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.

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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.

What I Learned From the #Metoo Movement

According to the Me Too Movement website ( https://metoomvmt.org/ ), the MeToo Movement was founded over a decade ago, in 2006, by Tamara Burke, but this movement only recently gained popularity in the wake of the scandal involving Harvey Weinstein. The #Metoo Movement has been an iconic symbol for cultural and revolutionary change for woman, not only to gain more equality, but also to fight for respect and dignity as human beings.  I have personally witnessed or heard many women, including myself, experience sexual or other types of exploitation simply because of our gender. From the #metoo movement, I have learned plenty of things, including what I believe are four of the most important credos that I hold that stem from the values of the #metoo movement that we can all apply, regardless of religious or political persuasion:

  1. Survivors of sexual harassment and/or abuse need to be valued and respected as the brave people they are, and not condemned or judged.—One of the first things that I learned that the #Metoo Movement gave me an awareness of is the horrible ways that many survivors of sexual abuse and harassment are treated when they report these incidents. Their allegations are not only often dismissed or ignored, they are, in some cases, judged or condemned, as if they were all “false” allegations. Yes, there have been a few incidents where allegations have proven to be lies and drama, but more often than not, I have found that many of the people who dismissed these allegations felt that they had to protect the perpetrator or perpetrators for some reason, even if they knew these people actually abused these survivors! I also have found that many survivors of harassment and abuse have been afraid to speak out because when other survivors have spoken out they are not only accused of lying, but are often risk ostracization from their communities, and even, in some cases, their families as well. The #Metoo movement, for me, brought this problem to light, and motivated me to speak out against devaluing people, especially abuse survivors, who have already been devalued enough.  We need to value everyone, but especially survivors of sexual harassment and abuse. It doesn’t matter what the person was wearing. No one deserves abusive or creepy behavior.  One may say that if I wore suggestive clothing that I am, in effect, “asking” to get sexually abused or exploited. Nothing could be further from the truth! If someone has a temptation to abuse me just because of what I’m wearing, they have issues of self-control. This person can choose not to look my way, if he or she, is really being tempted in that way. They can also get help for their issues, instead of blaming their target or acting on their impulses. As my pastor has said repeatedly (that serves for everyone, regardless of religious belief), “Our response is our responsibility.”

 

  1. Don’t excuse bad behavior. Ever! Speak out against this behavior.—I believe sexual harassment and abuse, especially of women, have gone unchecked and unchallenged by society for far too long. However, when several women in the movie industry spoke up against once-powerful movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, many people, including once-powerful and influential men from all walks of life, were being held to account for their allegedly inappropriate sexual behaviors. Also, men and women from all over the world, from all walks of life, bravely shared their stories of how they were sexually exploited and/or abused.  I believe the #Metoo movement has unified survivors and social justice advocates together to finally hold to account some of the perpetrators that held a powerful reign on the survivors and the values of society for far too long. Many times, I have heard people defending abusers just because they have familial or other strong ties. However, I don’t think this practice does anyone any favors.  For instance, if I found out that someone I loved abused their spouse, I would pull no punches with them, or defend or explain away their actions. My actions, by some, may seem traitorous, but in the long run, I would be helping them by influencing them to change their behavior. In  most churches that I have attended, there is a thing called “church discipline,” that progresses all the way to excommunication if a congregant or attender is not repentant (changes their bad behaviors) of their sinful actions. The purpose of church discipline is to bring repentant change to the congregant or attender, not to judge or shun them.  So, is what we can do for loved ones who engage in damaging or hurtful behavior to others, by not excusing or defending their wrong behavior.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to be an “applecart upsetter.”– You can bring positive change by not always maintaining the “status quo.”- Most people are often like “ducks” following after the Leader Duck, and doing whatever the Leader says, without questioning or thinking about what they are really wanting from us. This is how many people function in regards to believing and acting upon the values society imposes on us.  When we really think about why we do what we do, and question some of the things that society values in order to bring about positive change, we can be an effective applecart upsetter.  For instance, the founder of the #Metoo Movement wanted to upset the applecart of the societal silencing of survivors of abuse, especially of women of color, by bringing to light this problem.  Also, when I am working, if the environment seems stressful and negative, I try to upset the applecart by working hard and trying to stay positive, even if everyone around me feels stressed and depressed.

 

 

  1. Humility needs to be more accepted as virtuous, rather than seen as weakness, in our society. –One thing that the #Metoo Movement has brought to light is the problem of arrogant entitlement in our society. In many societies, humility is seen as a weakness, an admission of guilt. However, this could not be further from the truth. From this false view of humility, I have found that this has resulted in many immature, arrogant people becoming powerful and having a further negative impact on society, so that even some of their most ordinary citizens get a narcissistic sense of entitlement in their own lives.  Think about what happened in Germany and the Roman Empire as a result of arrogant people coming to power.  Because Hitler was able to come to power, unchallenged by a significant part of society, he was able to order the genocide of over six million Jewish people, including women and children!  In contrast, one of the reasons why Jesus Christ of Nazereth was (and is) able to make such a difference in the world is because of His humility.  He died a criminal’s death, even though He had done nothing to deserve it.  Also, the reason my faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott and Mother Teresa were able to make such an impact on the world around them was because they were able to humble themselves, and be associated with people no one wanted to be around, in order to make a positive difference in their lives, and others’ as well.  I have found and learned that the #Metoo movement wouldn’t even be necessary if more of the perpetrators just a.) learned to control themselves, and not think they were “better” than women  b) admitted their wrongdoings and really strived to treat others more respectfully and with more value.

These are some of the things that the #Metoo Movement has taught me.  First and foremost, we need to recognize and acknowledge the value of all people, especially survivors of abuse, because when we hold them dear we will learn much from them and be one step closer to peace and joy in this world. We also need to stop excusing bad behavior, even from loved ones and friends.  Also, we need to not be afraid to upset the status quo sometimes, because, sometimes, only then can positive things happen. Also, we need to uphold humility as more of a virtue, like patience is seen as, and not as a weakness or a vice. When we fight for justice, equality, and the general good of society, and model virtue, then change can be brought about. As Ghandi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

So Much Time

So Much Time– A poem written on 5/26/2018

I spent, oh so much time

Being angry and holding grudges

Against those I now love

Or the people I now rise above

 

I spent, oh so many years

Stumbling in misery and regret

I cried, oh, so many tears

Because I hadn’t conquered my fears

 

I spent, oh so much time

On things that have profited me none

But now I’m totally done

Done with throwing away precious years

 

I will spend these fewer days

On who will matter most to me

I will love them fervently

And let everything else on earth ,be

Soul Healer

written : 5/11/2018

dedicated to  J, Erica*, Veronica*,  Kelly*, Alice*, Holly*, Anna*, and my managers Chris* and Hope*  (*= all are pseudonyms) 

I was alone and in pain

I was also going insane

I felt so much shame

And I was in despair

 

I felt so unworthy of love and care

I dared never to lay my soul bare

Because I knew they’d condemn me

And all I came to be

 

But then, as water

That refreshes the soul,

On a hot, dry day

You came to me

 

You affirmed me with your love

The one from up above

You gave me a reason to hope

When I was on my last rope

 

Now I want to always love you

And bare my soul to you

Because you saved my life

And showed me God’s love

To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

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Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, I had written: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

I also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia

Why There’s Hope When You are Alive

Disclaimer: No disparaging comments allowed, or they will be deleted. Thank you, and may hope fill your life.

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As some of you may know, I have been struggling with depression since I was ten years old.  On Monday, I had such a stressful day at work (after working about twelve hours) and after a bad incident, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame for who I was as a person. I felt hopeless and ready to give up, or at least call off the next day. However, I kept going back to the fact that there were people in my life that needed me, and if I let them down, I would instinctively feel even more shame and self-hatred.  When I woke up the next day, despite getting only two hours of sleep, I felt a renewed sense of hope and peace.  I always tell people who are struggling with life the way I sometimes do that even if they feel that they can do nothing, that they still have hope just for being alive. Here is why I believe that is true:

The first reason why there is always hope for you on this earth as long as you are still alive is each day gives us the chance to change ourselves for the better. Yes, the process of change is often very difficult and often does not happen overnight. However, as long as you are still here, there is time to make at least a small change. For instance, if you are looking for a new job, you probably won’t get one the next day. However, the next day will give you the chance to start looking and to update your resume, so there will be a day when you will eventually get interviewed, and then be one step closer to getting a job.  For another example,  after the bad day at work on Monday, Tuesday was a day I said to myself that I would strive to be more positive and let go of the things that I wanted to control, but had to let go and let God.  As a consequence, Tuesday was an absolute contrast to Monday!

There is also still hope for you as long as you are alive because every day is a chance to learn something new.  Because I did not give up hope on Tuesday, after being tempted to on Monday, I was able to learn some of the following things, that may not seem significant, but nevertheless, gave me hope and brightened my day: a.) The last name of one of my managers.  b) How to straighten aisles better. c) That sometimes people are not as bad as I had previously thought. d) that I can be less stressed at work, even for a long day. (I had worked almost 12 hours again on Tuesday).  e) that setting up updated price tags is a very relaxing job for me.

Another major reason why there is still hope for you, as long as you are alive, is each day you are given a new opportunity to impact others’ lives for good.  Often when we are feeling hopeless and/or discouraged, we think that we can never do something good that will impact others again.  That is what I thought Monday night after work, and that is how depression speaks.  However, it is also a lie.  Even if you don’t think that your sincere apologies and attempts to change for the better won’t have an impact, you never know how profound your true humility will have on others.  This is what I found out on Tuesday.  If you feel discouraged because you have a certain disability or are so sick that it is difficult or impossible for you to even get out of bed, know that you still can persevere through your difficulties and, through a positive attitude, can cause others around you to think about what they have and can give others hope.

Finally, there is still hope for you as long as you are alive because of the beauty all around us.  I love that today (at least in my area), it is sunny and the weather is getting warmer. So, I hear the birds chirping, especially earlier in the day.  This is why, if you can, I would encourage others to go outside and enjoy the beauty of nature around you.  Even in the city, there is often a park or an area where there are birds and or flowers or trees you can look at to enjoy their beauty. Apart from nature, there is also beauty in the way certain things are made. Have you ever wondered how a computer or a phone is made? Sometimes, I have, and we can either learn about that, or just enjoy all the functions of a phone or computer.

Sometimes, when people, places, or things bring us down, it can be difficult for us to look at all the positives of life, and we just want to give up and give in to our pain and hurt. However, I hope that even when we can barely see why we should be here, that we will remember that there is always opportunity to change ourselves for the better, that we can learn new things every day, that we can impact people around us for the better, and that we can appreciate the beauty around us….but we need to be alive to experience any of these blessings.   May hope and joy fill our lives, as we persevere through it all.

 

Note: If anyone reading this is feeling depressed or suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255—There will be trained counselors at the other end of the line to support and care for you, or also you can read this: https://metanoia.org/suicide/, which is where I also got the number for the hotline. Remember, there is always hope when you are alive!