Monday, June 24, 2013

The power of words

We all have been told since we were young that our words have power. Words have the power to hurt and to heal, to do both good and bad. With our words, we can build people up, or we can tear them down. How unfortunate that so many prefer the latter. Put simply, this should not be. I would venture to say that nearly all of us have been on the other end of someone's hurtful comments, yet I would also guess that nearly all of us are still guilty of letting those kind of words come out of our mouth.

The thing I want everyone--myself included--to keep in mind is if someone hears enough negative words about him or herself they start to believe those words are true, whether it is the truth or not. It's strange how lies can become the truth if enough people believe them. I have met far too many youth who are terribly damaged because of the things others have said or continue to say about them. I have met far too many adults who are still dealing with the effects of such treatment many years later. The truth is your words do have power, and as we can learn from Spider Man--or Voltaire, if you prefer, "With great power comes great responsibility."

I also want you to keep in mind that your words are not only capable of tearing others down, or building others up; the words you speak into your own life have the power to do both good and bad. If you say you are not good enough too many times, then you start to believe it. If you believe you are completely incapable of accomplishing anything, you are already defeated. You are speaking negativity into your life. You are giving those words power over you, and it won't matter how many times others try to encourage you or build you up because you have already passed judgement on yourself. It is incredibly difficult for people to learn to see themselves as good when they believe they are not.

Seriously, no one is better at tearing me down than I am at tearing myself down. There's a reason solitary confinement is used as punishment in prisons. Too much time alone with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company is a dangerous thing. Your mind becomes the prison. You spend all your time nitpicking at yourself, dwelling on the negative, tearing yourself down, and you can't runaway from yourself. I've done this to myself way too many times. Best not to get caught up in this vicious cycle.

Do not live your life with a defeated attitude. Do everything you can to speak positivity into your life, and as much as possible, do the same for others. There will always be people out there who make themselves feel good at the expense of others. Don't add to that mix. You are all good enough. You all have a purpose. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Darkness to Light: Cybil's Message

This week I am incredibly blessed to share the testimony of my friend Cybil with you. She presented this talk just over a week ago at her church. To say she has been through a lot is not nearly enough. I don't want to give away too much. She will talk about what she has overcome in this short video. I admire her strength and willingness to share what she has been through with others. The reality is there are many people who can relate to her story, so I hope this video will reach someone out there who needs to hear it. Her message is one of hope, love, and grace. She has overcome the stuff of nightmares, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share her story with others.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Forgiveness is divine, but it sure is difficult

I'm sure you have all heard the old saying, "To err is human; to forgive, divine," by Alexander Pope. Basically, this phrase means we all make mistakes, so we should also be willing to forgive others. I believe this to be true, of course. However, in all honesty, I can admit that forgiving others is not my strong suit. I'm working on it, but I still have a long way to go.

I've been thinking about this phrase over the last few weeks. I know I am supposed to forgive others, but sometimes I forget. I know what you are thinking. Yes, I work in ministry, so I should know better. I'll let you in on a little secret: ministers are just like everybody else. We are all a work in progress. We all make mistakes. I, too, am prone to holding grudges for a little while.

Now, as to why I'm writing this post. A few months ago, I tried to help a family member out with a money problem--major red flag. Anyway, I tried to help her out, but things went wrong very quickly once greed came into play. Needless to say, I did my best to see things through, but at great personal cost. Not only did she try to rip me off, but when that didn't work, she resorted to insulting me and making slanderous comments about me and anyone who was not on her side. I got angry, very angry, angry in a way that I did not think I could get anymore, which was scary.

I felt the best course of action was to not talk to this person any longer. Our business concluded, and I felt much better not having to talk to this person. Unfortunately, you can't avoid people forever. Two weeks ago, I had to attend a family party with this person. She did not talk to anyone, and no one made any effort to talk to her. I thought this would make me feel better, but I actually felt worse, so I went ahead and talked to her. I chose to forgive and move on, and you know what, it made me feel a whole lot better. I felt free; in fact, I still feel free: free of negativity, free of the burden of holding a grudge, and free of anger.

When I work in ministry, I often have to remind people about forgiveness. We have been forgiven; therefore, we must learn to forgive others. In most cases, the major issue people have with forgiving others is that they believe they have a right to hold on to their anger, resentment, and/or hatred of the person who wronged them. The problem is that holding on to those negative feelings often does more harm to the person holding on to them than the person those feelings are directed toward. Hanging on to negativity like that will eventually take their toll on a person. If you can forgive others, then you can let go of all that negativity. In this way, you are free; free of the burden of carrying around all that negativity.

I think we tend to get too caught up in thinking that forgiveness only benefits the other person in some way. A lot of people worry that if we forgive someone who wronged us, then it's like we are saying it's okay for people to treat us that way. This is not true at all. It really does takes a bigger person to forgive. The bigger person is the one that understands that forgiving the person who wronged them is way better than having to carry around all of that negative baggage. A person who can forgive others truly experiences the divine nature of forgiveness because a person who can forgive knows what it really means to be free.