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

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

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.

The Truth–a poem

So, yesterday was a really tough day for me personally, and I won’t get into why. However, I learned a lot that day. Here is a poem about an unnamed subject dealing with truth:
The Truth
In the past, you had hurt me
Though unintentional, I had hurt you
Because I didn’t know what was true
I didn’t really know you

But in time, I realized I was wrong about you
Many people distorted was what true
And I couldn’t see the light—the light in your eyes
No matter how hard I tried

But God revealed to me the truth
The truth about you
And the beauty inside your heart
And what is really true about you

I’ll Never Give Up On You- A poem

I know I usually do essays, but this time I want to do a poem about what God has been teaching me about how to love others, particularly the unnamed subject in this poem.

I’ll Never Give Up On You

You may treat me bad.
You may make me sad.
You may treat me like gold
Precious in your sight

You may have tough days
And you may get yelled at
Or for all your hard work
You may get a raise

But no matter what you go through
Or whatever you may do
I will never give up on you
I will never be done with you

Not just because I have to
Not to earn some coveted prize
But because I care
And I want you to know… God loves you

My Day with God: Lessons I Learned

If you are a Christian, I would wholeheartedly recommend spending an extended time—anywhere from a half a day to a whole day with God–in serious, focused worship, at least every several months, so your spirit will be renewed and rejuvenated.   This can mean singing along with praise/worship songs and/or hymns, digging deeper into His Word, praying and meditating on His Word.  I had tried to spend an extended time before with little result. Yesterday, however, was different. It’s like God opened the floodgates of His power and His teachings into my life in a more resounding way than I only had experienced on retreats with groups of people and never in my personal time with God! Here are some of the many things I learned:

1.) Don’t fight with people–fight the Enemy: In a book I read ( Fervent  by Priscilla Shirer. You can buy it at this link: Fervent), I learned that when we have strife, anger, or resentment against another person, especially after an argument or fight with them, we are catering to the Enemy–the devil.  People are not the Enemy. The devil is.  Yes, it’s natural to have anger towards another person sometimes, and everyone has, even Christians–even me! However, what I learned is not to let that anger control you or worsen your relationships. If more people realized and believed that a sinister being and evil spirits are behind most of our quarrels with others, then I believe more people would be apt to turn to God in prayer and have mercy towards the person who had offended them.

2.) Forgive as you have been forgiven: This one was actually review for me,  but I needed this refresher, and I bet many people reading this may need it too.  There are many misconceptions out there about forgiveness, which is part of the reason I think it’s so difficult for many people to actually forgive biblically! First of all, when you forgive, it’s not giving a free pass to the offender. The offender still needs to make reparations and repent in order to actually receive it for him or herself.  He or she also can face judgment for the offense if it is very serious. The very act of you having to forgive them means that the offender actually did something that you think was wrong and sinful! Also, forgiving one who offended you, is actually for you more than it is for them. It helps you be free of the tormenting memories of hurt and anger that flash through your mind every time you think of or interact with them and of poisoning your other relationships (which, in fact, does happen. Trust me. I’ve witnessed it and experienced it myself when I struggled with unforgiveness.) with your carried-over anger and resentment of the original offender.

3.) Do all things without grumbling or complaining….and with that: Be a voice of encouragement, rather than a voice of complaining or gossiping. – This is by far the toughest for me, because, in my fleshly state, I grumble and complain too much for my own good.  I found that when I complain about someone or something, I not only tend to get angrier and angrier, I also get somewhat depressed and discouraged. I think this is no accident—The devil had already planted seeds of discontentment in my heart, causing me to get emotionally down and discouraged, instead of  being grateful and joyful. However, when I intentionally aim to encourage another person or stop myself from complaining about someone, I tend to feel better about myself and my circumstances. Sometimes, if I am in a bad situation and I try to not grumble and complain about it, it passes without incident. I remember today, I was particularly angry with someone and wanted to complain to a manager about this person, but found that a.) I didn’t have time for that. and b.) It was no longer important to me to complain about them.  Also, in the past when I felt overwhelmed by the work assigned me at my job, I used to constantly complain that it was too much. After my time with God yesterday, I knew the work was going to be a lot and I didn’t really have even enough time to complete everything I wanted to get done, but I was able to get a lot done and not be overly upset about it.

4.) Have more sṓphrōn, which means self-control, of a sound mind. -I learned that I need to control my anger better and have more self-control about certain things I won’t get into now.  I learned that all self-control really starts in the mind. I also learned from various sources that if I wanted to have more self-control and be biblical, that I should read and memorize His Word more. I also learned that a key element of self-control is patience. I learned that having patience and self-control accomplish several things: a.) They prevent you from disaster–either physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. b.) It helps you delay gratification, so you can receive the better or best thing because you were able to wait for it. c.) It helps you be a more grateful person in that you learn to cope the best you can in the situation you are in without yearning too much for the thing which you are waiting.

These are the four major things I learned, and hopefully start to apply to my life.  I hope you, the reader, also can take away something from these lessons and apply them to your own life.  God has taught me so much in my life. I can’t wait for all He has in store for me- for all of us!

On agape love

There are at least three different kinds of love in the Konoia Greek (i.e Biblical Greek) language:

phileo- Means a love based on a mutual affection for the other, a friendship, basically

(source: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G5368)

eros- Means a romantic kind of love, based on physical affection and attraction for another

agape (or agapaō)-  Means a deep-rooted love, not based only on merit or affection, but more of an unconditional, merciful kind of love

While phileo and especially eros  type of love is everywhere, agape love is sorely lacking in most societies in this day and age.  Agape love is God’s love as I have shared in an earlier post. It is the love of Jesus when He washed His disciples feet, even though they were all going to leave and betray Him, and even though He would suffer much anguish because of them and all the rest of humanity! It is the love of God when He spares His people from harm, even when they have sinned against Him again and again on purpose.

There are many hurting people in this world today; even we hurt sometimes. I spoke with several people today who were hurting or stressed. Sadly, most of them felt like that only a few people even cared about their hurt.  Sometimes, other people take advantage of their hurt and exploit them to their own ends. How sad in both scenarios indeed!  What is needed is true, constant, agape love. 

How to demonstrate agape-type love to a hurting world: 

1.) Invest in other people: Sure there are times to attend to our own needs, but we need to make more of a concerted effort to reach out to others, especially those who are hurting. We can do this by volunteering to help people in need, being kind and gracious,  giving a listening ear, or simply by passionate, specific prayer for people in our lives that are hurting or need prayer.

2.) Never give up on people.: In my personal life, there have been some people that have “rubbed me the wrong way,” but I never want to give up on loving them as Christ would, because I wouldn’t want to be given up on by God or them either, when I am in need.  Of course, there are times when we may need to “give up” certain people, such as if they are becoming unrepentantly abusive or are physically endangering us in some way.  However, we still can pray and/or hope they return to their senses.  Also, when we are kind even to those who are not kind back, we are “heaping burning coals on their heads,” so to speak. That is, at least in my experience, they will either a.) accumulate judgment for themselves in eternity if they continue to be mean to us OR b.) They will start to feel guilty about treating us badly, and start to be kinder to us in the future.

3.) Forgive, forgive, forgive- Along with #2, we need to be able and willing to forgive those who have hurt us in the past, not only to show God’s love to them, but also to free us of bitterness, anger and resentment against them. Unforgiveness robs us of joy and peace, and it also poisons our other relationships, because we often displace our anger unto other innocent people without realizing it.  It robs us of joy and peace, because, at least in my experience, we (I) tend to brood over how the other person or persons hurt me and how much I’m now suffering because of that person or persons.  That often leads to self-pity and depression.

4.) Listen and be compassionate.- We, as a society, need to do a better job of listening to people. One of my former pastors said that a lot of people in this world today just want to be heard. The problem is they feel that no one’s listening.  What a sad indictment!  To help you listen, ask questions about what the person is talking about. Affirm the other person’s feelings always. Never dismiss another person’s beliefs or feelings as irrelevant.  For instance, if a person vents to you about a problem with one of their relationships, instead of blaming them for that problem or saying something like, “You think you got it bad, let me tell you about….”, tell them, ” I am sorry you are having problems with person “X”. Is there anything I can do to help support you in this difficult time?”  Also, don’t offer unsolicited advice. Just being there and listening is good enough for most people.

 

Agape love is what I strive for in all my relationships with people, and what I believe God wants for all of us.  We all need to strive for this kind of love too, if we want that kind of love in return.  I understand that our hurt and sometimes lack of trust for others, especially towards those who have hurt us, may make this more difficult, but with God’s help, this is not impossible. For those who I haven’t loved this way, I am very sorry, and I will strive to do better by you in the future.  For those that need this type of love, please know that there are people out there who do care about you.  They may be difficult to find, but trust me they are out there.  For the rest of us who know and experience this love on a daily basis, either or both by God and others, I have this question for you: Who can you agape love today?

How to be a Friend to Sinners

DISCLAIMER: This post is based on the ideas contained in the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. Please no religious/Christian debates or demeaning others or me, or your comment(s) will be deleted.  Otherwise, ALL positive comments always allowed and happy reading. Also, this post is directed primarily for those who identify as Christians, but I think anyone can identify with at least some part of this post.  Here is the LYRIC video to the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns:

 

We are all sinners (i.e..morally corrupt or imperfect). To say otherwise, is to not face reality and the fact that no one (except Jesus) is perfect.  However, when we judge the wounded and even the sinful by relishing in their condemnation and judgment by God, we are doing a disservice not only to them, but to our testimony of the gospel message as well. Many people who don’t go to church have told me in so many words that they feel that they need to “clean up their act,” so to speak, not to be right with God, but to even feel loved and accepted as a fellow image-of-God bearer at a church! How sad!  The church should be a hospital for the broken, not a prison where we point fingers and try to hide our imperfections because of fear of judgment or reprisal!

From what I have learned in my life, here is how I’ve found are the most effective ways to relate to people (i.e..sinners) both Christian and non-Christian, particularly those who are struggling…..

1.) Make every effort to make people feel loved and accepted by you.—This does not mean never judge someone’s actions, especially if they are living in a sinful way and profess to be a Christian. However, this does mean being a light in a dark world. It does mean to help a person see that despite any of their sinful habits or choices, that God can and will always forgive a repentant heart, and that you will always love them. No matter what.  It also does mean to never judge a person’s heart or intent, especially if you aren’t 100% sure what it is. Leave that judging to God.  This also means seeking out the best in them, and helping cultivate those qualities. It means investing in their lives.

2.) Live a Christ-centered life– Make sure that if you are a Christian, your life reflects Christ. Repent of anything that is not Christlike in your life, and offer to make amends for your sins.  Have integrity—-This means not only being honest in all of your dealings, but also being forthcoming about your shortcomings and failures as a person.  This means striving to be honest even if it costs you something.  If you are married or dating, be faithful to your partner or spouse.  Make sure you are making a commitment to be regularly spending time with God in His Word and prayer. Make sure you are committed to a community of believers that can help you through your journey of faith.

3.) Realize how merciful God has been to you, and impart the same to others.–When we realize how much grace and blessings we get from God that we don’t deserve, we find it easier to impart the same to others. Out of an overflowing and grateful heart, we want to give the same mercy He gave us to others. This means not only forgiving someone who has hurt you, but extending some measure of grace to someone who has fallen into sin or shame.  This does not mean we tolerate the sin or continue allowing the sin to take control of their lives. However, this does mean gently pointing them back to Christ and helping them to repent of their sin.  One way someone can help another not repeat a sin and/or be repentant of it is to help them come to a realization that they don’t need the sinful habit/attitude/ behavior to make them fulfilled or happy. For instance, if someone is an alcoholic because they are still mourning a breakup of a marriage or a dating relationship, you can help the person by showing them how much Jesus Christ loves them and wants the best for them.  You can do this by first encouraging them to give up drinking and go to AA meetings and/or get treatment for this problem, but you can also additionally help them by showing bible verses on how much God loves everyone and how He (God) would make them feel joyful and fulfilled in ways the partner or spouse couldn’t and can’t.

4.) Realize you are no better than anyone else, even if you are a Christian.—This is because it is only in Christ that we have ANY righteousness at all! Be humble. This means not only being honest with your shortcomings, but also aiming always to reflect more and more of Christ. Remember that you yourself were once also lost and an outcast, and know how that felt like to you. If a Christian forgets where he or she came from before he or she met Christ, he or she will tend to be more self-righteous and less discerning of his or her OWN sins.

5) Find common ground- Instead of just telling someone how they are different or are “diverting”  from Christianity, see if you can find something you can both agree on. See if you can even find some common interests in common. That will not only create a bond between you and the other person, but it will also help you to see things from a different perspective (though you don’t have to necessarily agree with it) and help you to be less judgmental of them.

I hope this will help you in helping others feel loved and cared about by you, and to anyone who has been hurt by the church, another Christian, and/or me, I am deeply sorry and I hope you will give us another chance.

Forgiveness

What it isn’t: Before we understand what forgiveness is, we must first understand what it isn’t, since there are many misconceptions about what it actually is:

Forgiveness is NOT excusing: -It is not saying what the offender did to you (or someone you care about) is OK. The very act of forgiveness necessitates that a wrong was done and has to be “paid for” by someone. But it does not require reconciliation or trusting the offender again. These things, at least in my estimation, must be earned.

Forgiveness is NOT forgetting: We can forgive someone, but not forget what they did to us. In fact, if a deep wrong has been committed against you or someone you care about, how can you not forget?

Forgiveness is NOT a feeling:  We don’t have to wait till we feel like forgiving to forgive. It is an act of the will, and cannot be forced upon by anyone. That is, you cannot force someone else to forgive!  It has to be initiated by the one being offended him/her self. But if we wait until we completely feel like forgiving, we will probably never reach the point where we will truly forgive, and be more likely angrier and more bitter than ever! I also believe that forgiveness is an act of obedience to God, and it’s something you do both for you and for God.

What forgiveness is:

It is letting go: You can’t forgive someone and be bitter and angry at them at the same time.

It is choosing not to hold hurt and anger against the offender anymore: It is choosing to let God mete out justice against the offender, and not you.You are willing to pray for them and/or wish good things for them and their life. It is an act of trust on your part to God. You are trusting God to help the offender repent and make amends for the wrong done to you in whatever way or manner He deems right and necessary, not a mite more or less.

It is choosing to not hold yourself prisoner to the hatred and anger that you are entitled to for a wrong committed against you: Often when we refuse to forgive someone it is because we want to punish the offender for what they did to us and not let them off easily. However, when we don’t forgive, we let anger, hatred, and bitterness reside in our hearts, negatively affecting us and our relationships, not theirs.

It is an act of grace: When we choose to forgive, we are most like God. I believe this is so because it says in Romans 5:8: When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God gave up His son (I believe) for those who don’t even acknowledge Him or who hate(d) Him! If you are a Christian today, and God did that for you, who are we not to extend that same grace to someone else?

 

Story behind this post:

I had anger and bitterness in my heart for someone recently, and these feelings weren’t doing anyone any good, especially for my relationships with God and others who didn’t really offend me. I wanted to spend time with God, but was not able to spend much quality time because of this sin (i.e…moral wrongdoing) in my heart. So, I asked a friend of mine for advice. She helped me understand what forgiveness is better and reminded me of how much Jesus forgave me for my sins. Then, I went to church and learned more about forgiveness and worship there. It is then that I decided, with the help of many praying friends (you know who you are), to forgive this person.  I started praying for this person blessings upon their life. I sent them an encouraging note. And I realized that when I did these things that a.) The person wasn’t as bad as I had made them out to be. b.) That I was so much happier and freer to love others, because this weight of bitterness and anger was lifted off me. So, if this person ever reads this (you know who you are), I forgive you and I hope you will forgive me too for holding anger and bitterness in my heart towards you.