Open Letters On Forgiveness

Written on    1/12-13/2018

Dear Anyone Who Has Hurt or Offended Me,

For some of you, I have held on to my anger and bitterness towards you for a long time. God convicted me today and told me to let it go. And I intend to do just that. If you had offended me, what you did was probably not right and I am absolutely not excusing your behavior. However, my response to you was not right either, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that lashing out in kind and wishing evil on some of you. I am sorry that I hadn’t reached out to you in reconciliation and mercy earlier mainly because of my stupidity and pride that got in the way. I understand if you never are able to forgive me for this or don’t want to reconcile. However, if you would like to, I want both of us to strive not to hurt one another deeply again, and I want you to know that I have your back now and wish only the best for you.

Sincerely,

Patricia

 

Dear Anyone Who Has Been Hurt By Me or Others,

 

Hurt by others: If you have been hurt by another person (other than me), I am sorry. If you were ever abused by someone who was supposed to love and/or protect you (such as a family member), I am deeply sorry, and please take as much time as you need to process everything and heal.

 

However, for those hurt by someone who has not severely scarred you (though at times it may feel like it, I know.)I have these three words for you: Let. It. Go. Don’t try to let it go for their sake, but for yours!

 

What criteria I personally use now to determine if another’s hurt is worth holding on to or addressing in any major way:

1)            Are they hurting God—meaning are they blasphemous or against directives that He laid out in the Bible?

2)            Are they hurting my family or other loved ones?

3)            Are the issues/offenses at hand morally and/or eternally significant for their sake (i.e Are they committing a serious sin)?

 

If two to three questions’ answers are “Yes,” then it is worth getting concerned about, but if not, I just try to let it go. Even if the answers to these three questions are “Yeses,” I still try to speak the truth to them in a loving, but firm manner.

For instance, though, some people hold a grudge against another simply because someone did not say “Hello” in return to them. Yes, it can be upsetting if we are not acknowledged and it is rude for them not to acknowledge you, but is this worth remembering or getting so upset about? Also, someone not saying “Hello” to you or ignoring you, assuming it’s not family, will not hurt your loved ones! Also, no one will go to jail or get kicked out of anything simply for not acknowledging you, or at least it would be absurd if they did!

Let it go.

I understand why someone would hold a grudge against someone else though. I confess that I once was a grudge-holder, and then wondered why it was so difficult for me to grow spiritually and emotionally! I realized I held grudges for so long because I thought that by holding on to the hurt and anger and giving the offender or offenders the harsh, silent treatment, I was, in essence, “punishing” them for the hurt they caused me.  However, what often occurred was that the offender either didn’t care about the incident or the hurt they had caused me, or they didn’t even know how much they had hurt me! In essence, God gave me this epiphany one day that by holding on to these grudges, I was only hurting myself and the loved ones that hadn’t hurt me at all!

When I finally let go of my hurt and anger that some others had caused me, it was like a burden was lifted off me.  I no longer had to exert angry and hate-filled energy for that people and anyone associated with them and the incident anymore.  Most of all, I felt peace. I was open to reconciliation, and I was free of the bind of emotional pain that the offender or offenders had over me.

Let it go.

For your sake and for those that love you.

For those I hurt:

I do apologize and am so sorry that I hurt you. I don’t ask for forgiveness only for my sake, but also for yours. I want you to be free of the anger and hurt that I caused and that comes from bitterness and resentment. I will do anything in my power to repair the damage that I caused, and I will strive never to repeat the offense again.  Know you are valued and loved by God and by me. I only want the best for you. And I know that is what God wants for you as well.

Sincerely,

Patricia

Advertisements

Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know things have been difficult for you lately, and you feel that there is little meaning and purpose to your life.  You feel that no one would want to get to know the Real You if they found out all about you.  You feel that in order to be truly loved and accepted, you would have to be reasonably thin and look like a model in the magazines and in the movies. In other words, you have to not only be perfectly sociable, you have to look the part too, if there ever was such a thing.  Consequently, because you don’t measure up to these standards, you think that is why you don’t have any friends—or any confidence in who you are and what you are becoming.

You have a lot of other stressors too.  You just moved to a new house, and will move to a new school soon. The old house hasn’t sold yet, so your parents are busy with that and have less time for you.  You also feel the need to keep your grades up because you don’t want your parents to get upset at you and you want to be able to compete with the intelligence of your very smart younger brother.

You want to give up, or at least wish all these problems away. You want to run away from them because life is becoming increasingly unbearable for you.  Even in the midst of all the stress and anguish that you are facing, let me tell you, there is still hope for you.  Don’t you give up on life! I know it is very tough right now, but things WILL get better. I promise.

In fact, three years later, you will meet the Greatest Friend there is—Jesus Christ!  He won’t give a care how you look like or how sociable you are.  He will accept you. Just. as. you. are. He will change your life for the better. No longer will you have to worry about being loved and accepted by your peers and other people in your life, but you will be more and more secure in who you are because Jesus loves you!

You won’t have to worry about competing with your brother for grades. Heck, grades won’t even matter nine or ten years from now! You will even have a full-time job, though it will be different from what you imagine it to be, and even though it will be tough to get at first. God will make you and your brother successful in your own ways, so you won’t worry about competing with him anymore.

Moreover, you won’t have to rely on your parents alone or even your brother for affection and attention, because God will provide you with many friends. Though God will always be your Ultimate Friend, these other friends will help you see the goodness and love of God ever more clearly. Best of all, you will be able to open up about yourself more without fear of rejection or criticism because it won’t bother you anymore. God will always be with you, and He is the One that will ultimately matter the most to you.

Finally, don’t give up because God will do something great and wonderful in your life if you let Him. Your love for everyone and everything (except, of course, the devil and the evil in this world) will overflow to others. You will experience joy in your life like never before!

Keep going! God will help you through this!

Love,

Patricia (in her 30s)

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/

 

 

What I Learned From My Book of the Year

DISCLAIMER: I get no compensation from this review of sorts. All opinions are my own. However, if you would like to buy this book, please go to the recommendation page of my blog.

“You are what you think.” This is what the Bible says, and also what has been true in my life.  I have been struggling to combat negative thoughts almost all my life, whether it be anxiety-laden thoughts or more angry thoughts about someone I was upset with the previous day.  Then, one day, my Sunday School teacher (a.k.a : the pastor’s wife) talked about a book that she said in so many words, would change lives.  She said that the book would teach one how to think more positive, godly thoughts and revolutionize our attitude towards life in a positive way.  Because of my struggles with the thoughts that I have had most of my life, this book, “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George, seemed interesting to me. In fact, I was so interested in the book, all I could think about during the whole time my teacher was promoting the book was, I’ve got to get this book!” So, that same night, I got the book. Actually, I accidentally bought two and sold one of them to a friend of mine.

 

These are some of the things that I have learned from my favorite book of the year (Loving God With All Your Mind) and how these lessons can be applied to almost anyone’s lives, regardless of religious affiliation or belief:

  1. When you truly love someone, you will strive never to think negatively about that person.—Because of my tendency to think negatively about others when they had upset me or about how I “must” have offended them when someone was upset with me, this was truly a revolutionary concept. I discovered that one of the reasons that I hadn’t been getting along with certain people in my life was that I was constantly thinking the worst about them, and it stemmed from both an unforgiving heart and that they had hurt me before, and I failed to let go of the past. I think it was a defensive mechanism to prevent myself from getting hurt by those people again. The thing about love, though, is that it takes risks! C.S Lewis is even quoted as saying that if you love, you will get hurt. However, I believe even with the pain, love is totally worth it!  So, when I started to follow the advice of this book and countered my negative thoughts about these people with the positive characteristics I saw in them, I had a more balanced, more positive view of those people. Another thing I learned from “Loving God With All Your Mind” related to this lesson of not thinking negatively (or evil thoughts) about others is when a person seems upset with you, and you confront them and they say that nothing is wrong, you shouldn’t second guess them. I asked my Sunday School teacher (because the “lawyer” in my head had popped up!), “What if the person really is lying to you, and they say nothing is wrong, but you really have offended them.” She said something like, “Go with the lie. If someone is offended by you, it is their responsibility to let you know so you can do better next time, not yours.” To add to this, I am thinking also that if a person wants to hide behind pretense and games and does not want to let you know that they were offended by you, what kind of relationship is that anyway? Also, do you really want to continue being in a relationship based on lies? I don’t either.
  2. Look for the good in the trials of life.—Everyone goes through a rough patch at least once in their lifetime, some multiple times, or much of their lives. A lot of people, me included, sometimes think that life would be better without these trials, or rough patches, in our lives. However, Elizabeth George says in her book to look for the “gold” in our trials. For instance, during my elementary and part of my high school years, I was a victim of bullying by some of my peers.  When I was going through all that, I felt depressed, hopeless, and mentally exhausted of that life. However, these trials have taught me some valuable lessons on how NOT to live your life. A.) I learned how painful it feels to be bullied and ridiculed, both physically and verbally, through taunts and mockery, and strive never to inflict the same on another human being.   b) I learned how to value each person as God values me, in contrast to how some people treated me as an appendage or a burden.  c) I learned how to respond and not respond to these people.  Also, these bad experiences also led me to search for God and love and later ignited my passion to serve and love others.  Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always good that can come out of it, whether it be redemption in the situation itself or strengthening of our character
  3. Don’t dwell on past regrets or even successes, but move forward.—One of the more interesting things I learned from the book, “Loving God With All Your Mind,” is to forget the past. This means not dwelling on past failures or even successes. When we dwell on past failures, we tend to get stuck there, and this attitude prevents us from having the motivation to try new things or to try again. I know because this has happened to me.  More than ten years ago (probably closer to fifteen), I tried to learn the cash register at another job, but it was a disaster. I was so nervous and flustered that I did nothing right. This was still my first time learning it ever. For a long time, in my other jobs, I tried to avoid learning the register. Finally, recently, because I want to work up to be a department manager someday, I thought I should try to learn the register again. The first time in my current job, I was just shadowing another manager. However, the second time I was training, the person training me had me deal with customers! I was really nervous, but she said I did well for my first time with customers at that store! So, what I learned from this experience that others can apply to their lives too, is not to dwell on past regrets, but to move forward and try again.  Also, don’t dwell on past successes. For instance, if a person is so obsessed about their doctorate degree that he or she won’t lay it aside if necessary to get a job that they need because it is “too beneath” them, that is a bad thing. They should forget about their doctorate and do what is necessary to build success now and in the future.

This is just some of the things that I learned from my book of the year, “Loving God With All Your Mind.” When I follow the advice of this book, especially the lessons I outlined above, I have found my anxiety decrease dramatically and my general attitude being more joyful and more positive than before.  What are some lessons that you can carry with you from your favorite book? What is one book that changed your life that you recommend? Please discuss in the comments.

 

 

Things One Should Say To an Abuse Survivor

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of rape and abuse. Absolutely NO disparaging comments allowed or your comment will be deleted! 

In the era where there are more people coming forward about being abused despite their perpetrators trying to silence them, there is still much work that needs to be done to help these survivors heal. One way this can be done is by saying things that will help the survivor heal and move forward despite all the horrible things that have happened to them. In my experience in dealing with people that have been abused and/or bullied, here are things that I think they need to hear from you:

  1. “I believe you.”–Many survivors suffer not only from the post-traumatic effects of having been abused but also from the stigma of not being believed, especially by family and/or friends of the perpetrator and sometimes even people in their own circle of influence. Saying to them that you believe what they went through was and is valid and real will help them heal because saying this validates their experience and feelings surrounding the traumatic event. It says you will be there for them and that you acknowledge their value and their worth.
  2. “This was not your fault.”–Many survivors also believe, at least to some extent, that the abuse was somehow their fault. This is what the perpetrators want them to believe because they (the aggressors) often do not want to a.) take responsibility for their actions and b.) believe that they are that bad of a person that they need to change their behaviors. However, this is NEVER true.  For instance, even if a rape survivor wore revealing clothing, it does not mean it is the survivor’s fault that they were raped! It is totally and completely the perpetrator’s fault for not controlling himself or herself and treating someone in a vulnerable position like an object of their twisted and selfish pleasures!
  3. “You are valued and loved.” —Many survivors I know struggle with low self-esteem or self-worth. Even people who are not survivors can struggle with this, but survivors even more so because the perpetrators have brainwashed these survivors into thinking that they are much less than they really are. Often perpetrators want their victims to think lowly of themselves, so it is easier for them to control their victims.  Survivors of abuse often struggle with this long after their perpetrators are out of their lives.  Telling the survivor that he or she is valued and loved, with a sincere heart, of course, will help them to regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.  Going a step further, and actually showing them that they are valued and loved, of course, can drastically improve survivors’ lives and/or outlook of their future.
  4. “I am here for you.”–A lot of survivors I know feel alone and/or struggle with depression.  This is often because the perpetrator often wants to silence them. If the perpetrator is successful in doing that, a survivor can feel that they have no one to turn to and that no one can really be trusted. Thus, they feel alone in their pain and suffering, and many can only tell their accounts of the abuse years after it happened.  Some, sadly, even take these accounts to their graves, or the perpetrator is believed instead of the survivor and thus is never punished or disciplined for their crimes. Saying “I am here for you,” will make the survivor feel less alone in their pain. It shows solidarity with them and will eventually open the gates of trust in their heart because saying this with a sincere heart will assure the survivor that they are not alone in their pain and that they don’t have to suffer alone.
  5. “You are beautiful.”–Abuse survivors, especially if they were abused sexually, often struggle with how they view the person staring back at the mirror in some way. Saying this in a platonic and sincere way can help survivors regain their self-confidence. However, one should also be careful to say this in such a way that it emphasizes their infinite worth as unique and awesome creation.  One should never say this half-heartedly or in a seductive manner!
  6. “You are not alone.”–As I said before, a lot of abuse survivors think they are somehow alone in their trial and anguish because they are often silenced or sworn to secrecy by their perpetrators especially if the survivors were abused as children.  Saying “You are not alone” to an abuse survivor can mean the world to them. Even though some may know logically that they are not alone, it is often refreshing for them to know that they a.) don’t suffer alone. b.) their anguish is not so unique that no one can ever understand or relate to them in some way.
  7. “I care about you” OR “I will support you.” –Some abuse survivors may feel that no one really cares about or supports them, especially if they have been told by some people in some way that their experience is not believable (even if what they experienced is 100% true).  Saying and demonstrating in some way that you care about them and are willing to support them can be a boon to them. This will mean to the survivor that they have a friend (you) who will help them through the up and downs of the recovery from their abuse and will show to them the perseverance of true love.
  8. Any other validating words.–What this world, and especially abuse survivors, need is love and validation.  Be careful when offering advice or criticism, because these things can hurt the survivor even more even if it is not intentional.  Often abusers control their victims by demeaning them not only physically, but also with hurtful and unnecessarily devaluing and mean words.  If you must offer advice or criticism, do so gently. Never verbally attack a survivor! Always think of them before yourself. Validate them by reminding them of their worth to you and to society, and do so sincerely. Most people can see through fake gestures of “kindness.”  Be sincere and kind in your words to others, especially survivors, always.

These are some things an abuse survivor needs to hear from you. If we validated everyone, especially people who have been through so much, I believe this whole world would heal from their pain and anguish, and it would be a much better place to live. Who can you love and validate today? Please discuss in comments.

Things I Learned in Childhood

I know I don’t talk much about my childhood. Although compared to many people, I had a pretty happy childhood, I did experience some trauma, mostly at the hands of peers my age. However, I did learn some valuable life lessons that I carry to this day when dealing with situations in my life.  These three things have shaped how I see the world, with some modifications, of course:

  1. Don’t avoid or neglect to do something just because you don’t like to do that thing. Do it efficiently and quickly the first time, so you don’t have to do more later. –I was talking to one of my managers last night, and he was amazed that I am consistently the first one to arrive at the straightening (even though I must admit, sometimes I hate it), and one of the first one to get things done. What I failed to tell him at the time, was why I do this.  This motivation actually stemmed from an incident in fourth or fifth grade when I consistently failed to do the assigned readings on the Gold Rush each day because I hated it. I mean, I hated the book! It was as boring as reading a how-to manual on assembling something one doesn’t care about.  However, the time came where I had to present something from that book.  I knew if I didn’t at least skim the book, that I would probably fail the whole class, and my parents would be absolutely furious at me for not even trying. I quickly gathered up as much information as I could from gleaning the book, and passed the project presentation by the skin of my teeth (i.e to my parents’ satisfaction).  From then on, I never tried to avoid doing something unpleasant if it was important just because I didn’t like doing said thing.  I might do it reluctantly or just to get it over with sometimes, but I will do it so I don’t have to stress out in the end.  During this past year as I have grown in my faith and love of Jesus Christ and others,  I have also tried to find something pleasurable in that unpleasant task and remind myself that I am to do said thing with excellence so that it pleases God and because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Kids can be cruel, but sometimes adults are too.  –I won’t name any names of course, but there were some teachers I observed that were mean to others and me. Maybe they weren’t always deliberately cruel, but sometimes would lash out in anger or because they were too stressed out to respond in a calm and validating way.  There were a few students that were particularly disruptive in their behavior. They did things like talk out of turn in class, spit on students, or fail to do their homework.  Some(not all) of the teachers that I observed didn’t even try to figure out why they behaved that way, and just started disciplining them and a few even mocked them a few times! None of the teachers, from what I observed, even took the time to actually care for and encourage these students very much when they behaved well. I was mocked by a few teachers from everything from my ethnicity to the way I dressed. I have seen this scenario repeated even in some of the places where I have worked, sadly enough.  These events from my childhood shaped my view in that now I get angry (even rageful sometimes) at people who mock others for things that can’t be controlled or that I think don’t matter in the face of eternity.  Sometimes, I must confess that I even thought (but not done) of taking vengeance on the perpetrators on behalf of the victims of the bullies.  These events have also motivated me to care more about people who are hurting, partly so that this scenario I witnessed in childhood does not repeat itself in any way again.
  3. Sometimes you must compromise to be able to successfully work with others, but never compromise your moral beliefs and values. –When I was maybe in fourth grade and below, I used to want everything done efficiently and my way, so much so that one of my peers told me in no uncertain terms that I was difficult to work with, and that comment cut to the heart and I remember it to this day.  Sometimes I hated working in groups, because a.) No one would choose to work with me, and I had to work with random people I didn’t know or care about. b.) Either the person ended up wanting to take over everything, leaving me with nothing to do, or I had to do everything because the person wasn’t willing to carry his or her weight.  However, these experiences of working in groups with different and random people from my classes prepared me to deal with people in the “real” world.  These experiences taught me that I had to compromise and allow for others’ ideas because it was not all about me and getting things done my way.  In the process, I may have even learned a thing or two and understood others’ perspectives better.  These experiences were valuable to help me cope with other associates and customers that I interact with today!

These are three things that I learned in childhood that I consistently apply to my life today.  These lessons have proved valuable in helping me be a more successful and well-adjusted person. What lessons have you learned in your childhood that you still carry today? How have they been applied to your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

When We Have to Do Something: Caring for others in trouble

Earthquakes. Famines. Wars and rumors of wars.  Pestilences.  Heartache. Betrayal. Strife among people. Hatred and apathy. The problems in the world can seem very overwhelming at times. When we compound it with our own problems, they can seem unbearable! In fact, sometimes things can seem so insurmountable, we do and say nothing.  We are paralyzed with fear and anguish.  However, all these things can also propel us to right action, if we know how to help some of those in need.  Here are some situations either in the world around us or perhaps in our own lives that can seem “big” or “heavy,”  but we can redeem for the benefit of those involved in these problems. Here’s how YOU can personally make a difference:

The natural disasters in the world

  1. If you are spiritual, pray for those affected by the wildfires in California and surrounding areas, the hurricanes that have ravaged or are ravaging Texas, parts of Lousiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Carribean Islands.  Pray that they will be provided with all that they need and for replacement of all that was lost. Pray for peace, comfort, and strength for those affected by the storms and their families that are concerned about them.
  2. Donate to a reputable organization that will give (and are giving) to those in need in the affected areas.  Some of them are: a.) Red Cross b.) Convoy of Hope c.) others. <—this article of organizations focuses on relief for Hurricane Harvey, but many of these help people affected by the other disasters as well.
  3. If you can, go to these affected areas and volunteer in the rebuilding and the relief efforts there.
  4. Spread awareness for these people being ravaged by these catastrophic events.  Let people know that these people are hurting and in need of help. That way, everyone will be aware of what’s happening and can also help in any way they are able.

Those affected by abuse and bullying

  1. Never ever blame the abuse or bullying survivor for the abuse. — Remind them that the abuse was not their fault.  Abuse is totally and will always be the abuser’s fault.  They are able to control their actions. No one can make someone else abuse another.
  2. Encourage the survivor of their inherent value.-– Many times abuse survivors have been made to feel worthless and useless, even unworthy of love.  If we want to be allies to these people, we remind them of their inherent pricelessness again!  This not only means that if they do something right, praise them, but also reminding and demonstrating to them they are still priceless and loved even if they make a mistake or sin. We can do this by helping them through their failures and doubts, and by striving to be committed to being there for them whenever they need us.
  3. Make sure to model good boundaries to them.— This means striving not to control or manipulate them in any way. Bullied and abused people usually (if not always) have had their boundaries or safety violated in some way, and their trust shattered.  Do not attempt to make decisions for them, unless you are already in a position of authority over them. Never use them to your own ends, otherwise, they will feel abused all over again, by you!  For instance, if you want to show affection to them, but they are hesitant to, respect them and restrain your wants and desires.  This is not about you! If you wrong them or make a mistake, sincerely apologize to them and commit to never repeating the same mistake again. Show you can be trusted.

EDIT: Many, but NOT all, people who have been abused also struggle with mental health issues because of the trauma. It is important to note though, that NOT all people with mental health problems have been abused. But if someone you know has been abused AND is struggling with mental illness, this is a GREAT resource: https://ashipofmyownmaking.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/10-ways-you-can-help-a-mentally-ill-friend/

Those affected by poverty

  1. Donate to reputable organizations such as the Red Cross and Unicef. –These organizations help by giving much-needed food and water to those in need.
  2. When you give to them, expect nothing back.–When you give to the poor, whether your time or finances, make sure it is with pure motives. Do not give to them, just to get a tax break, or to get something in return from them later.  Give because it is the right thing to do. Give because it gives you joy to see them happy and fulfilled. Do it for them, not yourself.
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or other organization—Look for opportunities in your area to help those affected by poverty.  One organization, for those living in the Chicagoland area, is called Feed My Starving Children. They pack food for people in need around the world. You can help by volunteering to help pack these meals. Their website is: https://volunteer.fmsc.org/register/
  4. Spread awareness about the issue of poverty.–Write about the struggles of people living in poverty, not to embarrass or shame them, but so that people will know how serious an issue it is, and also to dispel myths about people living in poverty. I know a lot of people who think that if you live in poverty, you must be lazy and/or uneducated. However, I have found through my own research and listening to others’ experiences, that this is often not the case, and the causes of poverty are more complicated that one thinks.

These are just some ways to care about people in need. What are some ways you can think of to help those in need? Encourage and love someone today. You can perhaps help save a life!

On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

What I Learned (or re-learned) from God Today

Disclaimer: This has content from a Christian perspective. Please, no disparaging comments or they will be deleted.  Thank you and happy reading. 🙂 This was originally written August 16, 2017, and will be up a few days later.

A few months ago, after having a very satisfying time with God, I decided to have what I call “God Day” again today. God Day is where I devote most of or all day to God to get to know Him better and to learn new things and re-learn old things from Him.  Everyone who calls themselves a Christian should try to do this at least once a year, preferably a few times a year.  Some people even do several days of God Days! At any rate, here’s what I have learned from Him during my time today and for the last several days:

  1. God is sovereign in control of everything.–I learned that I need not worry about my present and future circumstances. No matter what may go wrong or right, God is still in control. I believe that God will take care of me. No matter what. Always and forever. Even if someone hurts me physically or emotionally, God can still use that situation to bring about good in my life. Even if some of my prayers go unanswered, God is still in control. He is in control of the ultimate outcome of our lives. Yes, we make decisions (I don’t know how that works, but anyway…)  that can impact this, but ultimately it is His will that will win out.
  2. Everything that God does is to either bring us closer to Him or a way to bring us good and Him His due glory.–Even the annoying phone call I received from a scammer in the middle of my God Day today (Ugh, how irritating is that ?) helped me to rest in God’s grace. When I wanted to escape a bad situation that I had at work, God didn’t allow me to because he was using that situation to refine my character and grow me to be a more loving and patient person.  It was like God was saying to me, ” You don’t want to deal with [situation] anymore? How will I grow you then? Not going to happen until you deal properly with the situation at hand.”  My illness three years ago with my gall bladder? I believe it was to bring me to a greater appreciation of life and all that He had given me. I believe every situation in your life is allowed by God in order to make us a better, stronger person, even the bad ones. I’m not saying that it is good that you had to suffer through these things (I hate seeing or hearing of others suffering, and still do!), but that your situation is not hopeless even if you think it is! It is still redeemable!  Been rejected or abused? That experience can help you to treat others with more compassion. I have been rejected tons of times, and I know that these awful experiences have helped me to carry out God’s purpose and mission for my life with greater love and compassion than if I hadn’t been rejected by anyone at all. Lost a loved one? This experience of heartache and sadness can help you to help others through their losses and can help you value the people that are still with you more.
  3. I need to look to God and His character for love and approval and not other people.–In my experience, I have tended to look to others to draw upon my self-worth and how I thought I was. I now know that was a mistake, and I still struggle with this sometimes. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can attest that other people’s perceptions of you aren’t always 100% true or even accurate. This is why it is so important for everyone to stop feeding on another’s love and approval as indicators of how lovable or valuable we are! The truth is that we all are inherently valuable no matter what other people say or do to us.  Whether you are Black, White, or anything in between, rich or poor, straight, gay, or bi, transgender or cisgender, republican or democrat, thin or fat, short or tall, or any other human identifier, we are all inherently valuable and should be loved and treasured as fully human, more valuable than gold or even platinum! For me, when I look to God for my worth, I know that I am His child and inherently valuable and cherished, no matter what other people say about me. So, if another person says that I am worthless and stupid or something to that effect, I can laugh in their face and acknowledge in my heart that they are lying, and not take them seriously at all! When I look to God, I know He loves me so much that even when I was at my worst, He gave up everything for me! (See Romans 5:8). 

These are some of the lessons that God taught me today. I know that today I can rest assured of God’s peace and presence in my life, even though things around me may be chaotic because He is my constant.  What has God and/or your life experiences taught you?  Please feel free to 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.