Worth The Fight

It was a cold, wintry February day, right after my birthday when I got interviewed for my current job. I sensed in my spirit to ask about the status of my resume. I honestly did not think anything would happen, but when the HR coordinator told me to come back for an interview, a couple hours later, I knew there was hope.

Since I didn’t have time to go home, I couldn’t adequately plan for the interview. When I came back to my current workplace, another interviewee, Anastasia * was already there, and we made some small talk, as we waited to be interviewed.  Anastasia was interviewed first, and after she came out, I was interviewed. The interviewer, I found out later, was also going to be my manager, Chris*! I was very nervous during the interview. All Chris asked me was, “How did you go above and beyond for a customer.” Nervously stuttering, I answered how I made sure the customer’s questions were answered, and how I would pray for them if they wanted me to.

I didn’t think I was going to get the job because I was so nervous, but to my surprise. Anastasia and I both got job offers! Anastasia accepted immediately, but I waited until the next day to accept after seeking counsel from my family.

During orientation, Chris kindly sat down with me to give me my schedule for the next couple weeks. It was many more hours than I got at my previous job. The only time I had ever worked that much, was during the Christmas season! I was very pleased. But then Chris went on vacation for two weeks, and everything changed….

Because I didn’t take the time to get to know Chris as a manager or a person initially, we had many conflicts. There was always a period where things were good again, but then there would be more conflict, that grew more intense, as time went on. This cycle repeated itself for one and a half years! During the worst of the conflicts, I flirted with the idea of switching departments or even quitting my job! However, God, in His sovereignty, didn’t allow me to follow through on these options

When the conflicts got really bad, I had also tried avoiding Chris completely, as I had dreaded seeing him every day, but that only lasted a few days. However, I knew I had a serious problem when, on my day off from work, I came to church still very upset about the situation with Chris. I was not only dreading possibly having to see him again the next day at work, but I also became consumed with thoughts of how much he had hurt me and so on. The bitterness and anger inside my heart, at the time, was like a whale about to consume its food whole!

I saw my pastor, John, and immediately sensed that I had to seek counsel about my situation with Chris, because I was afraid if I didn’t get help soon, I would eventually blow up at Chris, get myself disciplined and even lose my job!

I related these concerns to my pastor, John*. I also told him, “I tried to be nice to my manager, but I don’t think anything is happening.”  In retrospect, I wasn’t even really working hard in being that nice to Chris.  That is when Pastor John told me to turn to Romans 12:12-20, and Matthew 5:44-48.  The particular verse, Romans 12:20, struck me. It said, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

Then, Pastor John said, “How do you know God is not working in Chris? Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing.  God may not bring about the changes now, but how do you know he won’t make the changes later, in His own perfect timing.”   The verses in Matthew 5:44-48, about loving your enemy, and Romans 12:15-20, about serving someone who you view to be the enemy, as to soften him or her, and what Pastor John said about God’s timing, made all the difference. I had renewed hope that things could change for the better between Chris and me. And it did!

That night, I sensed God telling me that I should apologize to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had against him, so I typed up an apology note to Chris for the anger and bitterness I had held. The next day, I wanted to give it to Chris but the department manager ended up doing it for me since another manager wanted me to straighten some aisles in the store right that second! After my break, I caught Chris doing freight, and asked him if he had read the note. He said he had. There, we worked things out, and that day, things really started to become better.

After that next day, I felt so much better and so hopeful that things would get better for us.  The barrier and slime of hatred and bitterness that I had for Chris melted away within days, if not hours, of me talking to Pastor John.  I started to be able to look at Chris with eyes of love and compassion, and not the revulsion and disgust that I had earlier.

However, several months later, Chris was moved to a different area of the store altogether. I would no longer have the opportunity to show the love and respect to him in the same capacity I did when things were tough between us.  I was sad, but now I know having Elizabeth* come on as my new manager was part of God’s good plan for me. 

Several weeks after that, Chris switched areas again to cover for someone else, who worked nights.  However, since Chris did such a good job covering for this other manager, the store manager kept him in that position for almost a year.

One wintry day in February of last year, I wanted to work overnight for Chris because many people had called in, due to a severe blizzard ensuing outside. I felt really bad for him that he had to do all of this work with only a few people to help him. However, when Chris realized that I lived more than a few minutes from work and I had already worked since two in the afternoon, he told me that working overnight that day for him wouldn’t be a good idea. He, in essence, said “I care about my associates. I would rather have you safely home, than to worry about getting all this work done.” That care he had for me contributed to me being physically safe that day.  I listened to him and went on my way, at a decent time.  The next day, the storm was so bad that I called in.  Had he not cared about my safety and just let me work for him, I don’t think I would be alive today.

After that, Chris and I got along much better.

Then, a few months ago, Elizabeth told me she had accepted another opportunity at another company. I cried, as I never thought she would leave that soon, and besides that, I considered her one of the best managers I have ever had!  I was also anxious because I didn’t know who would replace her or what would happen to our department.

Some people who know me well may think to themselves why I didn’t just quit when I felt Chris was hurting me, because when most people feel as hurt as I was, they will make sure that they never have to face that person again. They won’t take time to think about how they may have contributed to the conflict, or even think that things could ever be redeemed between them and the person who they have harbored anger and bitterness against. I confess that though I had prayed for one and a half years for things to be improved between Chris and me and for God to take away my anger and bitterness away from me, I never really thought anything would happen. God, however, in His grace,proved me wrong.

What people don’t understand is how the power of forgiveness and redemption changes you and allows you to see the light in someone you may have once hated. Upon seeing the light, you know you can never give up on that person again. You start to see beauty in that person, and the anger and revulsion will start melting away. That is how I saw Chris was worth the fight.

Epilogue: Chris is no longer with my company, but I will always remember him as someone who always worked hard and believed in me and my potential. I will never forget him. I wish him years of joy and success in wherever he ends up next in his life.

*= names changed for privacy reasons.

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Lessons I’m Learning About Contentment

I’m not going to lie. Being content is still a struggle for me, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I am more content now than I was even five years ago. Over the past couple years or so, I have learned many things about how to be content and why for many people, contentment with life seems to elude them. 

In this New Year, contentment can be a reality for you. It can be an even greater reality for me. In general, from what I have read, heard, and learned, these are some of the major factors in cultivating contentment in one’s life:

  1. Live with purpose.—I had always had this lingering question in my mind about work: Why do most people hate or dislike their jobs and have no passion in what they do for a living? When I observed people and the general trends from the world around me, I found the answer.  Basically, for a lot of people, their attitude towards work and much of their other parts of their lives, too, is “I’ll do what I can to survive another day.”  While that can motivate some to not give up, I believe we need to live with greater purpose than just survival if we are to be truly content. I recommend that to find your life purpose (if you haven’t already), you think about what your passions are in life, and what God-given abilities you have, and see how they can fit together. For instance, one of my passions in my life is to see people know and experience the joy and love of Christ in their lives.  God has given me the ability to articulate myself well through writing (though I am much less gifted in speaking!). Therefore, I have chosen to write a blog about lessons I’m learning about God’s love and joy in my life, and how others can cultivate the same. Though my day job does not involve writing at all, I can still be content in my job, because my passion to see people experience the love and joy of Christ is still being realized through the opportunities I get to interact with people on a daily basis.
  2. Live in forgiveness.—I used to hold grudges against certain people for years, and then wonder why I wasn’t content with my life. It was like there was something always holding me back from experiencing true joy.  Once, I held anger and resentment against someone that was so bad that I started experiencing PTSD-like symptoms and a real dread of ever seeing them again.  However, when I finally forgave them and let my anger go, I felt an enormous weight lifted off me. I was finally able to live in love and freedom from the bitterness that held me captive for so long! Some people think if they forgive someone, they are letting them off the hook, so to speak, or excusing the offender’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth! The very fact of having to forgive someone necessitates that they did something wrong or sinful to hurt you.  Also, like so many others who have struggled to forgive someone, I used to think that the longer I held a grudge, the longer I would make the offender “suffer” for what they did to me and feel the isolation and pain of my hurt. Then, I realized that the offender often either does not know what they did to hurt you or to what degree, or if they do, they don’t care at all.  I realized that holding a grudge only makes you and the people around you that have nothing to do with what the offender did suffer. Let. It. go.  By holding a grudge, you are continuing to let the offender hurt you. Get out of your offender’s prison! Forgive them—for your sake, not theirs!
  3. Live with gratitude.—I believe that one of the biggest barriers to contentment is a complaining spirit.  Often the people who complain the most are also the most depressed. This has little to do with the person’s circumstances, and more to do with the person’s attitude towards them.  For instance, I know several people from my church who have had to struggle through cancer. Even though a lot of them had some trying times just battling the disease and having to go through strenuous treatments to combat it, they remained in good spirits because they focused on God and the good that was still in their lives. When I looked back on the good in my life and the blessings that God has given me, I find that I am much more satisfied with my life than when I focus on the negatives.  One thing that I find helpful is to start a list of some of the blessings in your life.  I keep mine in a notebook that I update occasionally throughout the year.  I started it about 10 years ago, and it has over 100 ways that God has blessed me throughout that time!

These are the three main lessons that I am learning about contentment. Though practicing these things is not always easily, and we may fail to live these at times, never give up.  The more purpose, forgiveness, and gratitude are implemented in our lives, the more content we will be with our lives. Try living these, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia

What Rejection Has Taught Me

When I was just two years old, I had already experienced my first battle with rejection.  I was a very active and naughty child, and so the daycare I was in didn’t want me.  Growing up, I struggled to make and keep close friends.  I felt some people, even adults,  tried to change me into a person who I was never meant to be.  Thus, I have struggled with a gnawing sense of insecurity and fear of being unloved almost my whole life.  Despite all this, I would change very little about my life.  Rejection, especially in my past, has taught me some crucial life lessons that have shaped the person I am able to be today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Rejection has taught me to persevere.—I know many people would want to give up after being rejected so many times, but for me, it has built my tenacity.  I didn’t want to be stuck and miserable, wallowing over how many people didn’t accept me as a person.  For instance, before I got my current job, I had wanted to work at a bookstore. I was ecstatic when I finally got an interview at a location where they were opening a new bookstore.  However, when I got interviewed, I was not only too nervous to be really effective in articulating myself, but I also quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit for the job.  I never got a call back from them.  Yes, I was crushed, but that experience also taught me that there must be a better fit out there for me.  A week or two later, I wanted to check on the status of my resume at my now-current job.  That is when the HR scheduled an interview for me for 1 pm. I went there, not really expecting anything to come out of it, but my whole outlook changed when I got a job offer, and I accepted a day later.  I have learned so much from my current job that I would never have learned if I had been accepted at the bookstore.  Rejection has taught me to try different experiences and things until I found what was right for me.  When I struggled to find a job in my career field, I volunteered first.  Then, through many tries and stops, I finally found a job that was a good fit for me.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it.
  2. Rejection has taught me to forgive.—This has been the toughest lesson that I have been learning and have had to learn.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I used to be very bitter and angry at the people that rejected me. I felt that if I was physically dying, for instance, they would just abandon and not help me.  However, even from their rejection, they have actually contributed to me being a better person in a way.  I have learned not to judge some of them as harshly as I did, because of the pain I may have put them through and also because of their own personal pain that had little or nothing to do with me.  Also, I see Jesus Christ’s example of how He was able to persevere through rejection by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as He hung on the cross to die.  I also want to follow Jesus’ example, not only because I am a Christian, but also for my own healing from the rejection.
  3. Rejection has taught me to value others more.—This has been one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from being rejected.  I know the pain and hurt that I have experienced because of some people unfairly rejecting me, and I never want anyone else to have to experience that with me.  That is why when my co-workers and friends feel unappreciated, unloved, or having a bad day, I strive to be encouraging to them and have them see the value that still resides in them.  When I was relating a poem that I wrote referring to my experiences with being rejected in the past, someone said to me, “Do you know that many people here love you?” I said that I did. Furthermore, because of my experiences with past rejection, I actually value the people in my life that love and support me more than I would have if I had never been rejected in my life!  I have learned that people should always be loved and cherished for who they are, and not to be molded in the image of whom you want them to be. 

Despite the pain and hurt of being rejected, good still has come out of these negative experiences. I still hate being rejected, but instead of wallowing in anger and bitterness as in the past, I will strive to take these and other rejection experiences as life lessons to persevere, forgive, and value others who do accept and support me, more.

Restoring Broken Relationships

There has been so much turmoil, hatred, and division in this world.  People are being torn apart—both physically and emotionally by these wars waged against one another.  Maybe you are in the midst of a relationship today that has been torn apart by the spirit of deception, abuse, anger, and/or betrayal.  Maybe there is a family member who has deeply hurt you, or maybe it is a co-worker or classmate who has bullied or hurt you in some other way.  Whoever has hurt you in life, whoever you may have hurt, and whatever may have caused the rift in one or more of your relationships, there is always hope for restoration if both parties are willing to do the hard work of repairing them.  Here are some of the essential ingredients that must be present in order to have a true restoration in a relationship with another person:

  1. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must apologize for their part in the rift and/or forgive the other person for past hurts done to him or her. –A relationship cannot be restored if one or both parties still have bitterness and anger against the other.  Moreover, not only does holding grudges and being bitter prevent relationships from being restored, they destroy one’s other relationships as well because there is a barrier to transparency that develops with bitterness. Also, the party that wronged must sincerely apologize for his or her offense, in not only words, but also by changing their actions and/or making amends.   They must aim to seek restitution and restoration with the other party that they wronged, and not have an entitlement expectation that the offended party will do something for them in return.
  2. In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must demonstrate humility to the other.—Being humble means not lording the hurt that caused the relationship to break apart over the person that offended you.  Being humble also means owning your part in the rift, even if it is just your response to the person that hurt you.  Yes, it probably wasn’t your fault that your offender hurt you, but your response is.  As my pastor has repeatedly said, “Your response is your responsibility.”  Don’t lay blame on the other party for the rift, even if it was primarily their fault.  Placing blame never restores relationships, but forgiveness and humility do. 
  3. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must forsake selfishness.—If we still are thinking, what will I get out of restoring this relationship, you are not ready for restoration.  We must do not only what is best for us, but for all parties involved.  We must do what we can to uplift and encourage the person in the relationship.  In fact, when I was having a conflict with someone, one of my pastors said exactly this. In other words, we are to love those we consider our enemies, or those with whom we find ourselves in conflict. This means not only saying nice things about them, as opposed to  mean and nasty things, but it also means a willingness to help and support the person with whom we had a rift.  When we show that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, most people are willing to open up to us again.  I am not saying for us to let ourselves be taken advantage of consistently for others’ selfish pleasures. In that case, we may need to set some boundaries.  However, we must be willing to serve them in ways that truly will be beneficial to their emotional and spiritual well-being.
  4. In order for a relationship to be restored, we must be patient.—We must remember that complete change and restoration does not usually occur immediately, but over time.  We must be willing to wait for the relational trust and love that we had before the rift happened to be rebuilt.  Even if it takes a really long time, we must not give up on the relationship if we want it to be restored.  We must be willing to work hard at restoring and renewing our relationship for the better.

When we incorporate these four elements into restoring our broken relationships, with time, most of them can be restored.  Though it does take both parties for a relationship to be truly and fully restored, we must strive to do our part to be agents of reconciliation, especially with people who we interact with regularly. Yes, there are relationships that may not be able to fully be restored because of abuse or other things, but we must not let those broken relationships rule how we conduct our other relationships. However, when we are agents of reconciliation and restoration, we will make the world a better place.

Healing From Abuse and Bullying

I am a survivor of bullying and emotional abuse.  I was bullied primarily from third grade until my freshman year of high school.  Then, later, I was emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher, who thankfully is no longer teaching at my alma mater.  So, if you have ever experienced abuse or bullying, you are not alone.  I get so upset when I hear or see someone abusing or bullying someone else, because I know the healing process is often long and painful.  However, if you are a survivor of these traumas, know that healing and joy in your life IS possible.  Here is what I learned about healing from the effects of abuse and bullying:

  1. Be nice to yourself.—When I was being bullied, I struggled with thinking (and still do) anything good about myself. I questioned my worth as a person, and I thought of myself as lower than an animal sometimes! (All lies , by the way!).  Often when one is being bullied or abused, the perpetrator instills in their victim a feeling of powerlessness and worthlessness.  Unfortunately, even after the abuse is over, the survivor still can very much struggle with this low sense of self-worth. That is why it is important for survivors to have or seek out genuine people in their lives who can restore in them a sense of confidence and the reality of their intrinsic worth.  Also, try to do things on occasion that you genuinely enjoy or help you relax.  Tell yourself positive things, not negative criticism all the time. 
  2. Set good boundaries.—Part of setting good boundaries is learning how to say “no.”  When I would attempt to set boundaries or express my displeasure at the bad things that my perpetrators were doing to me, they would either get upset or disregard what I had to say.  This increased my anxiety and my bondage to their bullying tactics. When I discussed with one of my managers (and mentor) about this, she told me not to care about if the perpetrators get upset or not.  I think this is very wise advice, because, as she told me also, the people that get upset at you when you try to set boundaries or disregard them are not your real friends anyway.  Being apathetic (in a good way) to people who disregard your reasonable boundaries  by not being bothered if they are upset at you  will also help you find new people who do respect your boundaries and you as a person.
  3. Don’t let your perpetrators diminish your love for others.—For years after I was bullied, I struggled with forgiving almost anyone who hurt me emotionally or verbally. I would hold grudges for years! Don’t let this happen to you! When I let my former perpetrators make me a bitter and angry person, I realized that I was giving even more power to them.  Finally, in the past five years, I was able to let many of these grudges go. Thus, I was able to love more freely and more powerfully than I ever did before.  When you refuse to forgive your perpetrator or perpetrators, they have more power over you to make you an angry and bitter person. You may think they are getting the “justice” they deserve by holding a grudge against them, but I have realized that the person who it really hurts the most is you!  The perpetrator often does not care how you feel about them, and will not care if the relationship is damaged or not. Moreover, when you hold a grudge, your relationships with others will be stunted too, because you may not trust that these people are really “on your side.” Barriers to trust stunt the relationship because it inhibits our ability to be vulnerable with others. Forgiving a perpetrator does not mean you still can’t pursue justice or the legal system, if they have committed a crime against you. Furthermore, you still can request amends be made.  Also, you don’t ever have to reconcile or see them again! However, forgiving the perpetrator means you are releasing the need for vengeance against them to the powers that be.  This frees you from thinking about them or being chained by your anger and bitterness to them.  It also frees you to be able to bond with your loved ones and friends more deeply than you were able to before.
  4. Get some counseling.—Whether it be counseling from your religious leader or a therapist, it is best to be able to have some emotional and moral support from a trained professional.  A good counselor will help you get your life back on track and deal with the after-effects of the abuse.  It make still take time to heal from abuse, but the time spent with someone supportive , I believe, is worth it.
  5. Finally, be an advocate against all forms of abuse and bullying.—This does not only include signing a petition online to stop abuse. Being an advocate also means defending and standing up for the bullied at school and/or at work.  It means comforting a child who has been unfairly berated by his or her parents. Being an advocate means being supportive and validating of all those you know personally who have suffered abuse or bullying. 

If you or someone you know has been abused, there is hope and help out there. You are not alone, and remember the abuse is NEVER your fault!  The fault of the abuse lies in the hands of the perpetrator or perpetrators, who always have the ability to control their actions in some way.  I am very passionate about helping abuse and bullying survivors heal and have their joy and dignity restored to them.  From my own experience and those of many around me, healing and hope from abuse

Forgiveness

Forgiveness    9/14/2018

Seeds of bitterness invaded my soul
A flaming rage was consuming me whole
Even a momentary glance your way
Evoked feelings of revulsion and dismay

But when I saw the agony you were facing
And the endless burdens you were carrying
The wrath burning in me melted away
The barrier that was between us gave way

My heart of wrath melted into one of love
Being able to give compassion to you
And give you forgiveness that was true
Because someone had forgiven me too