Tag Archives: self-respect

Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.

A Question of Prosperity

I have quipped in the past that I am the richest man in the world – now all I need is money. Most people measure prosperity as monetary wealth or possessions. Money can be important for survival  and to live the life you want. I am not sure it is the end all. A person’s self-worth and attitude go a long way in determining their contentment. People say they want to be rich (with money) and yet many of the rich seem to be troubled with many of the same things as the not so rich. They can face loneliness, doubt, health problems and other adversities that money cannot cure. Money can buy you a companion, but not a real friend. Money can buy you the best of health care and the newest medical technology but cannot stave off the ravages of cancer and death.

Prosperity can desensitize us to the difficulties of others. Many of the poor in our country still get enough to eat, have a TV in their home, and have access to medical care, while 40% of the world’s population seems to subsist on less than $2 per day.  Paul Sweeney (Author of Ireland’s Economic Success: Reasons and Lessons) made this observation, “How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” We want everything now. Sometimes we aren’t willing to wait or work for what we want. But even still, we are extremely fortunate to live in a country so richly blessed with abundance.

Sometimes we covet the riches of others. We do not always realize what people went through to get where they are today. Many of our greatest people started out with empty pockets and difficult situations. Yes, some of them seem to have been handed the “golden ticket” but most worked hard for what they have. They have built companies, written books, used their talents to create wonderful careers. We should all work to propel our talents to their fullest potential.

Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”  This is why I stress the importance of reminding ourselves of the blessings that surround us. Think about those who love you. Think about all that you have instead of what you do not have. Measure your prosperity not only by the balance of your checking account but by the love and blessings in your life.

I am a follower of Christ, a father, a brother, a son, a husband, a lover, a friend, a hard worker, a passionate learner, a pet owner, a writer, a mentor, a student, etc., etc. I have my faults, my scars, my mistakes and have learned much from each. I have much to be thankful for and I am sure you do too. So, are you rich with what really matters? I hope so.

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Always Wanting

I had heard this poem read on the radio. I searched for it on the internet and found it. I was very surprised that it was written by a 14 year old and published by Dear Abby in 1989. It seems to be wisdom much beyond that of a 14 year old. He must have been a keen observer of those around him. The poem is called Present Tense by Jason Lehman.

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.

   When we fail to appreciate what we have and focus only on what we don’t have or what we want, we miss out on the love and blessings that we already have. Ambition is not bad, we need the ambition to improve our circumstances but not at the cost of losing sight of where we are and what we have now. It is good to want to improve ourselves. It is good to want to improve our situation, but not at the expense of relationships that deserve our attention. To work so hard for a career that we neglect our family, we miss out on times that can never be recovered.

There are things we should always want. We should always want to be closer to the ones who love us. We should always want to be closer to God. We should always want to grow ourselves and seek our potential. We should always want to be thankful for what we have. We want to be loved, respected, cherished, and appreciated, and we need to give those very things to others. Before we can get what we want next, we must appreciate where we are now. Being in the now is what gives us the direction we need, the steps that we need to take.   When you plan any journey, you must not only know the destination, but you must know the starting point.

By nature, we are never satisfied with what we have. We quickly become bored or restless and look for the next thrill or the next challenge to conquer. Contentment is a learned skill. If you don’t appreciate where you are, you might end up like our subject in the poem, never getting what they wanted and never realizing what they had when they had it. Like the old saying goes, you never know what you have until it is gone.

Even when we are faced with challenges, and we all are, we must not forget that blessings we have and the strength that we have, especially when multiplied with the strength of God and others. You were never meant to do it all alone. Connect with the ones you love. Connect with life. Remind yourself of what is ultimately important. Riches are nice, fame is fleeting, but it is the relationships we build that are important. And most importantly, connect with yourself. And, as always, I want the best for you.

Patterns

All around us are patterns. Patterns appear everywhere, even when they don’t. We are pattern creatures. Our brains are designed to look for patterns. Our brains examine and recognize thousands of faces. We see patterns in nature: in petals of flowers; sections of leaves; and in the structure of a snowflake. Our bent for patterns even allows us to see patterns where none exist. In the chaotic drifting of clouds, we often amuse ourselves picking out recognizable patterns.

We often find comfort in regular patterns in our lives, even when those patterns produce negative circumstances. We are sometimes afraid to move away from known circumstances that are unhealthy because we cannot be sure what change will bring, even when change might be positive. When we notice patterns in our lives where people care about us and build us up, where people show us that we are supported and loved, we feel more comfortable in changing our circumstances for the better. That is why we need to see and feel patterns that convince us that there are better alternatives. Negative patterns can be broken. When we recognize things are better, we need to be appreciative and thankful.

We need to recognize those patterns not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us. It is so frustrating to try to help someone who seemingly does not want to be helped. It might be they are too fearful to attempt change. It might be they are too wrapped up in their negative pattern to see a way out. It might even be that they do not want to be helped. Early on, like many, I had to learn that you cannot change anyone, they must change themselves. I also had to learn that I did not always know what is best for them because of the limitations of my own experience. Because of those lessons, I had to learn that there are many that I am not able to help, that I might not be the one placed in their lives to lift them up. But, I just might be the seed that allows them to accept the one person who can.

When positive patterns  that we are comfortable with change, it can be disconcerting. When time set aside for sharing seems to end or slip away, it can leave one  to wonder why the pattern changed. What changed? Can we recapture it or make it better? Does it mark a time for growth or alert us to a problem that needs attention? Is it our time to move on?

Opposites or contrast can help us appreciate patterns. The Bible is filled with contrast: choose this not that; do this not that; wise vs. foolish; good vs. bad; positive vs. negative. Even our tastes are defined by contrast. We expect cookies to be sweet because the pattern has been that all the cookies we eat are sweet. We know sweet because we have tasted sour or bitter. We were trained by the patterns of our experience.

Habits are like patterns. They repeat and establish an expectation. I encourage us all to look for the blessings in life and be thankful for the gifts that abound whether it be God, nature or human endeavor. Your daily actions establish the pattern of who you are. Let that pattern be a positive one.

Free Time, Where Art Thou?

Have you ever felt that there just isn’t enough time in the day? I would be very surprised if you didn’t. I often wish I had more time. But, then I realize that I actually do have time, but that I am just too exhausted to enjoy it.

In our high stress, go, go, go world, it is difficult to find time to relax and even when we do find time, we tend not to relax. But then we have time savers, right? You know, the technology that was to bring us so much leisure time that visionaries a century ago were convinced that work would be a hobby.

I have access to computers, email, barcode scanners, electric pallet jacks, smart phones, forklifts and lots of other labor saving devices. And this means (drum roll here) that I can do even more than ever before, and expected to do more. Oh well, so much for the leisure time my ancestors predicted for us.

Many very helpful sites recommend that you do a time inventory, prioritizing time and scheduling “me” time. Actually, I think this is excellent advice. Learning to say no to additional obligation creates free time as well.

So how do you spend your free time? My ideal “me” time is to sit silently and read or meditate. I don’t mind watching TV either as long as it isn’t mindless drivel. There really are quality programs on TV if you seek them out.

I will admit that my favorite leisure time is that spent with family away from home with no actual itinerary planned. I just enjoy my family as we meander through the day. I do not consider this wasted time but an opportunity to spend time with the ones I love. I love the time spent conversing, laughing, walking here and there. I think we all enjoy the change of scenery. It is very satisfying.

Do I have free time? Yes, I do. I suppose the better question would be is how do I choose to spend the time I have?

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From Mess to Message

   As I watched Dancing With The Stars, I wondered what had happened to J.R. Martinez to cause the scarring on his face. I did a search on the internet and found a wonderful article by BooksGalore on Hubpages.  He was badly injured in Iraq in 2003 when the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine. Trapped inside the vehicle, he received burns over 40% of his body.

He spent three years in an Army hospital with his mother by his side. He endured more than 30 operations consisting of facial surgery and skin grafting. One of his ears was missing. He was devastated with his new face and lost his will to live. He began to view his life more positively with the help of his mother. He now is a national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, an organization that serves veterans seriously wounded or disabled. The article quoted him as saying, “I was a mess, but now I’m a message.”

This story is incredibly inspiring to me. It shows that J.R. and many like him prove that we cannot know what we are capable of enduring until faced with great challenges. I think this story can be applied to many, many people. Although maybe not as extreme as J.R.’s example, can you think of anyone who has survived and overcome great challenges, maybe even not so great challenges? How about the single mother who works a job while attending nursing school so that she can provide a better life for herself and her children? How about the woman who survived breast cancer and is confident in her beauty despite suffering a double radical mastectomy? How about the physically challenged child who competed their first Special Olympics and was awarded with smiles, hugs and kisses?

Like J.R., they all can have a message. That message is, but certainly is not limited to, “I am someone special. I am strong in my own way and can overcome. I am worth it.” They teach us to see around our obstacles and to reach beyond our limits.

Forgiving Yourself

We hear much about forgiving others, and we should. Forgiveness is showing kindness and compassion to others, but it does more for those who forgive than those who need to be forgiven. One person we usually forget to forgive is ourselves.

It is natural to be harder on ourselves than others. We feel that we have to earn forgiveness or that we must pay, so we continue to punish ourselves. Sometimes, we continue to punish ourselves even after we ask God for forgiveness. God is always willing to forgive us. It is our refusal to accept this “gift” from Him that does not allow us to forgive ourselves.

Think about your situation and how it would sound coming from someone else. How would you advise them? More than likely, you would tell that person not to be so hard on themselves. That we all make mistakes and we all can be forgiven. This would be very good advice and is good enough to hear for yourself.

Forgiveness has been recognized by the medical community to have health benefits. The benefits are not just spiritual. The Mayo Clinic reports that forgiveness can lead to: lower blood pressure, less stress, less hostility, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, healthier relationships, and greater psychological well-being.

So, do not let your unforgiveness of yourself prevent you from accepting the blessings and gifts that God offers you each and every day. Continue to forgive others but remember to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is the essential element that frees you from your own private prison. Allow yourself the freedom to forgive yourself, accept God’s forgiveness and to take action, if at all possible, to repair the harm. It is not often possible to make amends. You cannot go back in time or erase words that were said. You cannot make amends for those who are no longer with us. Ask God for forgiveness, accept it and move on. None of us is perfect and we never will be. We can only try our best.

If you are harboring any unforgiveness in yourself or others, I hope that you will find the freedom that awaits you, as well as all the benefits that come with it by learning to forgive.

Allowing Joy

Although we can be trapped by negativity in our lives, we must allow joy into our lives and allow the elements of joy we already have to be recognized. Two interesting quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh, are “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”  The other quote is, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”  Although those quotes are from a Buddhist monk, Isaiah expressed similar ideas in Isaiah 40:29-31, where hope in the Lord renews strength.

In our busy, busy world where we are always on the run, it is important that we take some time to reflect on what we have, where we are, where we came from and how we got here. There is always something to be thankful for. The “attitude of gratitude” practiced every day will allow joy, not only into your own life, but into the life of those around you.

Things that invite joy into our lives can be simple: a smile, a kind word, a small courtesy. Think about the positive things in your life. Consider the positive attributes about yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others – each of us is unique with our own talents and challenges. Think about those less fortunate than yourself and how you might be able to lift them up. This will allow you to appreciate your own blessings and share those blessings with others.

Joy can be an elusive condition. Like contentment, joy must be practiced and learned. This is available to you and to me. Joy and contentment are available to everyone. Take care and smile. Smiles are infectious; infect someone today.

Contentment

Contentment is sometimes confused with happiness, although they can be connected, they are not the same. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that is usually a reaction to outside influences. We seek happiness and sometimes seek it to sooth our discontent.  Being content, to me, means appreciating what you have on a continual basis. Remember that many of the great things you have now you did not have before. And if you don’t have things, take a personal inventory of your strengths; self-respect, stamina, endurance, surviving, the will to press on, the striving to be better.

By nature, we are discontented. Marketers make full use of this fact and it is easy for them to create want and need in us. But being contented does not mean that you don’t want more or better. It means that you appreciate what you have and who you are. That better things might exist but you do not disregard what you have or neglect those you love because of your desire for something better.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Paul wrote this while he was imprisoned for ministering. He goes on to say in verses 12 -13, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) Paul’s contentment was not based on his situation or circumstance but on his reliance and relationship with Christ.

Notice, that Paul says that he “learned” to be content. It is not an easy thing. We all yearn for more. We might say, “if I only had a bigger house, I would be happy.” A realtor can sell you a house, but a realtor cannot sell you a home. You might say, “if I only made more money or had a better job, I would be happy.” You might be happier but you may not be content. There are so many stories of the rich and famous who die bitter and lonely, for their money did not buy them what is truly important.

Contentment is an attitude, a mindset. Happiness is a choice. Contentment comes from within. Even during trials, one can be content and not happy. Contented people are more positive, more confident in themselves because they know who they are. They might not be happy with certain aspects of their selves or their situation but are content in knowing that they are improving themselves and accepting of those things they cannot change.

A contented person’s positive attitude can improve things at their jobs or open opportunities for other work. Their mindset can improve their relationships. Their positive attitude can be infectious and help others see the blessings that abound.

So how does one learn to be content? It definitely takes practice. I believe that one key to contentment is to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful to God for all the blessings that He provides. Thank others for their good deeds towards you, no matter how small, and remember to appreciate those around you. Let your loved ones know that you love them.

Examine what you have and appreciate that you have those things. What if you didn’t have them? Who are you? What do you want your living example to say about you? Accept the things you cannot change and move forward to improve the things you can.  It is not wrong to want better, just realize where you are, appreciate what you have and move forward from there.

We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. (1 Timothy 6:6-7) We leave behind all the possessions that we accumulated and all the money we made. But you also leave behind your relationships. You will dwell for a while in the hearts and minds of those lives you touched. These relationships are to be built now and everyday. When you see the strength of these relationships grow, contentment will grow as well.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, saw the value of contentedness saying, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  Paul found his strength in his beliefs. He had faith that God would not fail him. His relationship with God is the core of his contentment. We can have that too. Although we have to practice and learn to have this mindset, it certainly is possible.

My hope for you is to have much happiness and lasting contentment.