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

Things I Learned From the Movie “I’m Not Ashamed”

As of this writing (July 5, 2017–publication will come later), I watched the movie “I’m Not Ashamed.” Although it is slow in parts, this was a pretty good movie and has taught me some very important lessons in life. This movie is based on the true-life story of Columbine martyr, Rachel Scott, whose life of faith and love has inspired me to pattern my life after hers. I also consider her to be one of my five faith heroes I list on my blog’s front page.  Here’s what I learned about life through the telling of Rachel Scott’s story through this movie:

  1. Love, compassion, and perseverance go a long way.—Rachel’s love, compassion, and perseverance not only in this movie but also in her real life, have also inspired many (like me) to pattern their lives after hers.  For instance, Rachel sees a guy taking the pizza from her youth group and was looking standoffish, and then he quickly leaves. Instead of ignoring him, she follows him into the street where he incidentally was living and confronts him.  He later tells her that his name is Nate and to basically leave him alone. Knowing something is off about him, she persists and when he tries to steal food from a store to feed his ailing mom, she volunteers to pay for them with her meager paycheck.  She doesn’t just stop there but continues to show him love and compassion as he eventually accepts Christ and grows in his faith. He then ends up helping her through tough times too.  Also, when Rachel’s best friend Madison steals her then-boyfriend Alex, and Rachel catches them making out together, Rachel, by the end of the movie, ends up sending Madison a note of compassion and forgiveness for having betrayed her (Rachel).  Most people when betrayed would either try to take vengeance on the offender or stay away from them and cut off relations completely with them. However, Rachel persisted in showing kindness and forgiveness to Madison even after she was betrayed by Madison. By the end of the movie, Madison also is touched by the forgiveness and love Rachel showed her before she (Rachel) died.
  2. Christians are not perfect.–Rachel was not the perfect Christian. She got in trouble by drinking and smoking with her girlfriends and her attempts to pursue a popular, attractive guy in school put her in situations where she wasn’t comfortable.  She snuck out of her parents’ house–probably more than once. In the movie,  it was even shown that Rachel attempted suicide once by jumping off a bridge near her home because she was so depressed. This does not mean us Christians are  “bad” or “evil” people, but like everyone else, we come with problems and baggage. However, like I explained in #1,  Rachel picked the dust off her feet, so to speak, and tried to do better next time, just like we all do, regardless of belief or lack thereof.
  3. Everyone has a story.–In the movie, Rachel’s story was intertwined with those of her killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Also, there were snippets of the story of Nate, Alex, and several of Rachel’s friends. The point is, though, that everyone has a life story, and if we care about changing the world for the positive, we need to listen to these stories! Sure we can’t “fix” everyone’s problems, and we probably shouldn’t always be trying to either, but if we know where people are coming from and their life goals and motivation, maybe we can encourage and support them better.  Also, knowing other people’s stories helps us not only understand them better but also our own life story and how theirs can intersect beautifully with theirs.  For instance, I believe God is using the people I work with, especially one of my managers, to help create not only a better life story for me, but also for them as well.

Though no one is perfect or better than another human being, showing love and compassion like Rachel Scott did will go a long way to change our world for the better.  However, we must persevere even when life gets difficult in order to see results.  We must also learn others’ stories to help not only we understand them better, but also ourselves better. Be a light to this world; it may just start a chain reaction!

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (But Notice What’s Important)

DISCLAIMER: Please no negative or disparaging comments about the guest author or me here. Thank you. Also, this post is guest written by my friend and co-worker Ron Weimer, and also by myself.  This post was made through interviewing and collaborating our thoughts and ideas together.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” right?  It may be difficult for many people to do, but we believe it is necessary to live a successful and joyful life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff basically means not to worry about the little things of life or things that are beyond our control. If we don’t sweat the small stuff of life, we will be better off for it. However, this is how to not sweat the small annoyances of life and what to do when big stuff does overwhelm you:

How not to sweat the small stuff:

  1. Don’t think about the little worries, but keep focused on the task at hand.—If someone calls you “stupid,” cuts you off in traffic, or bumps you in line, we can choose whether we will be so upset with them that it will ruin our entire day, or to shrug it off and just chalk it up to their rudeness. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing them and honking your horn, just shake your head at them and continue driving.  It’s no use to get angry at every little rude thing that people do to you.  If someone calls you a name like “stupid,” you don’t have to retaliate or get upset, though I admit it’s difficult not to, just try to walk away from that kind of verbal abuse, and continue on the task at hand.
  2. Try to always do better and stay optimistic. —When you make a mistake, just try to find ways to improve yourself. As I (main blog author)  said in the last post, making a mistake, even a moral one, does not necessarily mean you are a “bad” or “horrible” person.  Everyone makes mistakes. We are humans, not machines.  It takes time to learn something new or form a new habit (most sources say about 90 days).  Also, stay optimistic. Try to see hope even in the pain. I know it can be difficult, but one way to stay optimistic is to ask yourself, “What can I learn about this?” or if you are religious, “What is God teaching me through this?”  There is always a lesson to be learned from everything, sometimes even multiple lessons!
  3. Don’t give up.–I (main author of this blog) always tell people that as long as you are alive, there is always hope. In many ways, that is true!  Don’t give up on life, even when you feel like giving up.  When you give up, you stop learning, and you stop being able to be better as a person. I know I have struggled to keep afloat in life many times, but thankfully I have people around me who encourage me not to give up on myself or others.

Four principles that can help you and others not sweat the small stuff, and should be done regularly, if not every day: 

  1. Laugh–Find humor even in the most annoying situations.  For instance, when a client or customer calls you “stupid,” and you have graduated from high school and/or college, you can laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement rather than get offended at that person. You can chalk it up to their ignorance and lack of knowledge of reality, just as if someone said to you, “You’re purple! ” when you are obviously not at all purple!
  2. Cry– Ron and I don’t mean crying at everything that offends or hurts you, or in anger at someone, although that sometimes is OK too.  However, we mean to cry at something that moves you emotionally–like a thoughtful card, a heartfelt compliment, or seeing someone else do something nice for another person. I recently cried when I watched a movie that moved me.
  3. Never give up.–Ron and I agree that everyone should keep on keeping on and not give in to failure.  If you fail at something, at least you know a way not to do it again. Mistakes can be good for you because you can learn from them. Making mistakes or sinning does not mean you are a failure or irredeemable, but human.
  4. Make a lot of friends--One way to do this is by simply following the Golden Rule–that is, treating people the way you want to be treated yourself.  For instance, if you would like people to validate you, look in the mirror. Do you validate others? Another way to make more friends is by not only talking about yourself and your interests but taking an interest in others’ lives.  Ask them about their hobbies, their passions, their past,  their goals in life. Also, genuinely take an interest in them as a person. Never use people solely for your own benefit or needs, though one benefit of having a lot of friends is you can network more easily.  The more people in your group, or network, the more support you are going to have and can be available to help when you have a problem or an issue.  However, also be sure to be willing to be available for your network of people if they need support.

What to do when big stuff overwhelms you (DISCLAIMER: This is not an all exhaustive list of “Big Stuff” but these are the ones that Ron and I discussed and are most common to everyday people.):

Death of a loved one

  1. Spend time with loved ones.–When you lose a loved one–whether a family member or a dear friend,  spend time with the ones that knew them best. Exchange stories about the good and/or the funny memories you had with the lost loved one. Exchange the best and most memorable photographs you had of that loved one who passed away. Imagine with your other loved ones how great life would be when you all get to see him or her on the “other side” if you are religious or spiritual.
  2. Make time to grieve your loss.–Don’t hold in all your sadness and grief.  Spend a couple days to a week at least to grieve.
  3. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Rest physically and emotionally from anything that tends to drain you. This may be a job that you have or a person who is more challenging to you. Rest from those people and things that drain you the most. I don’t mean to completely cut that out of your life but just take a break.

Losing a friendship/ relationship

  1. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Also, allow yourself time to think. Ask yourself: What happened to cause the loss of the relationship or friendship? Is this anything I can change? If so, how can I change this? Did I do something to offend the other person, or did we just become distant naturally?
  2. Talk to another friend, if you have one. If you don’t, take the time to evaluate yourself and your principles. Ask yourself: What is it that drives people away from me? Why am I a friend/relationship magnet for toxic people?
  3. Seek professional help if necessary.– Sometimes things get too overwhelming for you to deal with on your own, and even for people around you who are untrained to deal with emotional or psychological issues well. It’s OK to ask for professional help. In fact, Ron and I agree that everyone probably should at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t do this alone.  Seek out recommendations from friends or reputable websites to see if they have a good trained counselor or therapist in your area. Someone once said, ” A person who doesn’t seek help when they have a problem, will create the same problem with another person.”

Losing a job:

  1. Take time out, especially if you got fired.–Take time out to regroup and reflect on the situation at hand.  Ask yourself: Did I do something wrong? And if so, what can I do to improve? What was the reason for the loss of the job? Being depressed or disappointed is a natural feeling of losing a job. Embarrassment is too. Nothing is wrong with you if you feel these emotions. They are valid.
  2. Tell your family.–If you got fired, or even if you got laid off, tell your family or loved ones the truth. They may be disappointed in you, but they may be even more disappointed and upset if you hide the truth from them, and then they find out the truth from some other source. Moreover, they probably won’t trust you as much anymore.
  3. After a few days or weeks- Start looking for a new job. Tell the supervisor (s) at your old job if you got fired that if you use them as a reference that they won’t mention your firing and the circumstances surrounding it. Most of them will be supportive and want you to find a better fit for you.  Also, never lie on an application. The truth will find you out eventually. Always tell the truth!

This is how to not sweat the small stuff, and how to overcome some big obstacles in your life.  Never give up on life, because your life can be used to be a benefit not only to yourself but to others. Also, life is too short for sweating the small stuff.

Things I Struggle With

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me (or others) allowed! I write this from a very vulnerable and raw place, but I would like to share this with you, so you can learn from my struggles and mistakes, and not repeat the same stuff. There is, of course, some religious content, but nothing preachy I hope. Thank you for understanding and reading.

As I wrote in a previous post, no one is perfect, and there is beauty in imperfection. I believe God can use even my mistakes for His glory and purposes, and I believe He can use yours too! So, even when a mistake is pointed out to you, try not to give up on yourself or others.  It does not mean you are a mean, evil person, and it does not mean you are worthless. Even if someone unlovingly says so, this is not true. God and I see beauty and preciousness in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself. Here are some things that I personally struggle with in my life, and how I (and others struggling with similar things ) can improve:

  1. Patience—I half-jokingly say to myself that this is the Last Fruit (on fruits see Galatians 5:22-23) of the Spirit that will develop fully in me. I struggle with this so much because I have much anxiety about having to wait for certain things.  Sometimes, I wrongly think that if I have to wait for something, I will wait so long that it won’t happen anymore. I sometimes get upset in traffic if I have to wait for something because I have this fear that if I have to wait too long, I will be late for work (or wherever I have to get to).  For people like me who struggle in this area, I would recommend a few things. a.) If you are religious, trust God. He always works for the good of those who love Him. He will always turn bad situations into redeemable ones!  b.) Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen if I wait for this? Chance are they are either not as bad as you think, or they are “fixable.” c.) Set “waiting” goals for yourself.- For instance, if I have to wait for a promotion until there is an opening, I would tell myself to wait until the end of a certain month before I do anything about it or ask my supervisor what is going on.  If you can wait a little while, chances are you can wait longer too.
  2. Being a people-pleaser-—When I was younger, I received so much invalidation from my peers (and even some teachers!), that I thought I was worthless and unacceptable.  I thought if I could even get one person to accept me for who I was, including my flaws and idiosyncrasies, that would have been great! About twenty years later, I still struggle with this concept of feeling accepted and loved for who I am.  Yesterday, one of the pastors at my church told me in so many words that I don’t need to be accepted and loved by everyone to be happy, that God already accepts me for who I am and loves me deeply.   That put the light on for me. I hope that you know that too, and even if you are not religious, that you also know that you are loved and accepted by others. Maybe you won’t be accepted by everyone, but I believe you are loved and accepted by at least one person. Also, never compromise your beliefs or personality just to get someone else to love and accept you.  Be the person you were created to be. There is a light in you! Never forget how valuable you are!
  3. Selfishness– I strive not to only think of myself, but of others. However, sometimes I do fail at that, to my disadvantage.  Ways I try to combat this that have worked for me are a.) I try to intentionally do something good for someone else, especially for someone who is struggling, without asking or expecting something from them in return.  b.) I try to understand and sympathize with what another person is going through. c.) I try to validate others. This is different from trying to flatter someone to get something out of them, rather this is a genuine attempt to show love and appreciation for another’s beliefs, thoughts and/or feelings. Validating someone shows the person that you think what they are telling you is not only important but appreciated as well.
  4. Negative thinking—I usually struggle the most with having negative thoughts when I am stressed, angry or depressed. When I am especially angry with myself, I almost immediately go into self-hate mode. For example, I don’t just tell myself, ” Why did you do that, [my name here]?” but, “You ruined your testimony! What are people going to think of you now? You’re useless to God and to everyone else. Why don’t you just run away so you don’t become a burden to others?” If I am angry at a situation or person, I wrongly want to a.) avoid dealing with the situation or person because it is just too much for me at that moment. This becomes an issue when the person wants to confront me on said situation immediately. I need time to process, otherwise, I may say or do things I regret later.  b.) My day is ruined because all I am thinking about is how angry or hurt I am by that person or situation. c.) I become so depressed, I tend to isolate and not want interaction with anyone, especially people who want to give me unsolicited advice or invalidate me more.   I am going to be really honest and say that I have a really hard time applying any of these to my life because when I am in this mode I literally cannot think straight!  However, the following may work for me in the future (I’m still trying) and to some of you: a.) When you need time to process the situation and/or anger you feel from someone, and the person wants to “resolve” it right now or wants to somehow confront you, say to that person, in as calm manner as you can muster, “Could we talk about this later? I need time to cool down and process my emotions. Please respect that. Thank you.” b.) Try to distract yourself from the negative thoughts by doing something that requires mind engagement, even if you don’t feel like doing it.  Also, if you are angry and you want to distract yourself from blowing up at someone or hurting someone, I would invest in a fidget spinner. That way your mind is engaged in a toy, instead of on negativity.  I plan to buy one for myself soon.  c.) Try to reframe your thoughts. For instance, if I did something wrong, and my self-talk is that I’m useless to God and everyone else, I could counter with truth and tell myself: God can still use my mistakes. He even used Abraham, who lied twice about his wife Sarah to save his own skin and disobeyed Him by not going to where he (Abraham) was supposed to be, to be his prophet! (Story: see Genesis 15-20 ) I just need to be humble enough to admit my mistake and do better next time. He still can do great things through me.

These are the main things I struggle with in my life. Of course, there are others too, but these are the main ones. I hope that by posting this, I will not only be held accountable to myself to improve but also to help others struggle with the same or similar issues.  What issues do you struggle with?  What can we do to help, or how would you advise someone struggling with the same thing(s)? Please feel free to comment.

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.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.

How to Be Successful at Work

Some people act amazed at those of us who are able to succeed in the workplace. No, it’s not easy either. Sometimes, even successful people fail too! And, no, I’m not successful all the time, or maybe even half the time. Ha, ha! However, just by observing people and how they work (or don’t work), I have found that almost every successful associate or manager has these traits in common:

  1. They work with a purpose.–Usually the people that work the hardest and are most successful have some type of motivation to work hard! I found that for myself at least, that when I keep both my professional and personal goals in the back of my mind while I’m working, the more motivated I am to do my best. However, if I get tired and am not thinking about these goals, I tend to do sloppy or half-hearted work. However, I think that this is true for anyone. You need to be motivated to work in order to be able to do your very best.
  2. This one is a duh, of course, trait, but they work hard!—Usually it is the people that go above and beyond the requirements of the job that do the best. I strive to do this everyday.  For instance, when we have to straighten the store, I try to not only go as fast as possible, but also as neatly and accurate as possible. Believe me, it’s not easy. For example, yesterday, while my straightening was very neat, I felt like I did not go fast enough for my standards.  The manager I mentioned in the previous post (in “Things I Learned From My Manager”) was able to move up in our company I think because of his hard work and tireless hours he has spent perfecting his skills. They are not usually lazy and don’t take shortcuts to succeed.
  3. They are able to endure a lot of suffering and/or abuse.—Working full time or beyond is certainly not for anyone, and that’s OK. However, if you can work, even part-time, I have found that the most successful workers are able to put up with a lot of bad stuff. I have shared in a previous post (this post) how I went two weeks working with sharp pains in my back and side, before I had to call off (because I started vomiting blood!), and how I almost died because my gall bladder almost burst!  Now, this job also involved some heavy lifting.  Also, many of my managers, in addition to getting yelled at for often trivial reasons, and sometimes working tired or sick, still manage to get a lot of work done!
  4. They strive to get along with everyone.–The most successful managers and associates strive to be kind and fair to everyone. The ones that don’t and have problems with many people are often the same people who get nothing done or distract others from getting their work done.  This includes in addition to being able to be unified with managers and co-workers, also getting along with customers or clients. They have a positive general rapport with people. Of course, everyone has their bad days, and there are times when even the best of us can’t be at peace with everyone, but we do our best.  They don’t cause people to fight each other, and they generally have a positive view of people and/or of the company in which they work.
  5. They make a serious investment in the people of the company, whether it be external or internal clients or customers.—External customers are people who you typically think of when you think of “customer”–those outside the company who you serve with your services. According to Wikipedia and a lot of other sources, “an internal customer is a customer who is directly connected to an organization, and is usually (but not necessarily) internal to the organization. Internal customers are usually stakeholders, employees, or shareholders, but the definition also encompasses creditors and external regulators.” (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer) This trait is the one that I always strive to do better and better.  For instance, when we don’t have an item a customer is looking for, I try to give them other options, even shopping at other stores or online, not because I want my company to lose business, but so that the customer remembers how important I take their satisfaction and will shop at my store again because of the service they received.  Also, a friend and co-worker of mine also goes above and beyond the normal repertoire of an associate and often says, “Thank you for shopping at [name of our store]!” to make them feel appreciated and tries to even make small talk with them sometimes to make them feel like a person and not just a customer. I serve internal customers by helping them with their tasks when they need it and making them feel encouraged and appreciated by telling them as much. For instance, if my favorite manager Tom* (NOT his real name) is doing a good job, I make sure to tell him so and also to thank him for appreciating his workers, including me.
  6. They rarely call in.—The managers and associates who are the most successful almost always show up to work when they are supposed to.  If they call in, it is only because of family emergencies or when they are really sick.  The most successful managers at my company rarely call in and almost always are motivated to show up on time. Sometimes, they will even work extra hours to make sure all their work gets done.
  7. They are good at what they do.–This is why we should strive to find jobs that suit our abilities and skills! The most successful people at my job are almost always skilled at what they do, whether it is straightening, organization, customer service, getting things done fast and efficiently or all or some of the above.

Qualities We Should Emulate of My Favorite Manager

This post is made in honor and appreciation of my favorite manager at my current job. This list is in no particular order, and for anonymity purposes we will call this manager, Tom* (*=Not his real name). Hopefully, we can all cultivate these characteristics in our own lives, and not only if we want to become a manager or some type of boss over people:

  1. Tom gets along with almost everyone.—Sure, like everyone else, Tom sometimes has conflicts with people, but he never really lets them eat away at his soul or personality. He even tries to get along with people that anger or annoy him. He doesn’t seem to hold grudges against anyone, at least in my job. I’ve only heard one person ever really complain about him, and that person is no longer with the company. Almost everyone at work I know has at least some respect for him.
  2. Tom is honest.–He doesn’t tell associates only what they want to hear, but has the decency to shoot straight with them when necessary.  When someone asks how he is doing, and he is feeling badly, he doesn’t just tell people fine, as 90% of us would do. He would tell you honestly that he is feeling badly. I appreciate that kind of frankness in him, because it shows that he can be trusted.
  3. Tom has a good sense of humor about may things.–I believe that Tom’s humor shows up even when things are terrible or stressful for him. For instance, his job is often long, tiring and stressful. However, he still takes time to joke (well, in this case, only half a joke) with me, and I with him, about him needing a nap. I would say, ” Do you need a nap?,” and he would reply, ” Yes, I really need a nap.” in a half-jokingly way. Also, when I was straightening a particular area of the store, knowing and believing I did well, he tells me in a mock-stern voice, something like, ” I need to talk to you.” Not knowing him well at the time, I got scared that I was in some type of trouble. Knowing I was scared, he says, “I’m just kidding. You did great on [name of particular area here]!” Then, we both laughed.
  4. Tom is organized.–We used to (sometimes still do) have nightly store meetings, so the associates know what section to straighten for the night and any new news that we need to know about the store’s operating procedures.  Tom doesn’t have long-winded discussions or take a long time rounding up people to come to the meeting. He does things fast and efficiently, so we can be more productive at work.
  5. Tom has reasonable expectations for everyone.—He knows that some associates need to complete their computer training in a timely manner, so he allows them some time to do them so they can get caught up if they are behind.  He is understanding if someone has an illness that prevents them from doing certain things in the store, or if they have a family emergency that prevents them from being at work for awhile. However, he also knows if people are trying to trick him into giving them more leeway than they deserve or if they are just being lazy, and he doesn’t tolerate that.
  6. Tom is able to keep his cool in front of people.—I’ve never seen him yell at a customer, and I have only rarely heard him yell at an associate.  When he is upset, he knows to not say or do something he would regret as a manager or a person later. He is very level-headed and doesn’t let his emotions eat at him. This is something we, me included, could really learn from him.
  7. Tom is fair to everyone.—He doesn’t only help certain people all the time, and not others. He helps everyone who needs his help the best way he can.  He also doesn’t show he favors one person over another.
  8. Along with having reasonable expectations, which I already discussed in #5, Tom has clear expectations of what he wants of associates. — He gives clear directions on how and what he wants done.   I don’t often leave confused as to what he expects out of me.  He has expectations, and sticks to them.  For instance, if he wants us to greet a customer who is within ten feet of us, he expects just that. He won’t waiver on that.
  9. Tom knows his limits.–When he is too tired or stressed, he knows to go home to his family.  Also, he knows to make time to spend with his wife and children whenever possible. He doesn’t stay at the store all day, if he has other obligations, unless upper management requires that of him.

From these characteristics, we can see that Tom is a good boss to have. He is not just a good boss, but a good person as well. May we all see something of value in Tom and apply one or all of these characteristics to our own lives.