How Suffering Can Build Character

Ever since I was an infant, I have always hated suffering.  I don’t only hate going through suffering and trials, but I hate to see other people I love in pain. Violence on television sometimes makes me cringe.  However, in the past few years, I have learned over and over again, had it not been for certain bouts of suffering in my life, I would have never been the kind of person I am now.  I am still far from perfect. However, I can attest that most, if not, all the trials in my life have served to strengthen and better me as a person.  Here is what I learned about how certain areas that I experienced suffering in my life have helped build my character.

Suffering physically/health-wise

For regular readers of this blog, you have probably read the story about when I almost died in June 2014.  To make a long story short, I started having more and more pain in my side area of my body. I thought it may have been from heavy lifting, until I started throwing up blood. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses found the source of the problem: my gallbladder, which was twice the size it should have been, inflamed, and had at least several gall stones in it.  Then, the next day, the gallbladder was taken out before it could have burst—just in time.  During and after this ordeal, I learned many things.  First of all, I learned not to take life for granted, especially the time spent with loved ones, because you never know when your time is up on this earth.  Secondly, I learned how lonely and depressing being sick and/or bed-bound can be. I only experienced this for about several days, and already I was depressed and had cabin fever.  I could only imagine how people who cannot get out of bed for weeks and months at a time must feel! Thus, this incident has caused me to pray more for people in my congregation who are sick and have more compassion for those that cannot get out of bed.  One of my pastors told the congregation about how people in our church who have been battling cancer do not come to the pastors first, but to other people who have been through the same thing they have, and thus would have more experience and compassion in how to best deal with their situation.

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

Some people I have met in the past few years would probably not believe that when I was growing up, I struggled a lot with making friends and was getting picked on regularly by my peers, because my life is so different now. However, I remember, especially in middle school and my first year of high school, people mocking me for everything from my ethnicity to the clothing I wore.  To make matters worse, most of the teachers were either unaware of what was happening or partly blamed me for being victimized by my own peers and thought I should try to “fit in” better.  (NOTE: Abuse and bullying is NE VER the victim’s fault!)  Also, some people pitied me and tried/pretended to be my friend, but they never stuck around long.  Even though these years were some of my most miserable and depressing, these events also served to strengthen my moral character. Out of these events, God developed in me a heart of care for all those who have ever been abused and/or bullied by others before. To this day, I have a strong urgency to do something to help those who have experienced abuse, bullying, or any other type of injustice. I do not want other people to experience the loneliness, desolation, and depression that I had experienced during some of those years in school.  I also don’t want people to think that they are unimportant or insignificant to this world, because every single person can make a positive contribution to this world. (Yes, this includes you!) If I had never been bullied in school, I would probably be extremely narcissistic and self-centered, as I was before this experience.  Even though I would not wish these experiences on anyone, I am thankful that I learned how to not treat people and thus, by default, know to treat others the way I would want to be treated.  I learned the high value of all people, even the ones that don’t stand out as much in this world.

Being unemployed or underemployed

There are many people I know that assume that most people can find a job in several weeks, and if they take longer that they are either “lazy” or “incompetent” in some way. I used to be one of those people when I was growing up.  However, during the times when I was looking for a job, I realized how arduous and discouraging the task can be, especially if you struggle with a disability or are somehow labeled as “different” from the normative idea of an “employable” person.  The interview itself can be very nerve-wracking. Something as insignificant as clothing choice or perfume smell can negatively impact an interview and also the chances of the applicant getting the job. This trial helped me in at least two ways: 1) I have more compassion for people who have a difficult time finding a job, but who still try, or even those that cannot work at all, no matter how hard they try.  2) I appreciate the job that I now have more because of the work and time it took me to get to where I am even now.  I work harder because I relish the joy of being able to be productive and make a difference in other’s lives.  I don’t take my job for granted, but have passion in what I am doing.

General suffering

In general, going through the trials I have has made me be able to comfort others who are going through similar things that I have gone through before. I am able to relate to them on a deeper, more intimate level, than if I couldn’t relate to them at all.  I have been able to develop more compassion for those who are suffering.  Also, I have hope, that, through the most difficult things that I experienced, that future trials will a.) Either not be as bad or b.) I will be able to overcome them with the help of God and of the people that will come into my life to help me through it.  Finally, through all the pain and hurt I have been through and witnessed others go through, I have realized both the value of people and time.  Because of this realization, I have been able to let certain irritants go  and just focus on making the best of my time with the people that love and care for me.

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Precious Soul- a poem

written on : 8/1/2018

The world judged you,

Left you to die

Forced you to hide

The light inside you

 

But you survived

And lived to fight

Against the dark

That hid your light

 

Angels peeled away

The layers of dark

That hid your light

Out of your sight

 

Then, I saw you

A precious soul

Amazingly whole,

So full of light

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.

Harms of Envy

I used to be envious of my brother because I felt he was the best in almost everything, while I always fell short of my goals.  After I got over my envy of my brother, I began to be envious of people who were happily married and had children, because I wanted a family for myself, but I have remained single for a very long time. I didn’t wish them any harm or anything, but I didn’t really like celebrating with them either.

However, over the past five years, I have discovered that all the time that I spent being jealous could have been used to better myself and to focus more on the mission that God had called me to accomplish. I strived to stop playing the comparison game.  I became more content with where God has placed me. I learned how to value and to use the gifts that God had already given to me, instead of looking to have what He didn’t give me.

Simply put; envy does more harm than good, not only in our relationships to each other, but also for our own personal growth as people.  Here is why I believe envy is harmful :

  1. Envy creates strife and separates people.—During my devotional time, in the Book of 1 Kings (the Bible), I have been reading about the relationship between King (at the time) Saul and David, who would eventually replace him as king of Israel. Saul initially becomes envious of David because of how much more successful and popular he was becoming compared to Saul.  Instead of reflecting on why he was jealous or what he could do to change, Saul becomes more and more enraged at David, even plotting to kill him on more than one occasion.  Because Saul’s son, Jonathan, becomes friends with David, Saul wants to kill him too! In my own life, I have witnessed envy creating strife more times than I dare to recall. For instance, I know people that are so envious of one of my friends that they a.) only talk to complain about work-related things  or b.) actually go out of their way to try to hurt my friend.  Also, when I was envious of my brother, I didn’t really take the time to get to know his struggles and hard work he had to put in to get to where he is today.  Envy creates strife and can separate even family.
  2. Envy stunts our growth as people.—When we are jealous of someone, our emotional and spiritual growth as people gets stunted. For instance, if someone were jealous of me for accomplishing more things than they did at my job, this person would not be open to learning how I did what I did, or learning about how much sacrifice and hard work it took for me to get there. All they would be interested in is dragging me down or to seethe in their anger and pain of not getting the results they wanted.  This is what happens when any one of us, including me, are jealous of someone else—whether it be envy of their possessions, abilities, or other blessings or gifts that they have, but we don’t.  When we are envious, not only does our learning stop, but envy also hurts our ability to change for the better.  For example, because Saul was so obsessed with bringing down David, he failed to look in the mirror and begin the hard work of not being so rash and impatient with God and others.
  3. Envy is a waste of time.—For the past five years, I have learned more and more how much of a waste of time being envious of someone really is. Speaking from my own experiences, I wish the time that I had spent being jealous of others would have been better used to bless others and improve myself.  Envy consumes you with bad thoughts of the other person. Sometimes, this consumption is so complete that there isn’t any room for anything else.  For instance, King Saul was so envious of David that his life was consumed with chasing David and wanting him dead. What a waste of time!

We would serve others and ourselves better if we could get rid of any trace of envy we have for another.  Envy is often the start of such vices as prejudice, murder, and other violent acts. Envy is harmful because it separates people, including family and close friends, stunts our growth as people, and is a colossal waste of time.  Who are you tempted to envy?  Let us instead try to learn from the people we envy and be content with what we are given, because everyone can contribute something valuable to this world.

To Those On Their Last Rope

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Friend,

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

I sometimes wonder these same things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what happened to me since high school?

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Patricia

Letting Go of Past Hurts

I know many people who hold onto grudges and the darkness of the past for dear life.  For a long time, I was one of those people.  Sometimes, I still glance at the past darkness, but it no longer affects me as much as it used to, and I am finally healing from the people that have hurt me in the past. Because of so many great people that I am blessed to have in my life, I have learned to let go of many of my past hurts. Here is what I learned in the process, and I am still learning, day by day:

A) Dealing with Past (and Present) Rejection

I have heard of many instances where Person A is rejected by Person B in, let’s say, a long-term friendship, and Person A has a very tough time letting go of Person B.  In some cases, the person being rejected even takes vengeance against the person rejecting them, with deadly consequences.

Being rejected, starting at the tender age of two, at a daycare center, I know how it feels like to not be wanted. I was also often the last to be picked on a sports team, or any group, growing up in school. If I had the attitude of some people in society about being rejected so many times, I would probably be a miserable, cruel person, similar to people who abuse or hurt others regularly.

Thankfully, I learned to let go.  I learned that though rejection is painful, I don’t need a particular person (other than Christ) to make me happy or fulfilled in life.  I learned that people always come and go out of our lives, and that my goal in life is just to make a positive difference in as many people’s lives as possible. If I am only with the same group of people my entire life, yes, we would be very close, but I wouldn’t be able to make as great an impact to the world, as if some of them chose to or had to leave me. Tell yourself, “I can live without them.”

Also remind yourself of your own value and worth, even in the face of rejection. Repeat after me: I am not a less valuable person because someone else fails to see my worth to them.  Truth! Your value does not change based on how popular you are, or how many people love or don’t love you.  You are infinitely valuable, no matter what people say about you. Remember that.

Finally, ask yourself what you can learn in the face of the rejection. If someone rejected you because you did not treat them well, resolve to learn how to treat others better, so you won’t be rejected in that way again. If someone rejected you for superficial or other flimsy reasons,

don’t take that personally. Use that experience as a lesson in how not to treat others.

B)Dealing with Past Hurts

When someone hurts you.—I’m sure almost everyone has experienced someone hurting them in the past. Some of you have even experienced some horrific abuse by the people who were supposed to love and protect you.  For those people, I am sorry, and I hope you will be able to heal from that, at your own pace and timing.  For others of us, however, we may have been hurt emotionally by someone who isn’t even that close to us, but for whatever reason, have not been able to fully let go or forgive them.  This following advice is more for you.

First of all, if I was dealing with someone that hurt me emotionally that didn’t live in my house and was not family (and even if they were family),  I would try to remind myself of all the times that I was shown mercy  when I hurt someone else.  Sometimes, when you are able to put your hurt into perspective, it alleviates the pain a little bit.

Second of all, intentionally strive to be kind to your offender. This is what I did for several people at work when they had hurt me emotionally.  Important to note: You cannot have a “martyr’s” attitude (i.e : the “I guess I’ll be nice so they know how much it costs me” attitude) towards them, otherwise this doesn’t work the way it should.  Being kind to them must be from the heart.  You must have some compassion and love for them, even in your hurt.  What I found when I intentionally tried to be kind to them from my heart, they eventually softened towards me, and in many cases, we were even able to be reconciled to each other!

Another thing that can be useful, especially if you believe in God, is to pray for your offender or offenders.  Praying for them is different from praying against them. Do not pray, for example, that they will get cancer or die. Pray instead for their success in life, their repentance, their joy, and positive things like that.

If you hurt them.—We also all have hurt someone else.  When someone tells you that you have hurt them, or if you know somehow that you have offended someone, seek forgiveness from them. Offer them a contrite and humble apology. Any so-called apology with “but” or “if” in it is not a real apology because it excuses or blames, and does not take full responsibility for one’s actions.  In an apology, never blame the victim. Also, always be willing to do anything you can to restore the situation and make amends for your wrongdoing and hurtful actions.  For instance, if you slandered someone else out of envy, you could try to amend the situation by admitting to all those you bad-mouthed the victim to that you lied about the victim, and asking for forgiveness.  However, if the forgiveness is refused by any of these parties, then you need to let go. Demanding forgiveness is evidence of a proud, unrepentant heart.  Forgiveness must be given freely in order to be genuine.  Don’t try to force it out of someone.

C) Dealing with Fallen Dreams

If I got a U.S dollar for all the dreams that I had for my life, beginning when I was five years old, that failed, I’d probably be pretty rich.  We all have had wishes and goals that never have come to fruition, or plans that have changed.

Several people I know have had their career dreams cut short or been changed by a certain event or events.  I know I have. For instance, when I was a little child, one of my career goals, was to be astronaut. However, that fell on its head when I had to get glasses a few years later. (They don’t allow people to be astronauts who don’t have 20/20 vision, at least, as far as I know.).  Also, when I was in college, I wanted to do something in biology, until I realized that chemistry and physics were required, and they were not my strong suits.

One thing that has helped me deal with these (and other) fallen dreams is to see the good in my current situation. For example, I believe I am able to make more of a difference at my current job as a sales associate, rather than I would as an astronaut with maybe ten other people (max) in the shuttle. Yes, astronauts do make a world of difference still, and I am not discounting that. Rather, I am saying that for me I am better suited in my current job than I would be as an astronaut.

Another thing that has helped me overcome fallen dreams is learning from my mistakes.  For instance, I failed a course in school, but later relearned the concepts again to the point that I would be able to probably pass the course if I had to take it now.

Also, if a lot of your dreams are shattered, sometimes you can get so discouraged that you quit trying. That is what happened to me with driving. Luckily, I found my mentor J that encouraged me to try again. Find someone who will encourage you to persevere, and don’t quit.  Try not to set too lofty goals, at first, but set small, reachable goals, and do whatever it takes to reach them. Be determined and believe that you can accomplish your dreams… because you can!

 

These are the ways that I have let go of my past hurts. Yes, I have been through a lot in my past, and yes I still carry battle (emotional) scars, but my past has only made me a stronger person.  Your past doesn’t have to get in the way of being who you were meant to be.  Letting go may not be easy, but it is worth it.

Further (a poem)

Further  written on 2/11/2018

You said I wouldn’t amount to much

You said things that invalidated me as such

You made me cry and cry

And you almost made me die

 

But you don’t know my Savior

You don’t know how far

He has taken me

And what He has created me to be

 

You don’t know the love

He has lavished upon me

And how far I’ve come

Because of the one from up above

 

And the loving friends He sent me

Because they believed in me

When you wouldn’t

And just couldn’t

 

Yes, you wouldn’t even believe

I would make it this far

But what you couldn’t perceive

Is that I made it further