Importance of Authenticity

Do you ever wonder why, in many countries, bringing in knock-off high-end merchandise can elicit fines and the confiscation of said items? Do you ever wonder why so many people are turned off by pretense and lies from another?  There is something about having authenticity that trumps having an imitation or, let’s say, a knock-off of something real. Having something that is authentic, both in merchandise and, more importantly, in one’s character, bring much value to the person or item in question.  This is why it is so important to strive to be an authentic person.

In order for us to be able to be authentic in our character, we must first know what being genuine is not. First of all, being authentic is not just being a good person. It is especially not just trying to “earn” one’s way into heaven. Being authentic goes further than just being nice to get a return for a kind deed.  Moreover, if you are trying to do something nice for someone and do so to expect to get even a “thank you “for it, you are not really being authentically kind to that person, but more to get good feelings for yourself. Also, being authentic is not simply being really honest, to the point of hurting someone’s feelings without regard for that person.  Yes, honesty is a vital component to authenticity, but a truly genuine person does not need to hurt others in order to get true respect from others.

So, then, what components do comprise a truly authentic person? Well, first of all, a truly genuine person is not afraid to be who they were made to be, no matter the cost. For instance, I have read and heard about in various sources that both Fred Rogers and Rachel Joy Scott strove to be kind to others, no matter who was watching them, and even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Being authentic sometimes involves what I call “upsetting the applecart,” and not going with the crowd if your truly believe that your way is better or to correct an injustice you see in this world.  Another quality of an authentic person is their willingness to be vulnerable when necessary without fear of what other people may do or think. They regularly apologize and admit their failings when they make mistakes. They don’t feel the need to hide their failures, especially if those shaped who they are today.  Finally, a truly authentic person not only values honesty in themselves and others, but loves without pretense or compromise. For instance, an authentic person would never pretend to befriend someone in order to manipulate them for their own gains. They would also understand the importance of loyalty; their family and friends would know exactly where they stand with the authentic person. There are no games involved in their relationships—what you see in them is exactly what you will end up getting.

Yes, being authentic can be tough sometimes, and it does involve sacrifice sometimes, but it is so important and so needed in a world that can be full of drama and duplicity.  One reason why being authentic in character is so important is because genuineness is a vital component to having strong, lasting relationships.  While relationships based on lies can last maybe a few years, they will eventually break and the lies will eventually be found out causing immense pain to both parties involved. If there is no authenticity in a relationship, true trust cannot be built and it will eventually fall under the pressure of trials and temptations. However, if you have an authentic relationship with someone, then love and trust can flourish. You will know where you stand with each other, because there will be open and honest conversation between you and the other person.  No one will be afraid to be who they really are, or feel that the other has hidden motives in the relationship.

Because being authentic allows for strong and loving relationships with others, it will bring joy to us and the people with who we commune. Also, the people in both parties will feel free to be who they really are without worrying about being judged, rejected, or lied to by the other person.

However, if we are fake, and not authentic, our lies and hidden motives will eventually be found out, and we will become less desirable to be around.  People won’t trust us anymore because of our duplicity and will second-guess our motives because of our previous lies.  For instance, some of the Hollywood actors who have been accused of sexual misconduct had the guise of being family man or someone “charming” to be around. Since their real selves have been revealed, many, not only in their acting community, but also those in the general public, are now disgusted with them and don’t want to even be associated with them anymore.

When we are authentic though, our integrity is built up and we are considered by people as someone that can be trusted.  We not only gain respect from others, but we have confidence that we are doing the morally right thing.  Sadly, having great authenticity in character is a rare find these days. However, if we strive every day to be more and more genuine in our character, not only will that help us gain confidence, but also help change the world for the better.

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The Legacy I Want To Leave

Having gone through depression and being an Advocate personality (a, la Myers-Brigg personality type), I had rarely felt like I belonged anywhere, and thus the subject of death came up many times in my mind.  However, in the past few years, when I think about death and dying, I think more about the legacy I want to leave and what kind of life I want to have lived should the inevitable happen.  Recently, I visited one of my fellow congregants, who is now in hospice. Thinking about the pain and the triumphs that she has been through, I started also thinking about the legacy I want to leave when it is my time to go.  Here is the legacy I want to leave:

First and foremost, I want to lead a legacy of love. I don’t want to leave this earth with people thinking that they were not valued and loved by me.  Sure, I may have bad days, and inevitably this may happen to some degree, but as far as it is possible, I want people to know that they are valued.  I not only want to speak encouragement into others’ lives, but also want to show tangible demonstrations of God’s love to them whenever I can.

I also want to contribute to ending social injustices, such as abuse and slavery.  One way I aim to continue to do this is to spread awareness about these injustices and help some of those who are or have suffered through this.  I want to continue encouraging and coming alongside, as a support, to those I know who have been through abuse or any other type of social injustice.

I also want to buck the trend of apathy in this society, by going against this trend. For instance, I have seen a lot of people both in the places where I work or used to work, do their job solely for the paycheck, and have no passion or joy in what they are doing or for the people they are supposed to be serving. For me, I don’t want to be that person who has no joy or passion for others or for life.  I want to serve others, both at my job, and at other places, with all my heart. I want to work hard because I know it will all be worth it in the end.  When I see someone hurting or suffering, I want to at least stop and pray for them.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to them, but see where I can help meet their need.

One of the reasons why I don’t ever want to be known as apathetic is because I know how it feels to be devalued by seemingly apathetic people, or people that just gave up on me.  When I have been visibly upset, I lost count of how many times people either just judgmentally stared at me, or avoided me altogether, not even trying to help or seeing if everything is OK. I was also rejected by caretakers at a daycare because I was too unruly for them to handle.  Also, because I had had a demanding personality when I was a child, most of my peers didn’t really want to be close friends with me. When I was going through hell and back in my early teenage years, I could probably count on my hands the number of people that actually cared enough to ask me what was going on with me.

I also want to be able to let go of the things that won’t matter after I die.  Right now, what I am working on letting go of  is a.) holding grudges and anger against individual people. b) the need to be always in control.  c) little things that bother me now, but won’t matter after death.

Sometimes (ok, often), when people offend me, I tend to replay what they did and how I would respond if it happened again.  This replay-tape in my mind tends to build up my anger and bitterness for those people.   I am working on (and getting a bit better at) not replaying the tape so many times. I want to be able to let go and forgive, because I don’t want to be holding grievances against any person when it’s my time to go.  I also want to let go of the need to have everything go my way. I always had thought that if everyone would just cooperate with me and everyone and everything would exactly be this certain way, I wouldn’t be stressed or upset at anything anymore.  However, I have learned that even if things don’t all go exactly my way, I still can find joy and peace in the fact that everything will turn out how it is supposed to and that God will give me the strength I need during each season of my life.  I also want to let go of all the other things that bother me in life, but that won’t matter when I go, such as not finding  something that I want to use or waiting in traffic.

Finally, I want to hold on to the things in my life that will ultimately matter. I aim to always value my God, my family, and my friends, in that order, and above all else, than anything else  this life has to offer. I want to value people over things. I want to hold on to continually developing and improving my character.  I want to be less angry and anxious. Ever since I was little, I have had the propensity to worry. However, I want to leave here not worried about anything anymore. I want to be at complete and total peace.  I also want to be more compassionate to others and less self-centered. I don’t want to let one more day go by without being thankful, in some way, for the people that are in my life. I want to glorify God every day of my life, and I want to love others the way that my God and the people that He brought into my life have shown love to me.  I want to cause a positive chain reaction and ultimately change my world for the better.

My Legacy–a poem

My Legacy  6/17/2018

 

When it’s my time to go

I want the world to know

The fullness of God’s great love

The love from up above

 

When it’s my time to go

I want people to know

That they are so much more

Than just another face

 

When it’s my time to go

I want to live in peace

With no more bitterness

And for anger to cease

 

Before my time is up

I want to serve others

And share the immense hope

I found in my Savior

Power of Forgiveness

I have struggled with forgiving people for a long time. I had thought that by withholding my forgiveness and affection towards those that hurt me, that I would, in effect, force them to “pay me back” for all the hurt they had caused me. Thus, they would never hurt me again, or so I thought.  However, about a year ago, I had an epiphany that made me realize my bitterness and resentment were futile in getting my offender or offenders to actually change. I also realized that, not only did the offender not change their behavior towards me, but also, in many cases, they had either no idea or didn’t care that they had hurt me! I also found the incredible power of forgiveness and how it can changes lives—not only mine, but yours, as well.

The first thing about forgiveness that I found is that it gives the forgiver the power to love again. When I was bitter and resentful of some people I knew, I found that it significantly stunted my ability to love, not only them, but all those around me, even those who had never hurt me and had nothing to do with the offender or the hurtful incidents. However, when I forgave the people that hurt me, I found my love for everyone grew stronger than even before the offender had hurt me! In some cases, I even found myself compelled to be kind and reach out to the offenders!  Another example of how forgiveness has helped people love again I learned from history.  During the Rwandan civil war, when the Hutus and Tutsis were fighting so much that the Hutus wanted to commit genocide against the Tutsis, some of the Tutsis eventually forgave the Hutus, ending the war and paving the way for reconciliation.

Forgiveness also gives strength.  Some people think forgiveness gives a free pass to the offenders or excuses their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, the fact that someone needs to be forgiven says that they did something wrong. Second of all, one can forgive someone, and still expect justice to be served, but not out of a heart of anger and bitterness. Finally, radical forgiveness often requires much thought and emotional strength on the part of the forgiver to let things go that he or she naturally would want to hold on to, such as the desire for the offender to hurt like he or she has been.  Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives and to love more radically.

Finally, forgiveness gives the forgiver power to bring about positive changes to the relationships. When I forgave several people at work who had said and done things that I considered hurtful to me, I often realized that despite all that happened, that there was still hope of reconciling our relationship.  Moreover, I was also able to gain a deeper understanding, and sometimes an even greater appreciation of their perspectives on things. I have become more conscious of what I may have done to contribute to the strain in the relationship, often including my bitterness and resentment towards them, and resolve to treat them with more grace and mercy, even though I may feel that they don’t deserve as much.  Thus, I found that the people that initially offended me later softened up and treated me with more consideration after I had genuinely forgiven them.

As one can see, forgiveness is a very powerful force in this world for good.  Yes, it is often difficult to do. However, the benefits of persevering in forgiveness are considerably great. Forgiveness gives us the power to love again and like never before. Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives so that we are not trapped by our past.  Finally, forgiveness can invite reconciliation and bring positive changes into the once-strained relationship. Who do you need to forgive? Who have you forgiven? I don’t know about you, but forgiving others has given me such freedom and such peace with others.

Losing Pride, Gaining Joy

I believe that one of the greatest causes of conflict and emotional pain in this world today is pride. Society sees humility as a weakness—an admission of guilt or defect. However, what if we gained the awareness that we are all weak in some way? What if we realized that our weaknesses, even the ones that we want no one to know about, do not diminish our worth as a person?  What if we realized that it is not all about us? What if we realized how valuable our life is, and, thus used our time to make a positive impact on the world around us?

Here is what I learned about how to lose arrogant pride and thus gain joy:

  1. View life as a gift.—About four years ago, I started having pains in my side. My parents and I thought it was just a hernia from lifting heavy things at my job at the time. However, when I started throwing up blood, my parents drove me to the hospital, and I was admitted almost right away. As it turned out, my gall bladder was about twice the size it should have been and inflamed.  If I had waited just a few hours later to go to the hospital, my gall bladder would have burst, and I would probably not be here to share this story with you today.  Strangely enough, I did not realize how close I was to death, until about three years later, when a co-worker from my current job exclaimed, “You could have died!” when I told her my story. Hopefully, it won’t take almost dying to view your life as a gift, but that is what I realized that day. Another time when I could have come close to dying was when I was driving to church, a few months ago, and a driver could have crashed into me and caused a serious accident had I not stopped for them in the nick of time!  From those incidents, I realized how fleeting life can be, and how it can be taken from me at any moment.  Thus, I also realized that we should view each blessing (good thing) that we are given as a gift and treat them accordingly.  Another thing I learned about life is to savor each moment we are given, because we will never be given the exact same opportunities again. Often, we (me included) are so busy that we just brush past our activities and those we encounter, and don’t really enjoy or value them.  Nearly dying at least twice in my life, has helped me begin to savor each moment more. It is a work in progress, but I found that when I am able to slow down and savor the moment, I am much more joyful and less stuck on myself and what I want to accomplish at that time.
  2. Stop comparing and envying.—Envy and the comparison game are great contributors to arrogant pride. I mentioned in a previous post that I was envious of several people in my life because I felt inadequate and lacking compared to them. However, several years ago, I realized that by envying them, I was accomplishing absolutely nothing for my own life.  Envying them did not make me more successful or strengthen my relationships to these people. In fact, it probably created an invisible barrier between us!   Another thing I learned (and am continuing to learn) is to stop comparing myself to people that I think are “better” in some way than me. This only leads to depression and/or prideful arrogance against them, as one may compensate by thinking about something in themselves that is way better than the envied person just to cover up their envy.
  3. Treasure others as much as yourself.—One way to combat arrogant pride is to think more (or as much) about others as yourself. For example, if you see someone is tired and stressed out at your job because they are overwhelmed by their work, offer to help them out. Do not only think about how much you are stressed out or how much you want to go home, right now. Another way to treasure others as much as you is to learn other people’s life stories.  Get to know people, not only their favorite foods or their favorite sport, but also what their goals in life are, what makes them joyful and sad, what happened in their past to make them the people they are today. Above all, live to serve others.  This does not mean to be a doormat and cater to someone taking advantage of you. However, living to serve others means to sometimes sacrifice what you want, for another person’s joy.  It also means living to make a positive difference in others’ lives and bringing hope to others.
  4. We should also stop thinking that anyone “owes” us anything.—The entitlement mentality also is a great contributor to arrogant pride because it focuses exclusively on self and our “rights.” The longer I live, the more I realize that no one really “owes” me anything. When I view everything as a gift, this thinking can be stopped right in its tracks. Another way to stop entitlement mentality is to remember the mercy and grace shown to you  in your life. For example, if you did something nice for someone else, and that person does not even say “Thank you,” do not hold a grudge against them because you think you have “the right” to be appreciated.  Instead, remember all the times someone else did something nice to you and you forgot to say thank you, but they did not hold it against you.  Also, try to remember the times where you did not get the bad you deserved, or got the good you did not merit. For instance, even though I am sometimes selfish and bone-headed, people still generally treat me with kindness and patience.  Remembering this helps me to lose the mentality that I am “owed” anything.

 

When we live each day as a gift given to us, rather than something we are owed, we gain much joy and hope in our lives. Also, when we stop comparing and envying what others have, we are much more apt to appreciate and focus on the good we already are blessed to possess.  Finally, when we live to serve others, rather than just ourselves, we get away from the “poor-me” and  entitlement mentalities and gain much joy in knowing we have made a positive difference in countless lives.

Gifts- a poem

Gifts       6/10/2018

 

I have grumbled about much strife

Though I do not deserve this life

Full of many gifts

From the one above

 

So I strive to count the many gifts

That have graciously been given me

For their value I can clearly see

From a Maker that dearly loves me

 

Gifts of all different shapes and sizes

Gifts that bring much joy to my full life

Gifts that show or teach me how to love

Gifts that are clearly from up above

 

So value the gifts of your one life

Before you miss the joy that is true

Before mercy reaches its limit

And before all is taken from you

 

Power of Kind Words

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.– Leo Buscaglia

Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/leo_buscaglia_106299

Too many times people cut down, criticize, complain, and berate others. Thus, they destroy countless souls in the process.  They may think the recipient of their brutality “deserves” these hostile words, and these verbal abusers often get away with their crimes. There is not even a law against verbal abuse, the way there is against physical or sexual abuse. However, I think there should be.

Also, there is a lack of encouragement, complimenting, and genuine kindness in the general words society uses to speak to one another.  However, given the power of negative words, the same can be said of the power of positive words. Some people may think encouraging others won’t make a major impact on them, but we never know what other people are going through. We may not know how much it took for them to get out of bed today, or what pains and burdens they carry in their lives.

When we live to encourage others through our words, and live to love them, we not only show ourselves strong, but we show others that we are open to understanding and caring about them.  For instance, if you work, when was the last time that you thanked your boss for all the good that he or she did, instead of complaining about policies that don’t sit well with you?  When was the last time you spoke a words of encouragement to a helpful co-worker? If you go to school, when was the last time you sincerely and thoughtfully thanked a teacher that has made a positive impact in your life, instead of complaining about all the ones you don’t like? When was the last time you thanked your family for the good that they have done for you?  When was the last time you thanked the mail carrier or the maintenance person for doing a good job?

When we encourage others through our gratitude for them, this shows that we appreciate and value them. In a society that increasingly devalues people and things; we can upset the applecart, so to speak, by showing gratitude and encouraging the good in people.  Rachel Joy Scott called this, “Finding the light” in their souls.

When we encourage those who are hurting, they can more easily and quickly heal from their wounds, whether it would be emotional or physical.  When people’s souls are dying because of the effects of verbal abuse, we can revive them by countering the abusers’ verbal attacks with the truths of love. Tell these people, whose souls are on life support, that, first of all, the abuse was never their fault. Tell them that they are always beautiful and worthy of love—because they are. Tell and show them that they are truly loved and needed on this earth.  Provide specific examples of how these survivors can overcome and eradicate the world of lies that threaten to kill their souls, and also provide specific examples of how much value and love they still possess in this world, especially if they feel that value has been stripped from them.  For instance, I watched this video about how a young woman named Leah was abused by her wicked boyfriend and how she is now using her story to encourage others going through a similar thing.  I would say to Leah, that by her using her voice to tell her story, she is helping others going through something similar to not have to feel alone and that she is strong to be able to survive such degrading abuse. I would say that I see her beauty, inside and out, and that no matter what anyone else says, and thus she is a beautiful and amazing person, inside and out.

We can also encourage those we consider our enemies. For instance, for a long time, I did not get along with some people at work. However, one of my pastors, told me to pray blessings for them and to intentionally and sincerely try to be kind to them. I am not going to lie. It is so difficult the first time one does this, and it doesn’t always work the first time. This is what I call the “burning coals principle,” meaning that encouraging and being kind to our enemies makes them run out of ammunition against us, because who wants to be known for repaying evil for good?! So, I found that when I did this sincerely and intentionally, that the enemies either became my friends, or they at least softened considerably in their attitude and behavior towards me.

Never underestimate the power of a kind and encouraging word. Encouragement can brighten someone’s day, and can even, in some cases, save someone’s life.  Who can you encourage today? May you be able to create a spark in someone’s life through the words you say and the actions that back them up.