Choose Forgiveness

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:12-13

Today, I want to broach the subject of forgiveness. Many of you are suffering or have suffered at one time or the other from an offense imposed by a spouse, significant other, family member, church member, friend, co-worker or maybe a stranger. I have found the closer the relationship–the greater the offense. In an article titled, “Forgiveness,” by Psychology Today, it defines forgiveness as the release of anger or resentment–it does not mean reconciliation. Forgiveness is vital for our emotional health as well as our physical health. Oftentimes, we harbor these ill feelings while waiting for an apology that may never happen. The article also states, “Carrying the hurt or anger of an offense leads the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Eliminating the perpetual flow of these hormones may also explain why forgiveness provides physical health benefits, such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.”

I am quite sure you all have heard the idiom, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This is so far from the truth. Words can hurt, scar, and sometimes destroy a person. Being transparent, I have my own personal struggle with forgiveness. A couple of years ago, I was confronted by someone who was once very close to me–he wanted to tell me exactly how he did not agree with how I handled a particular situation. Because I did not respond at all to the barrage of accusations, he unapologetically let out a flow of words that cut me to my core. I felt as though I had been kicked in my stomach with a size 13 steel-toed boot–yes, it hurt. To know someone’s vulnerability and to maliciously verbally attack them in that particular area was inexcusable. I was deeply wounded by the words that so brazenly flowed from his lips; however, I refused to respond to the offense. It was one year later before I was able to voice the offense and address the pain it caused–I had unhealthily suppressed it. I knew I had to talk about it and work towards forgiveness for my own wellbeing. Psychology Today states, “Forgiveness has been shown to elevate mood, enhance optimism, and guard against, anger, stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Forgiveness is never for the other person–it is for you. It prevents from something that once hurt you to continually hurt you. When you forgive, it does not excuse the person’s behavior; instead, it frees you from bitterness, hatred, and resentment. In his book, Let It Go, T.D. Jakes states, “These people who free themselves from long-term emotional debilitation find themselves more blessed, more productive, and much more grounded than those who become blocked by incidents, tragedies, and injustices.”

So, how do I pardon someone who offended me? How do I heal my heart from that offense to avoid becoming bitter? Psychology Today proposes four steps of forgiveness offered by psychologist Robert Enright:

  1. Uncover. Uncover your anger by exploring how you have avoided or addressed the emotion.
  2. Decide. Make the decision to forgive. Begin by acknowledging that ignoring or coping with the offense has not worked.
  3. Cultivate. Cultivate forgiveness by developing compassion for the offender. Reflect on whether the act was due to malicious intent or challenging circumstances in the offender’s life.
  4. Release. Release the harmful emotions and reflect on how you may have grown from the experience and the act of forgiveness itself.

Because I sometimes come across as blatantly direct, I am sure I have offended others; however, not in a hateful or spiteful way. I choose to forgive because I want to be forgiven. You may be wondering have I forgiven the person who offended me. Because forgiveness is a process, I believe I have; however, it does not mean I feel the need to reconcile with someone who intended me harm–it simply means I no longer harbor the bitterness or resentment I once had towards this person.

Please watch the YouTube video below as Sarah tells her story of forgiveness. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr

Don’t Stare at Closed Doors

“See I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:7 NKJV)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s spending time with family and friends and also receiving the gifts and blessings you were expecting. Now, it is time to think about what you will do differently to better yourselves in this new year.

When I was child, I remember watching the Helen Keller Story on television. When Helen Keller was approximately 19 months old, she was stricken with an illness that left her blind, deaf, and unable to speak. She did not continue to stare at what could have been perceived as a closed door–Helen Keller overcame her adversity of being blind, deaf and mute to become one the 20th century’s leading humanitarians as well as co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Helen Keller once quoted, “When one door of happiness closes; another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been open for us.”

In 2019, I am sure you may have experienced a closed door or two. I know I did. The closed door might have been in the form of job loss or maybe you didn’t get the job you applied for, failing an exam, ending of a relationship, an illness, your car broke down, foreclosure, or maybe it was some other problem or financial setback. Whatever it was, that door is now closed. Instead of staring at it, open your eyes to new possibilities. I believe God closes doors to point us into a new, more positive direction.

Let me give you an example with this most inspiring story. On December 19, 2015, a Pittsburgh newspaper reported a story of a Duquesne University custodian quietly finishing her bachelor’s degree. Connie Burwell had been a custodian at Duquesne University for several years. One day while cleaning, Connie literally approached a closed door. Following protocol, she knocked and when there was no response, she opened the door with her master key. However, when she opened the door, there was a professor standing in the room and she was not happy. She chastised Connie for entering the room without permission. Connie stated that she lectured her with an air of superiority that left her humiliated. As humiliating as it was, this incident was a defining moment in Connie’s life. She decided on that day, “I’m not going to let people talk like this to me. I have to do something.” Despite being in her mid-50’s and afraid of failing and of what the professors and students might say, Connie took her daughter’s advice and enrolled in Duquesne University to complete her degree. Her daughter, Kadia Givener, quoted, “Change isn’t change until you change.” Other family members encouraged and supported her decision to return to school. She met with guidance counselors and they told her that fear is not bad–good fear will push you forward. On Thursday, December 17, 2015, at the age of 57 and after two years of taking Saturday classes, Connie Denise Burwell earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. She plans to obtain a job in mental health or drug rehabilitation services. Connie expressed, “It’s never too late!”

What if Connie Burwell would have just seen those dirty classrooms as a closed door and never opened that door to higher education? She can be grateful to the professor who humiliated her because it only propelled her forward and motivated her to want better for herself. A negative situation can often give you the drive and stamina to accomplish great things. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Connie Burwell did not continue to stare at that closed door; she look over to see there was another door of opportunity open for her and what a wonderful door it was.

Are you staring at a closed door? Do not continue to stare at it because there is another door already open for you–you just need to recognize it. As always please share your experience where a door has closed and another one opened. Your testimony can be a great inspiration to other readers.

 

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr

Hope for the Holidays

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

As I began working on this blog post, I was notified that another beloved church member had passed away and by the end of the day, a friend had lost her father-in-law. For many of us, it is a time for family, food, fun, and lots of festivities; however, for others, it may be just the opposite. The holiday season can be a very difficult and painful time of year for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. There are many who are experiencing loss this holiday season–my family, my church family, my coworkers, my friends, and a local congregation mourning the loss of their beloved pastor. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NKJV)

In an article titled, How to Deal with Grief During the Holiday (Psychology Today), Amy Morin shares her experience of grief. She states, “Christmas music, holiday parties, and festive decorations that were meant to bring joy served as painful reminders of my loss. As it is for most people experiencing loss, the holiday season was the most painful time of all.” Morin offers the following strategies that can help you survive the holidays without your loved one:

  1. Trust that grief is part of healing. Experiencing the pain, rather than escaping it, can actually help you feel better in the long-run.
  2. Set healthy boundaries. If participating in holiday traditions are too painful this year, be willing to say no. People may try to convince you to participate, but you do not have to please anyone.
  3. Focus on what you can control. Think about what you can do to lessen your pain. Choose things you can do to assert some control over the holiday festivities–keep in mind life goes on for other people and it is okay for them to celebrate the season.
  4. Plan ahead. Create a simple plan for how you will get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish.
  5. Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. The holidays can bring a wide range of emotions. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you should not be laughing.
  6. Find a way to honor your memories. Create a special way to memorialize the one you have lost–you could light a candle every night or eat their favorite food. Honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that they may be gone, but the love never dies.
  7. Create new traditions. Do not be afraid to create new traditions this year. It is okay to get creative and do something a little out of the ordinary.
  8. Do something kind for others. Even when you are in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing acts of kindness can be good for a grieving person’s spirit.
  9. Ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance when you are struggling with the holidays. Remind others you are having a difficult time or you may also want additional support such as a professional counselor to assist you in dealing with the grief in a healthy manner.

To my family, coworkers, church family, friends, those grieving the loss of their pastor, and to all others experiencing loss, I pray these strategies will be of some consolation in getting you through this difficult season. Please feel free to share your comments that it may be a source of healing for you and a sense of inspiration for others. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3 NKJV)

Wishing everyone a wonderful and safe holiday season.

 

 

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr

Persevere–Don’t Quit

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:1-4

 

As we embark upon another holiday season and this year comes to a close, there may have been goals you set out to attain or in pursuit of your purpose, but things just don’t seem to be working out. I hope this blog post will serve as a source of encouragement to keep you motivated to stay the course–persevere. So, what does it mean to persevere? Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. It is the ability to persist in an undertaking for a long period of time in spite of counter influences, periodic setbacks, or bouts of discouragement. If you have been thrown off course or distracted–in spite of the situation, do not quit.

This topic came to mind as I recently watched the 2006 movie, Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith which was inspired by the autobiography of Christopher Paul Gardner. In a December 2016 BBC News article titled, Chris Gardner: The homeless man who became a multi-millionaire investor, Business Reporter, David Gordon shares Gardner’s story in an interview. In addition to an extremely troubled childhood, at age 27, Gardner found himself homeless with a toddler in tow on the streets of San Francisco. They ate in soup kitchens and were forced to sleep nights in public restrooms, parks, at church shelters, or under his desk at work after everyone else had gone home for the day. At one point, he was even incarcerated. Never defining himself by his current situation, Gardner enrolled in a low paying trainee program at Dean Witter Reynolds. With the little money he had, he paid childcare so he could go to work. Despite the adversity, Gardner excelled in his job–he was a natural at selling stocks and shares. At the end of the training period, Dean Witter Reynolds offered him full-time employment. He was then able to rent a home for him and his son. In 1987, he founded Gardner Rich–his own investment firm.

Gardner experienced many setbacks and endured unfathomable living conditions not to mention all while raising a small child. At any point, the average person would have probably thrown in the towel; however, because of his tenacity, persistence and perseverance, his estimated new worth is now $62 million (in 2016). He is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist who travels the world as a motivational speaker sponsoring several homeless charities and organizations that combat  violence against women. Gardner told BBC news that he “wouldn’t change a thing.” He stated, “The rest of my destiny came forward because I made the right choices.”

A couple of years ago, as part of my retirement plan, I set out to pursue my securities license to sell investments. In pursuance of my newest goal, I experienced losing two of my closest loved ones and many distractions and delays–too numerous to name. I previously shared in a post of failing on an attempt to pass the exam. I am a living witness that nothing worth having comes easy. I am proud to say I have passed all the qualifying exams for a licensed securities agent. Helen Keller quoted, “Only through experience of trial and suffering can a soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” 

In an article titled, “Developing Perseverance–The Mental Capacity to Overcome and Succeed,” Huffington Post Contributor, Anurag Harsh offers the following factors of personal perseverance:

  1. Positive attitude. It is the desire to move forward–to persevere when others are retreating in the face of change and hardship.
  2. Conclusive choice. Despite any apparent unlikelihood, you must choose a course and stick to it.
  3. Ethical compass. Whatever values you consider vital, use them as guiding stars–they will fill you with the conviction of moral certainty and belief.
  4. Uncompromising resolve. Persist until you recognize the best option is to quit. Recognize when stopping is rational or reasonable rather than convenient or easy.
  5. Social backing. Who can you count on to have your back?

Remember, adversity is all part of the process–keep persisting, keep persevering, and don’t quit. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and as always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend. I leave you with this poem:

 

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–

It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

~Author Unknown~

 

 

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr

Invisible Prison #3 – Insecurities

 

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” Psalms 139:14

As I continue with our final discussion on invisible prisons, I want to broach the subject of insecurity. Merriam Webster defines insecurity as not confident; uncertain; deficient in assurance; and beset by fear and anxiety. I would venture to say we all experience some type of insecurity; however, the problem arises when we deal with that insecurity for a prolonged period of time which may cause a significant impact on our lives–“the kind of childhood you had, past traumas, recent experiences of failure or rejection, loneliness, social anxiety, negative beliefs about yourself, perfectionism, or having a critical parent or partner can all contribute to your insecurities.”

After church on Sunday, a couple of friends came over for some “girl time.” We melted the chill of a cool, rainy day with comfort food–a hot bowl of vegetable soup, great conversation, and lots of laughter. Among many of the conversations that were discussed, insecurity was one of them. I posed the question, “What insecurities do you think we (as women) deal with? These ladies quickly embraced the current topic of conversation and offered the following insecurities they believed we experience: hair, weight, skin complexion, body shape, lack of education, lack of material things, and residue from past experiences (i.e., rejection or abandonment felt in childhood or relationships).

For those of you who know me personally, it may come as a surprise that I am very insecure when it comes to public speaking. I am very comfortable working behind the scenes or speaking in small group settings. I am sure that is why I love to write. The thought of speaking to a large group sends my anxiety level souring through the roof. I have traced this insecurity back to my childhood. As a child, I felt like I was always second, not seen or celebrated; therefore, my comfort zone is somewhere in the background. Recently, God has been placing me in situations where I will need to overcome this fear–this insecurity. As a result, I recently applied to join a Toastmasters Club–they are dedicated to helping members help themselves improve their public speaking skills. I am proud of myself for having recognized my insecurity; identifying the root, and finding a solution to overcome it.

In an article titled, “How to Deal with Insecurity and Overcome Its Effects,” Jack Nollan offers the following methods of improving self-perception and tempering insecurity:

  1. Affirmations – Write yourself a short pep talk, memorize it, and repeat it to yourself regularly, especially when you’re feeling low or unsure of yourself. (i.e., As Aibileen would say to Mae Mobley in the movie, “The Help,” You is Kind; You is smart; You is important.)
  2. Forgiveness – You’re human–you are going to make bad decisions, mistakes, and sometimes do stupid things. Forgive yourself and do better the next go around. After you make the decision to forgive yourself, let it go and move on.
  3. Mindfulness – Be awake and aware in the moment–not what transpired yesterday nor what you think is coming tomorrow.
  4. Celebrate Accomplishments – It’s acceptable to have some regrets or experience some pain for past mistakes or missteps, but we also need to acknowledge the positive things that are in our lives.
  5. Fail more – Failure is not a negative–it is simply a part of overall success. The people that succeed are the people that continuously try things. The more things you try, the more you experience failure–it’s just another part of the overall journey.

In 2014, Mexican and Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o, was honored with the “Best Breakthrough Performance Award” at the 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon for her role as Patsey in the “critically acclaimed” film, “12 Years a Slave.” In her acceptance speech, Lupita shared with the audience of celebrity women her insecurities and negative self-image of having a darker skin color. The following is an excerpt from her speech:

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. Any my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day, I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God; I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listed to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.” (I have attached the YouTube video of Lupita’s speech below.)

As a society, we place an enormous amount of emphasis and finances on our outer beauty (hair, mani-pedi’s, eyelashes, designer clothing and accessories, etc). Do not misunderstand–I believe we should be concerned with our outer appearance; however, I believe we should place the same amount of time and efforts on our inner healing. Lupita said it best in her closing remarks of her speech at the luncheon, “And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

As Lupita came to terms with her beautiful, dark complexion, may we all come to terms with our own individual insecurities. As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.

References:

https://www.consciousrethink.com/7296/deal-with-insecurity/

https://www.essence.com/awards-events/red-carpet/black-women-hollywood/lupita-nyongo-delivers-moving-black-women-hollywood-acceptance-speech/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201512/the-3-most-common-causes-insecurity-and-how-beat-them

 

 

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr

The Invisible Prison #2 – Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Continuing with the series of invisible prisons, this blog will address anxiety. If you did not read my last blog, I talked about a video I watched with Dr. Dharius Daniels, Senior Pastor of Change Church, Ewing Township, New Jersey, where he defined an invisible prison as an “unidentified, unaddressed, invisible, emotional issue that you erroneously assume would be straightened out by your spirituality.” I believe anxiety can also be unidentified, unaddressed and invisible. Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. In his book, “Anxious for Nothing,” Max Lucado describes anxiety as “a meteor shower of what-ifs.”

So, what does anxiety look like? According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can manifest itself by way of feeling nervous, restless or tense; having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom; increased heart rate; rapid breathing (hyperventilation); sweating; trembling; feeling week or tired; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping; and can also contribute to gastrointestinal problems.

For those who know me, they know that I have a “Type A” personality–I am organized and plan everything. In my personal and professional life, I tend to set lofty goals with self-imposed deadlines. Let me provide you with an illustration. Approximately 18 years ago, I decided to pursue my graduate degree. At that time, I was married with two children–a toddler and an 11-year old with a full schedule of school and sports activities. One thing I knew for sure was I did not want my family to be inconvenienced because of my recent pursuit. I wanted to be the good wife, supermom, and an awesome student all at the same time. After dinner and the kids were settled for the evening, I would go into my office and start writing papers (usually around  10:00 pm until 2:00 am the next morning). I thought I was juggling things quite well until I would lay down to go to sleep. When I laid down, as though I was running a marathon, my heart seemingly was beating a mile per minute. I could not turn my mind off–I remember lying in bed busy planning the next day–what would I wear for the next workday, what activities did my son have, had I packed the baby’s bag for daycare, what meetings did I have for work, what would we have for dinner, what was my next assignment for class, and about 100 other things were going through my mind. After many sleepless nights, heart and mind racing, and nervousness, I decided to seek professional help. I consulted a doctor who performed an electrocardiogram (EKG). The EKG results proved  negative for heart issues; however, the doctor informed me that I was more than likely experiencing anxiety. All of my family obligations, work responsibilities, school assignments, and self-imposed deadlines had taken a toll. I was prescribed medication, but was encouraged to relax more and exercise. Over the years, I have incorporated prayer and meditation–mindfulness, listening to music, exercising, reading, writing, coloring in my adult books, and my latest hobby of making birthday cards as a natural treatment for my anxiety.

In article titled, “10 Tips for Managing Anxiety,” Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D provides the following basic tips for managing anxiety:

  1. Accept that anxiety is a normal emotion and can be helpful. Anxiety isn’t unnatural–it’s a normal emotion that has evolved to help you deal with anticipated threats and challenges.
  2. Understand that anxiety can’t harm you. Perspiring, increased heart rate, and trembling are not harmful, nor are they signs of impending illness.
  3. Avoid avoidance. Avoiding the things that make you anxious never allows you to find out the reality of the threat–it may not be a threat at all.
  4. Check that your anxiety is justified. Is what you are anxious about really a significant threat or challenge.
  5. Consider being adventurous rather than avoiding risk and uncertainty. Try seeking out new adventures.
  6. No one is perfect–take a break from the rigid rule that make you anxious. Replace the rigid rules that you place on yourself with more realistic expectations.
  7. Refuse to let anxiety hold you back. Undertake some challenges that initially make you feel anxious.
  8. Recruit help to change. Enlist the assistance of family or friends to try to achieve these changes.
  9. Be aware of the bigger picture. Encourage yourself to embrace healthy living–regular exercise and a healthy diet.
  10. Seek professional help if you feel you need it. If needed, seek more structured support such as a psychotherapist or counselor.

For years, I lived in the invisible prison of anxiety–never wanting to give my nervousness, my increased heart rate, or sleepless nights a name; however, I have been released from its confines and imprisonment. I use this blog to call out anxiety and to free myself and others from its incarceration. I hope my transparency will  help someone who may be experiencing the same to be set free. Nothing or no one can imprison you when you confront it.

For additional information on anxiety, view Mayo Clinic’s article on Anxiety Disorders at (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961).

As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.

Share on Social Media!
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedintumblr