Restoring Broken Relationships

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

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

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

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Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 1

NOTE: NO disparaging comments, or your comment will be deleted. Thank you.

“Only by pride cometh contention.” This sentence is found in Proverbs 13:10 (KJV), and I see the fact in this phrase playing out in my everyday life, not only by those around me, but even, sadly, by myself at times.  We see this in the verbal attacks coming from within governmental doors. We see demonstrated this in schools, in the workplace, in places of worship, and most sadly, in our own homes.  We see the poison of arrogant pride.  The four forms of pride I most often see are, what I call, prejudicial pride, “better-than-you” pride, false humility, and materialistic/monetary pride:

I define prejudicial pride as a natural inclination to disdain or look down upon another because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, social class, or any other human identifier, and to believe that you are somehow better than them.  For instance, in my country, there has been a 300-plus year history of racism against African Americans by some White people.  This began by the importing of African slaves into the United States by wealthy landowners, and because of the imbalance of power between the slaves and the landowners, the landowners had absolute control over these slaves, often beating and degrading them to their own sinful desires.  This degradation of African Americans continued until the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement.  However, despite major positive changes in the way Whites and Blacks have generally treated each other, there still remains much contention between these two ethnic groups to this day. Virtually, every religious group has had some history of others persecuting them in some way.  Many Christians around the world have been imprisoned, beaten, lost their jobs, and been put to death in a most torturous way because of their faith. There have also been many moderate Muslims who have been persecuted, harassed, beaten, or even killed because of their faith and because people have wrongly associated them with the cowardly actions of a few who claim the name of Islam.  As you can see, prejudicial pride creates much contention, destruction, hatred, anger, and bitterness, and does absolutely nothing to cultivate understanding or even a sense of love and compassion for its targets.

The first thing one can do to combat prejudicial pride is to confess your own prejudices against others.  Confess with humility and a desire to change your ways, as with this man in this video.  The next thing to do is to resolve to learn more about the people or peoples you have harbored prejudice against. For instance, if you are rich and you realize you have prejudices against those who are in poverty, go to the library or order books or videos about how people in poverty live. This not will only probably awaken a sense of compassion in you, but also help you understand others better. Moreover, the more knowledge you gain about someone, and the more you understand them, the less likely you are to harbor judgment and hatred against them.  Finally, resolve to interact with the people who you had previously harbored prejudice against, and do so as someone who is truly willing to be a friend to them, rather than treating them as just a “sympathy” case or manipulating them to your own ends.

Another type of pride, that also includes prejudicial pride, is what I call “better-than-you” pride.  This kind of pride says that because I can do or be X, and you (in my mind) cannot be or do this, you are worthless, but I am entitled to unconditional respect and honor. This is the type of pride often displayed by narcissists, who often think of themselves as more special than others.  In many workplaces and in some other hierarchies, the people who display this type of pride are often at the top of the authority chain (bosses and CEOs) or somehow have connections to these people, and think they don’t have to listen to anyone, even if others have authority over them.  They think they are invincible, and are not accountable to their own actions. This type of pride can ruin morale and cause these prideful people to have a colossal moral and career fall, if they act in illegal and/or immoral ways, and are eventually found out by authority that they can no longer escape or denounce. Think about famous people like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize that they do struggle.  This may involve confessing and repenting (changing one’s ways and attitudes) of one’s pride.  Another way to combat this type of pride in ourselves is to realize that everyone has flaws, and we are no exception.  Also, we need to think about the many times where we have received mercy, meaning not getting the punishment we deserved, and grace, meaning getting the blessings we did not earn or merit.  For instance, if you realize that you are tempted to think that you are somehow “better” than a co-worker because he or she struggles in areas that you don’t, think about the areas that you struggle with that they don’t.  In evaluating ourselves rightly, and not thinking ourselves more highly than we ought, we realize we are often no better, or worse, than anyone else.

The third type of pride manifests itself as humility, but is really pride all the same. This is what I call false humility. False humility is degrading oneself in a way that exhibits that you think you are hopeless to ever change or get better. I admit that I sometimes struggle with this because of my depression.  The reason why this is a form of pride is because false humility says that you are so special that mercy, grace, and love cannot change or touch you, so I don’t need or I can’t get proper help.  This is not only pride because of the apparent twisted, entitlement attitude towards not getting help, but because of how it manifests itself as humility.  When someone says to you, “Everyone likes you,” and in your insecurities, you say, “They are only pretending to like me. No one will would ever really love or like a lousy person like me.” you are demonstrating false humility.

The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize the implications of what you are saying and to realize that you have a problem.  Then, you should also try to look at yourself outside of your own negative self-focus lenses, and through what others really are thinking about you.  If you don’t really know what people think of you, ask! However, do it in a subtle way, and not in a pushy, insecure way. Also, realize that whatever flaws you see within yourself, know that there is always hope of change as long as you don’t give up. It may be a difficult and long road to change, but with enough determination and hard work, you CAN change.

The fourth type of pride is pride in material things and in one’s wealth. This manifests itself in one bragging about the stuff and/or the money one has.  They take very good care of the stuff they own, but to the exclusion to taking care of or loving their family and/or those around them.  The reason why this type of pride is so harmful is because its focus is on things that won’t last very long, and it excludes the people that are often much more relevant.  Some ways you can combat this type of pride is by being able to let go of some of the things you own, and by being generous and willing to share what you have with others.  Another way you can combat this type of pride is to focus more on cultivating relationships with others, and less time on material things.  For instance, instead of playing games on your smartphone at dinnertime, take time to talk to those around you.

As you can see, prejudicial pride, better-than-you pride, false humility, and materialistic pride are all common, but harmful forms of pride that often creates destruction, contention, anger, bitterness, and despair when no longer fed the way it wants to be.  This way to get rid of these symptoms is addressing the root problem of pride.

Benefits of Humility

Some people scoff at the idea of lowering yourself or allowing others to get ahead of you, because, they think, it shows weakness.  However, I believe, since it is unnatural to want to humble oneself or to allow others the greater benefit, the opposite is true. –In fact, I would even add that it takes great emotional and spiritual strength to truly humble oneself.  All around us, society whispers to us, in different ways, “Take care of number one first and foremost, then you will have great success,” and even “Be successful at all costs, even if you have to step on others’ toes to get there.” However, I would attest that most people, who are truly successful and truly make the greatest difference in our world, turn these whisperings upside down—through their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.  In fact, not only does humility grant us a type of success that can’t be measured by the society around us, but a humble attitude also has lasting benefits to you as well. Here are just some of them that I have observed when people (including me) demonstrate a humble attitude:

  1. Humility allows you to be your genuine self.—When we are entangled in arrogant pride, I find that we are constantly on our toes to try to impress the Next Bigger and Better person, sometimes in an effort to cover up our flaws and deceive ourselves and others, subconsciously, about them. It’s like we don’t want to face our flaws in ourselves, and we end up living in an illusion. Many people I have observed, who present themselves arrogantly, have deep-seated pain and/or flaws that they are desperately trying to hide from the rest of the world. They may be afraid of feeling rejected and unloved by others, or otherwise, being inadequate to the world. However, when we are humble, we are more likely to have a realistic view of ourselves. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. “Humility” that degrades oneself is not really humility, but reverse pride.  Degrading oneself says that “I am so broken and “special” that I can’t be fixed by anyone,” which is, of course, a lie, no matter how true it may seem at the time.  While having a humble attitude does acknowledge the self as a unique and beautiful creation, it acknowledges others’ beauty and worth even more! When you are humble, you are not afraid to be vulnerable with others and show your true self—the good mixed in with your flaws—because you are not afraid of rejection or lowering of status. Status and fear of rejection no longer matter to you. The welfare of others is more important.
  2. Humility diminishes jealousy and selfish attitudes.—I firmly believe that 99.9% of all jealous attitudes stem from pride. When we are jealous of others, it not only shows ingratitude for the gifts we already received in our lives, but also a kind of entitled pride that says, in effect, “ I deserve what that other person has, and he or she doesn’t! “ However, humility acknowledges and believes that everything, even life itself, is a gift.  Humility says, “Even though I don’t deserve much, I am grateful when I do get something.”  Humility has power and strength to think about the needs of others because it isn’t preoccupied with oneself.  Humility does not ever compete against another, whereas pride wants to beat everyone at their own game, so only it gets the benefit. Humility can be demonstrated when we put others’ needs and egos, ahead of our own.  For instance, if we have a humble attitude, we will readily admit when we do something wrong and sincerely apologize and repent of our actions.  In contrast, when we are prideful, we will often excuse our sinful (morally wrong) actions or diminish the true magnitude and seriousness of our sins.  Humility is happy when another co-worker gets the promotion we wanted, but pride is envious and resentful of the other coworker getting the promotion.
  3. Being humble will get you more respect in the end.—Although there are still some people who think being prideful will get you more respect, most people appreciate it more when one is humble. Being humble will get you more respect, because it allows you to consider their needs more.  Having a humble attitude develops our empathy because you think of yourself less, and on others’ feelings and experiences more.  Yes, there is a time for self-care, but all in all, being humble involves knowing that your needs will be met, in the process of caring for others. My faith hero, Rachel Scott, was a humble person. She didn’t tell everyone about all the kind things that she did to be noticed, but just did them out of her love and care for people. Her parents and others only found out about her kind acts from her recipients, and only after her death.  Jesus Christ, another one of my faith heroes, and my Lord and Savior, also demonstrated great humility by being willing to die an excruciatingly painful death in our place, so we didn’t have to.  Now, both Jesus and Rachel Scott, are greatly respected by many people because of their acts of kindness and humility.

As you can see, having a humble attitude has many benefits.  Humility allows you to be your genuine self, without reserve or regret. Humility eliminates, or at least, lessens jealousy and self-centered attitudes, and humility can get you more respect in the end.  Allowing others to be bigger than yourselves is a sign of great strength, not weakness. Humility does have a price of sacrifice to pay, but it is worth it in the end.

Cultivating Peace After Conflict

We all want it in life. Some people may even crave it so much they just want to rest and get some zzzs.  Besides joy and love, it is a given that most, if not, all people want peace in their lives.  However, there are obstacles and conflicts that we often face in life, many of them with other people. Some of us may have even had long-standing conflicts with a person or persons that have caused us considerable stress in our lives. These conflicts may have led to a lack of peace in our lives.  This has certainly been the case in my past.  However, I have learned these following things about how to cultivate peace after having a conflict with someone:

Things One Should Never Do in Cultivating Peace After a Conflict:

  1. Make excuses and/or fake apologies.—A fake apology is a half-hearted attempt to deny or ignore your part in the conflict by “apologizing” using the words BUT and/or IF in it. Examples of this would be: a.) I know I upset you, but you are too sensitive. b) I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.  The first fake “apology” negates the apology by blaming the conflict on the other party.  The second fake “apology” does not acknowledge your part in the conflict at all.  Any so-called apology that blames the other person and, thus, does not own our part in the conflict, is made half-heartedly, or is done solely because someone told us we had to apologize (i.e  when parents force their children to apologize to each other when they have no desire), is a fake apology.
  2. Pretend everything is OK when it is NOT. –Another thing we should not do when desiring peace after a conflict is to go on pretending nothing happened. This often occurs when a party or parties do not want to properly deal with the conflict. For example, if you offended me and I am hurt, but the next day you act nice and loving to me again, as if the disagreement never happened. Moreover, you don’t apologize or even offer to make amends with me first. This never works, especially in major conflicts, because it invalidates the hurt feelings of the injured party or parties. It also stalls necessary changes and amends that will need to be made for true peace because the issues are never properly addressed.  This tactic is often used by abusers to maintain a sense of bait and control towards their victims, though certainly not all people who use this technique are abusers.
  3. Still have anger and bitterness in your heart.—When you want to cultivate peace after being in a conflict with someone, you should make sure you don’t have any bitterness or anger still in your heart. I believe forgiveness or at least a sense of “letting it go” is vital to cultivate true peace with someone you had a conflict with in the past. If you still have anger and bitterness in your heart, I would advise that you deal with those heart issues first, before trying to reconcile and/or forgive the person or persons involved in your conflict. When I had tried to “make up” with someone when I still held anger and resentment towards them in my heart, things would often get worse because these people would see through my façade and just dismiss me, making me even angrier than I was to begin with.  Make sure you are completely at peace with the conflict and the person that caused it before trying to make peace.

Things One Should Do To Cultivate Peace After a Conflict:

  1. Confess your part of the problem.—We should humbly confess our part of the problem even if we are not totally at fault. This does not mean “confessing” things that are not your fault, as in the case of abuse. However, this does mean confessing any negative attitudes, words, or behaviors, which you did out of your own will that contributed to the problem. This even means confessing our past anger and bitterness towards someone, if it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t even think of said person in any sort of positive way!
  2. Find ways to repair the damage you caused and/or solve the problem.—After a conflict with someone, we should strive to find ways to repair the damage we caused by making any necessary restitution to him or her. If they caused the conflict or you and they both caused the conflict equally, you should work with the other person to find a solution to the conflict that will benefit both people. One or both parties may need to compromise, meaning to give up some of their desires to reach a desired peaceful conclusion to the conflict.  Do what is right not only for your sake, but for the others involved in the conflict as well.
  3. Make right with the other party or parties in the conflict before the sun goes down, if at all possible. –This principle is derived from Ephesians 4:26, which basically says to “not let the sun go down upon your wrath.” (KJV) This means you don’t want to wait more than one day to resolve a conflict.—You should try to resolve conflict as soon as possible. This way, seeds of anger and bitterness cannot form.  When we wait more than several days to deal with conflict, the tension lingers and often intensifies into deep-seated anger and bitterness, which I have found to be harmful to, not only our spiritual and emotional health, but often to our physical health as well. Prolonged anger and bitterness poison both body and soul.  Don’t risk it. Strive to resolve issues with others today.
  4. Forgive the other party for their part in the conflict.—In order to forgive, we need to know what forgiveness is. For more detailed information on forgiveness, please read this post. Forgiveness is letting go of anger and bitterness in one’s soul and trusting the ultimate Judge for justice.  We should forgive the other party for both past and present hurts in order to be at peace with them and ourselves.  Forgiveness requires humility and selflessness, but will release a weight of bitterness and anger that was on you and will ultimately allow healing for all parties involved.

These are the things I learned about cultivating peace after a conflict.  If we consistently applied these principles, I believe that there would be more peace our world.  May we strive to be instruments of reconciliation and peace in an increasingly stressful and anxiety-laden world.

On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

My Day with God: Lessons I Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heroes of the faith-Explanation

This is one of the most joyful posts I am probably ever going to publish. The following five people (see “heroes of the faith” tab on my blog) have embodied all of the five characteristics that I discuss in this post. They come from all walks of life, and some of them though already passed, have made a huge impact in this world and/or personally in my life. Some of them, though we never even met, through what others who have known them personally have written or spoke about them, have left an indelible mark on my life and how I live it.

Heroes

  1. Jesus Christ-He is more than just a person to me; He is my God! He embodies perfectly how I want to live and I want to devote my all to Him.  If I were to list absolutely everything He has done for me and my life,  I would probably exhaust the megabits of this blog server! He has never given up on me, even if I have given up on myself.  He is the most trustworthy, loyal, kind, generous, faithful and merciful being I have ever known! Though He didn’t have worldly education, was poor, was not in our terms, “handsome,” and almost everyone He knew rejected Him, He made an indelible mark on this world just for the fact that He lived–and died, for each one of us.
  2. Rachel Joy Scott-Rachel was a faithful warrior of Christ, who died on April 20, 1999 in the Columbine shooting massacre.  She was martyred (read: shot) by two troubled young boys.  However, it was her life that shined for Christ before others.  According to the book her parents Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott made in honor of her called “Rachel’s Tears,” though she had doubts and struggles with her faith, she was always committed to doing her best every day to make a positive impact in her world. Her love for people and her commitment to Christ are things I want to model my own life after. Like her, I want to not only love others, but be committed to help combat against injustice in this world and do my part to make a positive difference in others’ lives, in love and obedience to my God.
  3. Frank and Stephanie Taylor-These people embody well what it means to be a believer in Christ. Pastor Frank was my pastor at my (former) church. At first, I didn’t trust him or his wife Stephanie, but slowly they gained my trust and love through their devotion and love of God and others.  They also don’t let the power and responsibility of being a pastor or in the case of Stephanie, pastor’s wife, go to their heads.  I remember when Pastor Frank accidentally offended some people in our church, and instead of defending himself or being arrogant about it, he actually took the time to publicly apologize for his actions and asked for forgiveness. I will always remember his humility in that. Also, I will always remember Stephanie’s patience and grace with me when I was having a difficult time in life and she would always come alongside me and gently prod me to focus on God and not myself.
  4. Mother Teresa-I believe her service to the poor and vulnerable, as well as her honesty about the struggles of her faith, are what inspire me about her. She was always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need, and she inspired me to not ever forget about the downtrodden or oppressed. She was a champion in fighting injustice and poverty in India through what she did to try to help them.