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.

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My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

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Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, I had written: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

I also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia

Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 1

NOTE: NO disparaging comments, or your comment will be deleted. Thank you.

“Only by pride cometh contention.” This sentence is found in Proverbs 13:10 (KJV), and I see the fact in this phrase playing out in my everyday life, not only by those around me, but even, sadly, by myself at times.  We see this in the verbal attacks coming from within governmental doors. We see demonstrated this in schools, in the workplace, in places of worship, and most sadly, in our own homes.  We see the poison of arrogant pride.  The four forms of pride I most often see are, what I call, prejudicial pride, “better-than-you” pride, false humility, and materialistic/monetary pride:

I define prejudicial pride as a natural inclination to disdain or look down upon another because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, social class, or any other human identifier, and to believe that you are somehow better than them.  For instance, in my country, there has been a 300-plus year history of racism against African Americans by some White people.  This began by the importing of African slaves into the United States by wealthy landowners, and because of the imbalance of power between the slaves and the landowners, the landowners had absolute control over these slaves, often beating and degrading them to their own sinful desires.  This degradation of African Americans continued until the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement.  However, despite major positive changes in the way Whites and Blacks have generally treated each other, there still remains much contention between these two ethnic groups to this day. Virtually, every religious group has had some history of others persecuting them in some way.  Many Christians around the world have been imprisoned, beaten, lost their jobs, and been put to death in a most torturous way because of their faith. There have also been many moderate Muslims who have been persecuted, harassed, beaten, or even killed because of their faith and because people have wrongly associated them with the cowardly actions of a few who claim the name of Islam.  As you can see, prejudicial pride creates much contention, destruction, hatred, anger, and bitterness, and does absolutely nothing to cultivate understanding or even a sense of love and compassion for its targets.

The first thing one can do to combat prejudicial pride is to confess your own prejudices against others.  Confess with humility and a desire to change your ways, as with this man in this video.  The next thing to do is to resolve to learn more about the people or peoples you have harbored prejudice against. For instance, if you are rich and you realize you have prejudices against those who are in poverty, go to the library or order books or videos about how people in poverty live. This not will only probably awaken a sense of compassion in you, but also help you understand others better. Moreover, the more knowledge you gain about someone, and the more you understand them, the less likely you are to harbor judgment and hatred against them.  Finally, resolve to interact with the people who you had previously harbored prejudice against, and do so as someone who is truly willing to be a friend to them, rather than treating them as just a “sympathy” case or manipulating them to your own ends.

Another type of pride, that also includes prejudicial pride, is what I call “better-than-you” pride.  This kind of pride says that because I can do or be X, and you (in my mind) cannot be or do this, you are worthless, but I am entitled to unconditional respect and honor. This is the type of pride often displayed by narcissists, who often think of themselves as more special than others.  In many workplaces and in some other hierarchies, the people who display this type of pride are often at the top of the authority chain (bosses and CEOs) or somehow have connections to these people, and think they don’t have to listen to anyone, even if others have authority over them.  They think they are invincible, and are not accountable to their own actions. This type of pride can ruin morale and cause these prideful people to have a colossal moral and career fall, if they act in illegal and/or immoral ways, and are eventually found out by authority that they can no longer escape or denounce. Think about famous people like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize that they do struggle.  This may involve confessing and repenting (changing one’s ways and attitudes) of one’s pride.  Another way to combat this type of pride in ourselves is to realize that everyone has flaws, and we are no exception.  Also, we need to think about the many times where we have received mercy, meaning not getting the punishment we deserved, and grace, meaning getting the blessings we did not earn or merit.  For instance, if you realize that you are tempted to think that you are somehow “better” than a co-worker because he or she struggles in areas that you don’t, think about the areas that you struggle with that they don’t.  In evaluating ourselves rightly, and not thinking ourselves more highly than we ought, we realize we are often no better, or worse, than anyone else.

The third type of pride manifests itself as humility, but is really pride all the same. This is what I call false humility. False humility is degrading oneself in a way that exhibits that you think you are hopeless to ever change or get better. I admit that I sometimes struggle with this because of my depression.  The reason why this is a form of pride is because false humility says that you are so special that mercy, grace, and love cannot change or touch you, so I don’t need or I can’t get proper help.  This is not only pride because of the apparent twisted, entitlement attitude towards not getting help, but because of how it manifests itself as humility.  When someone says to you, “Everyone likes you,” and in your insecurities, you say, “They are only pretending to like me. No one will would ever really love or like a lousy person like me.” you are demonstrating false humility.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize the implications of what you are saying and to realize that you have a problem.  Then, you should also try to look at yourself outside of your own negative self-focus lenses, and through what others really are thinking about you.  If you don’t really know what people think of you, ask! However, do it in a subtle way, and not in a pushy, insecure way. Also, realize that whatever flaws you see within yourself, know that there is always hope of change as long as you don’t give up. It may be a difficult and long road to change, but with enough determination and hard work, you CAN change.

The fourth type of pride is pride in material things and in one’s wealth. This manifests itself in one bragging about the stuff and/or the money one has.  They take very good care of the stuff they own, but to the exclusion to taking care of or loving their family and/or those around them.  The reason why this type of pride is so harmful is because its focus is on things that won’t last very long, and it excludes the people that are often much more relevant.  Some ways you can combat this type of pride is by being able to let go of some of the things you own, and by being generous and willing to share what you have with others.  Another way you can combat this type of pride is to focus more on cultivating relationships with others, and less time on material things.  For instance, instead of playing games on your smartphone at dinnertime, take time to talk to those around you.

As you can see, prejudicial pride, better-than-you pride, false humility, and materialistic pride are all common, but harmful forms of pride that often creates destruction, contention, anger, bitterness, and despair when no longer fed the way it wants to be.  This way to get rid of these symptoms is addressing the root problem of pride.

Why There’s Hope When You are Alive

Disclaimer: No disparaging comments allowed, or they will be deleted. Thank you, and may hope fill your life.

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As some of you may know, I have been struggling with depression since I was ten years old.  On Monday, I had such a stressful day at work (after working about twelve hours) and after a bad incident, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame for who I was as a person. I felt hopeless and ready to give up, or at least call off the next day. However, I kept going back to the fact that there were people in my life that needed me, and if I let them down, I would instinctively feel even more shame and self-hatred.  When I woke up the next day, despite getting only two hours of sleep, I felt a renewed sense of hope and peace.  I always tell people who are struggling with life the way I sometimes do that even if they feel that they can do nothing, that they still have hope just for being alive. Here is why I believe that is true:

The first reason why there is always hope for you on this earth as long as you are still alive is each day gives us the chance to change ourselves for the better. Yes, the process of change is often very difficult and often does not happen overnight. However, as long as you are still here, there is time to make at least a small change. For instance, if you are looking for a new job, you probably won’t get one the next day. However, the next day will give you the chance to start looking and to update your resume, so there will be a day when you will eventually get interviewed, and then be one step closer to getting a job.  For another example,  after the bad day at work on Monday, Tuesday was a day I said to myself that I would strive to be more positive and let go of the things that I wanted to control, but had to let go and let God.  As a consequence, Tuesday was an absolute contrast to Monday!

There is also still hope for you as long as you are alive because every day is a chance to learn something new.  Because I did not give up hope on Tuesday, after being tempted to on Monday, I was able to learn some of the following things, that may not seem significant, but nevertheless, gave me hope and brightened my day: a.) The last name of one of my managers.  b) How to straighten aisles better. c) That sometimes people are not as bad as I had previously thought. d) that I can be less stressed at work, even for a long day. (I had worked almost 12 hours again on Tuesday).  e) that setting up updated price tags is a very relaxing job for me.

Another major reason why there is still hope for you, as long as you are alive, is each day you are given a new opportunity to impact others’ lives for good.  Often when we are feeling hopeless and/or discouraged, we think that we can never do something good that will impact others again.  That is what I thought Monday night after work, and that is how depression speaks.  However, it is also a lie.  Even if you don’t think that your sincere apologies and attempts to change for the better won’t have an impact, you never know how profound your true humility will have on others.  This is what I found out on Tuesday.  If you feel discouraged because you have a certain disability or are so sick that it is difficult or impossible for you to even get out of bed, know that you still can persevere through your difficulties and, through a positive attitude, can cause others around you to think about what they have and can give others hope.

Finally, there is still hope for you as long as you are alive because of the beauty all around us.  I love that today (at least in my area), it is sunny and the weather is getting warmer. So, I hear the birds chirping, especially earlier in the day.  This is why, if you can, I would encourage others to go outside and enjoy the beauty of nature around you.  Even in the city, there is often a park or an area where there are birds and or flowers or trees you can look at to enjoy their beauty. Apart from nature, there is also beauty in the way certain things are made. Have you ever wondered how a computer or a phone is made? Sometimes, I have, and we can either learn about that, or just enjoy all the functions of a phone or computer.

Sometimes, when people, places, or things bring us down, it can be difficult for us to look at all the positives of life, and we just want to give up and give in to our pain and hurt. However, I hope that even when we can barely see why we should be here, that we will remember that there is always opportunity to change ourselves for the better, that we can learn new things every day, that we can impact people around us for the better, and that we can appreciate the beauty around us….but we need to be alive to experience any of these blessings.   May hope and joy fill our lives, as we persevere through it all.

 

Note: If anyone reading this is feeling depressed or suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255—There will be trained counselors at the other end of the line to support and care for you, or also you can read this: https://metanoia.org/suicide/, which is where I also got the number for the hotline. Remember, there is always hope when you are alive!

Being Kind in a Pain Filled World

I wrote the following poem in response to the pain around me.  While I was watching the news in my job’s break room on my “lunch” (read: dinner) hour, I heard of yet another school shooting where at least two people had died. I had just gotten done talking to a friend whose family is battling illness and pain.  I felt like I needed a good cry; I was nearing a feeling of overwhelm and anguish because I felt helpless and depressed for these people.  Then, I remembered  how one of my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott,  lived her life, and one of the things Jesus wanted me to accomplish on this earth—namely to spread His love in a world of pain.  Here is the poem I wrote:

 

Love in a World of Pain    written on : 3/20/2018

 

Hearts full of hate

People chasing

Longings that will never sate

The pain inside them leaks

 

Who will dare

To be the one who will care

Instead of giving them just

A blank stare

 

Before we leave a gaping wound

In someone’s heart…forever

Before tragedy strikes

And we are left reeling

 

So to whom will you give

The gift of agape love

The sacrificial type from up above

And change someone’s life for good

 

 

Then, I realized that it would do no one any good if I just sat there and moped about all the pain in this world that I could supposedly do nothing about.  I realized that I (and you too), can do something about the pain around us. One of the most effective ways to relieve someone’s pain is to be kind to them.  Here are some of the ways that I believe we can spread kindness and love around us:

 

  1. Do not ignore, ridicule, or stare at someone in visible (or invisible) pain. Reach out.—On the second stanza of my poem, I write, “Who will dare/ To be the one who will care/Instead of giving them just/A blank stare.” One of the most aggravating things a person can do to another in visible pain is just to stare at them. I hate this because this behavior implies that the person in pain is crazy or weird for expressing and having these emotions. First of all, we are not in the position to judge others’ expressions of emotions because we do not know the person’s whole story. We don’t know if we would have really responded better or even worse than if we were the same place they were.  Secondly, it implies apathy and a lack of care for the other person in pain because a stare implies that we are more concerned with how they are affecting us, than we are about the other person’s well-being.  In various things that I have read about Rachel Scott, she wasn’t one of the people who just stared at or ignored people in pain. She reached out. She not only talked to them, but was willing to be their needed friend as well.  We should follow her lead.  If someone is visibly upset, just asking them if there is anything you can do to help, or just listening to them vent can show that you care about them.  Yes, it does require some emotional labor to do this, but spending this labor can save someone’s life and is well-worth it!  Regarding the school shooting that I just heard about yesterday, what if someone just reached out to the person responsible for the act of violence instead of just ignoring, or even worse, ridiculing them?  What if their teachers or anyone around them showed compassion to them, and intentionally showed them several acts of kindness that would have demonstrated to them that they matter and that they could do something positive with their life? Reach out to someone in pain today, whether it is a friend or someone who no one would dare to reach out.
  2. Make it a point to be intentionally kind to everyone, especially the ones that could have hidden hurts. –On my birthday, I wanted the people that I work with the most to know that they mattered to me, and the hard work that they put in was worth it. So, one of the things I did was make them bookmarks with their name and their name meaning or meanings. Everyone has a name, every name means something. That is why we name people and some of our pets. They have intrinsic value to us. However, we typically don’t name inanimate objects. Sure, they may have some value, but those who you can have relationships with have infinitely more value and impact than any inanimate objects can.  Several of my friends make it a point to be kind to others, simply by smiling and asking them “How are you doing?”  Sure, it sounds simple, but how many of us constantly do it with a sincere and genuinely good-hearted attitude? Be kind, especially to those who are suffering silently.
  3. If you are religious, pray for people who are in pain.—If you are religious or spiritual, I would wholeheartedly pray for those around you who are suffering, either physically or mentally. Pray that they would be healed of their pain. Pray that they will receive some measure of comfort and peace, even in the midst of their pain. Pray that people around them (even you) would be able to and would be willing to help them in some way.  Finally, pray that they will have the strength to get through each day, because this in itself is often a struggle for those going through suffering and hurt.

 

These are some of the ways we can make a positive difference in a pain-filled world. We can reach out to those we see that are visibly hurting, instead of just staring at or ignoring them.  We can think of creative ways to get to the root of their hurt and soothe them with intentional acts of kindness and love.  We can also pray for those who are in pain.  Doing these things can not only alleviate someone else’s suffering, but can also show them that there is still love and hope in this world.

What I Learned From Peter

The apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, and the writer of 1 and 2 Peter. To me, he is a dynamic example of how God can use the ordinary and make them extraordinary.  These principles I have learned from Peter are so universal that anyone, no matter religion, race, class, ethnicity, gender, or any other human identifier, can apply these to their lives!  I’ve had a tough week, and more and more, I have been thinking about how the apostle Peter also had tough times- -Times where he was hypocritical in his character, so his actions betrayed what he believed;  times where he was persecuted against and rejected by others, times where he felt inadequate to God and to others. All these I have also experienced in my life, and I can bet, some of you have, too.  However, I have learned these following things from the life of Peter that has helped me not only to understand him better, but also to encourage myself and others in our life’s journeys:

  1. Think before doing or saying
  2. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference
  3. Never give up.

One of the mistakes that Peter made throughout his life, was he did a lot of things without thinking them through.  This is something I struggle with as well.  For example, in Matthew 26, Peter is recorded as saying that he would die for Jesus even if he were being persecuted! We know that he didn’t think about what that really meant, because even when three different people, including a servant girl with no power to do anything bad to Peter, asked if he (Peter) had been with Jesus, Peter denied even knowing of or being with Jesus, all three times! In another instance, the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2 :11 (KJV), that  Peter “was to be blamed, “ meaning he was to be corrected, because he separated himself from eating with the Gentiles (non-Jews). Peter did this only because he was afraid of what some other Jewish people would think.  Peter did not think about the implications that his actions would have on the Church, as a whole, nor on the example he was setting for the rest of the Jewish believers.  From these two instances, I learn from Peter that it is better to think things through before saying or doing anything. For instance, when I am upset at someone, I want to say very mean and hurtful things to that person as a way of making them “feel” my rage at the time. However, when I really take the time to think through the implications and consequences of my actions, I often am successful at not saying those things.

Another thing that I learn from Peter is the fact that one does not have to be perfect, or even saintly, to make a positive difference in this world.  As I noted before, even the apostle Peter, was far from perfect! However, some weeks after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus encourages Peter by reinstating him to ministry and preparing his heart for this endeavor by asking Peter if he loved Him. Jesus reinstates him to ministry by basically telling him to “feed His sheep,” meaning to encourage people (the sheep) to follow God’s directives by “feeding” them His words and His teachings.  Even though, Paul had to reprimand Peter later, Peter still made a huge difference in helping the early Christians be able to withstand persecution for their faith, and to be able to stay mentally strong despite these persecutions and other life trials.  We know this, through Peter’s writings, where he encourages the churches he lead to stand firm in their faith and persevere.  Sometimes, the perfectionistic-me thinks that when I fail morally or in another way, that I can’t do anything worthy for God or for others. However, through learning about Peter’s life, I am encouraged that this is not the case.  I believe that this is not the case for any of you either. No matter where you are in life, or what you have done or failed to do, you still can make a positive difference in this world. You just have to believe you can!

Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, I learned from Peter never to give up.  Even when Peter made, what I think to be the biggest error of his life—denying even knowing Jesus, Peter did not give up on life or on himself.  As noted in John 21, Peter went back to hanging out with Jesus and, eventually, accepted his mission from Jesus. Peter did not avoid Jesus or the other disciples that were left, but faced his mistake when Jesus gently confronted Peter with the issue of his love for Him.  In contrast, another disciple (Judas) that betrayed Jesus, went and committed suicide, giving up on life and on everything else.  Also, in several biblical passages, Peter is recorded casting his nets all day, or all night, for fish, but not getting any. Peter could have given up until Jesus came to him, or waited for another day, but Peter persevered.  Eventually, in John 21:11 (KJV), it says, “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”

Many times in my life, even several days ago, I have felt so overwhelmed with life, that I just wanted to give up.  However, my faith in God and the hope of a better future, prodded me on.  When I look to the apostle Peter and see his perseverance, I am also inspired to keep going, because I know the reward can be great for me, if I don’t give up. I’m sure the rewards you can get, both in this life and in the next, can be very great, if you don’t lose hope and if you keep on, keeping on!