Have you ever wanted your life to have more purpose and meaning? Do you struggle with depression, like I do? Have you ever wondered how you can make a positive difference in a world which often emphasizes self and demanding greed? I have learned that one of the best ways to fill your life with more purpose and meaning, alleviate depression, and make a positive difference in the world to someone other than yourself, you have to learn to be able to serve others. In fact, a study from University of Wisconsin Madison(La Follette School of Public Affairs) determined that being generous and serving others leads us to view people more compassionately and creates a sense of community with others. (source: http://shp.rutgers.edu/current_students/documents/October2013.pdf) Here are some other benefits of serving others:
- It eliminates self-pity and feelings of worthlessness.—When one feels that they can’t do anything good for this world, a sense of self-pity and even hopelessness for oneself and the world ensues. It is easier to want to give up and give in to depression and boredom. However, when we strive to serve others, we don’t have time to think of self-pity and our so-called worthlessness because a.) We know that we are making a difference in at least one (if not, more) person besides us because we are helping them. b) I believe God gives us an intrinsic conscience in our souls to let us know that when we unselfishly serve others, we are doing something good. When we help people in need, we also eliminate self-pity because seeing others in need helps cultivate gratitude for what we do have in our lives.
- Serving others brings meaning and purpose to our lives.—When we are wandering aimlessly in life or when we are doing something robotically (i.e.. going through the motions), often we find we are living life without much meaning. However, serving others has a great purpose—to better the world around us. When we not just volunteer at one or two places, but when our whole mindset is about serving others, we will live life more intentionally and not worry about self-serving minutia anymore. We live rich life, spiritually and emotionally, and life becomes more joyful and meaningful for our commitment to serving others.
- Having a servant-mindset (which I define it as: an unselfish motivation to serve others and do what is best for them) rather than a self-serving mindset helps us make a greater impact on the world around us.—When we strive to cultivate a servant’s mindset, we make a greater positive difference in the world around us because this mindset is so counter-cultural and so rare that it will speak volumes to those around us. The norm, sadly, is to be only focused on ourselves and our own needs and desires. Selfishness is only focused on the self and what makes me happy, without caring for another person. Having a servant-mindset, on the other hand, is focused on others’ needs and wants, and the self takes a back seat to those around the self.
- Serving others helps us live longer and happier lives.—There have been numerous studies that have concluded that serving others helps us to live longer and healthier. This is because there is not only more meaning and activity in one’s life, but the satisfaction that one gets from serving others is greater than even the satisfaction of receiving love and care from another person. Serving others also alleviates depression probably because one is forced to look outside oneself and one’s circumstance and actively instead engage in the life of another. This often not only reduces the stressfulness of one’s own situation because they are not focused on that, but one is able to help another through one of their life’s situations.
These are the benefits that many people (including me) have found when we serve others. We can serve others in many ways. Even praying for someone else can be considered service to others. Many people volunteer to help others in need. Still others help to make a positive impact in their communities or even the bigger world around them. What can you do to serve others? What benefits have you found in helping others? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.
By myself, I don’t think I would be a very strong person. However, with these and more people and the power of my God, I am strong. There really is strength in numbers! These people have strengthened me either/both spiritually and emotionally. I am very glad that these people were brought into my life!
Without further ado, here are some people who have strengthened me in my life and what I have learned from them during those times:
- My parents—My parents have been there for me through thick and thin. They have strengthened me by instilling good principles in me for living a successful life, such as the value of hard work and sacrifice. For instance, my dad has worked long hours at his job, not necessarily because he enjoys it, but in order to provide for his family. Not only does he work long hours, but he works very hard when he is at his job. He does not dawdle, but is industrious. My mom has also sacrificed a lot for my family and me. She not only often picked me up, but also helped me with my homework when I needed to be aided.
- My brother—My brother has strengthened me emotionally by always helping me see the reality of things when depression or anxiety has clouded my mind. For instance, I was telling him about the stress at my job and how anxious I was that I was not going to get everything done on time, even though I tried my best. I was afraid that I would be penalized by not getting what I needed to done by the end of my shift. He told me, in so many words, that I was worrying for nothing because a.) Even when I got assigned to a lot of things and didn’t get it done, the managers were understanding. b) I often got things done anyway. He also told me that I could start prioritizing my tasks so that I wouldn’t have to “eat” the whole assignment at once, but I could just do it bit by bit, eventually getting everything done!
- J—My mentor J has also strengthened me by believing in me and that I could accomplish great things before she even saw evidence of anything I did! She helped me find a job and be able to overcome some of my major fears. Some of the things I learned from her are to never give up and to not doubt the abilities that God has given me. For instance, before I got my current and previous jobs, I did not envision myself being able to work with so many people and be successful at it, but J told me to try anyway. I did, and although there are some difficult times for me, I believe that God has given me success in what I thought I could never do before. When I wanted to give up on myself, she pushed me to move past my fears and insecurities, and persevere.
- My manager I—My manager I has strengthened me in a similar way to J. In the time that I have known her, she has believed in my abilities and has helped me succeed further at work by helping me to both persevere and to learn new skills need to move up in the company. Even though she has a lot on her plate, she tries to find time to help me and to motivate me to continue learning new things. Even when I didn’t do well one time, she said, “This isn’t you.” because she knew that I could do better and believed in my ability to do better next time.
- My (former?) manager Chris*–Chris has helped me learn the value of patience and perseverance. He not only interviewed me for my current job about two years ago and influenced the store manager to hire me, but also helped me personally as well. For instance, when I was stressed out about something, he took the time to call my house and explain the situation to me, something I’m sure not a lot of managers these days are willing to do. I have learned so much from him and my manager I.
- My friend Veronica* –During some particularly trying times in my life, my friend Veronica encouraged me and validated me. I remember at least one time (probably much more though) where when I wanted to give up on life and on love, she gave me words of hope to persevere in God’s call for me. She has always affirmed me, especially when I felt like I couldn’t affirm myself.
- My friend Erica*–She has always believed in me and my God-given goals in life. Like my brother, she helps me think logically through situations so that I don’t get an unrealistically pessimistic view on things. She has always been willing to spend time with me when she visits, and is willing to invest in me and others around her. Her perseverance and her care have always been an inspiration to me.
These are some of the people that have strengthened me. These people are some of the most amazing people I know because they believed in me even when I was at my worst, and gave me hope when I was in despair and didn’t believe it would be better. I will be forever grateful for them and what they have done to strengthen me. Who are the people in your life that have strengthened you (especially during difficult times)? What have you learned from them? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.
*=pseudonyms to protect privacy
Before I met You
I was on my last rope
I almost gave up all hope
Of ever becoming anything at all
But You transformed me
You made me see
Your light shining inside me
And gave me worth and hope
You breathed life into what was dead
With Your word I was fed
Precious nutrients to my hungry soul
Till again I was made whole
You have made me bloom
Into a precious rose
As you continue to grow me
Into what You made me to be
I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old. I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most. Finally, I am a blogger and writer. In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others. Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions. Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:
- It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me. However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories. I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.” (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
- Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong. I realized that he didn’t always have it all together. I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy. If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
- Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them. For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”
This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires. It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.
According to Merriam-Webster, a life teacher, or what is more commonly known as a mentor, is “a trusted counselor or guide.” I have had the fortunate experience of having had many mentors throughout my life. I would love to be a mentor myself to others too. Though I believe we can learn something from everyone, here are some life teachers that have profoundly shaped my life, besides God (Who has provided these teachers and therefore is the Ultimate Teacher, or Mentor) and some of what they taught me:
- My mom and dad—They have taught me so much about life, not only because they are my parents but also for the example that they give me. They have both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They both emphasize and follow this ethic themselves. My mom has worked tirelessly serve her family, and my dad has worked many hours at his job to provide for his family. It was my dad who actually told me that it is better to try your very best and fail than to do moderately good, but the work you did was not your very best. I try to apply that to my own life, especially at my job. Even when some of the people around me may not be up to doing their best work at my job all the time, I still strive to do my best because of my parents’ example and because I want to serve my God in the best way possible.
- J—Ever since I met her, she has been a great mentor to me. She taught me to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and believe in myself and the abilities that God has given to me. She also taught me how to overcome my fears and anxieties, and not be too comfortable with the norm, because “the norm” will never get one anywhere in life. When I wanted to give up on myself, J urged me on. For instance, when I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a good job, she helped and encouraged me to get the resources available to me in order to be able to find a job that suited my abilities and interests, which I never thought I’d be able to access. Best of all, even when no one else had believed in me, she did!
- My friend Barbara*–I met Barbara at my previous church eleven years ago. Although we don’t get to see each other much anymore, she still has had a profound impact in my life. She helped me see things realistically, instead of just through my own emotional lenses, which often turns out to be wrong or distorted in ways. She taught me how to be a better Christian and how to trust God more. The lessons that she has taught me has helped me to resolve conflicts quicker and to get out of my own stubborn shell to be able to see things as they really are, instead of just through my distorted lens.
- My former pastor Frank Taylor—Pastor Frank became the pastor at my previous church seven years ago. Though he has since been called to a different church, the impact that he had on me while still at my previous church was profound. He was the pastor that first taught me the value of humility. One example of him teaching this value to the congregation at the time was when people were complaining about him saying something that they felt was offensive. Many pastors I know would just profusely defend themselves and never apologize. Yes, Pastor Frank did also explain himself, but he almost immediately wrote a formal letter of apology to the congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Not a lot of people in his position of power I know would go to such lengths to apologize. He also openly preaches about the struggles he has had in life, and how he learned from them, instead of trying to hide them from others.
- My current pastor David Shoaf—Pastor Shoaf, as he is often called, has also had a profound impact on my current life. He has also taught me important lessons on humility. Not only is he careful not to talk too much about himself, he also preaches in such a way that we can adequately reflect on what he is saying. He has said that he wants his messages to be such that people are forced to look in the mirror of their lives to make sure their lives are matching up with what they say they believe. Not only are his messages always relevant to my life, but the way he lives also accentuates his messages! He has faithfully served my current church for over 40 years! In the way he lives, he has taught me gratitude (He profusely thanked us when we had a party in honor of him and his birthday this past summer.), faithfulness (He has faithfully served this church for many years and has been married for about the same time as well.) , humility (He doesn’t like to draw too much attention to himself), and kindness (He always tries to get to know how people in the church are doing and tries to talk to each new guest that attends our church for the first time.).
- my manager Chris*–Although I have only known him for about a year and a half, he has taught me a lot about myself and life. In a previous post, I discuss some of the things he has taught me. See this link for more information. One of the other things that I didn’t emphasize in the previous post is that he has taught me patience and the value of service. He taught me through the good he has done for others that doing good is always worth it even if you don’t get rewarded right away. He has taught me to be less self-centered and more others-centered. He has also taught me how to be patient. Though I still struggle with patience, I have learned that I can wait for certain things and not be anxious about it. For instance, I needed to talk to one of my managers about something, but was told that I had to wait. Ordinarily, if it was even remotely important, I might be anywhere from slightly annoyed to throwing an anxious fit about it due to my anxiety issues! However, this time I was able to let it go and decided to talk to her about that thing the next time I see her.
- my friend Holly*–My friend Holly, though I haven’t met her in person, has taught me so much. One of the most important things she has taught me is the importance of validation. Validation is so lacking in this world, but she gives it like the food we need to eat. Her encouragement has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life and has helped lifted me in times where I was depressed and despondent in life. Through her, I have learned to judge less, and encourage and love more. I also learned from her that everyone has a story, and to have more compassion and love for those who may not have the same privileges that I do. She has further taught me not to take anything for granted.
- my current manager I—My current manager I has taught me, like my parents have, the value of hard work and dedication. She has also taught me the value of believing in others because she has believed in me. When other managers were simply too busy to teach me department manager stuff (no fault with them though), she took the time out of her busy schedule to teach me some things. In that not only did I help her get some managerial things done, but she has helped me to know some of the things department managers have to do.
- My manager Tom*–My manager Tom has been a godsend to my company. For more information on him, see this. He has taught me the value of humor and of integrity. He doesn’t pretend to be someone who he’s not. For instance, when someone asks how he is doing, he won’t just mumble fine when he is feeling terrible, he will actually tell you that he feels terrible. This is not so you will feel sorry for him, but to show his genuine character. He also makes others laugh. For instance, he knew one time that I straighten the aisles very well, but joked to one of my other supervisors that I only do things “half-way.” I was there too, and when I heard him say it and pointed to him, he knew that I “got” his joke and he and I started laughing.
- My friend Laura*–My friend Laura has helped me through many things. She has taught me how to be generous and thoughtful to others. Every time it is my birthday and for Christmas, she sends me a card even when I forget to send one to her. She was also my teacher in school, and Laura has sacrificed eating her lunch at times to help students. She has a true servant’s heart, and through her example, has taught me to be more like her.
These are the life teachers that have shaped my life the most today. I have learned so much from all of these people, and I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from them. Who has taught you the most in your life? What have they taught you, and why is it so important to you? Please feel free to discuss in comments.
*=pseudonyms, not their real names to protect privacy
Amidst all the negativity and strife in this world today, I would like to focus on something a little more positive—gifts for the soul. Even though we live in a time where more countries and more people are enjoying economic prosperity and technological advances, there has also been more people that are either dissatisfied with their lives or with the state of this world today. Many people are either stressed out or depressed, or both. However, if more people in this world would receive these gifts into their lives, I believe this world would be a better place. Here are some of the “soul” gifts that I want more of the world to receive by Christmas and why:
- Peace and reconciliation—Almost everywhere I go, there seems to be a sense of unsettledness and/or stress in people’s lives. Sometimes, at work, I hear people arguing and yelling at each other. There have been hurtful words exchanged between political and governmental leaders. Cyberbullying seems to be rampant these days on the Internet. However, what if we, as a nation, as individuals, received peace and reconciliation in our lives? There have been people in my life that have hurt me emotionally, sometimes very much. I was able to reconcile with many of them, and I can tell you the feeling of unity and joy that returned to my soul as a result of me putting aside that bitterness, anger, and hurt for love and peace made not only me feel better, but our whole relationship much better as well. I would love it if some of the people at work who felt hurt by either other co-workers or other managers tried to work it out with the people that they felt offended by and/or forgive them, not because the offending party “deserves” it, but to free the offended from the chains of hatred and bitterness that would consume their souls. I would also love it if some of our government leaders humbled themselves and asked for forgiveness and worked hard not to hurt the people that they have ever again. Is there someone in your life that you feel hatred and/or bitterness against? Yes, you can hold on to the hatred, but it will destroy your soul and eat you up from the inside. It is better to be able to let that hurt and anger go and move on with your life so that you will feel free to love everyone else in your life without a barrier of hurt from your offender blocking intimacy with people who haven’t even offended you.
- Joy—Especially during the holidays, while there are many people who feel joyous, there are some people who struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness, and worthlessness, and there may be a good reason for that disposition too. Maybe they have lost a loved one, or maybe they hold memories of abuse from other unhappy people during this time of year, or maybe they won’t get to see loved ones this year. Whatever the case may be, having joy this Christmas season is a struggle for many people. However, there can be some joy to be had, no matter what situation one finds themselves in this holiday season. If you believe in God, focus on His great love for you and the gifts He has given to you this year, and really, all throughout your lifetime! Focus on the people and things you have that you love and cherish, rather than the people and things you don’t.
- Purpose and Passion—I see the majority of people I know go to work to survive. However, a lot of them are working without really wanting to be there (i.e. They do it because they have ) or without aim or purpose. Some people go through life the exact same way—for survival, just because it’s not right to “give up.” True as that may be, when we go through the motions in life without knowing what or why we are doing what we’re doing, we will be more prone to give up when times get tough and we miss the excitement and joy life can offer. Going through life with a particular aim or goals in mind, having a particular focus, and doing it with all your mind, heart, and soul can generate joy like you wouldn’t believe! When I work with a particular aim in mind, I get excited about reaching each step towards that big goal, and I work as hard and best as I can to accomplish that goal. For instance, my overarching goal in life is to share the love of God with others. If I work with that goal in the front of my mind, I will more likely be proactive about loving others at my job, my family, and others I see on a regular basis better. However, when I lose sight of that goal, or when I forget this goal, I go into “survival-do-this-to get-it-over-with” mode.
- Compassion—We, as a society, I think, have become increasingly calloused to the needs of others and are taught to look out for number one instead. This has created a consumerist, entitled me-first culture. The effects of it include sexual violence and entitlement attitudes, arrogance, violence on the streets, and even terrorist attacks. I am not saying that you, the reader, have a lack of compassion, but just society in general does. If the world received the gift of having compassion for others, people would aim to be kinder and more understanding of each other. We would have less wars and violence in the streets and everywhere. We would think of others before ourselves. Everyone would be provided for because more people would see a need, and try to fulfill it, rather than watching someone else suffer in blind callousness and disdain for them.
These are the four gifts that I believe the world should receive. If the world had more peace and reconciliation, relationships would be restored. If the world had more joy, the holidays would be great and enjoyable for everyone, not just the privileged and the blessed. If the people in this world had more purpose and passion in their lives, then they would not have to go through life in survival mode, but have renewed joy in their lives. If the world had more compassion, more people in need would be cared for, instead of ignored and left to suffer alone. What are four gifts you think the world could benefit from receiving? Please feel free to comment.
–a poem dedicated to friends of mine
Before you were there,
Few people outside my family would care
They wouldn’t want to take a chance or be
With someone like me
Before you were there,
I barely knew the depths or the marvel of Christian love
And the true greatness of the God up above
Who would give me you
Before you were there,
None of my friends really showed me sacrifice
But you knew that love was always a sacrifice
And thus you made me a believer in that
Before you were there,
I was on my last rope
But when you came,
You gave me renewed hope
According to a Gallup Poll on the workplace in the U.S (where I come from), 67% of full-time employees are either “actively disengaged” or “disengaged” from their jobs, and do the bare minimum. Many people hate their jobs or simply don’t care about what they do. That is very sad, because we spend an average of 8 hours (almost half of our days) at work. So, most of the day, or at least a good portion of the day, we are either apathetic or miserable, or both. As an applecart upsetter, I try to buck this trend by actively doing the opposite of what most people do at work. Even if the work seems mundane or thankless, this is what I have found gives me the joy I need to thrive at work:
- Work with a purpose.—Every day when you go to work, set goals for yourself. For instance, at my job if I found out that I have to make price labels for shelves, do returns, and straighten two different departments, all in the evening and by the end of my shift, I visualize and prioritize. For instance, if it is going to only take 10 minutes to do labels, I may do that first, if it is priority, but last if it doesn’t need to be done right away. Then, since returns take a long time to do, I get that out of the way first. When I straighten a department, I set a goal time for when I want to have it done. For instance, my regular area in my department it takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to straighten everything nicely, but more time if it is busier with customers. So, on a busy day, I allow myself extra time to get things done so I am not in a panic or rush to get it done. I also do one section at a time, and not try to get overwhelmed by the whole area. Also, reward yourself when you reach your goals. For instance, if I finished early with my area, I may reward myself by going on break earlier.
- Work with the mindset of serving others, rather than just earning a paycheck.—Way back when (probably more than 10 years ago), I used to work hard, but with the mentality of “I want a fatter paycheck” rather than serving others. When I had to do things that I didn’t want to do, it was harder to do them. Why? Because my focus was all wrong. Yes, we do work to earn a paycheck, but that should not be the only purpose we have in working. When we work knowing that we can make a positive difference, we are more likely to work with passion and with more joy. For instance, on Friday, I was tired and just wanted to “get through the day,” (i.e “do” my eight hours of labor), and consequently did not have a very good day that day. However, yesterday I refocused on why I was working there—to serve others and to show people God’s love, and ended up getting a lot done and having a much better day, despite staying an extra hour. Even though I stayed that extra hour, I was much more joyful and content in what I was able to accomplish than on Friday because rather than focusing on myself and my needs, I focused on other people in my workplace.
- Think about the positive things at your job, and do not dwell on the negatives.—Try not to take to heart the complaints that pour out from the people with who you work, and try to keep your own complaining to a minimum. Think about the positive things about your job. For instance, it helps me to remember the benefits that I get as a part of my company, the friends that I have made at work, and everything that I have learned from others at my job that I can apply to other areas of my life and be more successful at my job and in my career. If you have learned anything beneficial from your job, there is something positive about where you work, no matter what other negatives lurk in your job. Yes, acknowledge things that need to be changed at your job and be an advocate for positive change, but do not dwell on the negative and be a voice of complaint. Not only will you not be pleasant to work with, but you will find your job to be increasingly unbearable for you.
These are the things that I have found that help me cultivate joy in my workplace. I work with a purpose and a clear vision of what I want to accomplish that day, and reward myself if necessary to help keep me motivated to do well. I strive to work with a mindset of serving others and work as a team, rather than just earning money for me. Finally, I think of all the positive aspects of my job. While I acknowledge things that need to be changed and continue to try to be a positive change agent at my job, I don’t dwell on the negative aspects at work. What have you found that helps you enjoy work more? What do you think one should do to cultivate joy at work? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I want to know, what does Christmas mean to you? What do you think it is supposed to mean? For many, it means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and all He represents. For others, it may mean spending more time with family and other loved ones. For still others, it means getting people the best gifts ever.
Though Christmas and the holiday season are supposed to be joyous times, many people become stressed and even disillusioned. One of the major reasons why people may be disillusioned is reflected in the results of a Pew Research poll*, where 33% of those surveyed dislike the commercialization of Christmas, and I agree with the 33%. Here is why I believe the commercialization of Christmas is harmful to the holiday and to us:
- It misses the point.—Christmas is primarily not about the gifts we receive from loved ones, but commercialization makes Christmas only about the material things we give and receive. Commercialization is very superficial in this aspect. Commercialization can make us so affixed to the gift aspects of Christmas, that we completely miss the real point of Christmas—celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and what He means to us. The word Christmas even contains “Christ” in it! We are supposed to remember the founder of Christmas—Jesus, not just see if we can get the best gifts or give the flashiest and most elegant gifts.
- It creates more stress than is necessary.—Besides missing the point of the true meaning of Christmas, it creates a lot more stress than is needed for this time of year. A lot of people, because we have created a society of entitlement and materialism, stress out about what gifts to give others. They think if they don’t give just the right gift the receiver will not only be disappointed come Christmas, but also may think less of them (the giver). Some people also stress out about how much they can afford (more on that later) and how much they should or shouldn’t give a particular person. Also, a lot of people buy and cook elaborate meals for this holiday. Now, I am in no way against people cooking good food and having elaborate meals to celebrate Christmas and other December holidays, but sometimes they get so stressed during the preparation of the meal that they are unable to enjoy themselves or their loved ones, a lot like Martha in the Bible who was trying to prepare an elaborate meal for Jesus and the other guests there without taking the time to get to know him or anyone else there.
- People that are marginalized are left out of the celebration when the holidays become commercialized.—Because of all the emphasis this time of year on gift giving, people who are struggling financially or in other ways, are often left out of being able to participate in this aspect. Imagine seeing your friends being able to afford fancy jewelry for their loved ones, and you would like to give one of them to your mom who is sick or dying, but not having enough to buy it. However, if the true meaning and the more spiritual aspects of Christmas were emphasized more, the joy and the hope that Christmas has to offer would be able to be realized by even society’s marginalized! The privileged in this society would give to those who are more marginalized because they would know and understand that everyone deserves joy and peace this Christmas, not just themselves. More people would be less materialistic and put more time in to help the hurting and needy, and spend more time with those who matter most to them.
These are just some of the harmful aspects of commercialization. Of course, I am not against shopping, as I do a share bit of that myself. However, rather than stress out about food preparations and gifts to give loved ones and friends this holiday season, let’s think about the true meaning of Christmas, and cherish those we love. Finally, let’s bring joy and hope to those who find this time of year difficult.
DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mentions of sex and sexual violence and abuse. No disparaging comments, please! Thanks.
By now, you probably have heard of the #metoo movement, where women are taking aim at a societal culture that has devalued and often treated them as little more than sexual entities. It is a movement where some women–and probably men too– are sharing their stories about being sexually abused or harassed by people who devalued and/or wanted to use them as little more than sexual playthings. I join and support these brave men and women who are coming forward with their painful and difficult stories in order to make sure this does not happen to anyone else ever again, and to change this culture to one that values all people as divine image-bearers and the preciousness that they are.
I think one of the main reasons why there are so many people doing sexually abusive and demeaning things to others, is because people have long bought into some or all of these following myths about sexuality:
- Myth: You need to have a significant other to be truly happy and fulfilled in life. -Many single people believe or have believed (note to self: guilty as charged) the lie that if they just had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and eventually get married, life would be bliss and they would have no loneliness issues anymore. Married people or people in relationships may also buy into a form of this lie by trying to change their partner into their idealized image of who they think they should be. Truth: You can just be as happy or happier single. I have been single for a VERY long time, and I have never been happier! Though a lot has changed, many parents still think if their children remain single, they will not be happy or fulfilled (what I dub, the “spinster theory”). I am living proof that this does not have to be the case! I am not saying that people in relationships are never happy. However, it is not because of the relationship alone that makes someone happy or unhappy.
- Myth: I need sex or a relationship to feel valued and/or powerful in life. Truth: Sex does not inherently make one feel “valued” or “powerful.” Think of how many women in the sex trafficking industry are treated–as less than animals! Maybe the people that hurt them feel more powerful, but not the day when they are held accountable for their evil actions they have perpetrated against these women! What really can help one feel more valued and powerful is what Jesus said in Matthew 20:27 (KJV)-“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” That is, whoever wants to feel more great and powerful, let him or her serve others. Doing good things for others not only makes you feel good, but you also value people by helping others. However, it must be done with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
- Myth: Children should hug their relatives to show respect for them. Another version of this myth is: “People should hug me/each other to show respect for me/them.” Truth: Children (and even adults) should not be required to hug or touch anyone! Some children don’t hug because they feel squeamish about hugging, and some children even have had some unspoken trauma over the person they are “supposed to” hug. Their bodies should be respected and valued by not requiring this of them. Also, there are other ways for people to show their appreciation and respect besides touch. For instance, we can use our words to uplift and encourage someone, and there are only a few, if any, that would object that to that! Also, we should teach children and others to thank people who do something good for them, and say “Please” if they want something, instead of just demanding that person give it to them.
- Myth: “I need sex to get ahead in life or be successful. “Truth: No, you don’t. What one needs to get ahead in life is integrity, hard work, and compassion. And even if you are not successful, remember your worth is not dependent on what you do!
Here are some ways we should support women and others who have been sexually harassed and/or abused
- Know it’s not just women who have been abused–A lot of men have been abused too. Think of the boys that have been abused by priests or their athletic coaches.
- Accept others’ “No” without complaining or arguing.–For instance, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t try to argue with them about that in an attempt to force them to “want” to be touched. Just accept that they don’t like touch. It’s probably not because you did something bad to them, but just a boundary they have for some people, or even everyone.
- If someone is attacking someone else sexually, stop the attacker if possible.– If your life is in danger or if the attacker has a weapon, this may not be such a good idea. In all other cases, however, you can stop the attack by yelling very loudly, “STOP! STOP” and trying to get the perpetrator off the victim, or by saying nothing but running to get help for the victim as soon as possible. A life could be saved!
- Let the abuse survivor know it’s not their fault, and that whatever they feel is valid.–Do not try to get the survivor to forgive their perpetrator. Yes, there is a time and place for forgiveness, but true forgiveness cannot be forced! What the survivor needs right now is validation and the feeling that they are not “damaged goods” and that they are a valued part of society. Affirm and validate them.
- Don’t listen to or watch things that glorify the devaluation of people.–Music or movies that glorify using women as sexual objects should not be part of your media diet if you really want to support the #metoo movement. Similarly, watching pornographic movies or tv shows doesn’t get you in the right frame of mind to be able to look at others with dignity and value. Resolve today to only feed your mind with media that values others.
- Support or pray for (if religious) organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, who help sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.–These, and many other organizations, help men and women who have survived abuse or sex trafficking reclaim their lives. Other organizations like RAINN help survivors as well.
- Teach the next generation proper boundaries and consent.–If you are a parent, teach your child or children proper boundaries and consent. Telling your child, “Keep your hands to yourself” when they touch someone without their permission, for instance, is a good way to start to teach them appropriate boundaries and consent. Also, telling them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they have a right to say something and stand up for themselves, is another good way to teach boundaries and consent and show you value their body and soul.
With many men and women bravely coming forward about their times of pain and heartache at the hands of people that devalued and demeaned them, hopefully the abuse will stop and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions. However, we as a society must stop perpetuating a culture where people–men and women alike– are being devalued, and instead we must all strive to create a society where each person is treated as the valued, priceless treasure they are.