Why What You Do Matters

Have you or someone you know ever thought that what you do for a living, the kind deed that no one ever even said “Thank you” to, or just anything you do in life doesn’t matter or won’t count for anything?  Well, there were times in my life when I felt that way.  However, this is a lie from the pit of darkness!  I know a lot of people go through life just “existing” because they feel no one gives a care about them.  And this is very sad. However, know that anything you do, whether good or bad, matters. Here’s why:

  1. There is are rewards and/or consequences to everything you do.–For instance, if you work hard at your job or at school, or whatever you do, in general, you will reap the rewards of so doing.  If you break the law, you will most likely end up in prison or at least have to pay a hefty fine. Even if you don’t see immediate reward, I believe it will come to you. You may have to be patient to see the reward or you may not get it in this life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get rewarded in eternity.
  2. Everything you do affects, positively or negatively, at least one other person, if not more.–For instance, sometimes when I go to work and I feel discouraged and unappreciated, but I still try to work hard despite these feelings, some people still take notice. How do I know? I have had people come up to me and say good things about my work.  I don’t say this to brag about myself, but to show you that even when you don’t feel appreciated or loved, if you still strive to do your best, people will eventually take notice. The reverse is also true. When you do something bad, people take notice too. For instance, if you always yell at and are rude to people, other people who don’t even know you but hear about you, will either be more cautious around you or avoid you altogether.  So, I encourage everyone to do their very best, because it will affect someone–and someone will eventually take notice.
  3. Every little thing you do will build up or tear down your legacy (i.e. how you will be remembered after you die)–This goes along with points one and two, but everything you do either builds up or tears down what you want your legacy on earth to be. For instance, if I want to (and I do) carry Rachel’s torch and I compromise my morals because I wrongly think that it doesn’t matter what I do or say or that I will make little difference anyway, I would not only be disgracing Rachel’s legacy as a sold-out follower of Christ, but also ruining my legacy of how I would like to be remembered when I die and with what I will leave this world.  However, if I want to be like Jesus Christ, and I strive every day to be loving, forgiving and kind as he was, knowing that everything I do matters, then I will leave quite a different (and more positive) legacy than if I were to compromise who I am for the sake of temporary pleasures on this earth.  So, how do you want to be remembered after you die by your family, friends, and others that know you? What you do matters.

This is why everything you do matters, whether small or great.  So, if you have a job, work hard at it even if no one else seems to. Be different, stand out, and make a positive change in this world. If you are a student, study hard and do all your homework (or even go beyond what is required sometimes), even if 90% of your classmates don’t. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” And I wholeheartedly agree!

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

On Sacrifice

According to Merriam-Webster’s website, sacrifice is, “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice).  Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about sacrificing, not only for Him (though that to me is the most important) but for others around me as well. Dying to self and sacrificing for others is not a popular concept in this current society. Many advertisements and social media posts even discourage us from doing these things. Yes, we must be careful not to sacrifice to the wrong things or people, or else we may not only lose everything but gain next to nothing in the process.  However, that does not mean it is wise to only live for oneself. Only living for yourself will ultimately lead to destruction and death of your spirit.  Your heart will most likely become so hardened that you will really have little or nothing to give or share with others, or you won’t want to.  This is why sacrifice is so important.

What God has taught me about sacrifice in my own life: 

The three major changes that I have had to go through last year were these: A) Getting a new job  B) Having my sibling move away. C) Going to a new church.  God has taught me through these three events that I have had to let go of certain people and things to get to where He wanted me to be in life.  For instance, if I stayed at the job in the thrift store and not listen to the inner promptings (I believe, of God) to look elsewhere, I would have never been blessed with some of the things that I enjoy today. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the job there or that the people in there were mean to me, but that God put in me the feeling that my time was up there and I needed to embrace a new challenge in my life.  In essence, God wanted me to sacrifice the security that I felt at the thrift store to trust Him with something bigger. Luckily, I did, with great results!  When my sibling moved away, it was very difficult for me at first. I felt a bit alone and empty inside where my sibling’s presence used to be. However, I realized I needed to sacrifice for that sibling so that they could accomplish what they needed to do get a better job without pressure or me (or my parents) hovering over that sibling.  I needed to allow them to grow.  Going to a new church was also very difficult for me. I remember God had asked and said to me a few years back, “What if [old church name] no longer existed? Wouldn’t I still be there for you? What if you had to go back to [another old church]? What if I have greater plans for [old church name]? What if you could just enjoy now and trust Me?” This was kind of prophetic, in retrospect, because now the old church doesn’t really exist (at least as that named church) and God has been doing something different through that church.  However, I felt God’ s nudging that I should look for a different church so that He could grow me better. Almost a year later, I have been going to my current church and grown so much there!  But I had to sacrifice the presence of my church family I had grown with for about ten years (and still miss them), in order to make room for something different that God wanted to do with my life.

Now, I sense God may be nudging me to give up some of my co-workers and managers at work, in a way, in order that I depend on Him more, and not on them and their approval so much. I am not saying that I no longer value them or that their approval doesn’t matter to me. What I am saying, through future events, is that I may need to give up having to be with some of them constantly (or for my own happiness) so that they may feel more joyful or less stressed in their lives.  It’s not that I was a burden to them or something either, but that change was needed in their lives so that they could have a deeper sense of purpose and positively impact the lives of others. (And, no  I’m not planning to quit my job either, in case you’re wondering…)

How to Sacrifice For Others (without sacrificing your identity):

  1. Allow them the option of leaving or rejecting you, if you really love or care about the other person.–This is why stalking is so wrong. It does not give the person the space they need to breathe apart from you. Even though I know most of you would never stalk someone, when we don’t allow a person close to you (i.e.. a family member, spouse or a close friend) adequate space apart from you, they may feel suffocated and trapped, and they will not be able to really love you fully from their heart(s), or their own free will.  This may be painful and upsetting for you. Trust me; I have experienced this many, many times in my life, more times than I care to count. However, if we don’t allow this option, not only will that person grow in their love for you but you won’t grow either! If this other person or persons really love you, they will at least visit you. If they don’t care to even acknowledge you anymore, then the relationship was not meant to be, and you have to move on for their sake and yours!
  2. Be willing to give up your selfish dreams and desires for that other person or persons.–For instance, if you and your friend are in the same car and he or she is driving, let them choose the music they listen to for their pleasure, even if you dislike it, especially if it is only a matter of taste.  Also, parents, never ever live vicariously through your child or children and impose your dreams and wants on them! Let them have their own dreams and goals. Yes, raise them with a set of rules and morals you believe will help them be successful in life, but never force your child into a profession or activity they don’t want just because you didn’t get to do it yourself.
  3. Be willing to give up something valuable for that other person or persons, if the situation calls for that.–This may be sacrificing financially for the sake of the poor, or it may be something as simple as sacrificing your time to help another person or friend in need.  For instance, if someone you know at work or at school often goes hungry and does not bring a lunch or dinner with them when they are feeling hungry, you could sacrifice for them by fasting that meal and giving your meal to them. Or you could still eat your meal, but offer to buy the person a meal from a restaurant or store.  This is not to cultivate a “poor-me” mentality, but to serve the other person in need.

As one can see, even if in some circles, sacrificing for others is highly discouraged or even rejected, sacrifice is an important part for both parties in a healthy relationship.  Though it may not be wise to sacrifice for someone who is constantly trying to take advantage of you, you should find someone for whom it is a wise and viable idea to sacrifice to, whether it be God or another person. Who has sacrificed a lot for you? And who have you sacrificed for? Please discuss in the comments.

How To Grow as a Person

As some of you may know, I am a fairly short person, and I want to grow taller like the forest trees in this picture.  I’m fairly sure that will never ever happen. Today, though I can’t make one grow taller (even myself), I can share with you what I have learned about growing personally, experientially, and intellectually as a person.  This kind of growth, I believe, is of utmost importance if one truly wants to succeed in life. Here’s what I learned are the characteristics necessary to facilitate personal growth:

  1. Humility/A willingness to learn–One of the most overlooked and important qualities to personal growth is the power in humility.  In a previous post, I discussed the pitfalls of being arrogant, including not being able to get the help one needed,  broken relationships, and not being able to learn new things.  In contrast, one of the benefits of humility is that you are able to change and grow into a better person.  Think about it:  When you readily admit you don’t know everything, you are able to better receive correction and rebuke and learn ways to improve yourself than if you don’t.
  2. Motivation.–If you truly want to grow as a person, you most likely will, because you will want to do everything in your power to make this happen. Without motivation, almost all is lost.  For instance, if you are not motivated by anything or anyone to be less selfish (not saying anyone is or isn’t–just an example), then you will most likely continue to act in selfish ways and even probably not think twice about it.
  3. Perseverance.–There will be obstacles whenever one tries to grow as a person. Some people will not like the change, even if it is positive. The key to lasting and sustained growth is perseverance.  We need to keep on going in life to make positive and lasting changes as people.  We cannot give up. If we give up, we stop growing. We need to work hard to overcome the obstacles that bind us down.  We can do this by not only focusing on the positive but also using the negative obstacles as teaching tools for us to push through and move ahead in life. For instance, if you know you struggle with being patient, you can use the times when you got impatient as reminders of what not to do or say next time a similar situation like that happens.
  4. Adequate moral support.–One of the key factors in my personal growth as a person has been the support that I have gotten both on and offline.  I have not always had a lot of support, but as people have seen that I wanted to grow as a person, they have graciously taken the time to support and guide me.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have adequate moral support, but for those of us who are,  use your supports to be a better person to them and grow yourself. If you don’t have much support, I would suggest starting slowly to build your support network.  I would frequent places where people have the same interests and goals you do and go from there, or I would go online to find communities that can give you some kind of moral support.

These are some of the characteristics that need to be present in order for someone to become emotionally and personally growing as a person. Sometimes it takes a long time to have any significant growth, but take things one step at a time, and do not give up. What other characteristics do you think is needed for one to grow as a person? Please discuss here.

On Upsetting the Applecart

Upsetting the applecart, according to Dictionary.com, is to spoil carefully laid out plans.  (Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/upset–the–applecart) However, how I define upsetting the applecart, is doing anything that will upset the status quo. For instance, if everyone is supposed to wear red, and you are wearing blue, you may be upsetting the applecart.

Sometimes it is important not to upset the applecart. Examples and explanations of situations where it would not be so wise to upset the applecart would be as follows:

  1. In order to rebel against authority–Ninety percent of the time, it is not a good idea to upset the applecart by rebelling against authority figures in your life, whether it be the police, teachers, or bosses. Not only will you get in trouble, but you will also not likely to induce the changes you want to be made either by the authority themselves, or the peers around you.
  2. By doing something that is illegal and/or immoral.–If you are upsetting the applecart by doing something that is grossly immoral or illegal because you don’t like something or because you want to do what you want to without any regard to the consequences of your actions, that is being reckless. It is not really changing anything or really “upsetting the applecart” in any positive or significant way.

There are other times, however, when it would be very wise to upset the applecart. Examples of these may be as follows:

  1. When the people around you are doing something wrong or unproductive (i.e..when things that “have always been done this way” will not accomplish the desired result or results in the long run). –For instance,  if you work in an environment where people are regularly nasty to each other and are always fighting, you can upset the applecart, so to speak, by refusing to engage in that environment or instead be speaking encouraging things to those you meet there.
  2. When you want to accomplish sustained, positive change in the world around you.–For example, many countries in the past engaged in enslaving people that they thought were “inferior” to themselves.  Now we know that that is wrong. In the past, many thought it was just the way things were, but abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Fredrick Douglas, worked together to eventually put an end to slavery here in the U.S.   They upset the slave owners’ applecart, so to speak, to win the freedom of millions of mistreated African slaves in the U.S.
  3. When you want to be true to your values and convictions, even if everyone else around you is not in agreement.–For instance, my faith hero, Rachel Scott, made a dent in this world and upset the applecart, by being not only vocal about her Christian faith but also applying her faith to her daily life, even though it meant her losing all of her good friends at school.  Another situation where upsetting the applecart may be wise is when you see someone being unfairly treated or bullied, and you stand up for the bully’s victim even when no one else will. This is not primarily about making you a hero, but more about doing the right thing and instigating a positive change in your world.

Whether or not you choose to upset the applecart, the most important thing to remember is how to do it correctly.  Remember that upsetting the applecart may be difficult because you are going against the status quo, the grain, so to speak. Some people may not respect your convictions or what you’re doing, but if it is the right thing to do, do it anyway.  You may even lose some support along the way, but if you know that this is the right thing to do, don’t give up.

Here’s how to upset the applecart most effectively:

  1. Think about how you will upset the applecart.–For instance, if your work or school environment is a place where there are a lot of cliques and infighting, determine a way you will change that by not subscribing to the same things your colleagues or classmates are. In this example, I would want to upset the applecart by not participating in the gossip and infighting myself, and by hanging out with many different types of people, not just ones with whom I feel comfortable.
  2. Determine you will be different in some way than the status quo.–Stand out in some way. –Don’t be afraid to be different, or be yourself, in situations where upsetting the applecart would benefit others.   For instance, in multiple sources, Rachel Scott, my faith hero, is quoted as saying, “I won’t be labeled as average.” Rachel Scott was known for upsetting the applecart in a positive way.  Her faith and compassion for others stood out. She hung out and encouraged those who no one considered or wanted to be around.  She held firm to moral boundaries but rejected shallowness and fakeness.
  3. Hold firm to your convictions and beliefs always.–Never let what other people think of you and/or your beliefs hinder you in any way. Never surrender your beliefs and convictions if you know that you are right. Yes, be open to others’ wisdom and advice if you are wrong about something or to understand people better. However, never let someone change your beliefs and convictions based only on their benefit or just to please them.  Change only because you (or God) want(s) you to.

Upsetting the applecart allows us not only to stand out and be different but also to initiate effective change to our world and those around us. Change, and upsetting the applecart can be upsetting to some people, but they are necessary ingredients to improve oneself and the world around you.

 

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

On Loneliness and Love

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

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

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

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

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

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

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

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

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

How To Be a Coffee Bean (or Change Your World)

This analogy/story is inspired by one of my managers at work who told us this following story (origin–unknown) to motivate us during a meeting we had:

One day, a mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson, and so she told her daughter to buy these three ingredients: carrots, eggs and coffee beans. After the daughter bought these items, her mother told her to boil them and to tell her what happened.  So, after boiling these three items, this is what she told her mother: The carrots that were hard before they got boiled became soft after they were boiled. The eggs, which were previously soft, became hard, but the coffee beans stayed the same and permeated everything around them. 

Our manager told us not to be like the carrot which became soft under pressure (boiled). She told us not to be like the eggs, which hardened (became calloused) under pressure, but to be like the coffee beans that stayed the same under pressure and then permeated everything around them.  This concept, in Christian circles, is called “Being a Light,”  but can be applied to most anyone, regardless of belief. Here’s what I found are just three characteristics of people who positively change the world (i.e. “became a coffee bean”).

  1.  They invested in people.–These coffee bean-like people invested in others, not just themselves, or not just them and a few close family members and friends. This means they intentionally strove to positively interact with everyone around them.  This does not mean they succeed every time, but it also means they strive to make a positive impact on the majority they meet, not just a few people.  When I think of people like that, I think of all five of my faith heroes (for more on my faith heroes, see this post.), who inspired others to live their best life possible.  I think of my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf, who has served in the same church for over 40 years and has touched almost everyone he met there. I think of Chris* (NOT his real name) who makes sure people have time off work sometimes because he cares that people have families and lives outside the job and my manager Tom* (NOT his real name) who helps his workers succeed and strive for excellence every day.
  2. Be genuine.–What my faith heroes and coffee beans have in common are their genuineness. They both don’t change who they are because they are pressured to “fit in,” or because they “feel like it.” For instance, one of my faith heroes, Jesus Christ, did not change His purpose, mission, or personality just so that the Pharisees would like him. He always stayed true to His character. Also, another of my faith heroes, Rachel Scott, had lost all her friends due to her newfound faith in Christ. Even so, she was adamant about staying true to her belief and who she was, and not some tamed-down image of who her friends thought she should be. Never change who you are due to circumstances or people wanting to mold you into their own image of how you “should” be. Be true to yourself, while still willing to be open and teachable to change for the better, but change for your own reasons, not just another person’s.
  3. Stand Out.-Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be a true world-changer or coffee bean, you have to stand out. Rachel Scott has been quoted in multiple sources as saying, ” I won’t be labeled as average.” In order to be a true coffee bean, you have to want to be better than average in your mentality and attitude towards life. That is, you can’t just blend in, be like everyone else, and/or do the minimum.  For instance, at work, one way I am trying to be a coffee bean is to work hard every day, and sometimes even volunteer to do extra work when I have the time and when needed, to help others. Moreover, I strive for excellence in my work, and not simply to get things done. Rachel Scott stood out by being kind to everyone around her, not just the people she looked up to or with who she got along well.  She even was kind to those boys who would later murder her, and also to those who were shunned, looked down upon, or made fun of by everyone else in her school or by society.

These are the three things everybody who is like a coffee bean have and examples of how one can imitate them. Coffee-bean like people always have a positive impact in this world, and sometimes it is very great! Resolve to be your best–Be a coffee bean today!

How To Die to Self

Dying to self is not an attractive or a popular concept in today’s culture. Even our advertisements cater against dying to self! Think about it. When was the last time an advertisement encouraged you to benefit someone else, without expectation of benefiting yourself also?  Obviously, in this context, dying to self does not mean commit suicide, which often has more to do with suffering from a mental illness or wanting to get out of misery or pain, rather than what I am speaking of here.

Dying to self is often a difficult and painful process, and can take years or even a lifetime to develop maturely.  The apostle Paul, a devout Christian, says in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” So, the concept of dying to self, at the minimum, involves counting everything as a loss, for the sake of another or others. 

“Why would anyone want to die to self?” you may be thinking.  Well, when you find out that thinking of yourself all or even most of the time is impeding your relationships with others and is making you not as joyful and free as you could be, then you realize that at least part of the problem may lie within.

While there is certainly time for self-care, dying to self involves self-sacrifice and devotion to helping others. Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) is involved with dying to self:

  1. Be intentionally kind to another person for their sake, not yours.–While you will probably feel good after doing something kind for someone else (We can’t really get away from that, nor should we.), don’t let that be the primary motivator in doing the kind thing. Let the kind action be done because we want to improve their lives, and make them happy and loved.
  2. Prefer another before yourself–This means thinking about how the other person feels and what they want, instead of just what you feel or want.  This is called empathy. Some people (like me) may have some trouble doing this, but with practice, everyone can get better. Another example of preferring another before yourself is letting someone go ahead of you in line, especially if they are in a hurry because you don’t want them to be late to wherever they have to go next.
  3. Lose Entitlement–A big barrier to dying to self for a lot of people, including me, is the sense of entitlement or “rights” we think we should get. This is a big thing, especially in the country where I live. I’m not saying having rights is a “bad” thing, but it can be idolatrous if we are not careful.  For example, at work, some people think that if they are full-time, they should always get 40 hours, no more, no less and that they have a right to not do more than they should.  If their rights are violated or intruded upon, they naturally get upset and complain. However, dying to self means, in a way, “losing our rights.” So, if I were in that example for work, I would not complain if they had to cut me to less than 40 hours if I am full-time, and if they want me to do extra work, I will do it, not just for my sake, but for the sake of the whole team at work.
  4. Lose pride.–Another huge barrier to dying to self is pride.  Pride, in this context, means arrogance. Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others. Losing pride means, for instance, not looking down upon people that are poorer than you, or who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t work, just because you work. It also means being willing to give and receive help when needed, and not worrying about “saving face.”
  5. Be grateful and trust what you have is already and will always be enough.–Jealousy and ingratitude are also barriers to dying to self. In order to truly be able to die to self, you need to come to a place where you realize what you have is enough for that moment. Being thankful for what I have and realizing how many people have made a positive impact in my life, helps me in this area and ultimately leads me to die to self a little bit more.  Being thankful helps me realize how much I have and how privileged I am, and that fact compels me to share what I have with others, whether it is material things, my abilities, or my time. I also learned though there will always be people who have more than I do materially, or who are better people than me, that God made me unique for His purposes, and that I don’t need to compare myself to others.  I just need to serve them the best I can and be thankful for them being in my life so I can have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice for others.–This means forgoing something for the good of another. For example, if a friend enjoys a movie you don’t really like, but he or she really doesn’t want to go alone, dying to self would involve offering to come with that friend to see that movie.  You would forgo your time and your preference, for that of your friend. NOTE: Going to the movie, but complaining through the whole thing or otherwise having a bad attitude, is not dying to self, but “playing the martyr,” which is the opposite of dying to self. Another theoretical example would be if your friend forgot to bring their lunch and has no money to buy one for themselves, either giving your lunch to them and fasting that meal, or sacrificing part of your earnings, and buying lunch for them so they won’t go hungry is dying to self.

As you can see, dying to self is very difficult and involves a new way of thinking.  Often times, I fail too. However, dying to self is a process and takes a long time to do well.  It is often when selfishness starts ruining our relationships and communities, that we really wake up and start thinking that dying to self might not be a bad idea.
As I said, dying to self is very difficult to do and takes time, but I believe we must strive to at least try to do this if we want to improve our relationships with others and be truly fulfilled in this life.