My Legacy–a poem

My Legacy  6/17/2018

 

When it’s my time to go

I want the world to know

The fullness of God’s great love

The love from up above

 

When it’s my time to go

I want people to know

That they are so much more

Than just another face

 

When it’s my time to go

I want to live in peace

With no more bitterness

And for anger to cease

 

Before my time is up

I want to serve others

And share the immense hope

I found in my Savior

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Power of Forgiveness

I have struggled with forgiving people for a long time. I had thought that by withholding my forgiveness and affection towards those that hurt me, that I would, in effect, force them to “pay me back” for all the hurt they had caused me. Thus, they would never hurt me again, or so I thought.  However, about a year ago, I had an epiphany that made me realize my bitterness and resentment were futile in getting my offender or offenders to actually change. I also realized that, not only did the offender not change their behavior towards me, but also, in many cases, they had either no idea or didn’t care that they had hurt me! I also found the incredible power of forgiveness and how it can changes lives—not only mine, but yours, as well.

The first thing about forgiveness that I found is that it gives the forgiver the power to love again. When I was bitter and resentful of some people I knew, I found that it significantly stunted my ability to love, not only them, but all those around me, even those who had never hurt me and had nothing to do with the offender or the hurtful incidents. However, when I forgave the people that hurt me, I found my love for everyone grew stronger than even before the offender had hurt me! In some cases, I even found myself compelled to be kind and reach out to the offenders!  Another example of how forgiveness has helped people love again I learned from history.  During the Rwandan civil war, when the Hutus and Tutsis were fighting so much that the Hutus wanted to commit genocide against the Tutsis, some of the Tutsis eventually forgave the Hutus, ending the war and paving the way for reconciliation.

Forgiveness also gives strength.  Some people think forgiveness gives a free pass to the offenders or excuses their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, the fact that someone needs to be forgiven says that they did something wrong. Second of all, one can forgive someone, and still expect justice to be served, but not out of a heart of anger and bitterness. Finally, radical forgiveness often requires much thought and emotional strength on the part of the forgiver to let things go that he or she naturally would want to hold on to, such as the desire for the offender to hurt like he or she has been.  Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives and to love more radically.

Finally, forgiveness gives the forgiver power to bring about positive changes to the relationships. When I forgave several people at work who had said and done things that I considered hurtful to me, I often realized that despite all that happened, that there was still hope of reconciling our relationship.  Moreover, I was also able to gain a deeper understanding, and sometimes an even greater appreciation of their perspectives on things. I have become more conscious of what I may have done to contribute to the strain in the relationship, often including my bitterness and resentment towards them, and resolve to treat them with more grace and mercy, even though I may feel that they don’t deserve as much.  Thus, I found that the people that initially offended me later softened up and treated me with more consideration after I had genuinely forgiven them.

As one can see, forgiveness is a very powerful force in this world for good.  Yes, it is often difficult to do. However, the benefits of persevering in forgiveness are considerably great. Forgiveness gives us the power to love again and like never before. Forgiveness also gives us strength to move on with our lives so that we are not trapped by our past.  Finally, forgiveness can invite reconciliation and bring positive changes into the once-strained relationship. Who do you need to forgive? Who have you forgiven? I don’t know about you, but forgiving others has given me such freedom and such peace with others.

How to Give Hope to the Hurting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.

 

In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live!  The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!

Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:

One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives.  One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note.  Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life.  When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.

Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out!  However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them.  When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before.  When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts.  They feel like their hard work is done for naught.  If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.

Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps.  If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot.  Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.

If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again.  Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses.  You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately.  2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them.  3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e  give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them.  4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.

One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside.  By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future.  We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.

When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world.  There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.

Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.

Power of Kind Words

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.– Leo Buscaglia

Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/leo_buscaglia_106299

Too many times people cut down, criticize, complain, and berate others. Thus, they destroy countless souls in the process.  They may think the recipient of their brutality “deserves” these hostile words, and these verbal abusers often get away with their crimes. There is not even a law against verbal abuse, the way there is against physical or sexual abuse. However, I think there should be.

Also, there is a lack of encouragement, complimenting, and genuine kindness in the general words society uses to speak to one another.  However, given the power of negative words, the same can be said of the power of positive words. Some people may think encouraging others won’t make a major impact on them, but we never know what other people are going through. We may not know how much it took for them to get out of bed today, or what pains and burdens they carry in their lives.

When we live to encourage others through our words, and live to love them, we not only show ourselves strong, but we show others that we are open to understanding and caring about them.  For instance, if you work, when was the last time that you thanked your boss for all the good that he or she did, instead of complaining about policies that don’t sit well with you?  When was the last time you spoke a words of encouragement to a helpful co-worker? If you go to school, when was the last time you sincerely and thoughtfully thanked a teacher that has made a positive impact in your life, instead of complaining about all the ones you don’t like? When was the last time you thanked your family for the good that they have done for you?  When was the last time you thanked the mail carrier or the maintenance person for doing a good job?

When we encourage others through our gratitude for them, this shows that we appreciate and value them. In a society that increasingly devalues people and things; we can upset the applecart, so to speak, by showing gratitude and encouraging the good in people.  Rachel Joy Scott called this, “Finding the light” in their souls.

When we encourage those who are hurting, they can more easily and quickly heal from their wounds, whether it would be emotional or physical.  When people’s souls are dying because of the effects of verbal abuse, we can revive them by countering the abusers’ verbal attacks with the truths of love. Tell these people, whose souls are on life support, that, first of all, the abuse was never their fault. Tell them that they are always beautiful and worthy of love—because they are. Tell and show them that they are truly loved and needed on this earth.  Provide specific examples of how these survivors can overcome and eradicate the world of lies that threaten to kill their souls, and also provide specific examples of how much value and love they still possess in this world, especially if they feel that value has been stripped from them.  For instance, I watched this video about how a young woman named Leah was abused by her wicked boyfriend and how she is now using her story to encourage others going through a similar thing.  I would say to Leah, that by her using her voice to tell her story, she is helping others going through something similar to not have to feel alone and that she is strong to be able to survive such degrading abuse. I would say that I see her beauty, inside and out, and that no matter what anyone else says, and thus she is a beautiful and amazing person, inside and out.

We can also encourage those we consider our enemies. For instance, for a long time, I did not get along with some people at work. However, one of my pastors, told me to pray blessings for them and to intentionally and sincerely try to be kind to them. I am not going to lie. It is so difficult the first time one does this, and it doesn’t always work the first time. This is what I call the “burning coals principle,” meaning that encouraging and being kind to our enemies makes them run out of ammunition against us, because who wants to be known for repaying evil for good?! So, I found that when I did this sincerely and intentionally, that the enemies either became my friends, or they at least softened considerably in their attitude and behavior towards me.

Never underestimate the power of a kind and encouraging word. Encouragement can brighten someone’s day, and can even, in some cases, save someone’s life.  Who can you encourage today? May you be able to create a spark in someone’s life through the words you say and the actions that back them up.

My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

Things I Learned From My Mom

Today, I would like to honor moms, and, in particular, my own, on this Mother’s Day by relaying the major things my mom has taught me about life to help me become a better person.  These lessons can be applied by anyone, regardless of your relationship with your mom, and can be applied in most situations we may find ourselves. When I think about my mom, the three major things in life she has taught me are: 1) How to sacrifice for the good of someone else 2) How to work at your very best.  3) How to be frugal and appreciate what I have more.

The longer I live, the more I realize how much my mother has sacrificed for me, and for my whole family.  First of all, she moved to the U.S before my brother and I were born because she knew that we would have better opportunities and successes here.  However, this move meant leaving almost all her family behind and moving into a new area, with different customs and beliefs.  When I was growing up, she often went above and beyond to make sure we would be successful and moral people.  For instance, my mom was always the type to be willing to help me with my homework when I needed it. I also remember her giving me math problems when I was younger to help develop my skills in that area.  She was also not afraid to discipline us when our selfishness and stubbornness got in the way, and sometimes those vices led to my brother and I getting into fights or arguments.  However, my mom made sure we made up and made our relationship stronger again.  Today, since there is a sale at a local store, my mom is willing to accompany me because she knows I value her presence.  These, and countless other sacrifices made by my mom, have helped me to be more willing to sacrifice for her and others.  For instance, at my job, I volunteered to work extra hours on my birthday, several months ago, because I wanted the store to do well on its audit the next week. Yes, I would have rather done something more fun, but I wanted to sacrifice for the good of my colleagues and managers because I care about them, not just so I could get extra money.  I also have been more willing to sacrifice for my mom to do whatever she needs me to do, because I realize how much she has already done for me.

Unfortunately, many people don’t give their moms adequate credit for the hard work they do around the house and for their family.  I don’t want to be one of those people.  I have seen my mom work so hard that her entire body aches afterwards!  Like my dad, she pushes herself to get what she needs to done for the day and for the joy of her family.  For instance, several years ago, my mom used to work for hours trimming the bushes that we have around our front yard, only stopping to eat and drink coffee, until she was done.  I tried to help her get all the leaves and debris cleaned up, so she wouldn’t have to do as much work.  Because of her hard work and perseverance in working around the house and making sure her family’s needs are met, I strive to do what I can, for my family, friends, and co-workers.  For instance, at work, when I am done with straightening my area, I am eager to help out another person, so they don’t feel so overwhelmed in their area (especially if the area is difficult to straighten or if there is high shopping traffic there).  When my mom is feeling overwhelmed or tired, I ask what I can do to help and then do whatever she tells me.

Finally, my mom has taught me the value of saving money and things, and not wasting the income provided by God through my job.  She is the one who taught me that it is best to buy something that is on sale and with a coupon, if possible. She has also taught me how to not spend more than I have.  She has taught me the value of recycling, and thus, not being wasteful with the resources God has given me. In her teachings, I have learned to value the possessions that God has given me, and not take the blessings He provided for granted.  I have observed that in my country, unfortunately, we waste a lot of things and are not as grateful for the things we have.  For instance, we don’t eat all the food that we buy sometimes because we have too much of it. My mom taught me to savor every bite and morsel of food on my plate.  This has helped me be OK, and even eager, to eat leftovers, and see that as a blessing to me, instead of a burden.

These are the three major things my mom has taught me. She has taught me the value of treasuring and savoring what we have, the value of hard work and perseverance, and the importance and benefits of living sacrificially for others. What are some things your mother has taught you?  How has she helped you be a better person? If your mother is still alive and well, make sure you take the time to thank and cherish your mother today.

Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 2

The truth in Proverbs 13:10 (KJV) “Only by pride cometh contention,” manifests itself in different types of prideful attitudes.  Some people may think it is good to have “pride in oneself” because it exudes determination and a comfort in who one is. However, I  believe that they are talking more about healthy confidence, which is very different than pride. Pride should be more equated with arrogance, which is always bad, no matter how one puts it.

So how do we combat pride? The four main ways that are most effective in combating arrogant pride is through love, through understanding, through humility, and through sacrifice, or the giving of oneself.

Love

When we truly love someone, we don’t have to put up a façade in front of them, or make sure we look “good” so we don’t get rejected.  Love goes “all in” and risks even rejection and humiliation, as with Jesus and Mother Teresa, because they consider the rewards greater than the cost.  Love combats pride because it extinguishes its motivation, which often has its roots in hatred, bitterness, and/or envy.  When you love someone, one doesn’t care as much about one’s own status or reputation, as much as the other person’s.

Understanding

Another way we can combat pride is through understanding.  When we truly aim to learn about other people, through their stories, their cultural heritage, their motivations, their goals in life, their hurts and pains, and their triumphs, we often find  some way we can relate with what they are going through or went through and who they are.  This is how most people become good friends with each other!  In prejudicial pride, this is absent, because the prejudiced person often just makes general assumptions about a person or a particular group of people, without really educating themselves of the truth or really reflecting upon  how their assumptions came to be.  In “better-than-you” pride, the arrogant person, like the one who is prejudiced, often makes a lot of assumptions about a person or a group of people without going in-depth and learning about why someone is the way they are.  When we aim for understanding and really learn about another person or persons, the reason behind the prideful attitude gets “debunked,” so to speak, because we often find out that some or even all our assumptions were wrong! Thus, our pride melts away into a new acceptance and openness towards the people we previously looked down upon.

Humility

Another way we can defeat pride is through its counterpart—humility.  For instance, when someone points out an area of our lives or of our character that needs improvement or change, instead getting upset by this, we can humbly accept their admonishment and take steps to change. On a related issue, when someone is offended by something we did or said, instead of excusing or denying our fault, we should apologize and ask or find ways to improve ourselves.  Some people, especially those in authority, may think it is a sign of weakness to apologize to another, especially someone that they consider a subordinate, but nothing could be further from the truth. In our natural states, we would never apologize for anything, even though we know we make mistakes and sin! This is a scary thought.  I believe it often takes supernatural powers to sincerely apologize to someone because it chips at our natural propensity of pride.  However, when we do offer a sincere apology and a strong desire to change, our lives will make a powerful and redeeming statement.

Sacrifice

Another powerful way we can combat pride is through sacrifice.  When we are willing to sacrifice for others, it means we are willing to prefer others above ourselves, which is also a characteristic of humility.  This is a particularly powerful antidote to materialistic pride because when we sacrifice, we must be willing to part with anything that holds us back from giving or sharing with others.  For instance, if I struggle with love of money, by giving a portion of my earnings to charity, it helps me to see that a.) other people need what I have, so it’s selfish of me to hold on to something that someone else needs more.  b) that even if I am not as rich, that I still can be happy because I did the right thing. Sacrifice is also an antidote to the other forms of pride because it forces one to look away from self and unto others.  Pride and selfishness go hand in hand. Since living sacrificially for others combats selfish attitudes and behaviors, both pride and selfishness get extinguished. An example of how this occurred in my life, is when I was a child, I was very selfish. I did not even want to buy something for my brother’s birthday. However, my aunt convinced me that to sacrifice part of what I had for my brother was the right thing to do and would show that I truly loved him. That changed my whole outlook on giving and sacrifice. When we are willing to sacrifice for others, we show we truly love them.

 

When we practice love, understanding, humility, and sacrifice, most of our prideful attitudes will melt away. We will be more effective in loving and serving others, without ourselves getting in the way of that.  Pride is a dangerous hindrance to our true success in life, and causes contention. However, humility—its counterpart, often causes love and peace.