On Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Learned From the Movie “Priceless”

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with the movie’s producers or any distributors, nor am I making any money off these reviews.  Any opinions are always strictly my own. Also, contains spoilers!

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priceless_(2016_film))

“Priceless” starts out with a man named James who tragically loses his wife and subsequently loses custody of his daughter, Emerson, after not being able to keep a steady job and becoming an alcoholic. Then, a guy offers James money to drive a truck cross-country no questions asked. He does, until, one day when he crashes the truck and is run off the road after a storm. Curiosity and a gnawing sense something is wrong prompts him to open the back of the truck. He does and discovers two young ladies inside.  After discovering that these ladies were being recruited for prostitution purposes, James and his friend Dale, who later discovers the truck that James drove, tries to shut down the prostitution ring and rescue these women before it’s too late.

As with everything in life, even movies, there is always something to be learned from them. “Priceless” is no exception. Here’s what I learned from this movie:

  1. Everyone has value, and that alone is worthy of protection.–It’s obvious that even though James has been absent for most of Emerson’s young life, he still values her enough to think about her a lot. This is in contrast to the pimps that wanted to prostitute the two young women who James found inside his truck. Not only did the pimps in the story want to use them for their own perverted pleasures, but they didn’t even care about these women’s feelings or livelihood.  Because James and Dale knew that these men (the pimps) were up to no good, they knew they had to do something to rescue at the very least the two young women whose lives were in danger, and shut down the prostitution ring.  We can apply this concept even to our own lives. If we see or hear of someone that is lonely or feels depressed or hurt, we should not only comfort them but encourage and cultivate the positive aspects of their character and treat them as valuable human beings, rather than commodities to be used for our own purposes. For instance, if someone tells you that they have no friends and that they feel that no one cares about them, be their friend and love them. Yes, it may be difficult, but doing the right thing is sometimes not easy, but we have to strive to do the best we can.  If we witness someone being abused or bullied, stand up for them. Don’t let people hurt others, especially if they are in a vulnerable position. Everyone has value, cherish and protect that.
  2. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, but we have to do it.–At first, James was hesitant to rescue the two women (Antonia and Maria) because he had promised to be with his own daughter, Emerson. However, James knew he had to rescue Antonia and Maria, I believe, not only because he knew it was the right thing to do but also to be a good example to Emerson.  James had to sacrifice some time with his daughter, for a higher purpose. If he had forgotten about the two women, James’s conscience would have been eating at him, and he wouldn’t have been such a good example to his own daughter.  Of course, this can be applied to our own lives as well. Have you ever had to do something difficult, but it was right, morally, to do it, as in an obligation? I have.  For instance, several days ago I was having a bad day and yelled at someone I shouldn’t have.  Instead of clinging to my pride and blaming them for my anger, I apologized to them and have tried to make things right with them. It was difficult, because I had to let go of my pride and selfishness, but it was the right thing to do.
  3. One person can make a big difference.–James was just an ordinary guy that was down on his luck (and pride).  However, when the situation called, he made a huge impact in the lives of several girls and women caught in the throws of prostitution.  Yes, James was able to sacrifice even his life, to save Antonia and Maria, and other women.  However, we also can make a positive difference, even if it seems small. For instance, if you see or hear about a customer or client that doesn’t have enough money to pay for your services or products, but they really need it to survive, you can offer to pay for them.  Even something a simple as a sincere compliment or word or words of encouragement to someone who is depressed or suicidal can save someone’s life or at least make their day.  Never believe you can’t impact lives for the positive. Anyone can, even YOU can!

“Priceless” ends with James marrying Antonia, and them rescuing countless girls and women who were formerly involved with prostitution. It also ends with these women and girls being brought into James’ and Antonia’s home and being nurtured and encouraged into a new, hope-filled, love-filled life.

How to Deal With Difficult People-More Detailed Version

There are often people that can rub us the wrong way. Whether it is a family member, an acquaintance, a boss at work, a teacher at school, or even a stranger that was rude to you once, we all have at least one person we don’t get along with as well as others in our life. We can either choose one of two things: a.) Continue in conflict and/or have resentment, anger, and bitterness towards that person or persons. OR b.) Resolve to be at peace with that person or persons to the best of our ability. We all can do a.) naturally, but b.) takes more work and time. However, though I am still learning, here’s what I found are the keys to deal with difficult people successfully.:

Three Basic Principles (and explanations) of Dealing With Difficult People Successfully:

  1. Be humble.– If you are too proud to admit your part of the conflict or part in causing the conflict, then you will most likely never be at peace with that person or persons. You will develop a “victim mentality,” meaning when you think that person is only out to hurt or use you when it could be a false assumption. Admitting your part in the rift, no matter how small, can open doors to reconciliation and change on both sides. Being humble tells the person you are having problems with that you are not out to hurt them but that you are the bigger person.
  2. Be unselfish.–If you are only out for number #1 (i.e. what you call, me, myself, and I)  then you will never be able to resolve conflict with that difficult person. However, if you try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to show them, sacrificial love, they will start to “melt.” This principle, found in Romans 12 of the Bible, is called “heaping burning coals on one’s head.” You “heap burning coals” by overwhelming the difficult person with love and care. Basically, you teach them how to love. Warning: You must love sincerely without expecting anything back, otherwise they will see through you and you won’t be able to have the effect you want in them changing their behavior towards you.
  3. Be patient.–Difficult people don’t change overnight. Even implementing these principles takes concerted time and effort. But be patient with them. Don’t give up on trying to work things out with them just because you don’t see immediate results. Sometimes, this may take years. Continue loving them, and if you are religious, pray for them.  Don’t let them affect how you see other people, but also don’t give up hope that one day they can either change or else suffer the consequences of their actions.

Difficult People in Authority: Principles to Follow

In addition to the above general principles, here are others that can be applied when specifically dealing with a difficult person in authority, such as a boss or a teacher:

  1. Never argue.–If your boss or teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do unless it is immoral or illegal, don’t try to argue yourself out of it. In fact, try not to argue about anything they say to you! First of all, if you argue against them, you will never “win.” More than that, you may also not only get them irritated or upset with you, but you might get disciplined as well.
  2. Never defame their character.–People often gossip or even slander about authority figures they hate or dislike. Don’t fall into this trap! If you do, and it gets back to them (as it most likely will), at the very least you will get a verbal tongue-lashing from them because of the anger and hurt they feel towards you for having said those bad things about them, and you can even get severely disciplined or even shunned by everyone around you because of the effects of your gossip and/or slandering. Instead, build them up. Only speak to their positive qualities to others. In this, you will retain your integrity.
  3. Always phrase any questions you may have in a non-threatening manner. –For example, if something they said shocks you or you don’t quite understand what they just said, you can ask in a neutral tone of voice, “I didn’t understand quite what you meant by that. May you please explain it to me again?”

If they snipe at or criticize you, and at least some part of the criticism is true, ask what they think you can do to fix it or do better next time. Always maintain a humble attitude. For instance, if my boss tells me that I did labeling of items wrong and that I am too slow, I could say, “How would you like me to do the labeling instead? Is there any way that is effective that you use to do your work more efficiently that I should imitate so I can improve my work speed?”

Difficult People in the Family:

The most difficult people may be in one’s own family.  If there are major issues with abuse, you may only be able to do #1 most effectively, but for other situations, #2 and #3  do work wonders.  However, one should strive to be kind and unselfish to everyone, even though it may be a long and difficult road. Also, dealing with one’s family is the cornerstone for growing and coping with other relationships you have.

  1. Have limited contact, if possible.–If the difficult person does not live with you or is a distant relative, you don’t have to have constant contact with them. Love them from a distance.  Don’t be drawn into interactions with them that can create conflict and chaos. If you live with them or have to see them on a regular basis, see principles 2 and 3.
  2. Show them kindness.–You don’t have to like someone to show them kindness. Yes, it is easier if you do get along with them, but you can show people you don’t like kindness as well.  Intentionally show them love and grace. For instance, if the person you don’t get along with in your family has constant physical pain, you can help them with tasks that if they did them by themselves would exacerbate the pain. This way you show care for their pain and suffering and are telling them that they don’t have to suffer alone. This can open the door to reconciliation if you do these tasks with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  3. Prefer them over yourself.–I have often said, and this is true, that the most difficult people in our lives are often the ones in most need of love. Preferring the difficult person over yourself says that you are willing to work to be at peace with them not only for your benefit but for theirs as well.  It will also show this difficult person that you have their best interests at heart and are not out to hurt them.

Strangers/people you don’t meet every day:

There are people that you don’t meet every day, but they still are difficult to handle, such as the person who cuts you off in traffic, the person who writes disparaging comments about you on YouTube or Twitter, or the person who cuts you in the grocery store line and has a thousand items when you only had several.  Here are three principles specific to them on how to deal:

  1. Don’t take what they say or do personally.–Some people (wrongly) take their bad days or difficult situations out on other people. I’m sure most of us have done this too at some point in our lives. These people are probably not trying to purposely hurt you though, so try not to take them personally. For instance, if someone says something nasty to you on Twitter or YouTube, try to chalk it up to their stupidity and ignorance, and not someone out to personally hurt you.  Usually, anonymous people who hurt others (often called, “trolls”) do so for attention or to get a rise out of people. Don’t give them the attention they don’t deserve.
  2. Ask sincerely, “What can I do to help you?”–This applies to only certain situations. For instance, it can apply to the person who cuts you in the grocery store line, or when a customer or client complains about something.  Asking “What can I do to help you?” in those situations shows the person that you are willing to attend to their needs, and are not bent on just hurting them or getting what you want. It shows both unselfishness and kindness, things that can go a long way to make peace with someone.
  3. Let them vent; Don’ t tell them to “calm down” or criticize them.–Often when a stranger or a person you don’t meet regularly is upset, they are not upset at you. Even if they are, never tell someone to “calm down” or, worse yet, condemn or criticize their response.  First of all, telling someone to calm down invalidates how they are feeling. Also, telling them something like, “Don’t be so rude!” or “You’re so selfish!” will only make things worse for them and for you.  Let them vent. Try to validate how they are feeling. Even telling them, “I”m sorry that you are feeling that way. It must be tough, ” is better than criticizing them or telling them to calm down.

Being Civil Online and Preventing Cyberbulling

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, especially among teens, where more than 1 in 3 have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Cyberbullying may also be an issue even among adults and young children. In a society where anonymity online can be used as a weapon against people who either a.) hold different views than the perpetrator or b.) are hated or that the perpetrator is disgusted by, we need to be vigilant against cyber bullying and make sure we don’t become perpetrators ourselves. I’ve seen many people on even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rail against each other and call someone they don’t even know personally nasty names or even tell other people to end their own lives over petty issues.

This is why we need to be sure we are always civil online and do our part to ensure that the Internet trolls don’t successfully hurt others or ourselves.
Here’s how:

Being Civil Online

  1. When you disagree with something or something someone wrote or said online angers or irritates you, do yourself and that other person a favor: Don’t say anything nasty to them. –I made the mistake of biting back and saying some crude things a very long time ago when someone made rude remarks about the type of music I listened to. In retrospect, I should have just left it alone. Sometimes bloggers (and I read a lot of blogs since I’m part of a blogging group now) say things that disgust, upset, or irritate me. Not all the time, not often, but once in a blue moon. I have found the most effective and most civil way to voice my disagreement over their post is to say nothing at all. If you feel, however, that you must say something to them, do it civilly. Find points in common. For instance, in the example of the people making fun of the music I listened to, I could have said, ” We both listen to similar kinds of music, but just different groups. I am sorry that you feel that way about [name of group], but I respectfully disagree with you.” OR “It looks like we both like different groups, but maybe we both have another artist we both like. What are some other music artists you like?” Lastly, ask questions and try to learn about why they think that way. For instance, if you live in the U.S and you really don’t like Trump and the person you are engaging with really likes Trump, you could ask, “What have you found that Trump does well?” or “What led you to vote for him?,” but say it in a neutral, wanting-to-learn tone of voice, and not an accusatory, judgmental tone of voice.

When someone attacks you:

This is harder because it’s personal. They want to hurt you, perhaps to make a point or put you down. It doesn’t matter. It is not right for them to do that, but there will be trolls. Internet trolls are, according to Wikipedia, “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.” Often trolls either want to hurt you personally out of anger, or for their own amusement. However, we can prevent ourselves from stooping down to their level by taking these measures:

  1. Don’t respond to them, if possible.— Yes, even if you angry inside (and I would be too, to be honest) the best way to not attract the kind of attention the troll wants is to be silent. Don’t give them the pleasure of a crass, emotionally-laden response. They want that, but if no one responds to them, the troll will die down and look for targets elsewhere.
  2. If you do respond, keep your responses simple and/or robotic.—If they say something about or to you that you know is untrue, say so. But that’s it. You don’t need to add about how they angered you or how rude they are (They already probably know, but they don’t care.). Just say, “This is not true.” or “What you said isn’t true.” If they insult your character, and the criticism isn’t warranted, but you feel the need to say something, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that isn’t how I see it. ” OR “That isn’t true.”
  3. Report them to the moderators.–If they keep escalating, tell it to the moderators of the board. Don’t get overly emotional with your complaints. Just say, for instance, “So-and-so [person’s name here] keeps telling me that I lie and cheat on others when I have done nothing of that sort. And he (or she) keeps bad-mouthing me to other people. For instance, [tell of first instance, and other specific incidents thereafter]. Could you please tell him or her to stop? It not only hurts me, but the other people around me, and more importantly, it hurts the integrity of this whole board.” If the moderators don’t do anything about it or blame you for telling them about these incidents, don’t say anything bad or inflammatory back, just get out of that forum.

Preventing Cyberbullying:

First and foremost, don’t be a cyberbully yourself. Always communicate your responses and writings with love and grace to those who will read it.— If you disagree with someone, even strongly, be respectful of him or her. Don’t be judgmental or condemning, but speak the truth in love. If you want to give advice, make sure the person is welcoming of them. Never give unsolicited advice. a.) The person will get upset at you for “helping” them, and you both won’t feel better after the interaction. You, because you wouldn’t be appreciated by them, and them, because you will seem overbearing and like a busybody to them. b.) They probably won’t listen to said advice anyway, and you will waste your time trying to “help” them.

Second, if you witness someone being cyberbullied or attacked online, do something! — If you don’t want to engage with the attacker (and sometimes it’s wisest not to), report the attacker to the moderators/administrators. If they don’t do anything constructive about it within a reasonable time period (but give them some time, don’t be impatient), then get out of that forum! If you can engage, engage with the victim first. Stand up for him/her. For instance, if someone is attacking him/her because of his/her disability, tell the person something encouraging like, “I think you are a beautiful and unique person. You may have this disability, but don’t let it stop you from accomplishing your dreams and don’t listen to [perpetrator]. That is just not true.” Also, tell the perpetrator, “Attacking [name/screen name of victim] is not acceptable in this forum. If you don’t stop and/or apologize to [name/screen name of victim], I will report you to the appropriate people. Thank you.”

These are some ways I have found effective in dealing with the serious issue of cyberbullying. What are some other ways you have found to help combat cyber bullying? Please discuss in the comments. Also, may we all join forces to combat this issue so that the Internet will be a place of peace and love for all.

For related content, please see my friend Kat’s blog on:  Preventing Slut Shaming

sources: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

On Loneliness and Love

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

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

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

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

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

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

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

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

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

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (But Notice What’s Important)

DISCLAIMER: Please no negative or disparaging comments about the guest author or me here. Thank you. Also, this post is guest written by my friend and co-worker Ron Weimer, and also by myself.  This post was made through interviewing and collaborating our thoughts and ideas together.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” right?  It may be difficult for many people to do, but we believe it is necessary to live a successful and joyful life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff basically means not to worry about the little things of life or things that are beyond our control. If we don’t sweat the small stuff of life, we will be better off for it. However, this is how to not sweat the small annoyances of life and what to do when big stuff does overwhelm you:

How not to sweat the small stuff:

  1. Don’t think about the little worries, but keep focused on the task at hand.—If someone calls you “stupid,” cuts you off in traffic, or bumps you in line, we can choose whether we will be so upset with them that it will ruin our entire day, or to shrug it off and just chalk it up to their rudeness. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing them and honking your horn, just shake your head at them and continue driving.  It’s no use to get angry at every little rude thing that people do to you.  If someone calls you a name like “stupid,” you don’t have to retaliate or get upset, though I admit it’s difficult not to, just try to walk away from that kind of verbal abuse, and continue on the task at hand.
  2. Try to always do better and stay optimistic. —When you make a mistake, just try to find ways to improve yourself. As I (main blog author)  said in the last post, making a mistake, even a moral one, does not necessarily mean you are a “bad” or “horrible” person.  Everyone makes mistakes. We are humans, not machines.  It takes time to learn something new or form a new habit (most sources say about 90 days).  Also, stay optimistic. Try to see hope even in the pain. I know it can be difficult, but one way to stay optimistic is to ask yourself, “What can I learn about this?” or if you are religious, “What is God teaching me through this?”  There is always a lesson to be learned from everything, sometimes even multiple lessons!
  3. Don’t give up.–I (main author of this blog) always tell people that as long as you are alive, there is always hope. In many ways, that is true!  Don’t give up on life, even when you feel like giving up.  When you give up, you stop learning, and you stop being able to be better as a person. I know I have struggled to keep afloat in life many times, but thankfully I have people around me who encourage me not to give up on myself or others.

Four principles that can help you and others not sweat the small stuff, and should be done regularly, if not every day: 

  1. Laugh–Find humor even in the most annoying situations.  For instance, when a client or customer calls you “stupid,” and you have graduated from high school and/or college, you can laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement rather than get offended at that person. You can chalk it up to their ignorance and lack of knowledge of reality, just as if someone said to you, “You’re purple! ” when you are obviously not at all purple!
  2. Cry– Ron and I don’t mean crying at everything that offends or hurts you, or in anger at someone, although that sometimes is OK too.  However, we mean to cry at something that moves you emotionally–like a thoughtful card, a heartfelt compliment, or seeing someone else do something nice for another person. I recently cried when I watched a movie that moved me.
  3. Never give up.–Ron and I agree that everyone should keep on keeping on and not give in to failure.  If you fail at something, at least you know a way not to do it again. Mistakes can be good for you because you can learn from them. Making mistakes or sinning does not mean you are a failure or irredeemable, but human.
  4. Make a lot of friends--One way to do this is by simply following the Golden Rule–that is, treating people the way you want to be treated yourself.  For instance, if you would like people to validate you, look in the mirror. Do you validate others? Another way to make more friends is by not only talking about yourself and your interests but taking an interest in others’ lives.  Ask them about their hobbies, their passions, their past,  their goals in life. Also, genuinely take an interest in them as a person. Never use people solely for your own benefit or needs, though one benefit of having a lot of friends is you can network more easily.  The more people in your group, or network, the more support you are going to have and can be available to help when you have a problem or an issue.  However, also be sure to be willing to be available for your network of people if they need support.

What to do when big stuff overwhelms you (DISCLAIMER: This is not an all exhaustive list of “Big Stuff” but these are the ones that Ron and I discussed and are most common to everyday people.):

Death of a loved one

  1. Spend time with loved ones.–When you lose a loved one–whether a family member or a dear friend,  spend time with the ones that knew them best. Exchange stories about the good and/or the funny memories you had with the lost loved one. Exchange the best and most memorable photographs you had of that loved one who passed away. Imagine with your other loved ones how great life would be when you all get to see him or her on the “other side” if you are religious or spiritual.
  2. Make time to grieve your loss.–Don’t hold in all your sadness and grief.  Spend a couple days to a week at least to grieve.
  3. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Do something nice for yourself. Rest physically and emotionally from anything that tends to drain you. This may be a job that you have or a person who is more challenging to you. Rest from those people and things that drain you the most. I don’t mean to completely cut that out of your life but just take a break.

Losing a friendship/ relationship

  1. Take time out.–Take time for self-care. Also, allow yourself time to think. Ask yourself: What happened to cause the loss of the relationship or friendship? Is this anything I can change? If so, how can I change this? Did I do something to offend the other person, or did we just become distant naturally?
  2. Talk to another friend, if you have one. If you don’t, take the time to evaluate yourself and your principles. Ask yourself: What is it that drives people away from me? Why am I a friend/relationship magnet for toxic people?
  3. Seek professional help if necessary.– Sometimes things get too overwhelming for you to deal with on your own, and even for people around you who are untrained to deal with emotional or psychological issues well. It’s OK to ask for professional help. In fact, Ron and I agree that everyone probably should at least once in their lifetime.  We can’t do this alone.  Seek out recommendations from friends or reputable websites to see if they have a good trained counselor or therapist in your area. Someone once said, ” A person who doesn’t seek help when they have a problem, will create the same problem with another person.”

Losing a job:

  1. Take time out, especially if you got fired.–Take time out to regroup and reflect on the situation at hand.  Ask yourself: Did I do something wrong? And if so, what can I do to improve? What was the reason for the loss of the job? Being depressed or disappointed is a natural feeling of losing a job. Embarrassment is too. Nothing is wrong with you if you feel these emotions. They are valid.
  2. Tell your family.–If you got fired, or even if you got laid off, tell your family or loved ones the truth. They may be disappointed in you, but they may be even more disappointed and upset if you hide the truth from them, and then they find out the truth from some other source. Moreover, they probably won’t trust you as much anymore.
  3. After a few days or weeks- Start looking for a new job. Tell the supervisor (s) at your old job if you got fired that if you use them as a reference that they won’t mention your firing and the circumstances surrounding it. Most of them will be supportive and want you to find a better fit for you.  Also, never lie on an application. The truth will find you out eventually. Always tell the truth!

This is how to not sweat the small stuff, and how to overcome some big obstacles in your life.  Never give up on life, because your life can be used to be a benefit not only to yourself but to others. Also, life is too short for sweating the small stuff.

Things I Struggle With

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me (or others) allowed! I write this from a very vulnerable and raw place, but I would like to share this with you, so you can learn from my struggles and mistakes, and not repeat the same stuff. There is, of course, some religious content, but nothing preachy I hope. Thank you for understanding and reading.

As I wrote in a previous post, no one is perfect, and there is beauty in imperfection. I believe God can use even my mistakes for His glory and purposes, and I believe He can use yours too! So, even when a mistake is pointed out to you, try not to give up on yourself or others.  It does not mean you are a mean, evil person, and it does not mean you are worthless. Even if someone unlovingly says so, this is not true. God and I see beauty and preciousness in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself. Here are some things that I personally struggle with in my life, and how I (and others struggling with similar things ) can improve:

  1. Patience—I half-jokingly say to myself that this is the Last Fruit (on fruits see Galatians 5:22-23) of the Spirit that will develop fully in me. I struggle with this so much because I have much anxiety about having to wait for certain things.  Sometimes, I wrongly think that if I have to wait for something, I will wait so long that it won’t happen anymore. I sometimes get upset in traffic if I have to wait for something because I have this fear that if I have to wait too long, I will be late for work (or wherever I have to get to).  For people like me who struggle in this area, I would recommend a few things. a.) If you are religious, trust God. He always works for the good of those who love Him. He will always turn bad situations into redeemable ones!  b.) Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen if I wait for this? Chance are they are either not as bad as you think, or they are “fixable.” c.) Set “waiting” goals for yourself.- For instance, if I have to wait for a promotion until there is an opening, I would tell myself to wait until the end of a certain month before I do anything about it or ask my supervisor what is going on.  If you can wait a little while, chances are you can wait longer too.
  2. Being a people-pleaser-—When I was younger, I received so much invalidation from my peers (and even some teachers!), that I thought I was worthless and unacceptable.  I thought if I could even get one person to accept me for who I was, including my flaws and idiosyncrasies, that would have been great! About twenty years later, I still struggle with this concept of feeling accepted and loved for who I am.  Yesterday, one of the pastors at my church told me in so many words that I don’t need to be accepted and loved by everyone to be happy, that God already accepts me for who I am and loves me deeply.   That put the light on for me. I hope that you know that too, and even if you are not religious, that you also know that you are loved and accepted by others. Maybe you won’t be accepted by everyone, but I believe you are loved and accepted by at least one person. Also, never compromise your beliefs or personality just to get someone else to love and accept you.  Be the person you were created to be. There is a light in you! Never forget how valuable you are!
  3. Selfishness– I strive not to only think of myself, but of others. However, sometimes I do fail at that, to my disadvantage.  Ways I try to combat this that have worked for me are a.) I try to intentionally do something good for someone else, especially for someone who is struggling, without asking or expecting something from them in return.  b.) I try to understand and sympathize with what another person is going through. c.) I try to validate others. This is different from trying to flatter someone to get something out of them, rather this is a genuine attempt to show love and appreciation for another’s beliefs, thoughts and/or feelings. Validating someone shows the person that you think what they are telling you is not only important but appreciated as well.
  4. Negative thinking—I usually struggle the most with having negative thoughts when I am stressed, angry or depressed. When I am especially angry with myself, I almost immediately go into self-hate mode. For example, I don’t just tell myself, ” Why did you do that, [my name here]?” but, “You ruined your testimony! What are people going to think of you now? You’re useless to God and to everyone else. Why don’t you just run away so you don’t become a burden to others?” If I am angry at a situation or person, I wrongly want to a.) avoid dealing with the situation or person because it is just too much for me at that moment. This becomes an issue when the person wants to confront me on said situation immediately. I need time to process, otherwise, I may say or do things I regret later.  b.) My day is ruined because all I am thinking about is how angry or hurt I am by that person or situation. c.) I become so depressed, I tend to isolate and not want interaction with anyone, especially people who want to give me unsolicited advice or invalidate me more.   I am going to be really honest and say that I have a really hard time applying any of these to my life because when I am in this mode I literally cannot think straight!  However, the following may work for me in the future (I’m still trying) and to some of you: a.) When you need time to process the situation and/or anger you feel from someone, and the person wants to “resolve” it right now or wants to somehow confront you, say to that person, in as calm manner as you can muster, “Could we talk about this later? I need time to cool down and process my emotions. Please respect that. Thank you.” b.) Try to distract yourself from the negative thoughts by doing something that requires mind engagement, even if you don’t feel like doing it.  Also, if you are angry and you want to distract yourself from blowing up at someone or hurting someone, I would invest in a fidget spinner. That way your mind is engaged in a toy, instead of on negativity.  I plan to buy one for myself soon.  c.) Try to reframe your thoughts. For instance, if I did something wrong, and my self-talk is that I’m useless to God and everyone else, I could counter with truth and tell myself: God can still use my mistakes. He even used Abraham, who lied twice about his wife Sarah to save his own skin and disobeyed Him by not going to where he (Abraham) was supposed to be, to be his prophet! (Story: see Genesis 15-20 ) I just need to be humble enough to admit my mistake and do better next time. He still can do great things through me.

These are the main things I struggle with in my life. Of course, there are others too, but these are the main ones. I hope that by posting this, I will not only be held accountable to myself to improve but also to help others struggle with the same or similar issues.  What issues do you struggle with?  What can we do to help, or how would you advise someone struggling with the same thing(s)? Please feel free to comment.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.