How To Find Joy at Work

 

According to a Gallup Poll on the workplace in the U.S (where I come from), 67% of full-time employees are either “actively disengaged” or “disengaged” from their jobs, and do the bare minimum.  Many people hate their jobs or simply don’t care about what they do. That is very sad, because we spend an average of 8 hours (almost half of our days) at work. So, most of the day, or at least a good portion of the day, we are either apathetic or miserable, or both.  As an applecart upsetter, I try to buck this trend by actively doing the opposite of what most people do at work.  Even if the work seems mundane or thankless, this is what I have found gives me the joy I need to thrive at work:

  1. Work with a purpose.—Every day when you go to work, set goals for yourself. For instance, at my job if I found out that I have to make price labels for shelves, do returns, and straighten two different departments, all in the evening and by the end of my shift, I visualize and prioritize. For instance, if it is going to only take 10 minutes to do labels, I may do that first, if it is priority, but last if it doesn’t need to be done right away. Then, since returns take a long time to do, I get that out of the way first. When I straighten a department, I set a goal time for when I want to have it done. For instance, my regular area in my department it takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to straighten everything nicely, but more time if it is busier with customers. So, on a busy day, I allow myself extra time to get things done so I am not in a panic or rush to get it done. I also do one section at a time, and not try to get overwhelmed by the whole area. Also, reward yourself when you reach your goals. For instance, if I finished early with my area, I may reward myself by going on break earlier.
  2. Work with the mindset of serving others, rather than just earning a paycheck.—Way back when (probably more than 10 years ago), I used to work hard, but with the mentality of “I want a fatter paycheck” rather than serving others. When I had to do things that I didn’t want to do, it was harder to do them. Why? Because my focus was all wrong. Yes, we do work to earn a paycheck, but that should not be the only purpose we have in working. When we work knowing that we can make a positive difference, we are more likely to work with passion and with more joy.  For instance, on Friday, I was tired and just wanted to “get through the day,” (i.e “do” my eight hours of labor), and consequently did not have a very good day that day. However, yesterday I refocused on why I was working there—to serve others and to show people God’s love, and ended up getting a lot done and having a much better day, despite staying an extra hour. Even though I stayed that extra hour, I was much more joyful and content in what I was able to accomplish than on Friday because rather than focusing on myself and my needs, I focused on other people in my workplace.
  3. Think about the positive things at your job, and do not dwell on the negatives.—Try not to take to heart the complaints that pour out from the people with who you work, and try to keep your own complaining to a minimum. Think about the positive things about your job. For instance, it helps me to remember the benefits that I get as a part of my company, the friends that I have made at work, and everything that I have learned from others at my job that I can apply to other areas of my life and be more successful at my job and in my career.  If you have learned anything beneficial from your job, there is something positive about where you work, no matter what other negatives lurk in your job. Yes, acknowledge things that need to be changed at your job and be an advocate for positive change, but do not dwell on the negative and be a voice of complaint. Not only will you not be pleasant to work with, but you will find your job to be increasingly unbearable for you.

These are the things that I have found that help me cultivate joy in my workplace. I work with a purpose and a clear vision of what I want to accomplish that day, and reward myself if necessary to help keep me motivated to do well.  I strive to work with a mindset of serving others and work as a team, rather than just earning money for me.  Finally, I think of all the positive aspects of my job. While I acknowledge things that need to be changed and continue to try to be a positive change agent at my job, I don’t dwell on the negative aspects at work.  What have you found that helps you enjoy work more? What do you think one should do to cultivate joy at work? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

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How To Think Deeply

Besides sin, there is a malady that affects most of us at one time or another, and that is something my pastor calls “lazy thinking.” Lazy thinking, in my definition, is superficial and not concerned with the “why” and the purpose of life, but just the “now”.  It is primarily concerned with self.  Deep thinking, on the other hand, is concerned with the “whys” of life and the “points” or purposes of life. It can be concerned with self, but usually extends to how we affect others around us and leaving a good legacy for future generations to follow. Many people never get to experience the joys and the fulfillment of thinking more deeply or philosophically about life. One can think deeply, no matter what one’s beliefs are.  Here is what I have learned about how to think more deeply and how to apply this type of thinking to all facets of your life. :

  1. Think about the legacy you’re leaving or how you want to be remembered: Although I was often depressed during the toughest years of my life (for more information, see this post), I was able to think a bit more about the legacy I was leaving and what I should change in order to have a good one. I think this is a good practice, even if you are not depressed.  You don’t have to think about your death or how you want to leave this world every single day, but periodically to make sure you’re on track to leave a good mark in this world.  If you don’t leave a good legacy, few, if any, will miss or remember you after you are dead, and that is never a good thing.  However, if you strive now to live purposely to have a good legacy, you will more likely to be remembered well after you die. For instance, Jesus left a lasting legacy because He constantly thought of how He was impacting others for God, and tailored His attitudes, words, and actions to that goal. Ghandi and Mother Teresa similarly did the same. We should follow their lead, and periodically evaluate ourselves to see if we are living the life we would like to live and positively impact others.
  2. Think about how you are affecting others, not just yourself: The problem with a lot of people, including myself sometimes, is that we do things without thinking about the impact we’re making on others and how we are affecting other people’s attitudes and actions. For instance, when we are upset with someone, words often spew out of our mouth (reflecting the state and content of our hearts, sadly enough) without pause or thought. For instance, in a previous post, I talked about how people said things out of anger to me without thinking, and how I have sometimes said some hurtful words back to them.  At the time, we are not probably thinking, “Oh, if I say ‘A’ I will hurt that person and our relationship will be strained for years. Furthermore, he or she won’t be able to forgive me and we will both have hate and bitterness in our hearts.” We may just want to get the anger off our chests and are only thinking about ourselves and our feelings, not the other person’s.  However, when we think more deeply, we are not only less likely to get upset and bitter at others, but we are also able to understand and love them better.  We will think about how what we want to do will affect the other person, and be more willing and open to learning and understanding about other people.
  3. Think about why you do what you do: For every action you do, there is most likely a reason why you do it. We may not always think about why we are doing what we’re doing, but there is always a reason. Thinking about why we do what we do has several benefits. One of them is that you will start to do things with purpose, and not just to do them. For instance, if I really thought about why I work, I would come up with these reasons. A.) I work to earn money, so I can live. B) I work to serve others so that I can impact the world positively and more importantly, glorify God.  C) I work to glorify God—I work because God says it’s good for me, and also to make Him happy.  Knowing and thinking about these “whys,” I then am able to tailor my attitude and actions towards this goal. When I am thinking about these goals or credos, I am more likely to work harder and to keep a positive attitude. If, however, I am stressed and/or not really thinking about my purpose in working, the quality of my work starts to suffer and my attitude often sours into an “I-don’t care” mentality or “Let’s just get this done and over with” frame of mind.  This thinking about the “whys” in your life can extend to all other areas of my life as well. For instance, if you are a breadwinner for your family, and are thinking about why you are providing for them you may come up with these reasons. A.) To glorify God—to make Him happy and give Him the worship He deserves.  B) To serve my family well.  C) To be a good example of service and care for my children.  Then, you can tailor your life to these goals by, for example, a.) Excelling at your job. b) Cook or help your spouse cook.  ) joyfully serve my family

These are just some of the benefits of thinking deeply. When we think about the legacy we’re leaving, think about how we are affecting others other than ourselves, and think about why we do what we do, our life will be much more fulfilling and purposeful.  We will also think about what we are doing when we are tempted to hurt someone with our words or actions. We will have a much better attitude towards others. Drink of the deep today, and think about what and why you do what you do.

#Me too- Myths about sexuality and solutions

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mentions of sex and sexual violence and abuse. No disparaging comments, please! Thanks.

By now, you probably have heard of the #metoo movement, where women are taking aim at a societal culture that has devalued and often treated them as little more than sexual entities. It is a movement where some women–and probably men too– are sharing their stories about being sexually abused or harassed by people who devalued and/or wanted to use them as little more than sexual playthings.  I join and support these brave men and women who are coming forward with their painful and difficult stories in order to make sure this does not happen to anyone else ever again, and to change this culture to one that values all people as divine image-bearers and the preciousness that they are.

I think one of the main reasons why there are so many people doing sexually abusive and demeaning things to others, is because people have long bought into some or all of these following myths about sexuality:

  • Myth: You need to have a significant other to be truly happy and fulfilled in life. -Many single people believe or have believed (note to self: guilty as charged) the lie that if they just had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and eventually get married, life would be bliss and they would have no loneliness issues anymore. Married people or people in relationships may also buy into a form of this lie by trying to change their partner into their idealized image of who they think they should be.  Truth: You can just be as happy or happier single. I have been single for a VERY long time, and I have never been happier! Though a lot has changed, many parents still think if their children remain single, they will not be happy or fulfilled (what I dub, the “spinster theory”). I am living proof that this does not have to be the case!  I am not saying that people in relationships are never happy. However, it is not because of the relationship alone that makes someone happy or unhappy.
  • Myth: I need sex or a relationship to feel valued and/or powerful in life. Truth: Sex does not inherently make one feel “valued” or “powerful.” Think of how many women in the sex trafficking industry are treated–as less than animals! Maybe the people that hurt them feel more powerful, but not the day when they are held accountable for their evil actions they have perpetrated against these women! What really can help one feel more valued and powerful is what Jesus said in Matthew 20:27 (KJV)-“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” That is, whoever wants to feel more great and powerful, let him or her serve others. Doing good things for others not only makes you feel good,  but you also value people by helping others. However, it must be done with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  • Myth: Children should hug their relatives to show respect for them. Another version of this myth is: “People should hug me/each other to show respect for me/them.” Truth: Children (and even adults) should not be required to hug or touch anyone!  Some children don’t hug because they feel squeamish about hugging, and some children even have had some unspoken trauma over the person they are “supposed to” hug. Their bodies should be respected and valued by not requiring this of them.  Also, there are other ways for people to show their appreciation and respect besides touch.  For instance, we can use our words to uplift and encourage someone, and there are only a few, if any, that would object that to that! Also,  we should teach children and others to thank people who do something good for them, and say “Please” if they want something, instead of just demanding that person give it to them.
  • Myth: “I need sex to get ahead in life or be successful. “Truth: No, you don’t. What one needs to get ahead in life is integrity, hard work, and compassion.  And even if you are not successful, remember your worth is not dependent on what you do!

Here are some ways we should support women and others who have been sexually harassed and/or abused

  1. Know it’s not just women who have been abused–A lot of men have been abused too. Think of the boys that have been abused by priests or their athletic coaches.
  2. Accept others’ “No” without complaining or arguing.–For instance, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t try to argue with them about that in an attempt to force them to “want” to be touched.  Just accept that they don’t like touch. It’s probably not because you did something bad to them, but just a boundary they have for some people, or even everyone.
  3. If someone is attacking someone else sexually, stop the attacker if possible.– If your life is in danger or if the attacker has a weapon, this may not be such a good idea. In all other cases, however,  you can stop the attack by yelling very loudly, “STOP! STOP” and trying to get the perpetrator off the victim, or by saying nothing but running to get help for the victim as soon as possible. A life could be saved!
  4. Let the abuse survivor know it’s not their fault, and that whatever they feel is valid.–Do not try to get the survivor to forgive their perpetrator. Yes, there is a time and place for forgiveness, but true forgiveness cannot be forced!  What the survivor needs right now is validation and the feeling that they are not “damaged goods” and that they are a valued part of society. Affirm and validate them.
  5. Don’t listen to or watch things that glorify the devaluation of people.–Music or movies that glorify using women as sexual objects should not be part of your media diet if you really want to support the #metoo movement. Similarly, watching pornographic movies or tv shows doesn’t get you in the right frame of mind to be able to look at others with dignity and value.  Resolve today to only feed your mind with media that values others.
  6. Support or pray for (if religious) organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, who help sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.–These, and many other organizations, help men and women who have survived abuse or sex trafficking reclaim their lives. Other organizations like RAINN help survivors as well.
  7. Teach the next generation proper boundaries and consent.–If you are a parent, teach your child or children proper boundaries and consent. Telling your child, “Keep your hands to yourself” when they touch someone without their permission, for instance, is a good way to start to teach them appropriate boundaries and consent. Also, telling them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they have a right to say something and stand up for themselves, is another good way to teach boundaries and consent and show you value their body and soul.

With many men and women bravely coming forward about their times of pain and heartache at the hands of people that devalued and demeaned them, hopefully the abuse will stop and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.  However, we as a society must stop perpetuating a culture where people–men and women alike– are being devalued, and instead we must all strive to create a society where each person is treated as the valued, priceless treasure they are.

What I Learned From the Toughest Years of My Life

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of eating disorders, abuse, and suicide.  Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone, or your comment will be deleted! I will also put resources for anyone or a loved one you know that needs them. Remember, there is still hope as long as one is still alive!

 

On April 9, 1999, I wrote the following, a desperate cry from the depths of my soul: I feel dead without actually being killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. I want to get better… […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” This was a year before God took a hold of my heart, the year that my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott and thirteen other lives were taken in the infamous mass shooting in Colorado.  This was also the year that I was verbally abused by a teacher, and he instilled a fear so great that it was fifteen years later before I was able to overcome it.  I don’t recall having any close friends at all at this time. I remember having a lot of tough classes too.

The years before that were not so much better. Three years earlier, I struggled with an eating disorder, which thankfully did not end up with me being in the hospital, though it almost got to that point.  I struggled with being bullied and verbally abused by a good number of my peers. I don’t recall being invited to any parties or gatherings with friends, unless I asked them first, and even then people didn’t really want to hang out with me.

During those years, from 1996-1999, were the toughest years of my life. Though I thought the pain would never end and I didn’t know if there was anything different for my life, I learned so much from these years of pain that I continue to strive to apply to my life today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Don’t reject someone just because they are different or needy.—I felt rejected by a lot of people during those years. Some people probably didn’t want to be with me, simply because I wasn’t “cool” to them. I didn’t have the right clothes, the right look. Some thought I was unkind because I was a bit depressed at times, without them taking the time to figure out what was wrong and invest in me.  Yes, there are times when it may not be safe to invest in someone at the time, but at least don’t assume they are “rude” or “arrogant” without learning their story. What if that “rude” (read: really depressed or angry) person’s parent or spouse recently died or is being abusive to them? What if they are going through things that they don’t tell you about because they assume you are too judgmental to caringly listen to them? You never know what another is going through. For instance, some people at my job may seem rude and abrasive at times, but then I find out that they are going through some things that are really traumatizing and/or difficult, and because of my experiences during those tough years that I mention, God helps me to listen with compassion, and I try to encourage and be a listening, supportive friend to them.
  2. Be careful of hurting someone with your words. It can ruin or hurt their very souls.–This is what happened to me when a teacher (I am not upset at him anymore….and if you are reading this today, I forgive you and I wish you the best) verbally abused me so badly that he instilled a fear that took me a long time to overcome. I think I internalized what he had said to me, and just gave up hope of ever becoming competent in the subject matter that he taught.  It wasn’t until my mentor, J, pushed me, that I was able to overcome this fear several years ago. I was also verbally teased and berated by my peers at school, who made me feel like an outcast and a pariah.  This is why when I say something out of anger that could really hurt someone, I apologize as quickly as possible.  This is also why I try to build up people, rather than tear them down. I want to improve other people’s lives and prevent them from ever having to suffer as I did with hurtful words.
  3. Pain and heartache may last awhile, but it doesn’t usually last forever—During those tough years, sometimes I thought so much that my emotional hurt and anguish I felt would never end, that I wanted to end it all. However, I am living proof that joy does come in the morning, as it says somewhere in the Bible. The next year, not only did the pain subside, but God also came into my life! Shortly after I graduated from college, I met one of my closest friends to this day. Almost two years ago, I started this blog, God’s Whisperings.  About a year ago, I became full-time at my current job. There is hope, as long as you are still alive. The pain may take some time to subside, but hang in there, so you don’t miss the hope, the love, and the joy you can have if you persevere in life and don’t give up.

These are major things that I learned during the toughest years of my life. I hope if you are going through a similarly tough time, whether it be dealing with a loss of a loved one (My grandmother died in 1996.),  dealing with abuse or bullying, struggling with an illness, whether it be physical or mental, or any other tough situation, that you will know that you are not alone.  I hope you will know that there is hope for your life, no matter how desperate or bleak it looks right now.  And I hope that you know that good will come out of this tough situation, even if you can’t see it right now. Don’t give up.

 

Resources for those dealing with some tough situations:

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)- This is an organization that helps people and their families dealing with mental health issues.  https://www.nami.org/Find-Support
  • Suicide Hotline- https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
  • Grief counseling/support groups page—This is a webpage dedicated to helping those who have lost a loved one and are looking for support or ways to get through it. https://grief.com/group-resources/
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)—This is a website dedicated to those who have been sexually abused and/or assaulted. There is a hotline one can call in a life-threatening situation or just for support.  https://www.rainn.org/
  • Jodie Blanco—She is an advocate who speaks on behalf of the bullied, both people who are currently being bullied, and adult survivors of bullying. There are some great resources for survivors themselves, parents, and teachers. There are even some resources on how bullying in schools can be stopped. http://www.jodeeblanco.com/

 

 

What I Learned From My Book of the Year

DISCLAIMER: I get no compensation from this review of sorts. All opinions are my own. However, if you would like to buy this book, please go to the recommendation page of my blog.

“You are what you think.” This is what the Bible says, and also what has been true in my life.  I have been struggling to combat negative thoughts almost all my life, whether it be anxiety-laden thoughts or more angry thoughts about someone I was upset with the previous day.  Then, one day, my Sunday School teacher (a.k.a : the pastor’s wife) talked about a book that she said in so many words, would change lives.  She said that the book would teach one how to think more positive, godly thoughts and revolutionize our attitude towards life in a positive way.  Because of my struggles with the thoughts that I have had most of my life, this book, “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George, seemed interesting to me. In fact, I was so interested in the book, all I could think about during the whole time my teacher was promoting the book was, I’ve got to get this book!” So, that same night, I got the book. Actually, I accidentally bought two and sold one of them to a friend of mine.

 

These are some of the things that I have learned from my favorite book of the year (Loving God With All Your Mind) and how these lessons can be applied to almost anyone’s lives, regardless of religious affiliation or belief:

  1. When you truly love someone, you will strive never to think negatively about that person.—Because of my tendency to think negatively about others when they had upset me or about how I “must” have offended them when someone was upset with me, this was truly a revolutionary concept. I discovered that one of the reasons that I hadn’t been getting along with certain people in my life was that I was constantly thinking the worst about them, and it stemmed from both an unforgiving heart and that they had hurt me before, and I failed to let go of the past. I think it was a defensive mechanism to prevent myself from getting hurt by those people again. The thing about love, though, is that it takes risks! C.S Lewis is even quoted as saying that if you love, you will get hurt. However, I believe even with the pain, love is totally worth it!  So, when I started to follow the advice of this book and countered my negative thoughts about these people with the positive characteristics I saw in them, I had a more balanced, more positive view of those people. Another thing I learned from “Loving God With All Your Mind” related to this lesson of not thinking negatively (or evil thoughts) about others is when a person seems upset with you, and you confront them and they say that nothing is wrong, you shouldn’t second guess them. I asked my Sunday School teacher (because the “lawyer” in my head had popped up!), “What if the person really is lying to you, and they say nothing is wrong, but you really have offended them.” She said something like, “Go with the lie. If someone is offended by you, it is their responsibility to let you know so you can do better next time, not yours.” To add to this, I am thinking also that if a person wants to hide behind pretense and games and does not want to let you know that they were offended by you, what kind of relationship is that anyway? Also, do you really want to continue being in a relationship based on lies? I don’t either.
  2. Look for the good in the trials of life.—Everyone goes through a rough patch at least once in their lifetime, some multiple times, or much of their lives. A lot of people, me included, sometimes think that life would be better without these trials, or rough patches, in our lives. However, Elizabeth George says in her book to look for the “gold” in our trials. For instance, during my elementary and part of my high school years, I was a victim of bullying by some of my peers.  When I was going through all that, I felt depressed, hopeless, and mentally exhausted of that life. However, these trials have taught me some valuable lessons on how NOT to live your life. A.) I learned how painful it feels to be bullied and ridiculed, both physically and verbally, through taunts and mockery, and strive never to inflict the same on another human being.   b) I learned how to value each person as God values me, in contrast to how some people treated me as an appendage or a burden.  c) I learned how to respond and not respond to these people.  Also, these bad experiences also led me to search for God and love and later ignited my passion to serve and love others.  Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always good that can come out of it, whether it be redemption in the situation itself or strengthening of our character
  3. Don’t dwell on past regrets or even successes, but move forward.—One of the more interesting things I learned from the book, “Loving God With All Your Mind,” is to forget the past. This means not dwelling on past failures or even successes. When we dwell on past failures, we tend to get stuck there, and this attitude prevents us from having the motivation to try new things or to try again. I know because this has happened to me.  More than ten years ago (probably closer to fifteen), I tried to learn the cash register at another job, but it was a disaster. I was so nervous and flustered that I did nothing right. This was still my first time learning it ever. For a long time, in my other jobs, I tried to avoid learning the register. Finally, recently, because I want to work up to be a department manager someday, I thought I should try to learn the register again. The first time in my current job, I was just shadowing another manager. However, the second time I was training, the person training me had me deal with customers! I was really nervous, but she said I did well for my first time with customers at that store! So, what I learned from this experience that others can apply to their lives too, is not to dwell on past regrets, but to move forward and try again.  Also, don’t dwell on past successes. For instance, if a person is so obsessed about their doctorate degree that he or she won’t lay it aside if necessary to get a job that they need because it is “too beneath” them, that is a bad thing. They should forget about their doctorate and do what is necessary to build success now and in the future.

This is just some of the things that I learned from my book of the year, “Loving God With All Your Mind.” When I follow the advice of this book, especially the lessons I outlined above, I have found my anxiety decrease dramatically and my general attitude being more joyful and more positive than before.  What are some lessons that you can carry with you from your favorite book? What is one book that changed your life that you recommend? Please discuss in the comments.

 

 

How Gratitude Can Help Alleviate Depression

Now, I am NOT saying that all or even some depressed people are not grateful people. I have struggled with depression since the age of ten, so I know that sometimes it is impossible to even begin to have a positive mindset without help from an outside source, and having an attitude of gratitude for anyone, even if you don’t suffer from depression, takes time.  That being said, what helped alleviate some of my depression personally is to think of things that I am thankful for and not dwelling so much on things that are not going great for me.  Each day when I am at work, I write down at least three things from that day (or the previous one) which I am thankful.   Some days, I struggle to name even three, and some days I could name almost an infinite list!  Here is how gratitude can help alleviate depression for many people.

  1. Having an attitude of thankfulness helps keep our focus on the good that you do have rather than what you don’t have.—Merriam-Webster.com defines jealousy as, “hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.”  (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous). Having an attitude of gratitude eliminates this because when you are so thankful for all that you have, you don’t even care about what others have or don’t have anymore, in terms of competition or advantages.  Being thankful means that you know that everything you have is a gift from God and not anything you are entitled to or deserve. When you appreciate someone or something that you believe is intrinsically good, you can enjoy time with that person or thing much more than if you view them as something that you are “owed.”
  2. Having an attitude of gratitude helps alleviate the anxiety that can be present with depression.—Having a thankful heart also helps alleviate anxious thoughts because this attitude basically says to oneself that no matter what, I will have at least one thing for which I can be thankful. For instance, if one previously has had financial worries and wonders if he or she will have to forsake their needed medication or food in order to function properly, if that person developed a thankful heart, this attitude would help alleviate their worries because they would only focus on the fact that they had enough for today and be joyful in that. One way gratitude has alleviated my depression is by changing my mindset when I am worried.  For instance, if I am worried that I may lose a friendship over something that I have no control over or something that I cannot change at the moment, instead of focusing and ruminating on what I may have done to offend that person , I focus on the people that have stuck by me through thick and thin.  I either talk about my worries with another trusted friend (without an attitude of gossip, of course) or pour my energy into spending time with family and friends with whom I have no problems.
  3. Having an attitude of gratitude enables one to see the hope that is even in the bleakest of circumstances.—Having a thankful heart helps us to be able to hope even in the worst of circumstances. I believe that some of the people who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazi regime were able to survive abusive and horrendous conditions because they were able to still have hope. We can apply the same principles to our lives.  For instance, we can rejoice that even when one of our loved ones has died or is sick, bad as that is, we can still hope and be thankful because we (ourselves) can see another day to make a positive difference in others’ lives.  If we are suffering with others, we can be grateful that we don’t have to suffer alone.  If we have a difficult situation at work, we can be angry and stressed about it all the time, or we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn from others and maybe even our own mistakes. (Yes, our feelings are valid, and it is not wrong to be initially angry at things going on in our lives, but don’t get stuck there!)

These are the ways that gratitude has personally helped me through my depression. It is not always easy to have a grateful heart, but with practice and time, it can be cultivated. I am still struggling through this, but when we learn to have an attitude of gratitude, we can live fuller, happier and healthier lives.

How To Stay Motivated at Work

In my line of work, the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and other holidays) are the busiest times of the year, and it can get overwhelming at times. This may (or may not…) be happening at your job too, and all the busyness of both work and/or the holiday season can not only be overwhelming but also be a motivation drainer for some. Of course, lack of motivation, in general, can happen at any time during the year to anyone, whether one is employed or not.  However, these are some things that I have found for me useful in staying motivated at one’s job—whether, it be full-time, part-time, seasonal, or by contract.:

  1. Work to serve others.—Work, to me, is more than just earning one’s paycheck, though it is that too. When we work, we also normally come in contact with other people. Even when you work from home, you may come in contact with people virtually, and we still must respond to their needs in a satisfactory way, or risk losing our job! Ever since I worked at my previous job, I have strived to have this mindset.  For instance, yesterday was a very stressful day at work. I had more than my fair share of work to do, but I still tried to do a little more. Why? I did not want to overwork the closing managers, since I know how hard they work and how little sleep and time to themselves they often get to serve us, compared to myself.  I don’t say this just to “toot my own horn,” but to show that if you find ways to serve others and put a smile on other people’s faces, work will be very motivating and yes, even worth whatever you earn. If you work in a toxic or a stressful environment, this is especially true. Also, Jesus said in various places in the Bible, in so many words, that we should exist to serve others before ourselves.  Ghandi also lived his life to serve others.
  2. Find something new to learn every day.—Have the mindset of a little child. I don’t mean throw a tantrum or act otherwise immaturely but have the curiosity of a little child. Find something to learn every day when you are at work. For instance, at my job, I could find out something about a product that I didn’t notice before, or get to know a customer or a fellow co-worker better.  If you work with computer programs at work, explore it a bit more when you have some downtime, or find something unique or interesting about the data being presented to you. If there are ways to move up in your company, try to learn some of the things that the next- highest ranked person at your job does. For instance, someday I would like to be a department manager at my job. I am trying to learn some of the things that they have to do to succeed in their job now, little by little, so by a certain time, I will be well-qualified and well-trained.
  3. Strive for excellence.—Along with trying to learn something new every day, always, always strive for excellence. When we do something half-heartedly or with no heart at all, that is when our motivation to work is already waning. While I would not recommend trying to reach perfection like I often try to do, I would definitely strive for excellence. Do your best at everything that your job requires. You may not be good at everything your job requires, but always remember to do your best. For instance, a long time ago, I had a job where I was really bad at it and had to go to a different department, but they still had some respect for me. Why?  Because they knew I was trying my best.  Thankfully, I have a job now where I can do fairly well. However, I still am striving for excellence and trying to refine the things I don’t do as well better and keep on doing the things I do well, well. If you already excel at your job, try to outdo yourself and refine anything that you can do better. You probably WILL find something if you are honest with yourself and your abilities.  Don’t have an “I- don’t- care” attitude about your job. Not only will you dread coming to work each day but also you will most likely end up doing less than your best. If you find yourself having this attitude for more than a month or so, you should do yourself and your company a favor and look for a job that better suits you. Yes, I understand that finding work can be difficult, but it is better in the long run to find something that suits you in the end than being stuck at a job you hate or don’t care about –for years.

 

These are the things that I have found that have helped me stay motivated at work, even when things were stressful. I work to serve others so that I can make a positive contribution to my workplace and to society. I strive to find something to learn every day that I am at work, and finally, I do my best by always striving for excellence.  Applying these things to my life are some of the reasons why I am able to find joy and purpose in the work that God has placed before me. How do you personally stay motivated at your job? Do you find fulfillment in a day’s work? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

How I Overcame Depression This Year (and how you can too!)

On and off depressive episodes have been a part of my life since I was ten years old.  Sometimes, I cry for what seems like forever and a day, and sometimes I just become numb to everything around me, while hiding the turmoil inside. Though, when you meet me, I may seem happy and bubbly, for years it was only an unconscious façade to prevent myself from dealing with all the feeling of inferiority, self-hatred, and unfulfilled desires I had inside.

Then, some major changes in both my life situations and perspectives happened last year that fueled my motivation to beat depression once and for all this year. I still do struggle sometimes, but the depressive episodes are getting fewer and fewer. In my life situations, these four events fueled some major changes:

  1. My brother moved away.
  2. I got a new job.
  3. I went to a different church home after being at my previous one for over ten years!
  4. I started blogging more.

Here is what I learned from these events that have helped me overcome depression and enjoy some of the most joyful moments of my life. :

  1. I forgave those who hurt me.—There have been many people that have hurt me in the past. After several people hurt me emotionally a few months ago, I talked to one of the pastors at my church and he told me to “kill them with kindness” and directed me to the passages in the Bible where it said to “Love your enemies,” and “heap burning coals upon [my enemies’] head[s],” by loving and serving them anyway. It was in that moment that I realized what I wanted out of the people who hurt me and why it wasn’t working.—I wanted those that hurt me to stop hurting me! I had thought that by refusing to forgive them, I was, in essence, “punishing” them and giving them a taste of their own medicine that they deserved. However, in reality, what was happening was that I was hurting myself, and the people who hurt me not only continued to unconsciously hurt me because I was harboring so much anger and bitterness towards them, but also probably didn’t care or even know that they were still hurting me!  So, I believe God told me to “let go of the anger” because it really wasn’t accomplishing anything I wanted anyway, and I followed my pastor’s advice of intentionally doing good to them to help me heal from my anger and bitterness towards them.  Not only was I able to forgive these people, but our relationship was rekindled as well!
  2. I cultivated my dream of being a writer by blogging.—After starting and stopping blogging for about five years (I had accounts in other social media forms that are deactivated and I no longer use), I finally created this one in December 2015, but really made a commitment to regularly blog after getting my new job last year.  In addition to that, I joined a blogging group on Facebook, which has been a huge blessing and has helped me in many ways.  I am planning to monetize my blog sometime late this year or sometime next year, and/or do some affiliate work with this blog.  Writing has not only soothed me but has enabled me to communicate to others in ways I never thought possible.
  3. I woke up my motivation to learn about many different things in this world to increase my knowledge and so I could help and teach others.—This motivation and love of learning were really what woke up in me in two ways. First of all, my pastors’ sermons are always relevant to what I am going through and about the world around me. To apply what I learned, I felt that I could take what he taught and learn more about the topic. For instance, once he preached on creation, and that made me want to learn about how the world was created and about the different creatures that inhabit this planet.  Secondly, in the blogging group, I am a part, I have to read others’ blogs in order to get people to respond to mine and stay a good standing member of the group. This rule has helped me to learn about many different topics from fashion and travel to tips on how to better my blog! What are some things you can learn about the world around you?  What are some things that you can learn that your family and/or friends are interested in? I would try to learn about these things so you can better the world, make a difference in others’ lives, and also for your own enrichment.
  4. I embraced my spirituality more deeply.—As you may be able to tell from the title of the blog, “God’s Whisperings,” I take my Christianity quite seriously. However, before this past year, my devotions with God were lacking in quality and depth and I just didn’t feel as close to Him or to the people around me.  That changed when one of the pastors at my church did a bible study on doing devotions with God. Following his teachings, I was able to have a more effective and enjoyable time with God. Also, I tried to apply what I learned spiritually to other parts of my life too, such as my job and the friendships that I had with others, both in and out of work.
  5. I learned to enjoy and value my time more.—Before I got my current job, I felt that I was bored and had too much time on my hands. Now, with my free time being much more limited, I value my time more. I try to find something to enjoy in the moment I’m in now.  I no longer fear being bored or unfulfilled, because I now realize something always can be done, even if it is something as simple as prayer.  I learned that even if I have to spend some time with difficult people that something good still can be learned from them.  My pastor has repeatedly said, “Time is life.” I want to enjoy all the time that I have left because I can see all around me how precious life is and how limited time really is and how we should never waste it.
  6. I learned to love others more unconditionally.—As time goes on, I see all the pain and hurt that many people I know have to go through, often times on a daily basis. I also, unfortunately, see a lot of hate and indifference in this world, and I think that is tragic. So, because of this, I have resolved to strive to be different and counter all this hatred and anger with love and compassion.  I have tried (but still struggle with) being more patient with others, and putting others ahead of myself. I learned not only to forgive those that hurt me but to love people no matter what.
  7. I strived for excellence in everything I do.—It does me no good to just do something “to get by.” Nothing is more rewarding than to know that your hard work was all worth it. I strive for excellence in everything I do because it motivates me to constantly better myself and to learn new things.  Also, I have seen that when I do something with all my heart, that it is more rewarding than if I do something half-heartedly.
  8. I never gave up even though at times I wanted to, even though at times I failed in life, or even when obstacles had stood in my way.—There were a few times when I just wanted to give up. However, God didn’t allow me, and that has made all the difference. When I failed either morally or in other ways, yes I got upset, but then I picked myself up and tried again.  When obstacles stood in my way, there was always a way around it. When I wanted to give up, I thought of the negative consequences of actually giving up like not being able to accomplish my goals in life and not being able to be a positive influence in this world.  These things and often deliverance from a bad situation or situations gave me the motivation I needed to go on.

These are just some of the things I learned to do this year (and last) that helped me overcome my depression. How have you coped with or overcome depression, if you have struggled with it?  How has your life circumstances helped you to more effectively cope with life’s stresses? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

True Love: Why It Is Worth It

From the racially charged demonstrations about two months ago in Charlottesville, Virginia to the tragedy in Las Vegas just this month, there seems not only to be a lack of love, but people everywhere searching for hope, and more importantly, love.  They are searching for someone who will hold them and patiently listen to their pain and anguish in their lives, someone who will appreciate them for who they are, not just what they can do, someone who will be there for them when everyone else has deserted them, someone to give purpose and meaning to their lives. People need love more than ever in their lives!

Unfortunately, the word “love” has been tossed around like a worthless rag. Its meaning has been reduced to sensuality and good, mushy feelings, diminishing the true value of the word. However, true love is much more than that. Love, as I define it, can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, where “charity” equals love (KJV):

“Charity suffereth long and is kind. Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

From this verse, here is why I personally believe loving others is worth it:

  1. Love builds trust in relationships.— True love is not dependent on feelings or doing something kind only if one “feels like it.” True love willingly serves even in the face of adversity. Love means being there for another in the long haul. For instance, it is the husband who doesn’t leave his wife just because he doesn’t have loving feelings towards her at the time. It is the friend who does not give up on the other because he or she has found out something difficult or unattractive about the other person. This builds trust because the recipient of the love knows that the giver will never ever give up on them or the relationship.
  2. Love gives freedom to both the giver and the receiver.–For the giver, when one loves they become much less focused on the self and their own problems and more concerned about others. Thus, their own problems will usually pale in comparison and love gives them freedom to give more of themselves to others. This happens to me when I listen to or read about what others have had to go through in life.  Focusing on them and encouraging others through their issues helps me to put my own problems into perspective and usually helps me appreciate my own life more, that I am not facing that issue or that I have but now I am at a place where I can help others through that similar issue. For the receiver, love gives them the freedom to open up and be vulnerable without the fear of being judged and condemned by the person wanting to give the love. Furthermore, love gives them the freedom to just be themselves, without having to hide their true selves or “morph” into a more “suitable” version of themselves. Finally, when you someone truly loves you, they only want the best for you and they don’t continually think evil thoughts about you, so you don’t have to worry about their motives in trying to do good things for you,  or whether you have to “pay them back,” or “suffer in the end” for their good.
  3. Love gives purpose and meaning to our lives.–If you really love someone, you will invest in them emotionally, spiritually, and oftentimes financially and in other ways as well. This investment gives us someone to live for to ensure their welfare and their joy in their life. If you are spiritual, loving others will also bring you closer to God and His purposes for your life. In contrast, when we stop caring about and loving others, life becomes meaningless and empty. Your heart becomes hard and unmalleable to help solve any of the malaises of this world and make any positive difference in others’ lives.
  4. True love lasts forever.–If you really love someone, your love will never die. When someone loves you, their love for you will never die either.  Yes, even people we love will have to leave us (or the earth) sometime, but I believe if that person truly cares for and loves you, they will almost never forget you. A good indicator of if you really love someone is if they move to a different place, do you still remember them and how they look like? Do both of you make an effort to connect?  Do you still pray for or think about them? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” they probably have a special place in your heart. Also, true love never “disowns” people because it never gives up on someone. If someone gives up on you, they probably never loved you.  If they are there for you through thick and thin, then they probably do love you. True love lasts.

These are just some of the reasons that love is worth it. How can you love someone today? I don’t mean just the romantic or the mushy, gooey love either, but the true, agape love that Jesus gave everyone.  Trust me; because of the long-lasting effects of true love such as the building of trust in relationships, the giving of purpose and meaning to our lives, the sheer freedom it gives, and the fact that it lasts, love is definitely worth it.

 

Things One Should Say To an Abuse Survivor

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of rape and abuse. Absolutely NO disparaging comments allowed or your comment will be deleted! 

In the era where there are more people coming forward about being abused despite their perpetrators trying to silence them, there is still much work that needs to be done to help these survivors heal. One way this can be done is by saying things that will help the survivor heal and move forward despite all the horrible things that have happened to them. In my experience in dealing with people that have been abused and/or bullied, here are things that I think they need to hear from you:

  1. “I believe you.”–Many survivors suffer not only from the post-traumatic effects of having been abused but also from the stigma of not being believed, especially by family and/or friends of the perpetrator and sometimes even people in their own circle of influence. Saying to them that you believe what they went through was and is valid and real will help them heal because saying this validates their experience and feelings surrounding the traumatic event. It says you will be there for them and that you acknowledge their value and their worth.
  2. “This was not your fault.”–Many survivors also believe, at least to some extent, that the abuse was somehow their fault. This is what the perpetrators want them to believe because they (the aggressors) often do not want to a.) take responsibility for their actions and b.) believe that they are that bad of a person that they need to change their behaviors. However, this is NEVER true.  For instance, even if a rape survivor wore revealing clothing, it does not mean it is the survivor’s fault that they were raped! It is totally and completely the perpetrator’s fault for not controlling himself or herself and treating someone in a vulnerable position like an object of their twisted and selfish pleasures!
  3. “You are valued and loved.” —Many survivors I know struggle with low self-esteem or self-worth. Even people who are not survivors can struggle with this, but survivors even more so because the perpetrators have brainwashed these survivors into thinking that they are much less than they really are. Often perpetrators want their victims to think lowly of themselves, so it is easier for them to control their victims.  Survivors of abuse often struggle with this long after their perpetrators are out of their lives.  Telling the survivor that he or she is valued and loved, with a sincere heart, of course, will help them to regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.  Going a step further, and actually showing them that they are valued and loved, of course, can drastically improve survivors’ lives and/or outlook of their future.
  4. “I am here for you.”–A lot of survivors I know feel alone and/or struggle with depression.  This is often because the perpetrator often wants to silence them. If the perpetrator is successful in doing that, a survivor can feel that they have no one to turn to and that no one can really be trusted. Thus, they feel alone in their pain and suffering, and many can only tell their accounts of the abuse years after it happened.  Some, sadly, even take these accounts to their graves, or the perpetrator is believed instead of the survivor and thus is never punished or disciplined for their crimes. Saying “I am here for you,” will make the survivor feel less alone in their pain. It shows solidarity with them and will eventually open the gates of trust in their heart because saying this with a sincere heart will assure the survivor that they are not alone in their pain and that they don’t have to suffer alone.
  5. “You are beautiful.”–Abuse survivors, especially if they were abused sexually, often struggle with how they view the person staring back at the mirror in some way. Saying this in a platonic and sincere way can help survivors regain their self-confidence. However, one should also be careful to say this in such a way that it emphasizes their infinite worth as unique and awesome creation.  One should never say this half-heartedly or in a seductive manner!
  6. “You are not alone.”–As I said before, a lot of abuse survivors think they are somehow alone in their trial and anguish because they are often silenced or sworn to secrecy by their perpetrators especially if the survivors were abused as children.  Saying “You are not alone” to an abuse survivor can mean the world to them. Even though some may know logically that they are not alone, it is often refreshing for them to know that they a.) don’t suffer alone. b.) their anguish is not so unique that no one can ever understand or relate to them in some way.
  7. “I care about you” OR “I will support you.” –Some abuse survivors may feel that no one really cares about or supports them, especially if they have been told by some people in some way that their experience is not believable (even if what they experienced is 100% true).  Saying and demonstrating in some way that you care about them and are willing to support them can be a boon to them. This will mean to the survivor that they have a friend (you) who will help them through the up and downs of the recovery from their abuse and will show to them the perseverance of true love.
  8. Any other validating words.–What this world, and especially abuse survivors, need is love and validation.  Be careful when offering advice or criticism, because these things can hurt the survivor even more even if it is not intentional.  Often abusers control their victims by demeaning them not only physically, but also with hurtful and unnecessarily devaluing and mean words.  If you must offer advice or criticism, do so gently. Never verbally attack a survivor! Always think of them before yourself. Validate them by reminding them of their worth to you and to society, and do so sincerely. Most people can see through fake gestures of “kindness.”  Be sincere and kind in your words to others, especially survivors, always.

These are some things an abuse survivor needs to hear from you. If we validated everyone, especially people who have been through so much, I believe this whole world would heal from their pain and anguish, and it would be a much better place to live. Who can you love and validate today? Please discuss in comments.