Ten Common Myths about Mental Illness and its truths

Everyone has struggles whether it be a physical ailment or disability, a mental illness, financial issues, or other life issues.  I know many people that have struggled with some form of mental illness, some for many, many years.  What I find that all of us who struggle with mental illness have in common is that many people around us believe at least one (if not several) of these commonly held notions about mental illness. Here’s some of them, and the facts that counter these myths:

  1. MYTH: People who struggle with mental illness are “crazy.”  FACT: This is a hurtful and often, untrue characterization of people who struggle.  The fact is that many of us may be depressed and trying to overcome past traumas.  If you were in our shoes, you’d probably react similarly.  Also, we should try to refrain from using the term “crazy” to describe anyone, because it is similar to using the word “retarded” to describe something or someone who you deem “stupid.”
  2. MYTH: People who are suffering from depression, should just learn to “get over it” or “deal with things better.”  FACT:  This is also a very hurtful myth that a lot of people believe. When I am stressed at work, some people (I won’t name names) think I should “just get over it.” The fact is that people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses are often doing the best they can to do better to avoid the stigma that comes from their illness, but they can’t do it alone.  It’s not like we have an on and off switch that makes the illness go away in only one or two days. It often takes years to overcome. Otherwise, we wouldn’t struggle!  What we need is validation. What we need is understanding, someone to come along side and help us.
  3. MYTH: Taking psychiatric medication is sinful (i.e morally wrong). FACT: I don’t understand why certain people in certain religious circles believe this!  They certainly don’t typically believe this about heart medication, or medication to treat ulcers! If something is wrong with the wiring in your brain, you need to treat it somehow. Therapy doesn’t always work for this, nor is it always effective.  If you take medication for heart problems, for instance, then taking psychiatric medication should also be morally permissible, no questions asked.
  4. MYTH: People who hurt themselves (i.e self-injure) are often doing it for attention. FACT: First of all, many people I know who hurt themselves don’t want the attention. They just want to be loved and understood.  This is why in my own research, I have found that people who self-injure often hide their scars underneath clothing or other things. If they really wanted attention,  they would probably not even bother to hide anything! A lot of my friends I know who struggle with self-injury have a low sense of self-worth and may be self-injuring to relieve unbearable pain and anguish. Again, validation, love and genuine support are the keys to help them be able to stop self-harming.
  5. MYTH: When someone is considering self-harm or suicide, you should always call an ambulance so they can get the help they need. FACT: This is only true if they are actively suicidal or planning to do major self-harm.  Some (but certainly not all) people use this method as a cop-out so that they don’t have to actively support and encourage them themselves. Many people don’t know how or simply don’t really care.  Yes, it can be emotionally difficult to care for a person struggling with these deep issues, and you shouldn’t do it all alone. However, unless the person is actively considering major self-harm or being actively suicidal, calling an ambulance or sending them to the hospital, may create more problems for them in the end than good.  First of all, the mentally ill are often not treated well in hospitals, because people are afraid they will become violent or self-destructive.  However, if we took the time to try to understand and love them better, sending them to the hospital would not be needed. Also, a lot of mentally ill people are in therapy, so if you don’t have the emotional energy needed to support them, actively encourage them to talk to their therapist or doctor before they do anything harmful to themselves.
  6. MYTH: People struggling with depression or anxiety should just “get out more.” FACT: If we could, we would. The truth is these illnesses are often debilitating and disabling. This is often why it is a struggle to “get out and enjoy life.” What we need is guidance and a gradual introduction to the “real world” when we are better and are able.  What we need is encouragement and understanding from loved ones, who will be there when we want to talk about what’s going on inside our minds.
  7. MYTH: (A lot of people may believe this in one form or another, or unconsciously) People with mental illnesses are emotionally “weak” or “lazy.” FACT: This couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve heard a lot of people imply or even say to me that because I get stressed about certain things or cry sometimes, that I am a “weak” person emotionally. The truth is that people who suffer from mental illnesses are often the ones that have had to deal with the most emotional baggage in their lives. Many have experienced abuse or bullying, or both, during some period in their lives.  Some of them have experienced deep, personal losses.  The fact that we are able to cry and “open” up shows that we are not weak, and in fact, strong and not afraid to be vulnerable to others.  Often, being able to let the feelings come out and talk about things with people, is the first step towards healing and dealing with underlying issues.
  8. MYTH: People suffering from mental illness just need therapy. FACT: Therapy can be very useful and helpful, but it is not a “one-size fits all measure” for everyone suffering from mental illness. Some people have struggled with getting the right therapist because of continuing stigma against their illness. For instance, someone who has a borderline personality might not be understood by a lot of therapists because of the commonly held notion in the medical community that they are very difficult to deal with and understand.  Also, therapy alone is often not the answer. We need not only therapy but often times medication and a strong support system to help us through the tough days.
  9. MYTH: People who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be violent, so we need to put protective measures in place. FACT: This myth irritates me more than some of the other myths out there! Yes, there may be a few mentally ill people who can get violent, but most of them are not violent at all.  To treat everyone who is mentally ill like wild animals needing to be caged is not only perpetuating this myth, but I believe it is inhumane as well.  I have heard of people being chained to their beds even though they wouldn’t hurt even a fly!  Or that they can’t enjoy music because the medical facilitators are afraid they may hurt themselves with earbuds! If one is that afraid, then watch them. Don’t suck the enjoyment out of an already bad and stressful experience for them!
  10. MYTH: Referring to people who struggle with mental illness: “It’s all in their heads.” FACT: Mental illness does not only affect people mentally but physically as well. For instance, in addition to feeling bad mentally,  people with clinical depression often don’t eat or sleep well, can have headaches, cramps, or an upset stomach, or feel much more physically exhausted than usual. (source: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1).  Also, people with anxiety disorders often experience physical ailments as well, such as sweaty palms, palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and sleeping problems. (source: http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders#1-3 )

These are just some of the commonly-held myths about people suffering from mental illness. I think we need to remove stigma about these illnesses and treat everyone, including people afflicted with mental illness, with more love and compassion.  What are other myths you have noticed people believing about mental illness? What can we do to dispel them? Please feel free to discuss in comments. Absolutely NO disparaging comments or your comment will be deleted! Thank you.

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Some people, places, and things that give me joy

I will be discussing WHY these give me joy. These are in no particular order or ranking. These things are not all exhaustive either.

  1. God—He is my light and my salvation. He is the source of my joy. He’s awesome!
  2. my family–all of them 🙂 They have been there for me through thick and thin. They have been exceedingly generous and caring for me.
  3. hanging out with my friends–all of them, you know who you are 🙂 They have been there for me too. I enjoy having deep spiritual conversations and just talking about life with them. I have enjoyed spending time with them by watching movies, shopping and eating at restaurants with them or just going over to each others’ homes.
  4. my online friends—Kat, Kassi and Abbey.  You have been a great love and support to me. Your validation and grace have meant a lot to me when my other supports were lacking. So, thank you.
  5. my managers at work--Each one of them has given me some measure of joy and taught me the value of hard work. I have learned so much from each one of you, so thank you.
  6. my blogging community--I don’t know where I would be without you, the valued reader.  You are awesome! 🙂
  7. sunshine-–I love the sun! It makes the day so much brighter and lovely. I love being outside when the temperature is nice and it’s sunny out.
  8. animals—I love dogs, cats, and all types of animals. The only one that I really don’t prefer is the Canadian goose.  I love that they don’t judge you and how uniquely precious God made each one.
  9. butterflies–I like how intricate and beautiful God made them. Unfortunately, I rarely see those! 😦
  10. the teachings of the Bible and how it illumines the greatness of God–I love that when I follow the Bible’s teachings seriously that I find that I have more joy and peace in my life. I also like that it exalts God and reflects how much He has done in others’ lives, including my own.
  11. flowers-–I like all the different colors and types of flowers there are in the world. I love seeing a whole bunch of them together in nature (a.k.a,  a garden).
  12. church–I love my church. I recently became a member, and I don’t regret it one bit! I love both the people and the building.  I love singing the hymns and the pastors’ sermons are always relevant to my life. Even the guest speakers are good!  I’ve learned so much from my current church, including how to have a good devotional time with God.
  13. writing–I love writing and sharing what I’ve learned with others. I hope the readers of this blog will be a.) inspired to write about their own experiences and things they have learned in life. b.) take away something from this blog to apply to their own lives. I also like writing poetry sometimes.
  14. Chinese food-— I love Chinese food. I like how the dishes have a lot of vegetables and are tasty.  I also love any Chinese noodle dishes, though I also like the rice dishes and most of the other dishes as well.
  15. Mexican food--I love the cheese in Mexican dishes and all the different flavors they use in their dishes.  Yum…
  16. Moomin characters— I love the cuteness of Moomin characters and that they always seem to want to learn new things and go on new adventures. Also, the books that are based on these characters are also very good, and one is able to escape from the pressures of life in these books.
  17. stuffed teddy bears—I love teddy bears. They are the cutest darndest stuffed animals in the world.
  18. People serving others.–I love when people help others in need. For instance, I think the outpouring of love and support to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey is nothing short of amazing. If you would like to be a part of this, please see this post for more information.
  19. birds chirping-–I love the sound of birds chirping. It is such a peaceful sound to me and tells me that everything is alive and well.
  20. VeggieTales–especially the banter between Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato. 🙂 ‘Nuff said.
  21. Beautiful scenery--including forests, forests with a mountain backdrop, the oceans, lakes, and rivers (as long as it doesn’t look polluted), flowers, jungles, etc…
  22. encouraging notes and letters— I love validation and encouragement. I also love giving the same to others.
  23. Christian Music–I love how the music has meaningful lyrics and encourages me in my walk with God. The music is part of what propelled my search for God before I became a Christian!
  24. authenticity--I love when people don’t have pretenses about who they are and are loving and caring for me because they want to, not because they have to or have some type of ulterior motives. I also love it when people can be honest with me and not lie about who they are or what they think.
  25. reconciliation in relationships–I consider it not only a relief but a blessing when I am able to reconcile with someone, or when I see two people, in general, reconcile with each other after a difficult period in their relationship, whether a friendship, a romantic relationship or other types of relationships.
  26. caring customers at work--I love it when customers are patient, kind, considerate and thankful for the work not only that I put in every day, but also others with whom I work. I love it when they say “thank you.” I am particularly appreciative of customers who take the time to fix the displays they look at without being expected or asked.
  27. a good rest or nap— Makes me so refreshed and joyful to be able to have a good night’s rest (or afternoon nap on my days off).
  28. books–I love to read about a variety of subjects. However, I read mostly non-fiction. My favorites right now are Christian living, food recipes, travel guides, conflict resolution in the workplace, and biographies or autobiographies.
  29. magazines–I love to read magazines on similar subjects as above.  I also like writing magazines to better this blog and to further my writing endeavors.
  30. trees-I like trees not only because they provide shade but also because they are beautiful and strong, just like I want to be.

 

Soul Invasion

I wrote this poem on 9/8/2017. This is about how God changed my life and filled my soul.  It can be also be seen as the love of a romantic partner or friend, but for me, this is more God’s great love for me that filled my soul and made it whole!

Soul Invasion

You created a spark in my heart

That could never be burnt out

You etched your love in me

That would always be

 

Your whole Being invaded my soul

Chasing away the hurt and pain

That threatened to doom me forever

And drive me insane

 

Your entire Being permeates my soul

And makes me happily whole

‘Til your amazing love oozes out of me

Like a lush, flowing stream of pure water

When We Have to Do Something: Caring for others in trouble

Earthquakes. Famines. Wars and rumors of wars.  Pestilences.  Heartache. Betrayal. Strife among people. Hatred and apathy. The problems in the world can seem very overwhelming at times. When we compound it with our own problems, they can seem unbearable! In fact, sometimes things can seem so insurmountable, we do and say nothing.  We are paralyzed with fear and anguish.  However, all these things can also propel us to right action, if we know how to help some of those in need.  Here are some situations either in the world around us or perhaps in our own lives that can seem “big” or “heavy,”  but we can redeem for the benefit of those involved in these problems. Here’s how YOU can personally make a difference:

The natural disasters in the world

  1. If you are spiritual, pray for those affected by the wildfires in California and surrounding areas, the hurricanes that have ravaged or are ravaging Texas, parts of Lousiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Carribean Islands.  Pray that they will be provided with all that they need and for replacement of all that was lost. Pray for peace, comfort, and strength for those affected by the storms and their families that are concerned about them.
  2. Donate to a reputable organization that will give (and are giving) to those in need in the affected areas.  Some of them are: a.) Red Cross b.) Convoy of Hope c.) others. <—this article of organizations focuses on relief for Hurricane Harvey, but many of these help people affected by the other disasters as well.
  3. If you can, go to these affected areas and volunteer in the rebuilding and the relief efforts there.
  4. Spread awareness for these people being ravaged by these catastrophic events.  Let people know that these people are hurting and in need of help. That way, everyone will be aware of what’s happening and can also help in any way they are able.

Those affected by abuse and bullying

  1. Never ever blame the abuse or bullying survivor for the abuse. — Remind them that the abuse was not their fault.  Abuse is totally and will always be the abuser’s fault.  They are able to control their actions. No one can make someone else abuse another.
  2. Encourage the survivor of their inherent value.-– Many times abuse survivors have been made to feel worthless and useless, even unworthy of love.  If we want to be allies to these people, we remind them of their inherent pricelessness again!  This not only means that if they do something right, praise them, but also reminding and demonstrating to them they are still priceless and loved even if they make a mistake or sin. We can do this by helping them through their failures and doubts, and by striving to be committed to being there for them whenever they need us.
  3. Make sure to model good boundaries to them.— This means striving not to control or manipulate them in any way. Bullied and abused people usually (if not always) have had their boundaries or safety violated in some way, and their trust shattered.  Do not attempt to make decisions for them, unless you are already in a position of authority over them. Never use them to your own ends, otherwise, they will feel abused all over again, by you!  For instance, if you want to show affection to them, but they are hesitant to, respect them and restrain your wants and desires.  This is not about you! If you wrong them or make a mistake, sincerely apologize to them and commit to never repeating the same mistake again. Show you can be trusted.

EDIT: Many, but NOT all, people who have been abused also struggle with mental health issues because of the trauma. It is important to note though, that NOT all people with mental health problems have been abused. But if someone you know has been abused AND is struggling with mental illness, this is a GREAT resource: https://ashipofmyownmaking.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/10-ways-you-can-help-a-mentally-ill-friend/

Those affected by poverty

  1. Donate to reputable organizations such as the Red Cross and Unicef. –These organizations help by giving much-needed food and water to those in need.
  2. When you give to them, expect nothing back.–When you give to the poor, whether your time or finances, make sure it is with pure motives. Do not give to them, just to get a tax break, or to get something in return from them later.  Give because it is the right thing to do. Give because it gives you joy to see them happy and fulfilled. Do it for them, not yourself.
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or other organization—Look for opportunities in your area to help those affected by poverty.  One organization, for those living in the Chicagoland area, is called Feed My Starving Children. They pack food for people in need around the world. You can help by volunteering to help pack these meals. Their website is: https://volunteer.fmsc.org/register/
  4. Spread awareness about the issue of poverty.–Write about the struggles of people living in poverty, not to embarrass or shame them, but so that people will know how serious an issue it is, and also to dispel myths about people living in poverty. I know a lot of people who think that if you live in poverty, you must be lazy and/or uneducated. However, I have found through my own research and listening to others’ experiences, that this is often not the case, and the causes of poverty are more complicated that one thinks.

These are just some ways to care about people in need. What are some ways you can think of to help those in need? Encourage and love someone today. You can perhaps help save a life!

People are Gifts: How to Value Others

This is a kind of part two to the post about how you are precious.  So,  not only we are precious, but others around us are as well. I have often observed in society a disturbing trend where some people are treating others as if they were disposable. Sometimes, I must admit, that I am tempted to do the same. I have heard disturbing stories about parents who have abused and/or killed their child or children in the name of convenience or revenge on their ex-partner or spouse.  In the workplace, I have heard of countless cases where the work being done is not ever appreciated or met with a “thank you,” but instead criticized or complained about because it isn’t met to perfect standards. Divorce and infidelity in marriage are very commonplace, especially here in the U.S, but other countries it is starting to become more common as well. How do we then take a stand against treating others as disposable and instead treating them like the gifts they are? Here are a few things I found effective in us leading the way in treating other people with value and dignity, instead of as commodities for our own selfish pleasures:

  1. View people as gifts to be treasured instead of commodities or annoyances.– What if we looked at each person we encountered today as a gift from God instead of as an inconvenience or as a commodity? I believe that every person we encounter is sent to teach us something about ourselves or about life. If we get to engage with a loved one or a friend, he or she is teaching us the value of joy, love, and friendship. If we have to engage with a difficult person, he or she is teaching us to be patient and challenging us how to love without expecting anything back.  Also, every person we encounter, I believe, is put in our paths for a reason. For instance, I believe I met my current manager *Chris (NOT his real name) not only so I could get a job but also teach me how to love better and so God could refine my character through him, and help me grow in my job there. The pastors at my church were put on my life’s path (I believe) to help me further grow in my faith and to help support me in my life’s journey. Also, the pastors have helped me think of others more and I was put on their path to help serve with them too.
  2. Be grateful for every person who does something good, either to you or for the benefit of others.— At my job, for instance, if a customer goes out of their way to help me pick up a display that I accidentally dropped, I would say something like, ” Thank you for going out of your way to help me pick the display items up. I really appreciate that.” The customer doesn’t have to do that for me, but if he or she does, it shows that he or she is a decent and caring person, and we should applaud people like that, not only because they deserve it but also to encourage them to continue their thoughtful actions.  If your child (if you are a parent) does something praiseworthy like cleaning up their room without being asked, or helping you cook a meal, you should teach them gratitude by expressing yours.  This will not only lift the child’s spirit but also model gratitude that they can and should imitate if they see someone else do good to them or to others they care about.
  3. Know that each person is unique and cannot be replaced by anyone.–In a society where people are often not valued, we often fall for the lie that someone can be replaced by someone else.  Yes, in a job situation, people are replaced all the time by others. Even so, we should be careful not to fall into this “replacement mentality” and let it influence how we treat other people.  For instance, I had often wanted people I didn’t like or didn’t get along with to be replaced by another “nicer” person. I did not care about learning from them (much to my disadvantage) or finding value in them. This is how most people I have encountered think.  However, if I had instead thought about how I could learn from them and how even they are unique and special, I would have been able to get out of that negative mindset sooner.  No one, not even identical twins, has exactly the same DNA as another.  Everyone is unique. Treat others as precious, because once someone is gone from this earth, you won’t see them on this side of the dirt again.

These are some ways we can value each person as precious. We all have value, even the people we don’t like or see eye to eye with all the time.  Everyone is a gift to be treasured. Enjoy and value your gifts today!

Why YOU are precious

With approximately 6 billion people on this planet, it is easy to feel overlooked and unimportant to everyone, or anyone, for that matter. Feeling overlooked and unappreciated can lead one to take desperate measures to feel more loved and important, such as conforming to one’s peer group even if they don’t agree with what is being said or done, or doing something, positive or negative, to gain someone else’s love and appreciation. Some have already given up the search, and have delved into addiction and numbing, to ease their pain of feeling unloved and overlooked.  However, we don’t have to–if we know how precious we are, both in (I believe) God’s sight and others’ sight.

Here are some reasons why every human you encounter (yes, including yourself) is very precious:

  1. Every human being has a complex, intricate body. (source:  http://www.dandydesigns.org/id57.html)– For instance, think of the complexity of the brain itself, having (count them!) three trillion nerve cells being coordinated by it!  We have 131 million nerve receptors in our eyes! We have 35 million gland cells in our digestive tract so that it will digest food and not itself.  Think of all the muscles it takes to walk or to smell, to sleep, or even to eat! Wow! We have a complex body.  Think about it for yourself…
  2. Every human being has something to teach us.–Whether the person has boundless energy or is bedbound, we can learn some great things when we interact with another person.  I have learned so much from those around me, including, but not limited to, my family and friends, my co-workers, my managers, and even customers I only meet once. We not only learn the basics like their name, their interests, and maybe about their families but sometimes also their personalities and how to better relate to them. This is true even with the people we don’t get along with well. For instance, I have had some peers who made fun of me and tormented me during my years in school, but what I learned from them is how NOT to be, and to instead value others as people and not commodities.
  3. Every human being has something to contribute to society.-–Whether the person is always up and about and works 80 hours a week, or is bedbound because he or she is very sick, he or she can contribute to society. How can the bed bound person contribute to society, one may ask? They can contribute by. a.) Helping the able bodied people appreciate what they have more.  b.) Through prayer, if the bed bound person is spiritual. c.) Helping the able-bodied person be able to be a blessing and serve the bed bound person.  The person who is always up and about, of course, contributes by working hard and by serving others.  Whether bedbound, disabled, or able-bodied, no human being is worthless! We all have infinite value.
  4. Every human being has a story to tell.–Everybody I have met has a story to tell us. In their stories, we can not only learn more about them and life but how their stories weave into our own.  For instance, when I met my friend V, she just moved from another state, and I had been in my now former church for a couple of years. I welcomed her, and as time went on, learned more about her life story (her family, how she got to where she was, her future plans and goals, etc…) and it interwove with mine (She got to know who my family was, my future plans and goals, and how I got to where I was..). This can be repeated for every human being I have ever encountered, not just my family and friends. It can be even a brief encounter, but once we meet someone and learn their story, our lives intersect, in a way, forever.

So whether you are White, Black, or another race or ethnicity, tall or short, fat or thin, rich or poor, or any other human identifier, you are indeed a very precious human being.  Because we are so precious, let us treat each other that way, and not as commodities to be used, but as the treasures we all are.  Who can you love today?

PS: This is the 100th post! 🙂 I wanted to commemorate all the readers of this blog with this post!

Why Respecting Others’ Boundaries is Important

In the news, Hillary Clinton is quoted as wanting to say about President Donald Trump during one of the Presidential debates, ” “Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’ ” According to the linked article (link below), President Trump reportedly bragged about groping women, and several women have complained about his inappropriate behavior towards them.  When even the President of the U.S has issues respecting other boundaries, as reported on the NBC news website, we, as a society, also need to learn and re-learn how to respect other’s boundaries as well. For a related post, see this post. Here’s why:

  1.  Respecting others’ boundaries makes others feel safe around you.—Have you ever had someone touch you without your permission and made you feel uncomfortable? I have—more times than I can count. A long time ago, a random guy followed me around in the place where I used to work and started touching me (but not my private parts) in ways that made me feel uncomfortable.  He obviously didn’t give a care that I was uncomfortable and felt unsafe around him. If he wanted to date me or become friends with me, he should have not touched me in the way he did and just made small talk with me. If I didn’t want him around, he should have respected me by leaving me alone! There are several people I know that don’t like to be touched, so I don’t. This is not because I don’t care for them or like them. Quite the opposite, in fact! By not touching people that don’t like to be touched, I am respecting their boundaries.
  2. Respecting other people’s boundaries shows that you respect them as a person, and are not going to treat them as a commodity.–By respecting others’ boundaries, whether it is their touch-boundaries, their belongings, or other types of boundaries, you respect them as a fellow image bearer of God. When one does not respect another’s boundary, what they are saying essentially is, ” I will make the decision(s) for you.  I will touch your belongings or your body (or etc…) whether you like it or not. I don’t care about what you want or need from me. It’s all about me and my wants here!” This is a very self-centered, and, quite frankly, a rude way to think!  This is what we do though when we don’t respect another person’s boundaries. However, if we do respect another’s boundaries, we are saying, ” I respect you and your autonomy. I trust you to make your own decisions.  I care about what you want and need, so I will treat you as a person, and not as a commodity for my own selfish purposes.”
  3. Respecting others’ boundaries can inspire positive change as people see your example.–I believe the movement to free sex slaves out of their misery and buy their freedom stem from this concept.  When people see that you consistently respect others’ boundaries, some people will start imitating your example, and thus you can inspire change. For instance, in feminist circles, we have this concept called “rape culture” that stems from the disrespect of other’s boundaries, and feminists have done so much to help combat this culture through not only educating people about creating a culture of consent but also modeling what it means to respect others’ boundaries.

So this is why we should respect others’ boundaries. Not only will it make people feel safe and valued but it will also create a culture where everyone’s boundaries are respected and cherished. How can we better respect others’ boundaries in our lives? What steps can we take? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/hillary-clinton-says-my-skin-crawled-during-debate-trump-n795136

My Life’s Journey: Dreams Shattered and Redefined

It’s amazing how God brought me to where I am today. What I thought my current life was going to be in the past is nothing like where it is today. Though much of my past dreams and goals have been shattered, I have never been happier and more fulfilled. This is the journey God has brought me on and I believe He continues to do amazing things in my life, despite the obstacles and pain I have felt in my life. Here’s what I thought in the past, and how God and life’s circumstances have redefined these thoughts:

  1. When I was younger, I thought to be successful career-wise and making a lot of money was important, especially the former part. –So, during my childhood and teenage years, I wanted to be everything from an astronaut to a microbiologist.  So, I wanted to go to a prestigious college to make that happen. Obviously, none of that came to fruition.  I did go to college and have some jobs, but nothing even close to my childhood “dream jobs.” I’m not that successful (at least in my mind) career- wise and still have a long way to go, but what I have realized is that it doesn’t matter that much anymore. Sure, I still want very much to be successful and excel in my current job, but I will never be a doctor or a microbiologist.  However, God has been using me for a greater purpose than my own selfish desires.  And in that, I feel fulfilled and happy.
  2. When I was younger, I longed to be loved and accepted by my peers and others around me. —When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of close friends.  I often felt alone and excluded. I was often the last (or one of the last) to be picked for team activities at school.  In addition, I was often bullied and teased by my peers and manipulated by several people for their own selfish pleasures.  I felt worthless and unappreciated.  However, when I became a follower of Christ, that started, albeit slowly, to change for me.  I became a new creation!  (2 Corinthians 5:17) I have only realized (sadly enough) in the past month or so, that I didn’t have to worry about what other people thought of me. I don’t have to strive to be loved and accepted by others anymore because even if everyone I knew left and/or rejected me, I will always be loved and cared about by God. Sure, I still struggle with this concept sometimes, even today, but I feel more loved today than I did even ten years ago! Also, my past experiences of being bullied, teased, and rejected by my peers and others, have helped me to be more compassionate and caring of others around me who have gone through or are going through similar situations.  It has also helped me to persevere through relationships and never give up on people.
  3. When I was younger, I lived primarily for myself and my own desires.–If you met me when I was younger than a teenager, you would have not liked me very much because I was very selfish.  I wanted things done in my time and in my way. I drove people away because I took up so much emotional energy. God redefined my younger-me mindset in a big way because when I met Jesus and even more now, I have realized that life is not about me.  Of course, I still struggle with reverting back to my younger, self-centered mindset sometimes, but then God pricks my conscience and enables me to think of others again.  Now, I want to serve others wholeheartedly and show as many people as possible the love that God gave to me because it is not about me, it’s about Him!  Yes, I often fail at this, but God’s love urges me to try again and then this time succeed in what he has called me. With God’s help, I have made great strides in this area. I am more open to other people’s plans and desires than I was when I was younger, and it’s all to God’s glory and majesty working in my life.

This is just a sampling of my life’s journey. Though many of my past dreams have been shattered, I could not imagine what my life would be like right now. It’s so much more fulfilling than I could have ever dreamed or imagined, and I could have never guessed that God would be such a big part of my life like He is now, and for that I am eternally grateful.

On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

My Goals In Life

DISCLAIMER: This content is from a Christian perspective. However, people of all faiths and all walks of life can learn from this. Also, at the end,  I will talk about putting my goals into action, if you desire, for your own life. It will include resources for helping people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Though I am promoting these organizations in a way, I make NO money from them in any way shape or form. Just want to help YOU help others.

Who or what motivates you to live your life? Is your life marked by passion and drive? When the chips are down, so to speak, what is it that keeps you going? For many people, it is often their loved ones. Sometimes, it is their job and sense of accomplishment. Other times the motivation is wanting love and approval. What motivates me to keep going when life is as dark as a tornado whirling during a fierce and powerful storm is the love that God through His Son Jesus Christ gave and continues to give to me.

These following two goals are based off the love that God has given and continues to give to me. They are:

  1. To love God with all my mind, soul, and strength. (Matthew 22:36-38)
  2. To show others the love that God gave to me, so they too can experience love, joy, and peace in their lives that I have.

How will I go about accomplishing these goals? 

How I will meet goal #1

  1. Read and study His Word, the Bible, daily for at least 15-30 minutes a day.
  2. Pray daily to meet the challenges of the day, for at least 15 minutes a day. Also, I will try to be in constant communication with God, not just for 15 minutes!
  3. Attend a Bible-believing church. (I am attending a good church that lines up with my beliefs nicely).
  4. Focus my mind on God and His will for my life, and for the day, as much as possible, without getting distracted. (I am still working on this one. Sometimes it is a struggle. Correction: Every day it is a struggle not to get distracted by other things that don’t matter to this goal at all, but I will not quit trying.)
  5. Memorize His Word and apply it to my daily life.

How I will meet goal #2

  1. When I do something that offends another person, I will strive to quickly confess that to the other person and repent (i.e not do that offense action anymore) of my offense.
  2. When someone offends me, I will let the person know in private, in a gentle and humble manner, with all honesty and love.
  3. I will never give up on a relationship unless they give up on me.
  4. I will do my best to show kindness and care to other people.
  5. I will do my best not to let my anger at someone linger for more than a day.
  6. I will encourage others by sharing with them how God loves me, and by telling them how much I love and/or care for them.
  7. I will do my best to sacrifice my time and resources if someone is in need of them and doing so will help the other person.
  8. I will do my best not to show any pretense towards another but be my genuine self, even if it is sometimes flawed.

These are practical ways anyone can join me in not only keeping me accountable but also joining with me to show others true, unconditional love to the whole world, instead of hate. Ban the hate!:

  1. Forgive at least one person who has hurt you deeply. –There are several people who I have had a hard time forgiving, mostly because they did the same bad things over and over to me again, even though I had confronted them more than once about these issues.  However, I now realized that letting go of my bitterness and anger towards them has changed the way these people treat me, and in some ways, my relationships with these people have been restored!  Who is someone who deeply offended you? It could be someone from a church or temple. It could be a family member or a once-close friend. It could be a boss or a manager.  Yes, forgiveness is very difficult at times, and sometimes you can’t forgive everyone at once, but an unforgiving heart keeps you, not the offender, in an emotional hell-hole prison that traps you and robs you of the joy that life is meant to bring.  Also, the very act of forgiveness necessitates the offense. It does not dismiss it or excuse it. It acknowledges it but leaves the justice in capable hands, NOT yours.
  2. Be genuine.–Do not hide who you are. Yes, if someone has demonstrated that they are untrustworthy you may have to hide some things about you. However, as a general rule, do your best to be genuine. Be willing to be vulnerable and forthright about your struggles. You shouldn’t have to hide yourself to be truly loved.
  3. Be willing to care about and sacrifice for others.– One practical way one can do this, especially if you are spiritual, is to pray for those who are hurting and suffering. Pray about what you can do to help these people. These may be people at work, at your school, at your place of worship, at home, or in your community. Once you pray or think about what to do to help these people, do it! Recently, in a huge chunk of Texas and some of the Southeast part of the U.S, there has been a hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, that has swept through there and devastated many people’s lives, and destroyed many homes and businesses.  This storm is still ongoing as of this writing (written 8/27/2017). Here are some organizations that are helping these people through this:

These are my two major goals in life. This is what keeps me going, even in the hardest times. What are yours? What steps can YOU take to accomplish your life purposes? Please feel free to discuss here.