used to excuse hypocrisy. As you know from some of my other pet peeves, I hate when people are being fake and/or two-faced.  I am a firm believer that your words and actions should match.  If you are in a position of authority, never ever use this phrase for any reason if you want people to actually listen to you. Even seeing these words in print irritates me. Hearing them would be even worse, and is a huge turnoff to want to do anything you say to me.  If one wants to be a good teacher, he or she must lead by example. Always and forever.
  5. When someone complains about a person, but they have never worked to resolve the issue or issues with him or her. —This annoys me because you are not only slandering and/or gossiping about him or her, but things will never get better. It is different if you have tried to resolve the issue, but the person won’t budge.  I don’t want to hear about how x person is mean or nasty, but you have never tried to resolve the issue or really tried to find the best in that person. I say: Try to resolve the issue first then complain to people if the resolution doesn’t work.
  6. When scammers/telemarketers call and you have already asked them once to not call.— Dear any telemarketers here, I understand you must meet a quota and sell your things. However, if I ask you nicely once that I am not interested, do NOT call me 20 times to “hopefully change my mind.” Also, don’t call me when I am eating or having family time. It ruins the whole event. Also, I’ve made up my mind already. I don’t want to buy/am not interested in whatever you offer.  Thank you and have a nice day.
  7. When technology doesn’t work.–I hate it especially when the computer freezes or access online is not possible. I know I may be *slightly* addicted, but I do need these things for a.) blogging b.) looking up my work schedule c.) ministering to others online or talking to friends that live 1,000 miles away from me.  The only things I would suggest so that technology does work again is a.) Try to fix it yourself b.) call your Internet provider, and see if it is a problem with them c.) call a computer technician and pay to have it fixed.
  8. Slow or reckless drivers.--I don’t like it when drivers are, for instance, going 30 in a 45 mph speed limit road. First of all, it is unsafe to drive too slow (just as it is when you drive too fast). Second of all, all of us need to get to point B in a reasonable amount of time.  Also, people who cut me off and almost hit my car and then speed off annoy me. I don’t mind it as much if you cut me off, but please be careful not to hit my car, ok?  If you do, please take responsibility for what you have done and don’t speed off like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. I need my car to be able to get to and from work on time. Be considerate.

These are just some of my pet peeves. What are some of yours, and how can we avoid pet “peeving” you? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.