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

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

The Deal Breakers

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

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

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

The Counterparts

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

*=not their real names

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How Suffering Can Build Character

Ever since I was an infant, I have always hated suffering.  I don’t only hate going through suffering and trials, but I hate to see other people I love in pain. Violence on television sometimes makes me cringe.  However, in the past few years, I have learned over and over again, had it not been for certain bouts of suffering in my life, I would have never been the kind of person I am now.  I am still far from perfect. However, I can attest that most, if not, all the trials in my life have served to strengthen and better me as a person.  Here is what I learned about how certain areas that I experienced suffering in my life have helped build my character.

Suffering physically/health-wise

For regular readers of this blog, you have probably read the story about when I almost died in June 2014.  To make a long story short, I started having more and more pain in my side area of my body. I thought it may have been from heavy lifting, until I started throwing up blood. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses found the source of the problem: my gallbladder, which was twice the size it should have been, inflamed, and had at least several gall stones in it.  Then, the next day, the gallbladder was taken out before it could have burst—just in time.  During and after this ordeal, I learned many things.  First of all, I learned not to take life for granted, especially the time spent with loved ones, because you never know when your time is up on this earth.  Secondly, I learned how lonely and depressing being sick and/or bed-bound can be. I only experienced this for about several days, and already I was depressed and had cabin fever.  I could only imagine how people who cannot get out of bed for weeks and months at a time must feel! Thus, this incident has caused me to pray more for people in my congregation who are sick and have more compassion for those that cannot get out of bed.  One of my pastors told the congregation about how people in our church who have been battling cancer do not come to the pastors first, but to other people who have been through the same thing they have, and thus would have more experience and compassion in how to best deal with their situation.

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

Some people I have met in the past few years would probably not believe that when I was growing up, I struggled a lot with making friends and was getting picked on regularly by my peers, because my life is so different now. However, I remember, especially in middle school and my first year of high school, people mocking me for everything from my ethnicity to the clothing I wore.  To make matters worse, most of the teachers were either unaware of what was happening or partly blamed me for being victimized by my own peers and thought I should try to “fit in” better.  (NOTE: Abuse and bullying is NE VER the victim’s fault!)  Also, some people pitied me and tried/pretended to be my friend, but they never stuck around long.  Even though these years were some of my most miserable and depressing, these events also served to strengthen my moral character. Out of these events, God developed in me a heart of care for all those who have ever been abused and/or bullied by others before. To this day, I have a strong urgency to do something to help those who have experienced abuse, bullying, or any other type of injustice. I do not want other people to experience the loneliness, desolation, and depression that I had experienced during some of those years in school.  I also don’t want people to think that they are unimportant or insignificant to this world, because every single person can make a positive contribution to this world. (Yes, this includes you!) If I had never been bullied in school, I would probably be extremely narcissistic and self-centered, as I was before this experience.  Even though I would not wish these experiences on anyone, I am thankful that I learned how to not treat people and thus, by default, know to treat others the way I would want to be treated.  I learned the high value of all people, even the ones that don’t stand out as much in this world.

Being unemployed or underemployed

There are many people I know that assume that most people can find a job in several weeks, and if they take longer that they are either “lazy” or “incompetent” in some way. I used to be one of those people when I was growing up.  However, during the times when I was looking for a job, I realized how arduous and discouraging the task can be, especially if you struggle with a disability or are somehow labeled as “different” from the normative idea of an “employable” person.  The interview itself can be very nerve-wracking. Something as insignificant as clothing choice or perfume smell can negatively impact an interview and also the chances of the applicant getting the job. This trial helped me in at least two ways: 1) I have more compassion for people who have a difficult time finding a job, but who still try, or even those that cannot work at all, no matter how hard they try.  2) I appreciate the job that I now have more because of the work and time it took me to get to where I am even now.  I work harder because I relish the joy of being able to be productive and make a difference in other’s lives.  I don’t take my job for granted, but have passion in what I am doing.

General suffering

In general, going through the trials I have has made me be able to comfort others who are going through similar things that I have gone through before. I am able to relate to them on a deeper, more intimate level, than if I couldn’t relate to them at all.  I have been able to develop more compassion for those who are suffering.  Also, I have hope, that, through the most difficult things that I experienced, that future trials will a.) Either not be as bad or b.) I will be able to overcome them with the help of God and of the people that will come into my life to help me through it.  Finally, through all the pain and hurt I have been through and witnessed others go through, I have realized both the value of people and time.  Because of this realization, I have been able to let certain irritants go  and just focus on making the best of my time with the people that love and care for me.

On Narcissism

Have you ever wondered what some of the root causes of your broken or failed relationships are? I have, and I think it is useful to know because if we know what is ultimately causing destruction in most of the broken relationships we find ourselves entangled in, we could begin the process of repairing and restoring at least some of them.  I have found that most of the broken relationships that I have been in, or have witnessed, have been caused, at least in part, due to one or both parties’ selfishness.  Selfishness is the very nucleus of narcissistic behaviors, which then cause the other parties’ needs not to even be considered or met.  Narcissism is a big problem in much of the world. Some may even submit that the president of my country has problems with narcissistic behaviors and attitudes.  However, I think narcissism not only affects leaders of countries, but even ordinary people as well. Also, the majority of humanity has some issues at some times with narcissistic attitudes or behaviors as well.

In order to understand why narcissism is so bad and how to combat it, we must first understand what it even is.  According to the Cambridge English dictionary, narcissism can be defined by, “too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities.”   1)  According to the Mayo Clinic and the DSM V criteria, some of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (i.e  an illness characterized by excessive interest in self) are: a.) Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance b.) Having a constant need for admiration and entitlement.  c) Having an arrogant, boastful, and pretentious way of behaving. d ) an unwillingness or inability to look to the needs and desires of others.  (2). All in all, narcissistic people worship themselves. They think they are gods, and most important in the whole universe.  Because all of us are humans, we all sin (do wrong morally) at least on occasion and thus have struggles with some aspects of narcissism, though probably not enough to have the illness! Though it may seem that narcissistic people have too much self-confidence, I have read and heard that most of them, in fact, have little or no confidence in themselves whatsoever. When something really breaks their spirit, they most likely will have a complete mental breakdown.  However, in order to protect themselves from this, they cover themselves by presenting in an arrogant and often, belittling, attitude towards others. Though not many people are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or even meet all the necessary criteria for it, the narcissistic mindset is becoming more and more prevalent in our worldly culture, and it is destroying relationships all around us.

When we have even a little of a narcissistic mindset, this attitude produces callousness in our heart. When we think of ourselves, to the exclusion of any other people, we eventually stop caring about the needs around us.  I have found this mindset prevalent when people talk about the poor around us.  They say, “ I would love to donate money to those in need, but I need to take care of myself and my family first.” To them, I would say, “Why can’t you do both?”  Of course, providing for one’s family is essential and probably more important than caring for those you may not know, however, we are also called to donate money to those who need it.  This self-centered mindset can also present itself at work with our co-workers.  For instance, we want to take a break and catch up with a co-worker and friend who we haven’t seen in a week. However, there is another co-worker who feels overwhelmed in her work.  A self-centered mindset would ignore the co-worker feeling overwhelmed for our own desire to talk to our friend.  However, a selfless, caring mindset would sacrifice our desires in order to help a stressed-out co-worker in need.  Also, a narcissistic mindset ultimately hurts others, especially those who are suffering or in need, because it is apathetic to them.  Your own needs trumps others’ needs, creating a relationship where your needs are full, while the others’ are lacking. This creates both friction and an abandoning both of the relationship and that person’s value to you. If we become clinically narcissistic (i.e  having the disorder/illness), this mindset will ultimately hurt and destroy ourselves because it will break off our connections with others.  People will not want to be with us willingly in relationships, and you will fail to see the value and depth in a person.  Narcissism ultimately results in deep loneliness and rejection.

Because of the harms of a narcissistic mindset, we must learn how to combat it in ourselves. One of the most effective ways I have found in combating a narcissistic mindset is to practice gratitude.  For me, when I write or say my prayers, I include at least three things that I am thankful for that day. Other people I know have created a gratitude jar, of all the things that they are most thankful for. Even writing thank-you notes to those people who have most positively affected our lives can be helpful in cultivating an appreciative attitude towards others.  Another effective way to combat narcissism is to live to serve others. Always ask yourself, “How can I serve today?” For instance, if you are married with children, ask yourself, “How can I help my spouse feel loved and appreciated by me? How can I help my spouse be a better husband/wife? How can I help my children to be loved and a better person? How can I cultivate a grateful and joy-filled attitude towards the world around them?”  This servant mindset demands we look at others’ needs as more important than our own. Yes, there is a time for self-care when things get too overwhelming and stressful for us.  Sometimes, we do need to fill ourselves so that we have more to give to others. However, as a general rule, we should look to serve and help others without expectation of return.  Some people may be afraid to serve others because they think they may be taken advantage of by some. While that does happen, when we trust that our good will be rewarded, even if not this side of eternity, and that we are doing the right thing for some higher cause, we will not hesitate to reach out to help others.  Because people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa thought of others before themselves, they changed the world for the better. They created, at least, awareness that each human being should be treasured or loved, regardless of their social status or income, or any other human identifier.
Thus, a narcissistic mindset is excessive admiration and thought for oneself to the point of self-worship. This attitude can harm others because it devalues and discounts them and their needs. This attitude also harms the person with this mindset because it produces a spirit of callousness and apathy within their heart for others, especially many of those who have suffered because of their self-centered behaviors, and  this mindset ultimately ruins all their relationships.  However, when we are vigilant to combat narcissism  in ourselves and become selfless instead, we are then free to love and serve others with joy and contentment, both for ourselves and for others.

 

 

 

 

Sources:  1) English Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed August 5, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/narcissism

2) Mayo Clinic Staff. (November 18, 2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

What I Learned From My Vacation : July 2018 edition

You may have wondered why my posts suddenly stopped and why there hasn’t been new material recently.  Well, I was visiting relatives, some of them I hadn’t seen in eight years! It was a good vacation, but not without caveats along the way.   As on my vacation last year, I learned many valuable life lessons that I would like to share today:

  1. Be grateful for what you have. You never know when they will be taken from you.—This is the number one lesson I learned on this journey. Before I went on vacation, I had over-idealized how things would be like in general. I was so stressed at work and in life, in general, that I had forgotten to treasure what God had given to me. One of the things I had to deal with during part of my trip was the lack of water to take a shower.  My family and I were in a boat where the water supply was scarce. To say I was relieved when we arrived at a hotel a couple days later with good, running water was an understatement!  Another thing that happened was that everyone in my family got sick for at least part of the trip.  I vomited twice and had a couple bouts of diarrhea.  I also got sick yesterday after coming home from the trip, but am much better today, and will learn to not to take good health for granted anymore.  I also am learning to value the time that I spend with loved ones and not to take their presence or kindness for granted.  Before this vacation, I was grateful for my aunt, but it really didn’t sink into my mind how much she had done for my family and me until she got very sick on this trip.  She sacrificed everything she could for us so that we could stay in her house during some part of our vacation together.  She made sure we had enough food and supplies to feel at home, and the continued to think of us even when she was not feeling well physically.  Finally, I have to say, to my shame, that before this vacation, I used to get very upset and impatient with traffic jams and slow drivers.  When I was on vacation, in the place where many of my relatives live, the traffic was so bad that it doesn’t even compare to some of the traffic jams where I live! I remember on my vacation, one of the traffic jams was so bad that my family and I were sitting in traffic in the same spot for 15 minutes before we even moved!
  2. Let go of the things that hinder you from being the best you can be.—Along with being more grateful, I also learned to let go of certain things that had hindered me from being my best. I had to decide not to be so upset at certain things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to or how I expected it to be.  For instance, I had to adjust to the conditions of the boat we were in, even though it may have been less than ideal.  Also, on the last full day of our trip, I had to let go of the desire to shop more because most of my family needed rest and time to pack. If I got upset, then I would have certainly made things worse than it was. I also had to let go of the expectation that I would be able to see everything on our vacation because of the time it took to get to certain places, complicated further by unpredictable traffic jams.  When I was able to let go of my expectations and just go with the flow, so to speak, I found that I felt much freer and more at peace with things.
  3. Others need our love. Love generously and without reproach.– Finally, one of the things I learned on my vacation was how much other people need our love and how we should love generously without reproach. Sometimes, I had gotten weary of doing good, especially to those who I think are rude on purpose and don’t have care or consideration for other people other than themselves.  However, I have learned that they are some of the people that need my love the most.  I found that when I love others generously and without expectation, that people are more receptive to what I have to say and offer.   I learned that when I, or others, showed love and care to those who needed it the most, that it often alleviated whatever suffering and stress that they were going through at the time. For instance, I had had a very tough time learning to snorkel (and I still can’t do it right!), but when the tour guide helped me through this and was patient with me, he helped me alleviate some of the stress I had with learning something  I wasn’t good at.  I was even able to laugh with him!  Also, initially I was very upset at someone on one of the flights I was in because they had inconvenienced my whole family with their self-centeredness.  However, by the end of the flight, I learned to look at them with more compassion, even though I didn’t know what they were going through. Also, when my family and I helped my aunt with several things, she seemed to feel more at peace and less stressed.

These are the main things that I learned while on my journey this year.  Though I was gone for more than a few days, I never stopped learning, and I continue to learn today.  Overall, this vacation will change some parts of my life for the better, and for that I am grateful.

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.

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

How to Find Peace After Betrayal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

image courtesy of: www.LumoProject.com.