Open Letters On Forgiveness

Written on    1/12-13/2018

Dear Anyone Who Has Hurt or Offended Me,

For some of you, I have held on to my anger and bitterness towards you for a long time. God convicted me today and told me to let it go. And I intend to do just that. If you had offended me, what you did was probably not right and I am absolutely not excusing your behavior. However, my response to you was not right either, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that lashing out in kind and wishing evil on some of you. I am sorry that I hadn’t reached out to you in reconciliation and mercy earlier mainly because of my stupidity and pride that got in the way. I understand if you never are able to forgive me for this or don’t want to reconcile. However, if you would like to, I want both of us to strive not to hurt one another deeply again, and I want you to know that I have your back now and wish only the best for you.

Sincerely,

Patricia

 

Dear Anyone Who Has Been Hurt By Me or Others,

 

Hurt by others: If you have been hurt by another person (other than me), I am sorry. If you were ever abused by someone who was supposed to love and/or protect you (such as a family member), I am deeply sorry, and please take as much time as you need to process everything and heal.

 

However, for those hurt by someone who has not severely scarred you (though at times it may feel like it, I know.)I have these three words for you: Let. It. Go. Don’t try to let it go for their sake, but for yours!

 

What criteria I personally use now to determine if another’s hurt is worth holding on to or addressing in any major way:

1)            Are they hurting God—meaning are they blasphemous or against directives that He laid out in the Bible?

2)            Are they hurting my family or other loved ones?

3)            Are the issues/offenses at hand morally and/or eternally significant for their sake (i.e Are they committing a serious sin)?

 

If two to three questions’ answers are “Yes,” then it is worth getting concerned about, but if not, I just try to let it go. Even if the answers to these three questions are “Yeses,” I still try to speak the truth to them in a loving, but firm manner.

For instance, though, some people hold a grudge against another simply because someone did not say “Hello” in return to them. Yes, it can be upsetting if we are not acknowledged and it is rude for them not to acknowledge you, but is this worth remembering or getting so upset about? Also, someone not saying “Hello” to you or ignoring you, assuming it’s not family, will not hurt your loved ones! Also, no one will go to jail or get kicked out of anything simply for not acknowledging you, or at least it would be absurd if they did!

Let it go.

I understand why someone would hold a grudge against someone else though. I confess that I once was a grudge-holder, and then wondered why it was so difficult for me to grow spiritually and emotionally! I realized I held grudges for so long because I thought that by holding on to the hurt and anger and giving the offender or offenders the harsh, silent treatment, I was, in essence, “punishing” them for the hurt they caused me.  However, what often occurred was that the offender either didn’t care about the incident or the hurt they had caused me, or they didn’t even know how much they had hurt me! In essence, God gave me this epiphany one day that by holding on to these grudges, I was only hurting myself and the loved ones that hadn’t hurt me at all!

When I finally let go of my hurt and anger that some others had caused me, it was like a burden was lifted off me.  I no longer had to exert angry and hate-filled energy for that people and anyone associated with them and the incident anymore.  Most of all, I felt peace. I was open to reconciliation, and I was free of the bind of emotional pain that the offender or offenders had over me.

Let it go.

For your sake and for those that love you.

For those I hurt:

I do apologize and am so sorry that I hurt you. I don’t ask for forgiveness only for my sake, but also for yours. I want you to be free of the anger and hurt that I caused and that comes from bitterness and resentment. I will do anything in my power to repair the damage that I caused, and I will strive never to repeat the offense again.  Know you are valued and loved by God and by me. I only want the best for you. And I know that is what God wants for you as well.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

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.

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)

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 I am Most Thankful For This Year

With the end of the year coming the end of next month and with five days until Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on things that we are thankful for this year.  A lot has happened to me in this past year, both good and bad. Many things that I have experienced this year have served to better my character and bring me closer to God, and for that I am grateful for, too.  Although I am thankful for much more than I can probably compile in a list today, the following are the people, places, and things that I am most thankful for this year and why:

  1. God’s love for me—I believe God has shown me over and over again of His great love for me. He has not only saved my life about seventeen years ago,  but He has also never let me give up on life and showered me with blessings like family, friends, a full-time job, purpose, and the ability to relate to you today.  Sadly, I have only recently realized some of the amazing things that God has given to me.  I know I will never know the depth of His love to me, but even knowing a glimpse of it gives me much joy and fulfillment in life!
  2. My family and friends—My mom, dad, and brother have helped me throughout my life, and have served to help me understand God’s love better. I am now beginning to realize how much they have sacrificed for me and for all of us. My friends have also been a godsend to me.  I feel their support and their love on a daily basis as well. We have been there for each other, and I always learn something valuable from them that helped better me as a person and as a follower of Jesus.
  3. My church and everyone there—It has been over a year since I walked into the church which I am now a member. At first, I didn’t think I would be there as long as I have, but I am glad I am a member now.  The pastors have helped me dramatically improve the quality of my interactions with God and others. One of my pastors there helped me to be able to commune with God more effectively.  Another pastor helped me through a difficult time that I had with someone, and I gratefully report that this person and I get along pretty well these days!  If it had not been for God’s love and the people of my church, I don’t know where I would be today.
  4. My job as a sales associate—Even though I get stressed out sometimes, I can honestly say I find satisfaction in my job. I love interacting with co-workers and customers, and serving them as well. I love the challenge it gives me to be Christ-like to others and to do an overall good job. Although there have been times when I failed at my job, the successes and rewards outweigh them all.   I have learned so much from almost everyone I have interacted there, including and especially the management there.  I am beginning to see exactly why I am there and what my role is to be there—to show others the love that I have received and not to keep it to myself by serving others at my job and by striving for excellence.
  5. The ability to write—I love being able to write, and that God has given me this gift to be able to relate to others. (By the way, I write MUC H better than I speak!) I love being able to express myself in this way and encourage people with my words.
  6. My blogging community—I am thankful for you, the reader, who visit my blog. I also am part of an online community where I get to read and support other bloggers of different niches. This has helped me develop an interest in many different things, which has awakened me to explore more and develop almost a child-like curiosity. This curiosity has helped me gain purpose in life and healed me from depressive episodes that I had suffered earlier in my life.
  7. My brother’s cat—The first time I got to see his cat (virtually), I fell in love with him (the cat)! Although I am very allergic to cats, I can see he brings much joy and love to my brother.  I love that about this cat!

These are the things that I am most thankful for this year. Of course, I am thankful for many more things, but that could take years to write!  All these people, places, and things have helped bring me to the place where I am today in life.  And for that, I am very, very thankful. What are you most thankful for this year? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

What I Learned From the “Be Kind” quote

The quote, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle,” is widely misattributed to Plato, but actually Ian MacLaren, or John Watson, is said to be the original source of this quote. (source: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/06/29/be-kind/). God has been putting this quote in my mind a lot recently, in the wake of stress and my wanting to be less upset and irritated by people and things around me.  Here is what I have learned from meditating on this quote that can be applied to anyone of any belief in every walk of life:

  1. Being kind is rooted in our gratitude.—When we are ungrateful, it is hard to think that others deserve anything good at all. We feel entitled to our “stuff,” that we lose sight of other people’s stories. However, when we see each day and each thing as a gift that is not necessarily deserved, we are freer to be able to give to others our kindness and our gifts. When we realize what some other people go through are harder than what we are currently dealing with, we appreciate our lives more. For instance, a lot of people I know don’t have a lot of supportive family and friends and have gone through some very rough times in their lives with little help. When I hear their stories, I appreciate that I have my family and my church community to help me through rough times in my life. I am kinder to those that have less support because I want them to be able to have the help that I already have.
  2. Being kind is rooted in how much we care for others.—When we care about other people, we are more likely to be sympathetic and empathetic to their hurt and pain in their life. We are more likely to do more than just to offer superficial platitudes, and instead, try to do something to help alleviate their pain and get through their tough situation in life. We don’t feel burdened down by our own problems, because we are not self-focused, but are willing and able to give our love and support to others as well.  If I am stressed and burdened by my own problems, I am much less effective in helping others through theirs because not only am I being self-focused but my capacity to care and think about others is also decreased.  Yes, there are times when our problems will seem insurmountable and burdensome, but when we try to also look outside ourselves and our pain, we are not only able to help others overcome their difficulties, but our own problems will also seem less intense and heavy.
  3. Being kind is rooted in our humility—Being arrogant, to me, is thinking that you are better than everyone else, that everyone else is inferior to you. When one is arrogant, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be kind to others. When one realizes that their needs are not necessarily more important than another’s, they are more able to be kind and care for others effectively.  When your mindset is to be kind to everyone because everyone is going through something that may be harder than the burden you are carrying, you are valuing others and are not thinking with a “poor-me” attitude.  You are submitting yourself to another’s needs because you know that other people have value and need your support too.

Though being kind is sometimes difficult and takes a lot of thought and care, it is better than being unkind and rude to others.  Being kind is rooted in our thankfulness of what has been given to us, because our gratitude is expressively linked to how kind we are able to be to others. It is rooted in how much we care about other people and their lives.  Finally, being kind is rooted in being humble because it is necessary to be able to prefer another above yourself, in both their needs and desires.  Who can you be kind to today?

What I Learned From My Book of the Year

DISCLAIMER: I get no compensation from this review of sorts. All opinions are my own. However, if you would like to buy this book, please go to the recommendation page of my blog.

“You are what you think.” This is what the Bible says, and also what has been true in my life.  I have been struggling to combat negative thoughts almost all my life, whether it be anxiety-laden thoughts or more angry thoughts about someone I was upset with the previous day.  Then, one day, my Sunday School teacher (a.k.a : the pastor’s wife) talked about a book that she said in so many words, would change lives.  She said that the book would teach one how to think more positive, godly thoughts and revolutionize our attitude towards life in a positive way.  Because of my struggles with the thoughts that I have had most of my life, this book, “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George, seemed interesting to me. In fact, I was so interested in the book, all I could think about during the whole time my teacher was promoting the book was, I’ve got to get this book!” So, that same night, I got the book. Actually, I accidentally bought two and sold one of them to a friend of mine.

 

These are some of the things that I have learned from my favorite book of the year (Loving God With All Your Mind) and how these lessons can be applied to almost anyone’s lives, regardless of religious affiliation or belief:

  1. When you truly love someone, you will strive never to think negatively about that person.—Because of my tendency to think negatively about others when they had upset me or about how I “must” have offended them when someone was upset with me, this was truly a revolutionary concept. I discovered that one of the reasons that I hadn’t been getting along with certain people in my life was that I was constantly thinking the worst about them, and it stemmed from both an unforgiving heart and that they had hurt me before, and I failed to let go of the past. I think it was a defensive mechanism to prevent myself from getting hurt by those people again. The thing about love, though, is that it takes risks! C.S Lewis is even quoted as saying that if you love, you will get hurt. However, I believe even with the pain, love is totally worth it!  So, when I started to follow the advice of this book and countered my negative thoughts about these people with the positive characteristics I saw in them, I had a more balanced, more positive view of those people. Another thing I learned from “Loving God With All Your Mind” related to this lesson of not thinking negatively (or evil thoughts) about others is when a person seems upset with you, and you confront them and they say that nothing is wrong, you shouldn’t second guess them. I asked my Sunday School teacher (because the “lawyer” in my head had popped up!), “What if the person really is lying to you, and they say nothing is wrong, but you really have offended them.” She said something like, “Go with the lie. If someone is offended by you, it is their responsibility to let you know so you can do better next time, not yours.” To add to this, I am thinking also that if a person wants to hide behind pretense and games and does not want to let you know that they were offended by you, what kind of relationship is that anyway? Also, do you really want to continue being in a relationship based on lies? I don’t either.
  2. Look for the good in the trials of life.—Everyone goes through a rough patch at least once in their lifetime, some multiple times, or much of their lives. A lot of people, me included, sometimes think that life would be better without these trials, or rough patches, in our lives. However, Elizabeth George says in her book to look for the “gold” in our trials. For instance, during my elementary and part of my high school years, I was a victim of bullying by some of my peers.  When I was going through all that, I felt depressed, hopeless, and mentally exhausted of that life. However, these trials have taught me some valuable lessons on how NOT to live your life. A.) I learned how painful it feels to be bullied and ridiculed, both physically and verbally, through taunts and mockery, and strive never to inflict the same on another human being.   b) I learned how to value each person as God values me, in contrast to how some people treated me as an appendage or a burden.  c) I learned how to respond and not respond to these people.  Also, these bad experiences also led me to search for God and love and later ignited my passion to serve and love others.  Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always good that can come out of it, whether it be redemption in the situation itself or strengthening of our character
  3. Don’t dwell on past regrets or even successes, but move forward.—One of the more interesting things I learned from the book, “Loving God With All Your Mind,” is to forget the past. This means not dwelling on past failures or even successes. When we dwell on past failures, we tend to get stuck there, and this attitude prevents us from having the motivation to try new things or to try again. I know because this has happened to me.  More than ten years ago (probably closer to fifteen), I tried to learn the cash register at another job, but it was a disaster. I was so nervous and flustered that I did nothing right. This was still my first time learning it ever. For a long time, in my other jobs, I tried to avoid learning the register. Finally, recently, because I want to work up to be a department manager someday, I thought I should try to learn the register again. The first time in my current job, I was just shadowing another manager. However, the second time I was training, the person training me had me deal with customers! I was really nervous, but she said I did well for my first time with customers at that store! So, what I learned from this experience that others can apply to their lives too, is not to dwell on past regrets, but to move forward and try again.  Also, don’t dwell on past successes. For instance, if a person is so obsessed about their doctorate degree that he or she won’t lay it aside if necessary to get a job that they need because it is “too beneath” them, that is a bad thing. They should forget about their doctorate and do what is necessary to build success now and in the future.

This is just some of the things that I learned from my book of the year, “Loving God With All Your Mind.” When I follow the advice of this book, especially the lessons I outlined above, I have found my anxiety decrease dramatically and my general attitude being more joyful and more positive than before.  What are some lessons that you can carry with you from your favorite book? What is one book that changed your life that you recommend? Please discuss in the comments.

 

 

How Gratitude Can Help Alleviate Depression

Now, I am NOT saying that all or even some depressed people are not grateful people. I have struggled with depression since the age of ten, so I know that sometimes it is impossible to even begin to have a positive mindset without help from an outside source, and having an attitude of gratitude for anyone, even if you don’t suffer from depression, takes time.  That being said, what helped alleviate some of my depression personally is to think of things that I am thankful for and not dwelling so much on things that are not going great for me.  Each day when I am at work, I write down at least three things from that day (or the previous one) which I am thankful.   Some days, I struggle to name even three, and some days I could name almost an infinite list!  Here is how gratitude can help alleviate depression for many people.

  1. Having an attitude of thankfulness helps keep our focus on the good that you do have rather than what you don’t have.—Merriam-Webster.com defines jealousy as, “hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.”  (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous). Having an attitude of gratitude eliminates this because when you are so thankful for all that you have, you don’t even care about what others have or don’t have anymore, in terms of competition or advantages.  Being thankful means that you know that everything you have is a gift from God and not anything you are entitled to or deserve. When you appreciate someone or something that you believe is intrinsically good, you can enjoy time with that person or thing much more than if you view them as something that you are “owed.”
  2. Having an attitude of gratitude helps alleviate the anxiety that can be present with depression.—Having a thankful heart also helps alleviate anxious thoughts because this attitude basically says to oneself that no matter what, I will have at least one thing for which I can be thankful. For instance, if one previously has had financial worries and wonders if he or she will have to forsake their needed medication or food in order to function properly, if that person developed a thankful heart, this attitude would help alleviate their worries because they would only focus on the fact that they had enough for today and be joyful in that. One way gratitude has alleviated my depression is by changing my mindset when I am worried.  For instance, if I am worried that I may lose a friendship over something that I have no control over or something that I cannot change at the moment, instead of focusing and ruminating on what I may have done to offend that person , I focus on the people that have stuck by me through thick and thin.  I either talk about my worries with another trusted friend (without an attitude of gossip, of course) or pour my energy into spending time with family and friends with whom I have no problems.
  3. Having an attitude of gratitude enables one to see the hope that is even in the bleakest of circumstances.—Having a thankful heart helps us to be able to hope even in the worst of circumstances. I believe that some of the people who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazi regime were able to survive abusive and horrendous conditions because they were able to still have hope. We can apply the same principles to our lives.  For instance, we can rejoice that even when one of our loved ones has died or is sick, bad as that is, we can still hope and be thankful because we (ourselves) can see another day to make a positive difference in others’ lives.  If we are suffering with others, we can be grateful that we don’t have to suffer alone.  If we have a difficult situation at work, we can be angry and stressed about it all the time, or we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn from others and maybe even our own mistakes. (Yes, our feelings are valid, and it is not wrong to be initially angry at things going on in our lives, but don’t get stuck there!)

These are the ways that gratitude has personally helped me through my depression. It is not always easy to have a grateful heart, but with practice and time, it can be cultivated. I am still struggling through this, but when we learn to have an attitude of gratitude, we can live fuller, happier and healthier lives.