Power of Identity

Our church has a special class on Thursday nights that has helped me overcome my bad habits and has gotten me more insight into living in a more godly way. Last Thursday, in that class, the teacher–Pastor Jack Lezza– taught on identity.  One of the questions he posed to us was this: Why do children dress up on Halloween?  Well, why does anyone like dressing up in a costume?  He said that people dress up because they want to pretend that they are someone else.  This is the many wonders of children’s imagination. The problem becomes when adults morph into identities that negatively influence their behaviors and course of life. Take Cesar Sayoc, who mailed bombs to kill various government officials that he hated, for instance.  He wanted to be a crusader that got rid of what he saw he were “evil” people in this country.  His identity and those he identified his enemies as had great influence on the destructive behaviors that have now landed him in prison.

I believe that most of us start seriously identifying who we will become as adults in our adolescent years. We start asking ourselves, mostly subconsciously, the question–“Who am I?”  Some teens rebel against their parents’ rules because they are trying to solidify their own identity, apart from who their parents, or anyone else, for that matter, would like them to be.  This is also the time when most parents give their children significantly more independence, like the ability to drive a car, for instance.  Teens also look for a peer group, often called “cliques” that they identify with and with which they want to belong.

 However, sometimes during that time, and even, in some cases, during childhood, we can start claiming identities for ourselves that have the potential to be a destructive influence on our behavior and course of life. I call these broken or destructive identities because of their negative impact on one’s behavior.  For instance, for a long time, I have believed (and am continuing to struggle to let go of) the identity of “Miss Never-Good Enough.” Yes, this identity has helped me to have high expectations of myself and not be lazy, but the destructive part of this identity is that it has not allowed me to make mistakes, even as part of the learning process. This broken identity also has caused me, in the past, to be too reluctant to learn how to do things that I wasn’t confident in doing. Thus, I had a hard time moving forward in my learning process because of my tendency towards perfectionism and my claimed identity of “Never Good Enough.” I had claimed this identity because many people didn’t believe in my God-given abilities to do certain things and because of many years of bullying by some of my peers. 

We can claim broken or destructive identities mainly through negative experiences, especially if we were being verbally abused by people who we had once admired or had great authority over you—such as a teacher or close relative. This verbal abuse greatly influences us to believe and claim these broken and destructive identities and eventually becomes part of who we are (or believe we are) as a person. 

In order to change these identities, we need to change the way we think about ourselves.  We need people on our side that will encourage us to live in a more positive identity and will not reinforce our broken identity in any way.  For instance, in my case, I have some good friends at church, my mentor J,  and also some at my job who encourage me to break up with the “Miss Never Good Enough” identity by reminding me of the good I have done and how I have positively impacted their lives.  Without these people, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. We also need to constantly remind ourselves that we can make a positive difference in others’ lives and that we don’t have to be said broken identity, whether it is Ms. Or  Mr. Not-Good-Enough or the false, destructive identity of Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Worthless, or any other destructive identities that we have believed ourselves to be. We need to replace these broken and destructive identities with a positive identity that will help us to be successful and more motivated to be who we were meant to be. 

Positive identities are those that encourage us to live out who we were meant to be all along.  These true, positive identities may include such identifiers as Mr. or Ms. Kind, Compassionate, Caring, Intelligent, Generous, Gracious, and Forgiving.  My personal favorite identity is “Child of God” and “Ms. Perseverance.” One way you can cultivate a positive identity for yourself is to think of things that others like about you and make yourself a name tag that has that personality characteristic on it.  For instance, if others say you are a thoughtful person, make yourself a name tag, “Ms.” or “Mr. Thoughtful” and put it somewhere prominent where you will be reminded to live out this identity.

How we identify others also has great impact on us and our behaviors.  When people develop prejudices against others, for instance, their negative identification of a group of people other than them impacts how they treat them and those around them.  For instance, the gunman who recently murdered 11 people in a synagogue had deep-seated hatred for Jewish people. If said gunman instead had served and loved Jewish people or didn’t have any prejudices against Jews, this incident would have never happened. 

So, how exactly do we overcome our prejudices?  First of all, when we get prejudiced ideas about a particular group of people, it is best to learn about them and their ways.  When we learn more about the people we had hatred or prejudice against before, we often find that they are not that different from us. Moreover, we can understand them better and their true identity, and often find beauty in their identity.

Another way we can overcome prejudice and placing negative identities on another person or people, is to replace these with positive identities.  For instance, there were several people at work that I did not get along with in the past, but when I purposely tried to see the light in them, that is, their positive personality characteristics, I was able to have more love and compassion for them than I have ever had before!  This helped me get along with these people a lot better. When we strive to identify, even our enemies, positively, instead of negatively, we can change the world for the better. 

As you can see, identities—both the ones we give ourselves and the ones we assign to others-greatly influences our behavior.  When we cultivate negative identities for ourselves and others, we only cultivate destruction and negativity. However, when we cultivate positive identities for ourselves and others, we can better live out what we were meant to be. 

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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.”

Effects of Bullying

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about the author or any other bullying survivors  Triggers for talk of abuse, references to suicidal thoughts, and talk of bullying.

Bullying can impact almost anyone, regardless of any human identifier, though it is more likely to happen to those that society perceives as “different” or “inferior” in some way.  According to the website, StopBullying.gov, from about 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 students in the United States has experienced bullying (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying).  Unfortunately, I am part of these statistics, having been bullied at school since the third grade until about the ninth grade, though there were several incidents of more sporadic bullying later as well, in my life.  Bullying has many forms, including verbal abuse and taunts, social exclusion, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other related abuses.  The effects of bullying can be devastating and life-altering for the survivor of such behavior.  People experience bullying and are affected by this demoralizing behavior in different ways and in different degrees. No two people have exactly the same bullying experiences in their lives. However, many of them share similar effects.

However, this is my story of how being bullied for years has impacted me personally. I share these three major effects of being bullied, not so people feel sorry for me, but so that people will realize the gravity of this demoralizing behavior and that more people will not have to experience what I went through.

Effect#1 of me being bullied—Low self-esteem/insecurity

In third grade up to eighth grade, I was regularly teased and mocked because of the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, and even how I looked like on the outside.  I don’t remember one classmate or teacher at that time tell me that I was “beautiful.”  Some of them even wanted to “re-make” me into their image of what they thought was acceptable, not accepting the way I was made or looked like.  To add to this torment, I did not feel very close to any of my peers during that time.  Some people would pretend to be friends with me, only to have them callously “reject” me later.

As a result of this torment that I experienced during my childhood years in school, I have struggled (and still struggle) immensely with insecurity and low self-esteem.  For instance, when I get criticized or put down (especially harshly) , even by strangers, I often get a sense of discouragement and hurt.  It’s like I am unconsciously keeping in mind the times when my classmates and even teachers taunted me for either my appearance or something that was a struggle for me. Like people who have been abused by family members, criticism can be especially hard to take by people who have been mercilessly bullied by peers and even authority figures in school.  We can tend to take criticism as rejection of who we are as a person, rather than something we just need to correct to become a better person.

Another result of this torment that I had experienced was the feeling that what I do is never “good enough.”  I am a tenacious person. I do not give up easily, but sometimes never feeling like you measure up to any good standards can threaten to undermine my tenacity.  I sometimes (wrongly) think, “Why even try when no one will accept you and your work anyway?”  I struggle with the concept of doing good just because it’s the “right thing to do” sometimes, because I feel that if we are not rewarded in some way and if we are not going to change anyone else’s lives for the better, then why do anything good at all? Sometimes, I felt that if I just did x then the bullying would stop and that people would love me as I was.  This is another effect of being bullied by others.

Effect#2—Fear of trusting God and others/paranoia

When I was little, I had a very trusting nature. However, people would use that to take advantage of me and hurt me for their own pleasure.  For instance, they promised if I gave them x thing, then they would be my friend. So, I did, but they just continued to belittle me or ignore me.  Because a lot of people pretended with me, and were not very honest or genuine towards me, I began to have a blanket paranoia of almost everyone around me. By high school, I was dubbed in my last year there, as “most paranoid.” Moreover, some well–meaning friends tell me to “believe the best in people,” not knowing that I have had a history of being bullied and taken advantage of by others by doing just that! However, to their credit, when I become paranoid, everyone seems evil and self-aggrandizing in my eyes, and I become cynical and bitter. I have met and talked to some abuse and bullying survivors that have had similar experiences of becoming paranoid and cynical to the world around them because of how many times they have been abused and taken for a ride, so to speak. This paranoia has also led me to sometimes have this immense fear of what people think of me and could do to me.

Effect#3—Depression

Ever since I was little, I have also struggled with depression.  Because of my experiences of people bullying me and simultaneously excluding me from their gatherings, I felt this impending sense that no one outside my family would really want to know me as a person, with both my blessings and flaws that I bring to this world.  No one wanted to know my story.  I felt alone, bored, and miserable, especially during my early teenage years. I struggled with several mental health issues that I tried to keep hidden from the outside world and deny, even to myself, that I had.  It has been said that bullying increases the risk of suicide in its victims. Yes, people have died from the torment that they endured from being bullied at school by their peers and others.  This is why the fact that there is no law against bullying is a sad indicator of what our society values more. (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying)

Healing

However, because of the supports that has been graciously provided for me through a variety of means, I am happy to say I am beginning to heal from the effects of being bullied.  However, this has taken many, many years.  I am thankful for the consistent support that I have received thus far from my friends, both near and far, for my co-workers and managers at my current job, for my mentor J, and last, but most importantly, support from my family and my God.  Because they have believed in me and encouraged me, I am slowly able to heal from the years of pain inflicted on me in the past. Though I still struggle with these effects, I have great hope that things will continue to get better for me.  If you have been bullied, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for you. If you are reading this and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline). Remember, there is always hope when you are alive.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (September 28, 2017). Facts about Bullying. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.

Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 2

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

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

Love

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

Understanding

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

Humility

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

Sacrifice

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

 

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

Dangers of Pride, Benefits of Humility, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Support People With Invisible Disabilities

DISCLAIMER: No disparaging comments about anyone allowed, or your comment will be deleted!

When most people hear of the word “disability” they think of someone in a wheelchair, or at least someone with some type of physical impairment.  But did you know that up to 10% of all people with disabilities suffer from what is called an “invisible disability?”  An invisible disability is a condition that one has that impairs, or makes it more difficult for someone to function successfully in everyday life, but that is not readily visible to the human eye.  They may have problems getting up from bed, may be tired a lot of the time, may have trouble interacting with others, or may have trouble taking care of themselves without help, to name a few symptoms.  These symptoms are, of course, not all inclusive or even applicable to some of the invisible disabilities that there are, but they do apply to some of them.

What to say and do and what not to say or do to people with invisible disabilities:

What to say/do:

  1. Do offer to help and support them if they ask and are in need of that.—If they ask for help or are in obvious need of support, do whatever you can to help them. Validate them and be a caring friend to them. Help them also get the accommodations they need, or at least help them find some.
  2. Do acknowledge their disability and take them seriously.—There is nothing more frustrating than people who don’t take our disability seriously just because they don’t “see” anything wrong with us! If someone tells you they have a disability or some medical issue, believe them!  Just because you can’t readily “see” it, does not mean that they aren’t suffering from anything! Everyone has issues in their lives, but some can’t be “seen.” This doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that the person is “faking” it.  For instance, as a hypothetical example, what if you told a friend of yours when you confided in them that you just had cancer, but they just said something like, “It’s all in your mind,” or “Don’t worry. Everyone else has issues, too.” You would be furious, right?  This is why it is important to acknowledge the struggles and disability as valid and try to help them through it.
  3. Do emphasize their value as a person, not just their disability.—Another frustrating thing that people tell those suffering from an invisible disability, is something like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could drive? Most people with [insert disability] here can’t do that. You are amazing!” Even though this seems like a compliment, it really is patronizing and insulting because it assumes that just because someone has x disability, they can’t do or be anything of value to this society. This is also why upon learning their child will have developmental problems, the doctors sometimes will recommend abortion to the parents, although a lot of the time, parents that have children with these disabilities are blessed by their child(ren)’s joy and what the child(ren) can teach them about what really counts in life.
  4. Speak out against discrimination and educate people about the nature of invisible disabilities.—If you really want to help your family, friends, and other loved ones who you know suffer from invisible disabilities, speak out against the blatant discrimination that exists against them and advocate on their behalf.

    Ways to do this include:

a.)Educating yourself about invisible disabilities and what people who struggle with them go through on a daily basis.

b.)Speak out when you hear a misconception or discriminatory comment against those with any type of invisible disability.

c)Listen carefully and thoughtfully to the people in your life with an invisible disability and offer to help and understand them better (and, of course, follow through on that promise).

d) Be an advocate for getting us that suffer from an invisible disability more resources and research to help others understand us better and help us navigate through life more successfully.

 

What not to say/do:

  1. Tell someone with an invisible disability that they don’t really have one or that they are just “faking” it or “being lazy.”—This is very invalidating and borders on being verbally abusive! Just because you don’t “see” anything wrong with the person, doesn’t mean the person is fine inside! If the invisible disability involves mental or neurological conditions, do not tell them it’s all in their head or that they are “being lazy” or somehow not trying hard enough to overcome their disability. First of all, unless you are also suffering from that disability or know what’s going on in the person’s mind (i.e are God), don’t assume to know how they are feeling or coping! More often than not, they are already trying the best they can and your invalidation can bring about feelings of self-hatred for themselves, causing resentment and anger against you.
  2. Value the person only in terms of their disability—(See number #3, in what to say/do.)
  3. Exclude or treat the person differently because you found out about their disability. Never, ever exclude or treat the person with the disability differently or exclude them from certain activities just because they have a disability (unless the person asks you to). We should treat everyone, especially those with invisible disabilities, with kindness, respect, and dignity! This means not treating them as if they were aliens or someone to be avoided or excluded. Treat them with the dignity you would your non-disabled family and friends.
  4. Make fun of /or ridicule them for their disability.—Along with the above, you should never ridicule someone for their disability, invisible or not! If you ever encounter another person mocking or ridiculing a person with a disability (invisible or visible), speak up and stand up for the person struggling with the disability. Silence basically signifies agreement with the action. Do not stay silent!

These are the ways you can support people with invisible disabilities, and the things you should never do.  If more people knew about what we go through on a daily basis, there would be more understanding and less prejudice against those who struggle  I struggle with an invisible disability, and on behalf of all my family and friends who likewise struggle, know that we appreciate you taking time to learn about our condition and understand us better.

What I Learned From the Toughest Years of My Life

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of eating disorders, abuse, and suicide.  Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone, or your comment will be deleted! I will also put resources for anyone or a loved one you know that needs them. Remember, there is still hope as long as one is still alive!

 

On April 9, 1999, I wrote the following, a desperate cry from the depths of my soul: I feel dead without actually being killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. I want to get better… […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” This was a year before God took a hold of my heart, the year that my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott and thirteen other lives were taken in the infamous mass shooting in Colorado.  This was also the year that I was verbally abused by a teacher, and he instilled a fear so great that it was fifteen years later before I was able to overcome it.  I don’t recall having any close friends at all at this time. I remember having a lot of tough classes too.

The years before that were not so much better. Three years earlier, I struggled with an eating disorder, which thankfully did not end up with me being in the hospital, though it almost got to that point.  I struggled with being bullied and verbally abused by a good number of my peers. I don’t recall being invited to any parties or gatherings with friends, unless I asked them first, and even then people didn’t really want to hang out with me.

During those years, from 1996-1999, were the toughest years of my life. Though I thought the pain would never end and I didn’t know if there was anything different for my life, I learned so much from these years of pain that I continue to strive to apply to my life today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Don’t reject someone just because they are different or needy.—I felt rejected by a lot of people during those years. Some people probably didn’t want to be with me, simply because I wasn’t “cool” to them. I didn’t have the right clothes, the right look. Some thought I was unkind because I was a bit depressed at times, without them taking the time to figure out what was wrong and invest in me.  Yes, there are times when it may not be safe to invest in someone at the time, but at least don’t assume they are “rude” or “arrogant” without learning their story. What if that “rude” (read: really depressed or angry) person’s parent or spouse recently died or is being abusive to them? What if they are going through things that they don’t tell you about because they assume you are too judgmental to caringly listen to them? You never know what another is going through. For instance, some people at my job may seem rude and abrasive at times, but then I find out that they are going through some things that are really traumatizing and/or difficult, and because of my experiences during those tough years that I mention, God helps me to listen with compassion, and I try to encourage and be a listening, supportive friend to them.
  2. Be careful of hurting someone with your words. It can ruin or hurt their very souls.–This is what happened to me when a teacher (I am not upset at him anymore….and if you are reading this today, I forgive you and I wish you the best) verbally abused me so badly that he instilled a fear that took me a long time to overcome. I think I internalized what he had said to me, and just gave up hope of ever becoming competent in the subject matter that he taught.  It wasn’t until my mentor, J, pushed me, that I was able to overcome this fear several years ago. I was also verbally teased and berated by my peers at school, who made me feel like an outcast and a pariah.  This is why when I say something out of anger that could really hurt someone, I apologize as quickly as possible.  This is also why I try to build up people, rather than tear them down. I want to improve other people’s lives and prevent them from ever having to suffer as I did with hurtful words.
  3. Pain and heartache may last awhile, but it doesn’t usually last forever—During those tough years, sometimes I thought so much that my emotional hurt and anguish I felt would never end, that I wanted to end it all. However, I am living proof that joy does come in the morning, as it says somewhere in the Bible. The next year, not only did the pain subside, but God also came into my life! Shortly after I graduated from college, I met one of my closest friends to this day. Almost two years ago, I started this blog, God’s Whisperings.  About a year ago, I became full-time at my current job. There is hope, as long as you are still alive. The pain may take some time to subside, but hang in there, so you don’t miss the hope, the love, and the joy you can have if you persevere in life and don’t give up.

These are major things that I learned during the toughest years of my life. I hope if you are going through a similarly tough time, whether it be dealing with a loss of a loved one (My grandmother died in 1996.),  dealing with abuse or bullying, struggling with an illness, whether it be physical or mental, or any other tough situation, that you will know that you are not alone.  I hope you will know that there is hope for your life, no matter how desperate or bleak it looks right now.  And I hope that you know that good will come out of this tough situation, even if you can’t see it right now. Don’t give up.

 

Resources for those dealing with some tough situations:

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)- This is an organization that helps people and their families dealing with mental health issues.  https://www.nami.org/Find-Support
  • Suicide Hotline- https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
  • Grief counseling/support groups page—This is a webpage dedicated to helping those who have lost a loved one and are looking for support or ways to get through it. https://grief.com/group-resources/
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)—This is a website dedicated to those who have been sexually abused and/or assaulted. There is a hotline one can call in a life-threatening situation or just for support.  https://www.rainn.org/
  • Jodie Blanco—She is an advocate who speaks on behalf of the bullied, both people who are currently being bullied, and adult survivors of bullying. There are some great resources for survivors themselves, parents, and teachers. There are even some resources on how bullying in schools can be stopped. http://www.jodeeblanco.com/