How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

How to Deal With Difficult People-More Detailed Version

There are often people that can rub us the wrong way. Whether it is a family member, an acquaintance, a boss at work, a teacher at school, or even a stranger that was rude to you once, we all have at least one person we don’t get along with as well as others in our life. We can either choose one of two things: a.) Continue in conflict and/or have resentment, anger, and bitterness towards that person or persons. OR b.) Resolve to be at peace with that person or persons to the best of our ability. We all can do a.) naturally, but b.) takes more work and time. However, though I am still learning, here’s what I found are the keys to deal with difficult people successfully.:

Three Basic Principles (and explanations) of Dealing With Difficult People Successfully:

  1. Be humble.– If you are too proud to admit your part of the conflict or part in causing the conflict, then you will most likely never be at peace with that person or persons. You will develop a “victim mentality,” meaning when you think that person is only out to hurt or use you when it could be a false assumption. Admitting your part in the rift, no matter how small, can open doors to reconciliation and change on both sides. Being humble tells the person you are having problems with that you are not out to hurt them but that you are the bigger person.
  2. Be unselfish.–If you are only out for number #1 (i.e. what you call, me, myself, and I)  then you will never be able to resolve conflict with that difficult person. However, if you try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to show them, sacrificial love, they will start to “melt.” This principle, found in Romans 12 of the Bible, is called “heaping burning coals on one’s head.” You “heap burning coals” by overwhelming the difficult person with love and care. Basically, you teach them how to love. Warning: You must love sincerely without expecting anything back, otherwise they will see through you and you won’t be able to have the effect you want in them changing their behavior towards you.
  3. Be patient.–Difficult people don’t change overnight. Even implementing these principles takes concerted time and effort. But be patient with them. Don’t give up on trying to work things out with them just because you don’t see immediate results. Sometimes, this may take years. Continue loving them, and if you are religious, pray for them.  Don’t let them affect how you see other people, but also don’t give up hope that one day they can either change or else suffer the consequences of their actions.

Difficult People in Authority: Principles to Follow

In addition to the above general principles, here are others that can be applied when specifically dealing with a difficult person in authority, such as a boss or a teacher:

  1. Never argue.–If your boss or teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do unless it is immoral or illegal, don’t try to argue yourself out of it. In fact, try not to argue about anything they say to you! First of all, if you argue against them, you will never “win.” More than that, you may also not only get them irritated or upset with you, but you might get disciplined as well.
  2. Never defame their character.–People often gossip or even slander about authority figures they hate or dislike. Don’t fall into this trap! If you do, and it gets back to them (as it most likely will), at the very least you will get a verbal tongue-lashing from them because of the anger and hurt they feel towards you for having said those bad things about them, and you can even get severely disciplined or even shunned by everyone around you because of the effects of your gossip and/or slandering. Instead, build them up. Only speak to their positive qualities to others. In this, you will retain your integrity.
  3. Always phrase any questions you may have in a non-threatening manner. –For example, if something they said shocks you or you don’t quite understand what they just said, you can ask in a neutral tone of voice, “I didn’t understand quite what you meant by that. May you please explain it to me again?”

If they snipe at or criticize you, and at least some part of the criticism is true, ask what they think you can do to fix it or do better next time. Always maintain a humble attitude. For instance, if my boss tells me that I did labeling of items wrong and that I am too slow, I could say, “How would you like me to do the labeling instead? Is there any way that is effective that you use to do your work more efficiently that I should imitate so I can improve my work speed?”

Difficult People in the Family:

The most difficult people may be in one’s own family.  If there are major issues with abuse, you may only be able to do #1 most effectively, but for other situations, #2 and #3  do work wonders.  However, one should strive to be kind and unselfish to everyone, even though it may be a long and difficult road. Also, dealing with one’s family is the cornerstone for growing and coping with other relationships you have.

  1. Have limited contact, if possible.–If the difficult person does not live with you or is a distant relative, you don’t have to have constant contact with them. Love them from a distance.  Don’t be drawn into interactions with them that can create conflict and chaos. If you live with them or have to see them on a regular basis, see principles 2 and 3.
  2. Show them kindness.–You don’t have to like someone to show them kindness. Yes, it is easier if you do get along with them, but you can show people you don’t like kindness as well.  Intentionally show them love and grace. For instance, if the person you don’t get along with in your family has constant physical pain, you can help them with tasks that if they did them by themselves would exacerbate the pain. This way you show care for their pain and suffering and are telling them that they don’t have to suffer alone. This can open the door to reconciliation if you do these tasks with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  3. Prefer them over yourself.–I have often said, and this is true, that the most difficult people in our lives are often the ones in most need of love. Preferring the difficult person over yourself says that you are willing to work to be at peace with them not only for your benefit but for theirs as well.  It will also show this difficult person that you have their best interests at heart and are not out to hurt them.

Strangers/people you don’t meet every day:

There are people that you don’t meet every day, but they still are difficult to handle, such as the person who cuts you off in traffic, the person who writes disparaging comments about you on YouTube or Twitter, or the person who cuts you in the grocery store line and has a thousand items when you only had several.  Here are three principles specific to them on how to deal:

  1. Don’t take what they say or do personally.–Some people (wrongly) take their bad days or difficult situations out on other people. I’m sure most of us have done this too at some point in our lives. These people are probably not trying to purposely hurt you though, so try not to take them personally. For instance, if someone says something nasty to you on Twitter or YouTube, try to chalk it up to their stupidity and ignorance, and not someone out to personally hurt you.  Usually, anonymous people who hurt others (often called, “trolls”) do so for attention or to get a rise out of people. Don’t give them the attention they don’t deserve.
  2. Ask sincerely, “What can I do to help you?”–This applies to only certain situations. For instance, it can apply to the person who cuts you in the grocery store line, or when a customer or client complains about something.  Asking “What can I do to help you?” in those situations shows the person that you are willing to attend to their needs, and are not bent on just hurting them or getting what you want. It shows both unselfishness and kindness, things that can go a long way to make peace with someone.
  3. Let them vent; Don’ t tell them to “calm down” or criticize them.–Often when a stranger or a person you don’t meet regularly is upset, they are not upset at you. Even if they are, never tell someone to “calm down” or, worse yet, condemn or criticize their response.  First of all, telling someone to calm down invalidates how they are feeling. Also, telling them something like, “Don’t be so rude!” or “You’re so selfish!” will only make things worse for them and for you.  Let them vent. Try to validate how they are feeling. Even telling them, “I”m sorry that you are feeling that way. It must be tough, ” is better than criticizing them or telling them to calm down.

Being Civil Online and Preventing Cyberbulling

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, especially among teens, where more than 1 in 3 have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Cyberbullying may also be an issue even among adults and young children. In a society where anonymity online can be used as a weapon against people who either a.) hold different views than the perpetrator or b.) are hated or that the perpetrator is disgusted by, we need to be vigilant against cyber bullying and make sure we don’t become perpetrators ourselves. I’ve seen many people on even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rail against each other and call someone they don’t even know personally nasty names or even tell other people to end their own lives over petty issues.

This is why we need to be sure we are always civil online and do our part to ensure that the Internet trolls don’t successfully hurt others or ourselves.
Here’s how:

Being Civil Online

  1. When you disagree with something or something someone wrote or said online angers or irritates you, do yourself and that other person a favor: Don’t say anything nasty to them. –I made the mistake of biting back and saying some crude things a very long time ago when someone made rude remarks about the type of music I listened to. In retrospect, I should have just left it alone. Sometimes bloggers (and I read a lot of blogs since I’m part of a blogging group now) say things that disgust, upset, or irritate me. Not all the time, not often, but once in a blue moon. I have found the most effective and most civil way to voice my disagreement over their post is to say nothing at all. If you feel, however, that you must say something to them, do it civilly. Find points in common. For instance, in the example of the people making fun of the music I listened to, I could have said, ” We both listen to similar kinds of music, but just different groups. I am sorry that you feel that way about [name of group], but I respectfully disagree with you.” OR “It looks like we both like different groups, but maybe we both have another artist we both like. What are some other music artists you like?” Lastly, ask questions and try to learn about why they think that way. For instance, if you live in the U.S and you really don’t like Trump and the person you are engaging with really likes Trump, you could ask, “What have you found that Trump does well?” or “What led you to vote for him?,” but say it in a neutral, wanting-to-learn tone of voice, and not an accusatory, judgmental tone of voice.

When someone attacks you:

This is harder because it’s personal. They want to hurt you, perhaps to make a point or put you down. It doesn’t matter. It is not right for them to do that, but there will be trolls. Internet trolls are, according to Wikipedia, “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.” Often trolls either want to hurt you personally out of anger, or for their own amusement. However, we can prevent ourselves from stooping down to their level by taking these measures:

  1. Don’t respond to them, if possible.— Yes, even if you angry inside (and I would be too, to be honest) the best way to not attract the kind of attention the troll wants is to be silent. Don’t give them the pleasure of a crass, emotionally-laden response. They want that, but if no one responds to them, the troll will die down and look for targets elsewhere.
  2. If you do respond, keep your responses simple and/or robotic.—If they say something about or to you that you know is untrue, say so. But that’s it. You don’t need to add about how they angered you or how rude they are (They already probably know, but they don’t care.). Just say, “This is not true.” or “What you said isn’t true.” If they insult your character, and the criticism isn’t warranted, but you feel the need to say something, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that isn’t how I see it. ” OR “That isn’t true.”
  3. Report them to the moderators.–If they keep escalating, tell it to the moderators of the board. Don’t get overly emotional with your complaints. Just say, for instance, “So-and-so [person’s name here] keeps telling me that I lie and cheat on others when I have done nothing of that sort. And he (or she) keeps bad-mouthing me to other people. For instance, [tell of first instance, and other specific incidents thereafter]. Could you please tell him or her to stop? It not only hurts me, but the other people around me, and more importantly, it hurts the integrity of this whole board.” If the moderators don’t do anything about it or blame you for telling them about these incidents, don’t say anything bad or inflammatory back, just get out of that forum.

Preventing Cyberbullying:

First and foremost, don’t be a cyberbully yourself. Always communicate your responses and writings with love and grace to those who will read it.— If you disagree with someone, even strongly, be respectful of him or her. Don’t be judgmental or condemning, but speak the truth in love. If you want to give advice, make sure the person is welcoming of them. Never give unsolicited advice. a.) The person will get upset at you for “helping” them, and you both won’t feel better after the interaction. You, because you wouldn’t be appreciated by them, and them, because you will seem overbearing and like a busybody to them. b.) They probably won’t listen to said advice anyway, and you will waste your time trying to “help” them.

Second, if you witness someone being cyberbullied or attacked online, do something! — If you don’t want to engage with the attacker (and sometimes it’s wisest not to), report the attacker to the moderators/administrators. If they don’t do anything constructive about it within a reasonable time period (but give them some time, don’t be impatient), then get out of that forum! If you can engage, engage with the victim first. Stand up for him/her. For instance, if someone is attacking him/her because of his/her disability, tell the person something encouraging like, “I think you are a beautiful and unique person. You may have this disability, but don’t let it stop you from accomplishing your dreams and don’t listen to [perpetrator]. That is just not true.” Also, tell the perpetrator, “Attacking [name/screen name of victim] is not acceptable in this forum. If you don’t stop and/or apologize to [name/screen name of victim], I will report you to the appropriate people. Thank you.”

These are some ways I have found effective in dealing with the serious issue of cyberbullying. What are some other ways you have found to help combat cyber bullying? Please discuss in the comments. Also, may we all join forces to combat this issue so that the Internet will be a place of peace and love for all.

For related content, please see my friend Kat’s blog on:  Preventing Slut Shaming

sources: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

Why Hate- a poem

Why all the hate
In God’s good green earth?
Why have a date
With Satan and all his hate

Why all the cursing and backstabbing?
Why all the lying and stealing?
Why all the hurting and pain?
Why all the hatred to drive us insane?

Why ever waste energy
Devising ways to cause hurt and pain
And driving yourself insane in vain
Instead of seeking love and peace

Why ever hurt others
When it hurts you the most
Why not instead love
With the love from up above

On Loneliness and Love

Mother Teresa once said, in her book, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa,

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/139677-the-greatest-disease-in-the-west-today-is-not-tb)

And I totally agree with her. I am not discounting the pain and suffering felt by people afflicted with physical ailments or who are starving for food. However, if you are surrounded by a group of people who love and care about you during that period of suffering, you will most likely come out of the situation much stronger and be able to endure anything better, than if you have no one.  Also, if everything else is going fairly well for you, but you have no one with whom to share these accomplishments and triumphs, then you may begin to think life is pointless.

Loneliness and the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for are the worst situations any human being or even animal can ever have to endure. This is because loneliness and feeling unloved, uncared for, and unwanted cut to the very depths of one’s soul. Here’s how we can combat these feelings if we feel them ourselves, and how we can help others who feel that way:

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

  1. Do something kind for someone else.—Often when I feel lonely or rejected, the best thing for me to do is to go out and do something kind for someone else. Usually, not as a means to an end, but as a kind of “side-effect” to our good deeds, when we do something kind for someone else, and they appreciate us in return (and sometimes, even when they don’t but you know in your heart you did right by them), we feel more connected to the recipient of our kindness. We open doors for people to want to get to know us better.
  2. See rejection, not as a personal failure on your part, but a chance to learn from mistakes and others.— For instance, when I was rejected for the chance to work at that bookstore, I learned quickly that this wasn’t where God wanted me.  Though I was discouraged for a long time because many people in my life had rejected me for even a friendship and found me difficult to get along with, God taught me through those painful experiences that a.) He was there for me and b.) To be more compassionate and loving to others who may also feel rejected and unloved by others (or even me).
  3. Get involved in your community, or even online.–To combat loneliness, do not become a hermit 24/7. Engage with others, and get involved in getting to know people around you. This could be the neighbors you live with, people who live in or near where you live in the greater community,  people at the religious institution where you worship,  or even people you interact daily with at your job, or where you most frequent outside your house.  Even though it’s not exactly the same, you can also get involved in online communities and form online friendships there.  It may be difficult to get initially involved.  For instance, when I switched church communities last year, I didn’t know many people there and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. However, as time went on, I started to feel more at home and found that this was a good change for me. So, don’ t give up on a new community just because you feel uncomfortable or anxious at first.

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

  1.  Never give up on them.–Some people are difficult to handle. I get it. However, these same people may be reacting out of fear and anger at the larger society around them that has callously rejected them for something they can’t control such as their ethnicity, disability, or any other human identifier.  Understand that such people actually need extra love, not less of it.  I know sometimes investing in those people gets exhausting and tiring, but if you strive never to give up on those who hurt the most, most people will eventually see you as a friend and confidante, as opposed to an enemy.
  2. Intentionally reach out and care for them.–At work, sometimes I give encouraging notes to people who may need them. This is partly so that the people I work with will know that they are not alone and that someone out there gives a care and appreciates what positive things they have done. We should apply the same principle to those around us who feel lonely or rejected.  If they need to vent, listen with validation and compassion. You don’t need to “fix” their problems, but just listening to them can go a long way into showing them love and care. If the lonely person in your life needs help with something, offer to help whenever possible.  Be there for them, both in their trials and their triumphs. Be a friend.
  3. Always strive to be kind to them.--Be kind in your interactions with them by making them feel valuable and less alone.  If you fail to do this, be quick to apologize and make amends.  Include them in your interactions with others whenever appropriate.  Encourage them to cultivate the good personality traits that you find in that person or persons.  Try to prefer them over yourself.

There are many people in our lives who may feel lonely or unloved. Some of them are apparent to us, like someone who always sits alone at lunch.  However, some of them may seem to be surrounded by many people, but they feel empty inside and only have superficial interactions with others.  We need to be able to reach both groups with our love and compassion. If we do, we may just start a chain reaction. My wish and hope for this world is that eventually no one on this earth would ever have to feel alone and unloved again.

Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improve

DISCLAIMER: Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments about me (the writer), different political views, or others in this blog. Also, please no arguing about political stuff here. This is not the place to do it! If you break any of these rules, your comment or comments will be deleted. Thank you and happy reading. : )

In honor of the 4th of July, the Independence Day of the United States of America, I will discuss five things I am immensely thankful for that this country provides, and five things we as a nation could improve on. I am honored and thankful to be born in this country and to be able to enjoy many of the freedoms this country provides for me today.  However, I know this country is not perfect and that it has a lot of problems and issues, which I will delve into later.  Regardless, I am thankful God put me here not only to be successful for myself and my loved ones but also to help others.

Five Things I am thankful for in the U.S.A

  1. religious freedom–I can be any religion I want to be and be able to worship freely without fear of being sent to jail or tortured for my faith. I happen to be a Christian, but I see others of different faiths, having similar freedoms to me.  This is not true in many other countries. I hear and know of people being jailed, tortured, or even killed just for practicing their faith. For example, in North Korea, in general,  if you practice publically any religion other than the state religion, you are put in prison and tortured until you submit to their faith.  This is a freedom we Americans should all be thankful for and keep preserving for the next generations.
  2. freedom of speech–Here in the States, in general, I can openly criticize my local government, state government, and even federal government, including the President and Vice President,  without fear of losing my job, going to prison, or being tortured or killed for that.  I can even stage a protest against the government’s policies, if I wanted to, without getting arrested or jailed just for doing so.  I am very grateful I can do that openly or even publically, without fear of being arrested or losing my livelihood for doing so.  In many other countries, if you openly criticize governmental policies or the leader of the country, you will be arrested and jailed for doing so. A few nations even kill their own people for protesting against their government or their policies!
  3. Adequate water supply- We, as a nation, are extremely blessed by our many bodies of water!  In general, 90% of the country, can turn on the faucet and water comes out. This is not true at all in many parts of the world! Some parts of the world don’t even have faucets or clean, running water! In many parts of the world, people must carry buckets of water from miles away from their home, just to get enough water to live! In many cases, the water isn’t even completely clean or as pure, as it is in the States!  I see some people here in the States just running the faucet without using the water that comes out of it. What a waste! Think of the people that don’t have any water near their homes.  Try to appreciate that you are able to have clean, running water, and don’t take this for granted.
  4. A strong and courageous military force — We, as a nation, are blessed to have men and women who are willing to risk their lives to defend our country and its freedoms. I know several veterans personally and am thankful to know them.  I am grateful for them and all military personnel because many of the people who are or were in the military have to go through not only grueling training to help them prepare for the battlefield, not to mention the horrors and the heartaches of war and losing your comrades, but when they come back to civilian life, they are often underappreciated and/or forgotten.  You may not agree with the principles of war, and that’s fine, but the fact that these men and women are standing up for our freedoms and protecting us from terrorists and other evil people, is something for which we should be immensely thankful.
  5. The right to defend ourselves against invaders or intruders.–We, as a nation, are blessed to have the Second Amendment, in case someone tries to kill or attack us, and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it for whatever reasons.  Now, I would personally never own a gun, but for those that do, I respect them, especially if they live in high-crime areas or are in situations where they feel legitimately physically threatened or unsafe.  In 90% of the countries that I’ve ever visited or heard about, it is illegal for private citizens to own a gun or any form of defense, even if they do feel their lives are at risk. I do think there should be gun control laws, but I think the basic right for United States’ citizens who are law-abiding and will use a gun responsibly should never be abolished.

5 things the U.S could do better

  1. Respecting people with different political persuasions.—There has been so much strife in this country just because Trump was elected. Sure, he has his issues, and you don’t have to like him, but hating him or people that agree with his policies, will not solve any of our nation’s problems!  I was very saddened by a man who shot several people who were playing baseball for charity just because some of them didn’t agree with this man’s political ideas!  I see many people on Facebook and Twitter just taking jabs at people because of their political views. If we want to be united as a nation, we cannot keep doing this! Yes, there are many people who hold views that I don’t personally agree with, both politically and religiously.  That does not give me the right to personally attack them, either with my words or my actions. This, in my opinion, is no longer “freedom of speech,” it’s being a jerk!
  2. Taking care of the poor.–I know many people here in the States, both online and offline, who are struggling just to get by.  Some of you may be thinking that these people should “just get a job.” First of all, it’s not that easy! It takes an average of five or six months to get a decent job for most people, and some it can take years, and yes, they are actively looking too!  I’ve been there.  Also, some people are disabled and can’t work! Either they have severe mental problems, or they are physically unable to work.  Finally, even if the poor do get a job, how many jobs do they have to get to have a living wage, and be able to spend time with the ones that matter to them most.  Two? Three? Five? It’s so difficult these days to even find one job. let alone several! And where would even an average, able-bodied person find the time and energy to work, let’s say,  four jobs to support themselves and family, and still have time to spend adequate time and energy to spend with their loved ones outside of work? I’m not saying that an abled bodied person should just mooch off the government and not to do anything with their lives at all. I’m saying that we should do our part to take care of the poor and hurting, because it’s the right thing to do, and you never know what struggles and hurts another human being is going through. So, unless you are God or know everything about someone, try not to judge them! In fact, in several places, Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.”
  3. Loving immigrants .—Unless you are a Native American, you have no right to judge who should or shouldn’t be in this country.  Yes, it is upsetting to some people when people come here illegally and don’t pay taxes.  However, hating them and/or treating them like commodities instead of human beings with felt needs isn’t going to solve anything. I understand that a few people who have come into this country have done criminal activities or committed hateful acts of terrorism, but a.) This isn’t the majority of immigrants. Most are families coming here to better their lives because of all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. b.) There are criminals that are American-born citizens too!  So singling out immigrants as perpetrators of criminal acts is not only unfair, it is often untrue as well!
  4. Loving people who are different than us.–In the past two years, there has been much strife because some people aren’t willing to accept or love people who are different than them. For example, a few years ago, a white supremacist murdered several black Christians worshipping God, during a Bible study, in Charleston, South Carolina, just because they were black! I mean these Christians didn’t even do anything to hurt this guy, and he still shot at them!  How sad! Of course, the majority of Americans are not as mean and racist as he was, but we all would do well to look in the mirror sometimes and make sure we don’t even have a trace of hatred for people different than us! This doesn’t only include being free from racism (and not being prejudiced against other ethnicities) but also loving people regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, religious beliefs, or any other human identifier.  Loving them doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they may do or stand for, but it does mean being willing to be there for them and comfort them if another person hurts them, and it means actively trying to help them find joy and meaning in their lives.
  5. Thinking of others before ourselves.–This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership in the U.S  government.  I saw a government official on T.V enjoying the beach he closed to the public because of a lack of funds. I have several issues with this. First of all, if the beach is closed to the public, you and your family should not be enjoying it either! It’s only fair. Second of all, if you want to enjoy the beach with your family, and there are not enough funds to keep it open, a public servant should take it upon him or herself to finance it so that everyone could enjoy the beach, and not just you and your loved ones.  If you are in any position of leadership, be it in the government, or in a school or in a workplace, you should always think of others before yourself. For instance, if you are a manager, you shouldn’t just cut hours or lay off people just so you can save money for yourself or people like you.  Think of others first!

These are the five things I am immensely thankful for in this country, and five things we can improve.  What are five things you are thankful for if you live in the U.S (or if you live in another country–what are you most thankful for there?)? What things can be improved in your country? Please feel free to comment respectfully on this.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

Why We Should Strive Not To Hate People

Disclaimer: No negative or hateful comments or your comment will be deleted!  Also, “hate” here means bitter animosity or unforgiveness towards someone. It does not  mean you’re just angry or hurt by someone or someone’s actions, as in an abusive situation. Also, one can hate someone’s actions, but still not hate the person. This is a very important distinction!

What images or pictures do your mind conjure when you see or hear the word “hate”? Is it a vegetable that you despise, such as Brussel sprouts (for some people)? Does it conjure up images of the devil? A particular thing or place? Or a person that hurt you recently or in the past? If one of the images that comes up in your mind when you think of the word “hate” is  of a person or persons, I would recommend you examine yourself and/or the situation more closely.  I’m not saying that the person who you may be thinking of doesn’t deserve your hatred, but that it may be a bad idea for you to harbor hatred towards him or her. Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea to harbor hatred towards any person in your life:

  1. It hampers your relationship with other people.–I found that when people, including me, harbor hatred or deep-seated unforgiveness towards someone, every other relationship you have is seen through that hateful lens. Not only are you more likely to be less trusting of the person you hate, but also at everyone else in your life as well, even if they are not even on their side or don’t know that person that you hate! One of the most damaging things hate can do is hamper your ability to open up and be vulnerable to other people, because of the lack of trust that develops as a result of your hatred towards a particular person or persons, and the thinking that inevitably creeps up that others may be taking your enemy’s side.
  2. It isolates you.–When you hate someone, it closes you off from not only the person in question, but also from potential friends–both from their and your circles of influence. For instance, a prejudiced person who hates a certain race or ethnicity will close themselves off from ever getting to know or forming a lasting, solid friendship with a person from that race or ethnicity, or anyone who supports such a friendship. When you isolate from people, you are more susceptible to depression and loneliness.
  3. It doesn’t allow you to deal with and heal from your pain.–When you choose to harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, it hampers your ability to understand the situation or person you now hate. When you hate someone, there is a natural impulse to want to just react and/or hurt them back. What we fail to realize when we take vengeance is that it isn’t really solving the problem that created the hateful and spiteful feelings in the first place. It is just exacerbating them! What one should do instead is to deal with the angry or hateful feelings in a healthier way. One way to do that is to write a letter that you won’t send to the person you hate or with whom you are angry. You can spew out all the stuff that you have stored inside your heart in this letter. It can be as short or as long as you want. Then, when you are done, allow yourself to feel the pain and the hurt for a determined length of time (not too short, not too extensive either).  Then, after all that, you decide and tell yourself and/or God or another neutral party that you are going to forgive this person! (More on how to forgive in another post). This is not because this person “deserves” it, but so you can be free of the hateful and hurtful influence that this person has had on you, and you can move on with your life!
  4. It stunts your growth as a person.–When you choose to hate someone, what in essence you are saying to him or her, besides that you hate him or her, is that you refuse to learn from that person.  When we refuse to learn from others, we are stunting our own growth and development as a person.  For instance, if I hated a particular boss at work (Just for your information, I don’t hate any of my bosses at work.),  I would not only try to avoid them, but refuse to listen to anything they’re saying to me or try to learn anything from them, even if it were useful for me.  This is because when one is consumed with hatred, he or she is not open to counsel or any other positive contribution that the hated person may have potentially provided for him or her had he/she not hated this person. However, if we strive to love and get to know others, even the ones that are sometimes rude or unkind to us, we can still learn from them.  This does not mean that we cannot avoid people that are a real threat to our health or safety. We probably should avoid those people! However, if we distinguish between hating the person and the behavior and only hate their behavior, it will make it easier on us to be able to learn, at the very least, what not to do than if we are consumed with utter hatred. Consistently learning and growing as people by developing our character is what sets us up to be truly successful as people.  If we hate others, we severely limit that growth.

This is why hating people is so harmful to us, not just to our enemies.  We should always hate morally wrong behaviors, especially if they hurt others in the process, but we should strive never to hate another human being! No, we don’t have to like everyone and be buddy-buddy with them, but we do  have to strive to love everyone. That is, we don’t have to enjoy being with everyone, and because we are human there will be some people who rub us the wrong way, but we do have to strive to treat each person with dignity and respect that comes with being a created being.

What I Learned From My Pastor’s Sermon

For a videotaped transcript of the sermon I’m referring to (May 21st sermon) see this page: https://www.facebook.com/ibcbolingbrook/.

I had a bad day yesterday. It was really busy at work, and both the managers and associates were in really bad moods.  I was so angry at several people, and just…it wasn’t a good day.

Today, this morning at church, I came in a really sour mood and just wanted to be left by myself, yet at the same time wanted someone to confide in about yesterday, so I wouldn’t feel so alone.  Then, I heard my pastor’s sermon.

He talked about Genesis 6, where humankind had become so evil that God grieved in His heart that He had even conceived creating them! Noah and his family were the only ones that even had an inkling of gratitude and worship towards God.  My pastor talked about how hard it must have been for Noah to keep a righteous attitude towards people who were continually mocking and demeaning him, his family, and his God. My pastor also talked about God’s grace. From this sermon, here are some things I learned that I think could be applied to everyone, even if you are not a Christian, to your daily life:

1.) Don’t test anyone’s patience by continually disrespecting or mocking them, especially God.

I learned that even God’s patience has a limit. This can also be applied to people as well. A person can take only so much abuse and disrespect before they break and/or totally go ballistic against their abuser, unless a.) They find a way to stay away from their abuser or abusers. b.) They find a different way to interact with them, so the emotional pain and investment is not as great.  In the case of Genesis 6, God was very patient (waited literally years) towards the people he created. He waited for longer than most people even live now, for His creation to stop mocking and disregarding Him, and instead give Him the respect and worship He deserved. They never did, and so God got so angry at them, He sent a flood to wipe them all out. I have heard a story about how a wife who was regularly abused and degraded by her husband finally seeks revenge by shooting him to death. I have heard stories about abused children finally having enough and killing their parents for the horrific abuse they (the children) suffered at their (parents’) hands.  I’m not saying what the wife or the children did was right or OK, but that it is understandable given the circumstances.

2.) Give grace to people even though they may not deserve it.

This one really got me. My pastor told us that Noah was a righteous man who preached (read: warned) the people of his day about the impending flood, so that they would hopefully turn back from their wickedness and make things right with God and each other. However, they did not, and instead not only did not take him seriously, but (I believe) mocked and degraded him, his family, and God as well. Since it says in the Bible that Noah was a righteous man, it can be implied that he probably treated these wicked people with at least some of the grace God gave him as well.  God treated the evil people with grace too, in that He allowed them to live for a long time and enjoy some of the fruits of the land to sustain themselves.

This can be applied to our lives as well. Do you have a person in your life–maybe it is someone in your family, maybe it is someone at school or at work, maybe it is a friend who has betrayed you–with whom you have a difficult relationship? I know it may be counter -societal, but show them grace.  Show them you are not like before, or like everyone else. Everyone else may give them a difficult time (in reaction to them acting like a jerk) too, but when you show them grace it shows that you are different, that maybe they do have motivation to change and become a better person to you and everyone else around them. It may take a long time for them to realize this, but you must strive to do the right thing and not give up on them completely. (Disclaimer: If you are in a dangerous or abusive situation, you probably should give up on them –and this does NOT apply, at least until they start to change, but you still can treat them with grace if a situation comes up and you somehow encounter them.)

3. )*this is for primarily Christians*: God will always be there with you and will give you grace, even through the tough times.

My pastor broke his arms many years ago, but he says God still provided him with grace because it is through that experience, that he experienced the kindness, caring, and patience of many people that helped him.  Yes, he suffered, but a lot of good things came out of his experience, even according to my pastor himself.

Yesterday was a bad experience for me. I was upset at several people, and didn’t even really want to talk to anyone there anymore.  I thought if I talked to them more, I would have said something that I would have regretted for the rest of my life, and I would be, at the very least, disciplined. I didn’t even feel safe. However, God taught me several things: a.) He will be there with me when I go back to work tomorrow. b.) He taught me to treat the people who hurt me yesterday with more grace, even though they don’t deserve it. By the way, the very definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” c.) He taught me to forgive those who had hurt me, and just let it go. d.) He taught me to think about things, before I react.

So,  if anyone is hurting or if someone has hurt you, it is important to keep these things in mind, so that anger and hatred don’t consume you. We should also be careful not to hurt others, so that we don’t destroy our relationships with them, and if we do, that we apologize contritely, so that the relationship can possibly be salvaged.

How To Get Along With Difficult People

We all have them in our lives-People that we either don’t get along with at all, or just people that are more challenging to cope with to us.  However, sooner or later, we will be confronted with someone whom we must get along with even if it is rather difficult to do so. Using what I learned from various experiences in my life, here’s what I found are effective ways to cope with them:

  1. Don’t argue or fight with them— In my own life, I had several people who just refused to see “my side of things,” and I just tried to argue them to my side–of course to no avail! I also found the more we argued about things, the angrier I felt, and the more hopeless I felt that they’d ever be reconciled to me, or I to them. However, I found that trying to find a compromise with them, or even just letting them have their way sometimes works to avoid tense arguments with people.  For instance, if we wanted to order food for a party, and they wanted to order ice cream  for everyone, and I wanted pizza instead.-instead of me trying to argue that we should order pizza, I would just either let them order ice cream since most people would probably like either anyway, or we order half pizza and half ice cream. That way, everyone gets what they wanted. I get my pizza, and he or she gets their ice cream.
  2. Find their “Light.”–This idea originated with Rachel Scott, one of my faith heroes, in her essay “My Codes, My Ethics,” which can be found here. It basically means to find something admirable about them, other than their outer appearance. For instance, a person that I had trouble getting along with before can be a really hard worker. Additionally, this person is often very flexible. However, I would never have found that out or considered this had I only focused on all their negative personality traits! After finding their positive trait or traits (i.e.. their Light), I would try to cultivate that positive trait by encouraging them in it. For instance, I would say to that aforementioned person, “I find it really encouraging that you worked really diligently on  project today. I think it will turn out wonderfully! ” Be specific in your praise or encouragement. Name specific instances in which the person cultivate that trait. Also, be genuine and heart felt about your praise. People know whether you are being “fake” in your praise or if you genuinely mean it.
  3. Try to understand them and their point of view–If the difficult person has hurt you, try to understand their motivation behind it. It’s usually not completely malicious. Were they having a bad day? Do you rub them the wrong way? Are they going through or have they gone through something stressful or traumatic recently or in their recent past? Are they just plain evil or malicious? In order to understand their motivation, you need to attempt to cultivate some type of communication with them. You may just need to be honest and ask them, “Why aren’t we getting along?” or even “Why do you feel the need to hurt me by doing “X”?” and name specific instances where they have hurt you. Then, you will be able to find out their motivation. If they are just evil, then stay far away from them until they come to their senses and repent, but this is often rarely the case. If they are going through something stressful or traumatic, try to encourage or comfort them through it. Be there to offer them any moral support they may want or need. Did you contribute in any way to their hurting you? For instance, did you display a snarky attitude and as a result they shot back nasty words towards you (not right on their part, but understandable), apologize and make amends. I must note, that yes all and any of these situations are not excuses for anyone to hurt us, and get away from an abuser if you are able to, but trying to understand their motivation may make it easier to be at peace with them and be able to forgive them.
  4. If they come to their senses or repent, forgive them–This is easier said than done. We don’t forgive for them, or because they “deserve” it. No one deserves our forgiveness, and we don’t deserve anyone else’s either. Forgiveness is an act of grace one offers to another.  We forgive to rid ourselves of the anger, bitterness, and resentment in our souls that eats us up and threatens to destroy our other relationships or at least make them less fulfilling to us.  Also, forgiveness does not mean that the person responsible for hurting us does not need to face consequences for their actions. You are absolutely allowed (and it would be wise) to set boundaries and, if applicable, reparations be made for you and the other people affected that they hurt.
  5. If you are religious, pray for them.–I am a Christian, and one of my friends at church told me to pray for a person with whom I had problems, and to my surprise, prayer helped! My friend told me that I had to pray good things for them, and nothing bad or snarky. So, I did. I would also encourage people to thank God for specific qualities of that difficult person that are admirable. This goes back to 2.)–finding qualities of that person that are admirable or positive. Also, pray to God for the difficult person’s heart to be softened.  Praying like this changed my attitude towards them. The attitude I have towards this person now compared to before I prayed for them is nothing short of miraculous! I believe God works in mysterious and amazing ways, so we can be at peace with everyone  (or at least almost everyone).

We all have difficult people that we must cope with in our lives, whether it be people in our families, people at work or school, or in other places. In order to be successful in society, we must learn to effectively work or cope with them.  I hope these tips will help us to cope better in these challenging situations.  May we be a Light shining in the darkness, and be able to cope effectively with these difficult people, and maybe even befriend them!