What Christmas Means To Me

It’s that time of year again. For many, it means snow is coming, families and other loved ones are together, gifts are being given and received, and most of all, Jesus Christ’s birth is being celebrated.  Christmas means different things to different people. While it is a joyous time of year for many, for some it holds sad, and even, painful memories. We must not forget these people.

Christmas, for me, holds many special memories. Here is what Christmas means to me and why:

  1. It means reflecting on Christ’s birth and His love for me.—Although in years past I had not taken adequate time to reflect on Christ’s birth and what He means to me, this year I want to focus more on the true meaning of Christmas for me. I enjoy learning about the importance of His birth, how He impacted the world, and how I figure into the whole scheme of things through God’s great work.  I believe in the Christmas story about how the shepherds announced Christ’s birth and how He was born to Mary in a manger, but before my former pastor, Pastor Frank Taylor, explained this story, I never really grasped the full magnitude and meaning of the story. He explained one year about how the shepherds had reputations as thieves and/or low-lifes and that many Jewish religious people despised them. He then explained to us in so many words that God chose the shepherds to be in the birth of Jesus probably as a demonstration of His love for them and all people.  This love is what I want to focus on this year.
  2. Connected to the first reason, Christmas, to me, means sharing God’s love and joy with others.—In the recent past, I found that when I was upset at others, I was not only being too self-focused, but I also was losing sight of what I believe to be my purpose in life—sharing and demonstrating God’s love with others that God has shown me. If I am able to refocus on my life purpose, I have found that I stop getting upset, or, at least, get less upset.  To do this, I want to have a more thankful heart and spirit about me by encouraging and thanking others for any good that I see that they have done for either other people or my friends. I also want to focus more on serving others with a joyful and willing spirit, and not complaining about having to do x, even if it is not the most pleasant task in the world to do.
  3. Christmas means spending time with my family and other loved ones.—I love the emphasis not only on family, but also on the community coming together to celebrate this holiday in the different ways that they do. It is a coming together of peoples of all cultures, creeds, socioeconomic and all identifiers that the world places on us, and it focuses instead on enjoying time together and bonding. Thankfully, my workplace is closed on Christmas, and so are many other places, so I can enjoy the whole day with my family and get to know them just that much better.  A special thanks to the firefighters, police officers, first responders, doctors, nurses, and military personnel and their families for sacrificing this time in order to serve everyone and keep us safe.
  4. Christmas means engaging in the spirit of giving.—Though I don’t like an overemphasis on gifts, I do like giving and receiving gifts. I like that Christmas is a time where everyone can give and get something, even if it is just a smile, a hug, or a kind word.  I like when people put thought into their giving, and not just getting anything for someone else just to check them off their list. Giving and receiving gifts are also forms of bonding with another person.  When you give something and the other person opens said gift or receives it (if it is not material), seeing the reaction (hopefully, of joy) of the other person. When we receive something from someone, we want to know what it is and what the person was thinking about us in them getting that gift for us. Christmas also is a time when people can give much-needed donations to local and international charities, not only so the charities can operate, but also so they can make more of a positive difference to the people who they are wanting to help.

These are the things that Christmas means to me. It means giving of myself, both monetarily and practically to others. It means spending time with my family and other loved ones, in joy and unity with them. Most importantly for me though, Christmas means sharing God’s love with others and reflecting on Christ’s birth and love for me.  What does Christmas mean to you? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know things have been difficult for you lately, and you feel that there is little meaning and purpose to your life.  You feel that no one would want to get to know the Real You if they found out all about you.  You feel that in order to be truly loved and accepted, you would have to be reasonably thin and look like a model in the magazines and in the movies. In other words, you have to not only be perfectly sociable, you have to look the part too, if there ever was such a thing.  Consequently, because you don’t measure up to these standards, you think that is why you don’t have any friends—or any confidence in who you are and what you are becoming.

You have a lot of other stressors too.  You just moved to a new house, and will move to a new school soon. The old house hasn’t sold yet, so your parents are busy with that and have less time for you.  You also feel the need to keep your grades up because you don’t want your parents to get upset at you and you want to be able to compete with the intelligence of your very smart younger brother.

You want to give up, or at least wish all these problems away. You want to run away from them because life is becoming increasingly unbearable for you.  Even in the midst of all the stress and anguish that you are facing, let me tell you, there is still hope for you.  Don’t you give up on life! I know it is very tough right now, but things WILL get better. I promise.

In fact, three years later, you will meet the Greatest Friend there is—Jesus Christ!  He won’t give a care how you look like or how sociable you are.  He will accept you. Just. as. you. are. He will change your life for the better. No longer will you have to worry about being loved and accepted by your peers and other people in your life, but you will be more and more secure in who you are because Jesus loves you!

You won’t have to worry about competing with your brother for grades. Heck, grades won’t even matter nine or ten years from now! You will even have a full-time job, though it will be different from what you imagine it to be, and even though it will be tough to get at first. God will make you and your brother successful in your own ways, so you won’t worry about competing with him anymore.

Moreover, you won’t have to rely on your parents alone or even your brother for affection and attention, because God will provide you with many friends. Though God will always be your Ultimate Friend, these other friends will help you see the goodness and love of God ever more clearly. Best of all, you will be able to open up about yourself more without fear of rejection or criticism because it won’t bother you anymore. God will always be with you, and He is the One that will ultimately matter the most to you.

Finally, don’t give up because God will do something great and wonderful in your life if you let Him. Your love for everyone and everything (except, of course, the devil and the evil in this world) will overflow to others. You will experience joy in your life like never before!

Keep going! God will help you through this!

Love,

Patricia (in her 30s)

Gifts I Want the World To Receive

Amidst all the negativity and strife in this world today, I would like to focus on something a little more positive—gifts for the soul. Even though we live in a time where more countries and more people are enjoying economic prosperity and technological advances, there has also been more people that are either dissatisfied with their lives or with the state of this world today. Many people are either stressed out or depressed, or both. However, if more people in this world would receive these gifts into their lives, I believe this world would be a better place. Here are some of the “soul” gifts that I want more of the world to receive by Christmas and why:

  1. Peace and reconciliation—Almost everywhere I go, there seems to be a sense of unsettledness and/or stress in people’s lives. Sometimes, at work, I hear people arguing and yelling at each other. There have been hurtful words exchanged between political and governmental leaders. Cyberbullying seems to be rampant these days on the Internet. However, what if we, as a nation, as individuals, received peace and reconciliation in our lives? There have been people in my life that have hurt me emotionally, sometimes very much. I was able to reconcile with many of them, and I can tell you the feeling of unity and joy that returned to my soul as a result of me putting aside that bitterness, anger, and hurt for love and peace made not only me feel better, but our whole relationship much better as well. I would love it if some of the people at work who felt hurt by either other co-workers or other managers tried to work it out with the people that they felt offended by and/or forgive them, not because the offending party “deserves” it, but to free the offended from the chains of hatred and bitterness that would consume their souls. I would also love it if some of our government leaders humbled themselves and asked for forgiveness and worked hard not to hurt the people that they have ever again.  Is there someone in your life that you feel hatred and/or bitterness against? Yes, you can hold on to the hatred, but it will destroy your soul and eat you up from the inside.  It is better to be able to let that hurt and anger go and move on with your life so that you will feel free to love everyone else in your life without a barrier of hurt from your offender blocking intimacy with people who haven’t even offended you.
  2. Joy—Especially during the holidays, while there are many people who feel joyous, there are some people who struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness, and worthlessness, and there may be a good reason for that disposition too. Maybe they have lost a loved one, or maybe they hold memories of abuse from other unhappy people during this time of year, or maybe they won’t get to see loved ones this year. Whatever the case may be, having joy this Christmas season is a struggle for many people.  However, there can be some joy to be had, no matter what situation one finds themselves in this holiday season.  If you believe in God, focus on His great love for you and the gifts He has given to you this year, and really, all throughout your lifetime!  Focus on the people and things you have that you love and cherish, rather than the people and things you don’t.
  3. Purpose and Passion—I see the majority of people I know go to work to survive. However, a lot of them are working without really wanting to be there (i.e. They do it because they have ) or without aim or purpose. Some people go through life the exact same way—for survival, just because it’s not right to “give up.” True as that may be, when we go through the motions in life without knowing what or why we are doing what we’re doing, we will be more prone to give up when times get tough and we miss the excitement and joy life can offer. Going through life with a particular aim or goals in mind, having a particular focus, and doing it with all your mind, heart, and soul can generate joy like you wouldn’t believe!  When I work with a particular aim in mind, I get excited about reaching each step towards that big goal, and I work as hard and best as I can to accomplish that goal. For instance, my overarching goal in life is to share the love of God with others.  If I work with that goal in the front of my mind, I will more likely be proactive about loving others at my job, my family, and others I see on a regular basis better. However, when I lose sight of that goal, or when I forget this goal, I go into “survival-do-this-to get-it-over-with” mode.
  4. Compassion—We, as a society, I think, have become increasingly calloused to the needs of others and are taught to look out for number one instead. This has created a consumerist, entitled me-first culture.  The effects of it include sexual violence and entitlement attitudes, arrogance, violence on the streets, and even terrorist attacks. I am not saying that you, the reader, have a lack of compassion, but just society in general does. If the world received the gift of having compassion for others, people would aim to be kinder and more understanding of each other. We would have less wars and violence in the streets and everywhere.  We would think of others before ourselves. Everyone would be provided for because more people would see a need, and try to fulfill it, rather than watching someone else suffer in blind callousness and disdain for them.

These are the four gifts that I believe the world should receive.  If the world had more peace and reconciliation, relationships would be restored. If the world had more joy, the holidays would be great and enjoyable for everyone, not just the privileged and the blessed.  If the people in this world had more purpose and passion in their lives, then they would not have to go through life in survival mode, but have renewed joy in their lives. If the world had more compassion, more people in need would be cared for, instead of ignored and left to suffer alone. What are four gifts you think the world could benefit from receiving? Please feel free to comment.

Before you- a poem, written on 1/27/2012

Before you

–a poem dedicated to friends of mine

Before you were there,

Few people outside my family would care

They wouldn’t want to take a chance or be

With someone like me

 

Before you were there,

I barely knew the depths or the marvel of Christian love

And the true greatness of the God up above

Who would give me you

 

Before you were there,

None of my friends really showed me sacrifice

But you knew that love was always a sacrifice

And thus you made me a believer in that

 

Before you were there,

I was on my last rope

But when you came,

You gave me renewed hope

How To Find Joy at Work

 

According to a Gallup Poll on the workplace in the U.S (where I come from), 67% of full-time employees are either “actively disengaged” or “disengaged” from their jobs, and do the bare minimum.  Many people hate their jobs or simply don’t care about what they do. That is very sad, because we spend an average of 8 hours (almost half of our days) at work. So, most of the day, or at least a good portion of the day, we are either apathetic or miserable, or both.  As an applecart upsetter, I try to buck this trend by actively doing the opposite of what most people do at work.  Even if the work seems mundane or thankless, this is what I have found gives me the joy I need to thrive at work:

  1. Work with a purpose.—Every day when you go to work, set goals for yourself. For instance, at my job if I found out that I have to make price labels for shelves, do returns, and straighten two different departments, all in the evening and by the end of my shift, I visualize and prioritize. For instance, if it is going to only take 10 minutes to do labels, I may do that first, if it is priority, but last if it doesn’t need to be done right away. Then, since returns take a long time to do, I get that out of the way first. When I straighten a department, I set a goal time for when I want to have it done. For instance, my regular area in my department it takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to straighten everything nicely, but more time if it is busier with customers. So, on a busy day, I allow myself extra time to get things done so I am not in a panic or rush to get it done. I also do one section at a time, and not try to get overwhelmed by the whole area. Also, reward yourself when you reach your goals. For instance, if I finished early with my area, I may reward myself by going on break earlier.
  2. Work with the mindset of serving others, rather than just earning a paycheck.—Way back when (probably more than 10 years ago), I used to work hard, but with the mentality of “I want a fatter paycheck” rather than serving others. When I had to do things that I didn’t want to do, it was harder to do them. Why? Because my focus was all wrong. Yes, we do work to earn a paycheck, but that should not be the only purpose we have in working. When we work knowing that we can make a positive difference, we are more likely to work with passion and with more joy.  For instance, on Friday, I was tired and just wanted to “get through the day,” (i.e “do” my eight hours of labor), and consequently did not have a very good day that day. However, yesterday I refocused on why I was working there—to serve others and to show people God’s love, and ended up getting a lot done and having a much better day, despite staying an extra hour. Even though I stayed that extra hour, I was much more joyful and content in what I was able to accomplish than on Friday because rather than focusing on myself and my needs, I focused on other people in my workplace.
  3. Think about the positive things at your job, and do not dwell on the negatives.—Try not to take to heart the complaints that pour out from the people with who you work, and try to keep your own complaining to a minimum. Think about the positive things about your job. For instance, it helps me to remember the benefits that I get as a part of my company, the friends that I have made at work, and everything that I have learned from others at my job that I can apply to other areas of my life and be more successful at my job and in my career.  If you have learned anything beneficial from your job, there is something positive about where you work, no matter what other negatives lurk in your job. Yes, acknowledge things that need to be changed at your job and be an advocate for positive change, but do not dwell on the negative and be a voice of complaint. Not only will you not be pleasant to work with, but you will find your job to be increasingly unbearable for you.

These are the things that I have found that help me cultivate joy in my workplace. I work with a purpose and a clear vision of what I want to accomplish that day, and reward myself if necessary to help keep me motivated to do well.  I strive to work with a mindset of serving others and work as a team, rather than just earning money for me.  Finally, I think of all the positive aspects of my job. While I acknowledge things that need to be changed and continue to try to be a positive change agent at my job, I don’t dwell on the negative aspects at work.  What have you found that helps you enjoy work more? What do you think one should do to cultivate joy at work? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

How To Think Deeply

Besides sin, there is a malady that affects most of us at one time or another, and that is something my pastor calls “lazy thinking.” Lazy thinking, in my definition, is superficial and not concerned with the “why” and the purpose of life, but just the “now”.  It is primarily concerned with self.  Deep thinking, on the other hand, is concerned with the “whys” of life and the “points” or purposes of life. It can be concerned with self, but usually extends to how we affect others around us and leaving a good legacy for future generations to follow. Many people never get to experience the joys and the fulfillment of thinking more deeply or philosophically about life. One can think deeply, no matter what one’s beliefs are.  Here is what I have learned about how to think more deeply and how to apply this type of thinking to all facets of your life. :

  1. Think about the legacy you’re leaving or how you want to be remembered: Although I was often depressed during the toughest years of my life (for more information, see this post), I was able to think a bit more about the legacy I was leaving and what I should change in order to have a good one. I think this is a good practice, even if you are not depressed.  You don’t have to think about your death or how you want to leave this world every single day, but periodically to make sure you’re on track to leave a good mark in this world.  If you don’t leave a good legacy, few, if any, will miss or remember you after you are dead, and that is never a good thing.  However, if you strive now to live purposely to have a good legacy, you will more likely to be remembered well after you die. For instance, Jesus left a lasting legacy because He constantly thought of how He was impacting others for God, and tailored His attitudes, words, and actions to that goal. Ghandi and Mother Teresa similarly did the same. We should follow their lead, and periodically evaluate ourselves to see if we are living the life we would like to live and positively impact others.
  2. Think about how you are affecting others, not just yourself: The problem with a lot of people, including myself sometimes, is that we do things without thinking about the impact we’re making on others and how we are affecting other people’s attitudes and actions. For instance, when we are upset with someone, words often spew out of our mouth (reflecting the state and content of our hearts, sadly enough) without pause or thought. For instance, in a previous post, I talked about how people said things out of anger to me without thinking, and how I have sometimes said some hurtful words back to them.  At the time, we are not probably thinking, “Oh, if I say ‘A’ I will hurt that person and our relationship will be strained for years. Furthermore, he or she won’t be able to forgive me and we will both have hate and bitterness in our hearts.” We may just want to get the anger off our chests and are only thinking about ourselves and our feelings, not the other person’s.  However, when we think more deeply, we are not only less likely to get upset and bitter at others, but we are also able to understand and love them better.  We will think about how what we want to do will affect the other person, and be more willing and open to learning and understanding about other people.
  3. Think about why you do what you do: For every action you do, there is most likely a reason why you do it. We may not always think about why we are doing what we’re doing, but there is always a reason. Thinking about why we do what we do has several benefits. One of them is that you will start to do things with purpose, and not just to do them. For instance, if I really thought about why I work, I would come up with these reasons. A.) I work to earn money, so I can live. B) I work to serve others so that I can impact the world positively and more importantly, glorify God.  C) I work to glorify God—I work because God says it’s good for me, and also to make Him happy.  Knowing and thinking about these “whys,” I then am able to tailor my attitude and actions towards this goal. When I am thinking about these goals or credos, I am more likely to work harder and to keep a positive attitude. If, however, I am stressed and/or not really thinking about my purpose in working, the quality of my work starts to suffer and my attitude often sours into an “I-don’t care” mentality or “Let’s just get this done and over with” frame of mind.  This thinking about the “whys” in your life can extend to all other areas of my life as well. For instance, if you are a breadwinner for your family, and are thinking about why you are providing for them you may come up with these reasons. A.) To glorify God—to make Him happy and give Him the worship He deserves.  B) To serve my family well.  C) To be a good example of service and care for my children.  Then, you can tailor your life to these goals by, for example, a.) Excelling at your job. b) Cook or help your spouse cook.  ) joyfully serve my family

These are just some of the benefits of thinking deeply. When we think about the legacy we’re leaving, think about how we are affecting others other than ourselves, and think about why we do what we do, our life will be much more fulfilling and purposeful.  We will also think about what we are doing when we are tempted to hurt someone with our words or actions. We will have a much better attitude towards others. Drink of the deep today, and think about what and why you do what you do.

The Grinch of Christmas: Harms of Commercialization

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I want to know, what does Christmas mean to you? What do you think it is supposed to mean? For many, it means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and all He represents.  For others, it may mean spending more time with family and other loved ones.  For still others, it means getting people the best gifts ever.

Though Christmas and the holiday season are supposed to be joyous times, many people become stressed and even disillusioned. One of the major reasons why people may be disillusioned is reflected in the results of a Pew Research poll*, where 33% of those surveyed dislike the commercialization of Christmas, and I agree with the 33%. Here is why I believe the commercialization of Christmas is harmful to the holiday and to us:

  1. It misses the point.—Christmas is primarily not about the gifts we receive from loved ones, but commercialization makes Christmas only about the material things we give and receive. Commercialization is very superficial in this aspect. Commercialization can make us so affixed to the gift aspects of Christmas, that we completely miss the real point of Christmas—celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and what He means to us.  The word Christmas even contains “Christ” in it!  We are supposed to remember the founder of Christmas—Jesus, not just see if we can get the best gifts or give the flashiest and most elegant gifts.
  2. It creates more stress than is necessary.—Besides missing the point of the true meaning of Christmas, it creates a lot more stress than is needed for this time of year. A lot of people, because we have created a society of entitlement and materialism, stress out about what gifts to give others.  They think if they don’t give just the right gift the receiver will not only be disappointed come Christmas, but also may think less of them (the giver).  Some people also stress out about how much they can afford (more on that later) and how much they should or shouldn’t give a particular person. Also, a lot of people buy and cook elaborate meals for this holiday. Now, I am in no way against people cooking good food and having elaborate meals to celebrate Christmas and other December holidays,  but sometimes they get so stressed during the preparation of the meal that they are unable to enjoy themselves or their loved ones, a lot like Martha in the Bible who was trying to prepare an elaborate meal for Jesus and the other guests there without taking the time to get to know him or anyone else there.
  3. People that are marginalized are left out of the celebration when the holidays become commercialized.—Because of all the emphasis this time of year on gift giving, people who are struggling financially or in other ways, are often left out of being able to participate in this aspect. Imagine seeing your friends being able to afford fancy jewelry for their loved ones, and you would like to give one of them to your mom who is sick or dying, but not having enough to buy it. However, if the true meaning and the more spiritual aspects of Christmas were emphasized more, the joy and the hope that Christmas has to offer would be able to be realized by even society’s marginalized!  The privileged in this society would give to those who are more marginalized because they would know and understand that everyone deserves joy and peace this Christmas, not just themselves.  More people would be less materialistic and put more time in to help the hurting and needy, and spend more time with those who matter most to them.

 

These are just some of the harmful aspects of commercialization. Of course, I am not against shopping, as I do a share bit of that myself. However, rather than stress out about food preparations and gifts to give loved ones and friends this holiday season, let’s think about the true meaning of Christmas, and cherish those we love. Finally, let’s bring joy and hope to those who find this time of year difficult.

 

 

*Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/18/celebrating-christmas-and-the-holidays-then-and-now/

 

Things That Inspire Me and Why

In a previous post, I wrote about the top ten people in my life that inspire me. Though I believe people are most important, these other creatures and things also play a pivotal role in making this world a better place.  Here are some things (in no particular order) that inspire me about life, or that I find beautiful and wonderful, and why they inspire me:

  1. Sunshine—I love sunshine because, to me, it represents hope and God’s light. When I see the sun in the sky, I feel much happier and alive, than when it is dark and dreary outside.  I love the sun because it lights up everything around it and envelops me in warmth.
  2. Flowers-–I love flowers of all shapes and sizes. They not only beautify the earth but also give off much-needed oxygen for us humans.
  3. Waterfalls-The strength and sheer power in the waterfalls that I have seen in my life are just amazing! Not only do they grace this earth with beauty and God’s power, but I believe that they are one of the most interesting phenomena in nature.
  4. The Internet—I love the Internet because it has the power to connect people who may otherwise never meet. Though there are evils on the internet, I believe that the Internet also can be used for very good purposes. For instance, families and friends who are separated by distance can stay in touch and encourage one another with such applications like Skype and Facebook Video.  Also, the Internet can be used to track and apprehend criminals and advocate for justice and love.
  5. Music that glorifies God and encourages others.—I love music that touches your emotions like no other medium can, in a positive way. For instance, I love the group Casting Crowns, because their music communicates depth to me and makes me think about the life I’m living more and the impact it has on others.
  6. Teddy Bears—I love Teddy Bears because they are used to comfort people, especially children and are so cute. They inspire me because of what they represent—love, encouragement, and being a comfort to others.
  7. Moominmamma, of Moomin fame.—(What are Moomins? See this link) Besides Moomintroll, I love Moominmama because she never worries about things, and she always tries to see the positive side of things. For instance, when her son, Moomintroll, had a lot of guests in her home and had to use a lot of resources, she wasn’t upset at all, but said, “ Thank goodness that you took care of the people, so I wasn’t put to shame.” (Jansson, 132-from Moominland Midwinter)
  8. Electricity—I love that I am privileged to be able to have electricity in my home. I love how electricity makes almost everything run, and how it never seems to run out.  It even makes the Internet work!
  9. Trees—Trees inspire me by how they can stand tall without falling over (unless they are dying) and how beautiful and unique each tree’s leaves are.  I like how they give off oxygen and how they are so stately and how big some of them are and/or will become.
  10. Dogs—Dogs inspire me because of their loyalty and friendliness to humans. I love how dogs greet their owners and stand by them when their owners need their presence. This is how people should be to each other as well—loyal and kind.
  11. Cats—Cats inspire me because of their agility and their adaptability to different situations. My brother has a cat, and this cat is very agile and has been both indoors and outdoors, and so far seems to be able to adapt to both.

These are some of the things that inspire me, either in or of themselves or what they represent to me. Many of these things have qualities that people can emulate in some way or admire. What are some things that inspire you? Why? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

#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. 🙂