Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.

How to Boost Morale at Work

Have you been tired, stressed, and overworked lately? Has the joy you once had at work been drained by the people and circumstances around you? If so, you are not alone.  In fact, according to the NIOSH report, about 40% of all workers in the U.S reported that their jobs are “very or extremely” stressful. (source: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/pdfs/99-101.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB99101).  If you are working in a tough or a stressful work environment, there is hope. Personally, I can relate to being stressed at work, but when I apply these principles to how I approach my job, I find that I become less stressed.

  1. Maintain a good work ethic. –Yes, there have been several times during the whole of my work career in various places where I have been tempted to quit. However, something inside of me, probably the Spirit of God, urges me on.  This has helped me continue to persevere in spite of everything else inside of me screaming to “QUIT” or “Slack off.”  Always do your best, and never let anyone else convince you to do otherwise.  If you feel aimless or that you are just “going through the motions” at work, try to have a mindset of trying to learn everything you can to boost your credentials at work. This will also help you in case of layoffs, to be more indispensable and more likely to be secure in your job, or being more easily able to find another good job if that should happen. For instance, at my job, I have aimed to learn how to cashier, because I know that cashiering is an essential part of retail, and without these skills, I would be less likely to be able to move up or be versatile in the company I work for.  Now, my managers are able to use me to cashier in case the regular cashiers call in sick or we are shorthanded.
  2. Encourage others.—I have found that many people in various workplaces and in places where some of my friends work are in desperate need of encouragement and validation.  If you see someone going above or beyond, or are providing their clientele with excellent service, let a manager know that. More importantly, let the person know that they are doing a good job and that you value them. Be specific in your compliments. Don’t just say, “ You work very hard,” which can be good, but would mean more if you said something like, “ Joe, I appreciate how you took care of that customer today, making sure they had everything they needed, and making them feel valued  through your patience and making sure all their questions were answered.”  If you must criticize, assure the person that you still value them in other ways.  Never put down someone just to break their spirit. It is mean, callous, unnecessary, and ineffective in motivating people to do their best work.
  3. Have a servant’s heart.—Be willing to help others where needed, without stressing yourself out.  When someone feels overwhelmed by their work, and you are able to help them, do so.  If someone is going through a tough time and confides in you about it, offer to pray or help them in any way you can. When Jesus washed His disciples feet, He modeled for them—and us—a model we should all follow.  We should not only model that in church or at home, but also in the workplace. Managers, never be “too busy” to help and guide your associates.  Associates, be willing to do what your managers says, not only to be respectful, but also to help them through their struggles and lift a burden off them.

If we modeled a good work ethic, by persevering and doing our best, if we encouraged our co-workers, bosses, and clients/customers instead of putting them down, and if we had a servants’ heart approach to the tasks needed to be done at work, instead of only looking to our own interests, we could boost morale at our workplace significantly. By following these principles, not only will we boost morale, but we also will also build our integrity, which is something worth living for, in all areas of our lives.

Because You Believed

to everyone who believed in the potential of a woman with ordinary dreams

One day, at work with two other of her colleagues, chatting over their childhoods during break, a woman– the one with ordinary dreams, said, “When I was growing up, I was naughty, and I didn’t have many friends. One of my peers even said, ‘You are a very difficult person to get along with’.”

Neither of her colleagues believed her.

But it was all too true.

About 25 years earlier, because of her disability and other differences, the woman with ordinary dreams was never taken seriously, regularly taken advantage of by peers, and was often chosen last for team sports in gym class and class projects. No one really wanted to look into her soul and get to know her. She was too selfish, rigid, and difficult; they reasoned.

Ten years later, she became a bit easier to deal with, but had a paranoia and bitter pain in her soul. She really felt she couldn’t trust, much less open up to, anyone. Never had this girl thought she’d ever really be valued in anyone’s eyes. Confirming this despair, one of her teachers had said in so many condemning, angry words that she would probably not amount to much in life, and she believed this for fifteen long years. The week this teacher told her this, this girl with ordinary dreams– one of which was to be accepted and loved for who she was– , saw that dream shatter before her eyes. She reasoned if she would never really be loved for who she was, even to her hurting soul, life was no longer worth it.

Thus, she contemplated suicide, but then God rescued her from self- destruction and despair.

11 years later..

The woman with ordinary dreams meets her mentor who would change her life forever because her mentor believed in her potential and the value of her soul. The mentor keeps prodding and helping the woman until she lands a job in which she can actually succeed. The mentor also helps her gain confidence in herself and believe in her dreams again. Even to her dream of  one day becoming a writer and getting a full- time job somewhere, the mentor never ridiculed or dismissed, but actively helps the woman fulfill them.

6 years later…

The woman with ordinary dreams senses God leading her to a new job, since a previous one no longer fit into her expansive dreams. The woman, with dreams of being a writer and being loved, is stoked about getting an interview at a bookstore, which she considers her “dream” job that would lead her to be able to write someday . However, during the actual interview, it was made clear to her that this was not the job God had for her. Her dreams are shattered once again.

However, she does not give up. Going into a store, which she applied for, to buy a few things, she suddenly hears  a voice in her soul that told her to ask about the application. She does and, subsequently gets an interview. The interviewer, she finds out later, was going to be her manager!

That manager is the hardest worker she has ever seen in her life! While preparing the logistics for the interview and afterwards, she sees the manager also stocking items in the area he manages, or doing returns.

The woman is shocked to find out that she has been accepted for the job–and happy as well.  However, she doesn’t know then, that God would use that job to fulfill her ordinary dreams of being loved and also becoming full-time.

That woman was me.

Epilogue:

This month marks three years with my current job. It may not seem like much, but considering I’ve not had many jobs where I was in one company that long, it is only by God’s grace, my mentor J, Chris*, Elizabeth *, and countless others who believed I could be of value to them, that I was able to make it this far.  My wonderful co- workers and managers in #1401 have taught me so much. I aspire to be like my mentor J, who never gave up on me and who valued me. I aspire to be like Chris, whose work ethic and dedication to his associates is a model for me to follow. I aspire to be like Elizabeth, who always believed in her associates’ potentials and encouraged them to reach for the stars. She encouraged me to learn to cashier when others seemed more reluctant to take me on, and satisfied my curiosity to learn new skills and to try my best always. I aspire to be like Hope*, who first offered me full- time and encouraged me to strive for excellence.

Thank you everyone at #1401 who helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am able to realize my ordinary dreams, all because you believed in me.

some of the wonderful people that helped me realize my ordinary dreams.

*= names changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

Lessons I’m Learning About Contentment

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Sunshine

 written on 12/27/2018

-Dedicated to I.T

Your presence shined like the sun

With joy and love, your area was run

You healed the depths of my pain

When I was going insane

 

You have taught me so much

About life, love, work and such

Your influence blossomed in me

‘Til your beauty I would see

 

But then you were gone away

Sadness and joy filled your last day

Though there is a hole in my heart

Your impact on me will never part

Glorious Joy

 written:  12/23/2018

I was in so much despair

Thinking I was beyond repair

Joy was not a part of my life

I was suffering from much strife

 

Everything seemed to go wrong

Life seemed to just drag me along

But then God rescued me

And His love I began to see

 

Like a growing tree, my joy grew

I learned contentment that was true

As I was led into the light

My life became a glorious sight

Precious Sunshine

–written 10/26/2018

Tears fall from your weary eyes

As your foes plan your demise

You think you lost it all

But I’ll protect you from the fall

 

For you are precious to me

Your light I will always see

Your presence brightens my life

And it never causes me strife

 

You have given me much love

You’re a gift from up above

You give me reason to be

Because your soul shines in me