My Top Deal-Breakers in Friendships (and their counterparts)

Even though I am happy to meet and cultivate friendships with many different kinds of people, there are some things that I will never tolerate if you consider yourself a close friend. These deal breakers are not prejudiced against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or any other human identifier, but have more to do with the person’s character.  These deal breakers include: 1) Hurting me or my loved ones in some way, and not apologizing or repenting of your actions.  2) Betraying me in some way. This includes pretending to be my friend in order to manipulate me in some way.  3 )If I find out one is abusing children or animals in some way.  All these deal breakers involve people who may think they are my friend (or not), but do not demonstrate the authenticity or the care needed to be a friend to me—or to anyone else.  Here is why:

The Deal Breakers

If I find out one of my friends is hurting either me, or more likely, my loved ones in some ways, this is a definite deal breaker for me.  First of all, I will not surround myself with people who intentionally want to hurt my family or my friends who I love. If they change their behaviors and attitudes towards my loved ones, then I will most likely forgive them.  However, if they don’t, then they are a distraction and a harmony-breaker, and are not someone with whom I would ever want a close relationship.  I do not need friends who bully or attack those I Iove in my life, and I will not tolerate them. For instance, if my parents or brother lets me know someone is or was hurting them, and this person hasn’t apologized or repented of their actions, I may still talk to them or be cordial to them, but I will not allow them to examine the depths of my heart—or that of my loved ones.

Another definite deal breaker for me if I have considered you a friend is if you do something to betray me in some kind of way.  One thing I absolutely hate is when people fail to be honest with me! When someone lies to me, it not only calls their character into question, but it also calls the friendship and how much they really value me into doubt as well.  One way to lie that is an absolute deal breaker for me is to be my friend only to use me for your pleasure or purpose! I do not tolerate narcissistic people who I know are using me and not really being genuine in their intent or friendship with me.  For instance, I have found out, probably much too late for my good, that several people that were in my life only wanted to be friends with me because either a.) They felt sorry for me and only wanted to be friends with me to “feel good” about themselves, and when they did not want to do the work of a real friendship, they faded away.  b) They wanted people to give them unconditional support and if I tried to correct them (even gently), they became upset with me, showing their true intentions.  C) They wanted to be “friends” with me just so they could do with me according to their pleasure, never thinking about what I needed or wanted from them.  These people definitely merit my INFJ (What is an INFJ? Read this, for more information) door slam! A door slam is basically a sudden form of going no-contact with someone, either emotionally or physically, or both.

The third, and perhaps, most serious deal breaker, is if I find out one of my friends is abusing children or animals, or any other of the most vulnerable in society. I can tolerate many things from many people, but cruelty is not one of them.  If you are cruel to this point, I probably don’t even converse with you.  Cruelty to children, animals, and any of the most vulnerable in society, not only saddens me, but enrages me as well. Unfortunately, sometimes I have had vengeful thoughts against those who would be so cruel to others, and if I find out you are like this, are not repentant, and still want to be my friend, I will cut off all contact with you, no questions asked.

The Counterparts

I did not want to finish without focusing on the positive characteristics I most appreciate in those I consider good friends.  They are:

Authenticity—Most of the deal breakers I described above are evidence of people who are not genuine and have very calloused souls. However, I am happy to say that all my close friends have characteristics of authenticity.  My one friend, Veronica*, for instance, is not afraid to be vulnerable with herself or with the struggles that she is facing in her life. I appreciate that kind of honesty and openness in her.  My other friend, Kelly,* is also honest about her struggles and always strives to care for and appreciate her friends, as much as possible.  I know that some people may be afraid of sharing their struggles, because they are afraid of being judged. Don’t be.  It is better for you to be unapologetically who you are, flaws and all, no matter what others think, than to be some plastic image of perfection.  If you don’t want to be friends with someone, say so, and then distance yourself from them. I know I may sound a bit harsh, but it is better to do this, than to pretend to be friends with them, when what that person probably needs is a genuine and caring presence.

Caring—All of the deal breakers had focused on people who are basically manipulative, cruel, selfish, and apathetic to the damage they cause to the ones around them. However, I am blessed to have friends who exhibit none of those traits.  My friend Erica* is giving her life right now to help those in need.  My friend Kelly* is a registered nurse, who wants to travel to restore the health of those who are sick or injured.  My friend Veronica* also has a passion for others finding the joy and love she has found in Jesus.  We care for people when we think of others besides ourselves and our own needs.  We care for others when we think through things before we do them, to discern if the action will also benefit others.  We care for others when we seek to love others and share the joy that we have found in life with those around us, especially those who need it most.

Hard-working—One of the characteristics I almost always appreciate in people is when they strive to do something with all their hearts, rather than to just meet the “status quo”.  I am glad that Kelly* is able to become a nurse because I believe her drive and passion for helping others makes her the best qualified for a career like that. I appreciate that many of my managers strive to work hard, even coming in on their days off sometimes, to make sure the work is done well.  I appreciate that many of my friends, especially those closest to me, are very hard working and strive continually to make the world around them a better place.

 

So, the best way to have a good friendship with me—and with others as well, is to be authentic, caring and kind, and hard-working.  However, the worst way to try to be friends with me is to be inauthentic in some way or to be callous and mean-spirited toward my loved ones, towards those who are most vulnerable in society, and to me. What are your deal breakers in friendships? Why? What are the characteristics that you value in your friends? Why? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=not their real names

Advertisements

Healing From Abuse and Bullying

I am a survivor of bullying and emotional abuse.  I was bullied primarily from third grade until my freshman year of high school.  Then, later, I was emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher, who thankfully is no longer teaching at my alma mater.  So, if you have ever experienced abuse or bullying, you are not alone.  I get so upset when I hear or see someone abusing or bullying someone else, because I know the healing process is often long and painful.  However, if you are a survivor of these traumas, know that healing and joy in your life IS possible.  Here is what I learned about healing from the effects of abuse and bullying:

  1. Be nice to yourself.—When I was being bullied, I struggled with thinking (and still do) anything good about myself. I questioned my worth as a person, and I thought of myself as lower than an animal sometimes! (All lies , by the way!).  Often when one is being bullied or abused, the perpetrator instills in their victim a feeling of powerlessness and worthlessness.  Unfortunately, even after the abuse is over, the survivor still can very much struggle with this low sense of self-worth. That is why it is important for survivors to have or seek out genuine people in their lives who can restore in them a sense of confidence and the reality of their intrinsic worth.  Also, try to do things on occasion that you genuinely enjoy or help you relax.  Tell yourself positive things, not negative criticism all the time. 
  2. Set good boundaries.—Part of setting good boundaries is learning how to say “no.”  When I would attempt to set boundaries or express my displeasure at the bad things that my perpetrators were doing to me, they would either get upset or disregard what I had to say.  This increased my anxiety and my bondage to their bullying tactics. When I discussed with one of my managers (and mentor) about this, she told me not to care about if the perpetrators get upset or not.  I think this is very wise advice, because, as she told me also, the people that get upset at you when you try to set boundaries or disregard them are not your real friends anyway.  Being apathetic (in a good way) to people who disregard your reasonable boundaries  by not being bothered if they are upset at you  will also help you find new people who do respect your boundaries and you as a person.
  3. Don’t let your perpetrators diminish your love for others.—For years after I was bullied, I struggled with forgiving almost anyone who hurt me emotionally or verbally. I would hold grudges for years! Don’t let this happen to you! When I let my former perpetrators make me a bitter and angry person, I realized that I was giving even more power to them.  Finally, in the past five years, I was able to let many of these grudges go. Thus, I was able to love more freely and more powerfully than I ever did before.  When you refuse to forgive your perpetrator or perpetrators, they have more power over you to make you an angry and bitter person. You may think they are getting the “justice” they deserve by holding a grudge against them, but I have realized that the person who it really hurts the most is you!  The perpetrator often does not care how you feel about them, and will not care if the relationship is damaged or not. Moreover, when you hold a grudge, your relationships with others will be stunted too, because you may not trust that these people are really “on your side.” Barriers to trust stunt the relationship because it inhibits our ability to be vulnerable with others. Forgiving a perpetrator does not mean you still can’t pursue justice or the legal system, if they have committed a crime against you. Furthermore, you still can request amends be made.  Also, you don’t ever have to reconcile or see them again! However, forgiving the perpetrator means you are releasing the need for vengeance against them to the powers that be.  This frees you from thinking about them or being chained by your anger and bitterness to them.  It also frees you to be able to bond with your loved ones and friends more deeply than you were able to before.
  4. Get some counseling.—Whether it be counseling from your religious leader or a therapist, it is best to be able to have some emotional and moral support from a trained professional.  A good counselor will help you get your life back on track and deal with the after-effects of the abuse.  It make still take time to heal from abuse, but the time spent with someone supportive , I believe, is worth it.
  5. Finally, be an advocate against all forms of abuse and bullying.—This does not only include signing a petition online to stop abuse. Being an advocate also means defending and standing up for the bullied at school and/or at work.  It means comforting a child who has been unfairly berated by his or her parents. Being an advocate means being supportive and validating of all those you know personally who have suffered abuse or bullying. 

If you or someone you know has been abused, there is hope and help out there. You are not alone, and remember the abuse is NEVER your fault!  The fault of the abuse lies in the hands of the perpetrator or perpetrators, who always have the ability to control their actions in some way.  I am very passionate about helping abuse and bullying survivors heal and have their joy and dignity restored to them.  From my own experience and those of many around me, healing and hope from abuse

Effects of Bullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effect#3—Depression

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

Healing

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

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

Harms of Envy

I used to be envious of my brother because I felt he was the best in almost everything, while I always fell short of my goals.  After I got over my envy of my brother, I began to be envious of people who were happily married and had children, because I wanted a family for myself, but I have remained single for a very long time. I didn’t wish them any harm or anything, but I didn’t really like celebrating with them either.

However, over the past five years, I have discovered that all the time that I spent being jealous could have been used to better myself and to focus more on the mission that God had called me to accomplish. I strived to stop playing the comparison game.  I became more content with where God has placed me. I learned how to value and to use the gifts that God had already given to me, instead of looking to have what He didn’t give me.

Simply put; envy does more harm than good, not only in our relationships to each other, but also for our own personal growth as people.  Here is why I believe envy is harmful :

  1. Envy creates strife and separates people.—During my devotional time, in the Book of 1 Kings (the Bible), I have been reading about the relationship between King (at the time) Saul and David, who would eventually replace him as king of Israel. Saul initially becomes envious of David because of how much more successful and popular he was becoming compared to Saul.  Instead of reflecting on why he was jealous or what he could do to change, Saul becomes more and more enraged at David, even plotting to kill him on more than one occasion.  Because Saul’s son, Jonathan, becomes friends with David, Saul wants to kill him too! In my own life, I have witnessed envy creating strife more times than I dare to recall. For instance, I know people that are so envious of one of my friends that they a.) only talk to complain about work-related things  or b.) actually go out of their way to try to hurt my friend.  Also, when I was envious of my brother, I didn’t really take the time to get to know his struggles and hard work he had to put in to get to where he is today.  Envy creates strife and can separate even family.
  2. Envy stunts our growth as people.—When we are jealous of someone, our emotional and spiritual growth as people gets stunted. For instance, if someone were jealous of me for accomplishing more things than they did at my job, this person would not be open to learning how I did what I did, or learning about how much sacrifice and hard work it took for me to get there. All they would be interested in is dragging me down or to seethe in their anger and pain of not getting the results they wanted.  This is what happens when any one of us, including me, are jealous of someone else—whether it be envy of their possessions, abilities, or other blessings or gifts that they have, but we don’t.  When we are envious, not only does our learning stop, but envy also hurts our ability to change for the better.  For example, because Saul was so obsessed with bringing down David, he failed to look in the mirror and begin the hard work of not being so rash and impatient with God and others.
  3. Envy is a waste of time.—For the past five years, I have learned more and more how much of a waste of time being envious of someone really is. Speaking from my own experiences, I wish the time that I had spent being jealous of others would have been better used to bless others and improve myself.  Envy consumes you with bad thoughts of the other person. Sometimes, this consumption is so complete that there isn’t any room for anything else.  For instance, King Saul was so envious of David that his life was consumed with chasing David and wanting him dead. What a waste of time!

We would serve others and ourselves better if we could get rid of any trace of envy we have for another.  Envy is often the start of such vices as prejudice, murder, and other violent acts. Envy is harmful because it separates people, including family and close friends, stunts our growth as people, and is a colossal waste of time.  Who are you tempted to envy?  Let us instead try to learn from the people we envy and be content with what we are given, because everyone can contribute something valuable to this world.

How to Find Peace After Betrayal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

image courtesy of: www.LumoProject.com.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

 –dedicated to a friend that is going through some tough times right now

Tormented in your soul

The pain threatening

To swallow you whole

As your dreams shatter in pieces

 

They treated you

Like a piece of trash

To be used and then thrown away

And not allowing you to have any say

 

I grieve in my heart for you

Because they never gave you

The love that was pure and true

A love that never falters or ends

 

But I have a great hope

That even though you

Reached the end of your rope

You will at last

Find love that is pure and true

Practical Life Lessons From Ephesians For Everyone

I realize not everyone believes in the Bible, though I do. However, these life lessons that are drawn from a book of the Bible called Ephesians, I think can apply to most anyone, regardless of religious belief.  These lessons are drawn from my own life experiences, and occasionally, also from those around me whom I have observed and heard.

Without further ado, here is the passage where I will focus:

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Neither give place to the devil.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:25-29 (KJV)

 

Here are some of the life lessons that I learned from these verses:

  1. It is better to be honest, because honesty unites, but lying separates close friends.–Even gossip can be a form of lying, as I have realized the hard way at work. A lot of people have spread rumors about certain people at work. Most of them were not founded in an ounce of truth! I have seen these rumors influence how others thought and acted towards these people, without finding out from the source as to whether these statements were true or not.  To think we acted or spoke in hurtful ways towards another because of unproven rumors we heard about someone! What I learned from this is to a.) Try not to listen to rumors, especially if you don’t know the truth in it, and b) Try to verify from the source or sources of the rumors themselves the veracity of the rumors. It is often not as dramatic and bad as it has been related. For another example, when we learn people’s life stories (Post on that is at this link) and people are vulnerable and honest with each other, I find that these things often unite people. Before I really knew one of my managers, I hated him.  I didn’t understand why he had aggravated me so much. However, one day, when he told me about some of the pain he went through in his life, and God intervened in our lives, the hate and aggravation that I felt for him began to melt away and be replaced with only love and compassion.  When I honestly tell other people my life story, people also begin to act with more love and compassion towards me.
  2. Don’t let anger fester in your heart for more than a day, lest it turn into bitterness and resentment later. –Because, in the past, I had held grudges against certain people for a really long time (literally, years), my spiritual and emotional growth were stunted.  Yes, I did grow, but not as much as I should have.  I now realize why I had trouble applying some spiritual principles to my life at the time.—I held grudges, and thus couldn’t receive God’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter) forgiveness in my life.  It was only when I let go of these long-standing grudges and intentionally began to act with kindness and grace towards my offenders, that I started to grow spiritually the way God (and, frankly, I as well) wanted to for so long.  Now, my policy is to try to resolve issues that I have with a person within a day, or a week, at the very latest.  However, I try my very best to follow the day rule prescribed in Scripture. This way, my anger dissipates quickly, and I can be at peace with that person as soon as possible.  I wish everyone followed this principle because this can have practical benefits to not only other people, but also our own emotional growth as well. When people succumb to bitterness and resentment towards others, and hold grudges, I find that they get discouraged and disgruntled more easily than those who let go.  These grudge-holders are often the first to complain, and the last to say “thank you”.  Don’t let resentment and bitterness rule over you. Let. It. Go.
  3. Live to encourage others, not put down others.—There is a saying that goes like this: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m sure each one of you has been hurt by the sting of condescending and demeaning words before. Almost twenty years ago, one of my teachers almost destroyed my motivation to live and help others. He never beat me up physically, but I still feel the sting of his words today.  Some of my peers, who bullied me at school, also said things to hurt me.  Though I  wish these people nothing but the best, words can still have a crippling effect on me.  Because I know the pain of hurtful words, I strive to encourage others as much as possible. Yes, I fail at times at encouraging others, as we all do, but we must do our best.  I want to only speak words that will help and/or uplift someone‘s spirit.  I want others to be able to see that I value and care about them, especially through how and what I speak to them.  If we live to encourage, and not tear down, we may be able to save the lives of people that have almost given up emotionally, as we revive their spirits.

These are some of the life lessons I learned from Ephesians 4. When we are honest, and not deceptive with one another, when we resolve our anger and problems quickly to be at peace with others, and when we live to encourage others, I believe we will lead more spiritually and emotionally successful lives.  May we live with love and compassion for one another!