Wishing all my friends, new and old, a truly blessed and happy new year!
The busyness, festivities, and stress (or chaos) of Christmas is over. Work and school vacations are coming to an end, decorations are being put away, and “normal” daily life is almost ready to resume, except for the approaching end of the year. New Year’s Day, a fresh new year, 2018!
There are still a couple days left, as we finish living the last week of this year. New years resolutions (that many never really stick to…) are being decided, people are running to the doctor for prescriptions to help them stop smoking, others are signing up at the gym, some may take up new hobbies, predictions are being made about all sorts of things by the media, political changes for the new year are being debated, companies are announcing what to expect for 2018, parties are being planned to end the year with a bang, and so forth… The festivities are not quite over yet. However, there is something great about starting a new year, people start thinking about positive changes that can be made in their own personal lives.
For me, I am not making any new year’s resolution to carve in stone. I am also not setting any new major goals at the moment. What I am thinking about is… what I can do to change my life for the better in the new year. What characteristics do I want to improve in my character? What changes do I need to make to improve my personal well-being? I didn’t want to make an overwhelming list so I’ve thought hard about, and pondered over, each area of improvement that I came up with. To avoid the feeling of being paralyzed by too much , I decided on a select few changes I am going to work on.
We have all heard the well-known serenity prayer. It is a short little prayer that has often been a help to me, as well as thousands of others I am sure. I have thought of this prayer many a time when dealing with difficult decisions, when in need of peace and comfort, or when other people, things, or situations are just plain driving me crazy! I think the hardest part of the guidance in this prayer, for me, is acceptance. I have been getting better at it, but it’s not always easy to just “accept” things that are bothering you, even when you believe that you really cannot change them.
There are certain things in life that we just can’t change. It’s very rare that we can change other people. Sometimes we are stuck in temporary circumstances, that just have to play out, and can’t be changed as quickly as we would like. There are all sorts of examples, of things we run into, that we really can’t change. Regardless of the frustration, and even pain, that sometimes comes with acceptance. It is still often “freeing” to just accept it, and move on. (IF it can’t be changed of course.) Over the years, I have learned how to accept most of the things I cannot change, and usually do find serenity in just letting go, when I choose acceptance. However, I still really resist the idea of resigning myself to just accepting things that may be causing me pain. So this year I am going to work on adding adaptability to acceptance.
Adaptability is a healthy, and important quality, for a happy life. Generally, there is a way to adapt to the trials that are causing pain. Circumstances of our life are always changing and adaptability gives us the opportunity to learn, get creative, and find a resolution, if there is one. I don’t really like the word acceptance, without adding adaptability to it, because than we may just resign ourselves to our problems and lose hope. I feel that we either adapt our lives and thinking, to fit these new challenges, or our well-being deteriorates. Losing hope is too dangerous. There may not always be a solution that we like, things still won’t always go the way we want them too, and people will let us down. So we do have to practice some acceptance. But this year, I will adapt to the change if possible, before just throwing up my hands in acceptance. For example, if things are not going my way, I can ask myself, “Do I have a part in this, and is there anything I can do?” If the answer is yes, than that’s great, I can adapt. If the answer is no, than I can accept whatever it is and move on. Where there is no control on our part, there is also no responsibility for the outcome.
Another example, if someone is not treating me right, or let’s me down, I don’t have to accept that behavior in my life. I can adapt by moving myself away from that relationship. I do have to accept that I can’t change other people, many people focus on fixing others, rather than themselves. Trying to fix someone else only leads to frustration, trust me, I tried that once! I think it’s ultimately better to choose to adapt to living a life without that person in it. You can still have hope that the person will change on their own, and maybe repair the relationship one day. In some cases, you can also adapt by making changes in yourself, sometimes this helps the other person change their own behavior too. This is a good option when dealing with family, or people your kind of “stuck” with. In my own experience, this has worked for me on a couple of occasions, but that’s a discussion for another day.
These are just a couple common examples, but hopefully you get the idea. In a way, I have chosen to adapt to the serenity prayer in a way that works better for me.
Some people don’t understand there is a difference between empathy. sympathy and compassion. Most simply put, empathy is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” When you empathize with a person you feel what they are feeling, you share their emotions. This is one reason why support groups can be so helpful to people. When you have actually shared in the same experiences, with another person, you can easily understand, and relate to, the emotions they are feeling and what they are going through. Even if you have not shared in the same experiences, you can still try to practice empathy by trying to see things from that person’s perspective. However, this can be really hard, if the experience is something you cannot relate to at all. For example, if you have never been violently assaulted, you may have a hard time empathizing with the fear, a person feels, when a person has been through that kind of trauma. When empathy is not possible, we can still be compassionate and have sympathy.
Sympathy is a feeling of care and concern for another person. It is much easier to sympathize than to truly empathize. To sympathize you don’t have to have a shared perspective, or a real understanding of another’s emotions. Sympathy means that you care about someone and have concern for their plight, but you don’t necessarily experience the same level of distress that they may be feeling.
You may also feel some compassion for others. Compassion is defined as a desire to help alleviate their suffering.
Regardless of the technical definitions, I do try to practice empathy, sympathy, and compassion whenever possible. Nevertheless, at times this can be easier said than done. It’s easy to feel sympathy and be compassionate towards someone you love and care about. But how about a stranger, someone who isn’t being nice, or someone who is different and usually stigmatized due to some disability or mental condition. My motto lately has been: “You never know what someone is going through, so just be nice.”
This year I am going to try to be more understanding when I am having difficulty feeling empathy, sympathy, or compassion. Sometimes it can be tough to feel compassion and sympathy for someone you CAN’T empathize with, or even in cases where you just don’t understand the situation. It can also be tough if the person is a stranger or one of those people who just seem difficult to be around. So this is where I intend to work on these qualities. Empathy, sympathy, and compassion for all human beings. I don’t expect it will always be easy, but I do feel it’s something worthwhile to work towards. Not only will it improve my own self esteem, but also the self-worth of those who I come into contact with.
Here are some more scenarios…it’s hard to feel any of these feelings for someone who is being mean, sarcastic, or expressing unwarranted anger towards you. And I don’t have to like the behavior or even put up with it. But I can try to understand where the behavior is coming from. I can realize that there may be something, I don’t have a clue about, going on in that person’s life. Depression can, and often does, manifest in a person as anger. Stress can lead to sarcasm and lashing out, that has nothing to do with the person receiving the verbal attack. A person may seem mean or “stuck up” due to abuse, social phobia, and a whole host of other circumstances. It’s easy to empathize and be sympathetic towards people we love and care about. But what about the guy who just cursed at you for taking his parking spot. That’s not so easy. Who knows what’s going on, maybe he’s running into the store to get something real quick for his sick mother, I have no idea, but it’s obvious the person is having a bad day. I don’t know why, so I will try to be at the very least sympathetic and “kill them with kindness” so to speak.
Bear with me for one more example, if you are a person who has always worked hard for what you have, and have never had to deal with issues such as homelessness, drug dependence, mental illness, etc… It may be hard for you to empathize with the person standing on the street corner begging for money. Sometimes, we walk by these people and think, “why can’t they get a job, I work hard for my money everyday.” When we think these things we are not feeling empathy, sympathy, or compassion. And I get it, when we can’t empathize it’s hard to NOT think this way. However, if we try to empathize, we might think about how we don’t know what this person’s circumstances are. The person could be mentally ill and unable to function in most job situations. The person could have lived a life of abuse and not knowing where to turn, unfortunately, turned to alcohol, or drugs, to numb the pain, again making them unemployable. The idea is still the same, I don’t know what the person is dealing with, or has been through. And I don’t have to know. I can still be compassionate and offer a dollar, some food, and a kind word… versus a dirty look that will only drive the person further into the ground. This year I will be compassionate towards all human beings to the best of my abilities.
With regard to my own self-esteem, I think the biggest thing I need to work on is learning how to take it easy on myself. It’s a good thing to want to do a good job, but it can be exhausting to be a perfectionist. This year I am going to allow myself to make mistakes, without beating myself up. Starting with this article. I am not going to proof read it twenty times, so if you notice a grammatical or punctuation error, take it easy on me. 🙂
In addition, I am going to STOP beating myself for past mistakes, and allowing others to do the same towards me. I have already learned all I can from my past mistakes. To improve my self worth, this year I am done with the past, with regard to mistakes! And it felt really good just to type those words. Try saying those words yourself, I just found it to be liberating!! I am also going to take it easy on others as well. We are all humans and make mistakes. A mistake is just that, a mistake. It’s not something done on purpose. I am going to give myself, and those around me, a break (from mistakes) this year.
To sum it all up, this year I am going to work on acceptance (including acceptance of others), adaptability, kindness & love through practicing empathy, sympathy & compassion, and taking it easy on myself, and others, by being forgiving of mistakes. This list can give you a starting point to think about your own life and character. I found when making my own list that the most difficult, but most important part, was to be honest with myself. It’s hard to admit we have areas that are flawed or need improvement. And the truth is, most of us are already good people. The idea is to improve to become even better people. At the bottom of the page I posted a short list of common character traits that can be a jumping off point to get the wheels turning. I pray that you all have a wonderful new year. Best Wishes!!
As always feel free to add your comments below. If you can think of an important trait that I didn’t list post it in the comments, if you are having trouble with something and want to talk, or just have a desire to bounce your ideas off of others, feel welcome to comment on those things as well. I would love to chat and hear from you.
Thanks for supporting me by reading this article. I love to write, learn new things, and I love to get to know new people from all around the world, all walks of life, all religions, races, genders, backgrounds, cultures, etc… So I would absolutely love to hear from you. I think our difference make us great, interesting, and able to learn something from each other. You can contact me directly by using the Contact Form. I also have started a Facebook Group with a good friend, and a Twitter page of my own (that are both pretty new), so I would love the support there as well, if you wish to join the links are below. I will look forward to getting to know you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Sincere best wishes to you for a truly happy 2018.
All of this is so true. There are so many reasons a person may act the way they do, that have absolutely nothing to do with you or me. Depression can cause a person to express anger. As the article says, the desire to manipulate (narcissistic personalities) can affect the way a person treats you. Even just simple misinterpretation can make us think we have been mistreated. This was a good short article with an important message.
Most of the time, we’re overconcerned with how others treat us.
We’re strongly insistent that others in our life treat us with respect, that they’re nice to us, that they’re accepting of us.
We tend to get very agitated when people treat us with disrespect, when they’re not nice to us, and when they reject us.
Make no mistake, I certainly prefer when other people are cool to me. I certainly hold being nice to and respectful toward other people as an important tent in my own moral and ethical code. I believe the world would be a much better place if everyone was awesome to each other, both in the big picture and on individual, daily levels.
But the fact is, the world is often not cool to us.
Even more uncool: people who, by rights, “should” be cool to us…often aren’t.
Even if we’re cool to them, people…
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It is most likely, that most of us have experienced the horrible pain of losing a loved one. The finality of death is hard enough to cope with. When it happens around a holiday, or the holidays roll around, it seems to add insult to injury. Little things seem to constantly come up to serve as reminders of our loss. In addition, everyone seems to be filled with cheer, when all we want to do is cry. These things make it extra difficult to deal with a current tragedy, or even the past loss of a loved one, during the holidays. I hope this article will provide some useful, and practical, suggestions to help make it through this time of year.
If this is the first holiday after the loss of a loved one, it is hard to know what to do and how to act. If we don’t celebrate, we may feel like we are letting down our loved ones who are still physically with us. If we do celebrate, we may feel that we are dishonoring, or “forgetting” about, our loved one who is no longer physically here. The best thing we can do for ourselves, and those around us, is find a balance between the two extremes. However, it is imperative that you find a balance that works for you. There is no right, or wrong, way to grieve. Another thing to remember is that the anticipation of the holiday, is usually worse than the actual day. Try to get through one day, or moment, at a time if you need too. Try to hold onto the truth that your loved one wants you to be able to move on and find happiness again. Moving on does not mean forgetting. Everyone does this at their own pace, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Christmas, and other holidays, can be extremely painful when experiencing loss. However, it may surprise you to know that the holiday season also provides you with many occasions in which you can heal. Keeping a connection to your loved one is not unhealthy, and is normal. You don’t need to try to forget the pain of their loss, during the holidays, in order to celebrate. Instead, you can incorporate special traditions to celebrate, and remember, the precious memories that you shared with your loved one. This will also help your friends and family support you in a meaningful way. Many times people don’t know how to act, or what to say, when they are around a person who is grieving. Helping you celebrate your loved one, with a special tradition to honor them, is a way they can offer comfort, and be a source of strength for you.
Specific examples of traditions that can be created to honor your loved one could include some of the following:
I mentioned already the importance of finding balance during the holidays. You may feel torn between wanting to isolate yourself and grieve, while still wanting to be there for your loved ones who are still with you. This is especially true if you have younger children. So you will need to find a balance, between grieving for those who are no longer here, and staying involved with the living. Again, a balance that works for you. It is normal to feel confusion, guilt, distracted, forgetful, tired, annoyed, bitter, resentful, heartsick, despondent, and just completely “out of sorts”. Everyone grieves in their own way, and it is normal to have a wide range of changing feelings. Give yourself a break and understand this is part of grief, and you deserve time to sort through your feelings. You are the only one who can decide how much time you can handle “celebrating” with your family, and the amount of time you need to spend alone. With that being said, I am going to offer some suggestions on how you can still celebrate during the holidays, without being expected to completely halt your grieving process. In other words, you don’t need to put on a “fake smile” and suffer through. There is hope to find small moments of happiness during the holidays.
If you spend the entire season focusing on your lost loved one this can increase your feelings of sadness. Spending time with your precious loved one’s who are still alive can help. It is healthy and absolutely normal to not spend every minute focused on your loss. If you find yourself feeling moments of happiness, this is okay. It is just fine to be distracted, this does not mean you are dishonoring, or forgetting about your lost loved one. Plan specific times when you will do something enjoyable, if possible include your loved ones. Even something as simple as helping the family decorate a tree, bake some cookies, or wrap some presents. Only do as much as you feel up to doing, but there is no harm in trying to be involved in some small way. You can always remove yourself if things become to much.
Another suggestion…giving time to help a person in need could be helpful. Helping others can make you feel useful, and occupy your mind for a bit of time, giving you a “break” from your grieving process. I am not talking about charities or big volunteering commitments. There are people around us everyday who would greatly appreciate small acts of kindness. We may have to spend some time thinking about this one, and be creative, but there are always opportunities to help. Even if it’s just for an hour or two. For example, is there a home bound person, or nursing home resident, you could deliver a small gift too? Or maybe a tired new mother, who would love to have someone to just sit and rock the baby, while she gets some house work done. A neighbor who could use help walking a dog? No matter how small, it will make you feel useful. Plus, children and animals can be very therapeutic. They are so innocent and accepting, they are easy to be around when we are feeling sad. (Note: If your loss involves a pet or young child, than you may not be ready to spend time with other people’s children or pets.)
If your a person of faith, you might plan to attend a holiday service at your church. Use this time to reflect on your loved one and draw comfort from your church family. If you used to attend this type of service with your lost loved one, plan to take a good friend with you, and be prepared to leave early if you need too. It’s okay, you call the shots. You are the only one who knows what is helpful to you.
You may not believe any of these things will be helpful to you. But you also may be pleasantly surprised that you do feel, at the very least, fleeting moments of happiness. However, you will have to decide what you feel you can, and cannot do. Do what feels right to you. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season, especially after the death of a loved one.
This may be the perfect opportunity to change traditions that didn’t work for you. Maybe you never particularly enjoyed the location of the holiday dinner. Although your still invited, if the event was not enjoyable to you, decline the invitation and create a new tradition that is better suited to your liking. The same goes for other traditions. For example, maybe you don’t drink and the yearly New Year’s Eve party was filled with those who like to “whoop it up”. Now is your chance to break off from unhealthy or unhappy traditions, move away from toxic people, and so forth.
There is no doubt that you will feel moments of overwhelming sadness, no matter what you do. The loss of a loved one is a difficult challenge. Your going to feel sad, it’s normal to cry, get angry, want to be alone, not want to be alone, your emotions may feel like a roller coaster. When you feel these intense moments of sadness, let yourself feel, but it might be helpful to try to redirect your thoughts to a happy memory of your loved one. You may still cry, or maybe you’ll break out into laughter over a funny moment you shared. The trick is to try and feel the emotions in a positive light, with your loved one in your heart, using the happy memories that you both shared. These memories can’t be taken from you. Sometimes it is helpful to remember how you would feel if the situation were reversed. If you saw your loved one hurting, you would undoubtedly try to cheer them up. You might bring up something funny that happened, or tell them your favorite joke. Let your loved one’s memories, allow your loved one, to do that for you. They would if they could be here, right? Try letting the memories you shared unite you and your loved one in spirit, when those moments of intense sadness hit you.
If you have recently lost a loved one, I understand there is no way to completely remove the sense of agony, and reluctance, to celebrate the holidays. I hope nothing I have said in this article sounded as if I was trying to minimize your suffering. I know the pain can feel unbearable. However, I do pray the suggestions in this article might help you find some reassurance and hope, so that you can experience some joy during the holidays.
If you have helpful traditions, or suggestions that help you cope, please share in the comments below. They may be helpful to others who are also grieving. If you would like to share your favorite memories about your loved one, or even something your struggling with, I would like to hear about it, and offer support. We need to care for each other during these difficult times. I wish you the best as you celebrate with your loved ones who are still with you, and those who are tucked safely forever in your heart.
I came across a series of cartoons today that, while cute, spread an important message about depression. The cartoons, in a lighthearted way, are saying that if you have major depressive disorder (MDD), you may have to explain your symptoms to your loved ones. In other words, you can’t expect them to just understand how you feel, if you don’t explain. Additionally, the cartoons are designed in a way that they can also be helpful to those without depression. The cartoons depict what it’s like for someone who is living with “it” (depression) daily. Below are a few of the cartoons….no further explanation is needed. Hope they are helpful.
(Cartoon credit must be given to the amazing “Lighter Blue”) !
A wonderful informative blog with an abundance of helpful articles. This blog also offers a space to promote your own blog, which I think was a very thoughtful addition from the author.
This is an excellent article. I am sure we have all dealt with manipulative people. If you have been in an intimate relationship with a person like this, I am sure you know how painful it can be. It’s so important to know this information and set boundaries. It is especially important to identify these traits early in new relationships, to save yourself from getting sucked into, what can end up being, a very damaging and painful experience. In addition, if you are a parent of a teenager who may begin dating soon, this information is vital to pass on to them as well.
By Dr. Perry, PhD
Like the waves that forcefully crash on the shore and later gracefully retreat, there is an ebb and flow to life. The seasons change and the flowers bloom, only to later wilt. We all give and take in our daily lives. Our interactions with one another are overall based on a healthy exchange of emotions, ideas and positive social interactions. There are some individuals, that like crashing waves have a disruptive influence in our lives. They seem only interested in profiting from the relationship and will give little or nothing in exchange. They use psychological manipulation to disguise their true intent.
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that uses deception, underhanded tactics and abuse in order to achieve the interests of the manipulator. The manipulator may use these tactics for…
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I came across a news posting this morning with the title “FDA approves ‘trackable’ pill”.
I was initially intrigued. However, I was thinking of an entirely different segment of the population, that this type of pill might be useful for. For example, during my work as a medical professional, I often encounter elderly patients who can’t recall if they have taken their medications for the day. They often have to spend time placing their pills in little containers, with the days of the week on them, to keep track. These little containers are often not the best solution. First, more than one of the same pill, can inadvertently, be placed in the same days container, leading to too much of the medication being taken. Secondly, it’s never a really good idea to take the pills out of the original bottles. It can be difficult for a patient to remember exactly which medications are which, when removed from the prescription bottle. Furthermore, there may be special instructions on the prescription bottle, that need to be remembered, for each different medication. For example, instructions such as, “don’t take with milk”, “take with food”, “don’t take within 2 hours of an antacid”, “avoid grapefruit juice”, and the list goes on. To summarize, this class of patients may like the idea of technology that would track this information for them. According to the article, the technology would allow the patient to look at an application on their smart phone, to check if that particular pill had been ingested. The article also indicates that the information, from the phone application, can optionally be forwarded to their health care provider.
However, this is NOT the class of patients the technology is targeting. The article indicates that these “trackable” pills are Abilify tablets, often used to treat patients with schizophrenia, or patients with manic episodes associated with bipolar disease. Treating patients who have schizophrenia, with a pill that is “trackable” does not seem like the best idea. Patients with schizophrenia, are a group of patients who, by virtue of their particular disease, are sometimes given to believe that they are being secretly monitored. An individual with schizophrenia often feels paranoia, with a particular belief that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, and wish to cause them harm. A very common false belief, among individuals with schizophrenia, is that they have been secretly implanted with a chip, or other device, that is “watching” or “controlling” them. Giving this group of patients a pill that actually does monitor them, does not seem like the best idea, in my humble opinion.
The tablets have an sensor, about the size of a grain of sand, embedded inside the tablet that is activated when it comes into contact with stomach fluid. The patient then must wear a patch, which will record information from the sensor, and send it to an application on a smart phone. The article indicates that, “Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients” (Mitchell Mathis, Food and Drug Administration). I understand that medication compliance is often an issue with patients who have mental illness, for a number of reasons. However, getting the patient to comply with wearing a patch, to track medication compliance, doesn’t seem like the perfect solution. The patient may be just as “non-compliant” with the idea of wearing the patch to begin with.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how far this new technology goes. The entire article can be read here: Read full BBC News Story ~~ CLICK HERE or by visiting the link posted below. I would love to hear other’s thoughts and opinions, on this new technology, in the comments section below. I am very interested in hearing other viewpoints on this topic.
Original Article can be read at http://www.bbc.com/news/health-41980836
In this article, a man talks about his sister, who has struggled with mental health issues. He than follows by interviewing his sister, and including the questions and answers in his post. He asks his sister some tough questions about life, and how she deals with having a mental illness. This women was absolutely inspiring! The answers she gave were filled with an exuberance for life, a positive outlook, encouragement for others, and confidence. Additionally, the women offers practical suggestions that can actually realistically be applied in one’s life. The whole article was accentuated by what seemed to be genuine compassion and empathy for others. I was very touched by this woman’s strength and determination.
“Part of growing is going through painful transitions and messing up a bit.”
Dasha Radovanovic is my older sister and best friend. Hearing of her battle with mental health over many years is difficult and saddening, but above all it inspires in me immense pride and respect. Largely independently, she has reached a place of mental and physical stability, which she constantly works towards in every life aspect.
This interview is conducted as the first in a series of articles aiming to enlighten stories as well as strategies related to mental health.
I knew something was wrong years ago, but I didn’t have any labels to put on it like ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’. I was about fourteen or fifteen and for various reasons I’d been self harming and binge eating for a while. I started drinking and smoking…
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Last night, I witnessed some very cruel words uttered to another human being. It undoubtedly, was one of the most heartbreaking commentaries I have personally heard, in a long time. It definitely woke me up, and opened my eyes, in more ways than one. And, powerfully tugged at my heart strings, to say the least.
To start with, I will say that I do understand there are people in this world who do not agree with, and maybe even detest, homosexuality. I am not oblivious to this fact. However, despite some of the uprisings and protests in the media lately, it seemed to me that homosexuality was, to a certain extent, more commonplace and accepted than it used to be. I have seen some vicious comments spoken in the media, and the hellish fire that gets stirred up at some of the different protests. In spite of all this, it apparently didn’t sink in with me, the level of hate that still exists among some ordinary people. I don’t watch mainstream news much, so maybe I missed something!! Or maybe, because the things I’ve seen were on in the media, it just didn’t have as much of a personalized effect on me. I guess that sometimes, when you have a front row seat to something ugly, it seems to illicit a greater emotional response.
Regardless, what I saw and heard last night did personally affect me. It made me very aware of the fact that some people are still very hateful towards gay people. Furthermore, these same people, most likely also, are abhorrent towards every other category of people that they don’t like, disagree with, or view as different. Whether it is race, religion, culture, values, political party, lifestyle, or simply different viewpoints, some people are still, very frighteningly, inhumane when it comes to someone who is different than they are.
Developments, over the past few years, such as gay marriage being made legal and moderately shifting viewpoints towards the gay community, gave me the false impression that our country had come a long way towards acceptance of homosexual individuals. Maybe we have become enlightened to some degree, but I learned last night that we still have a long way to go. There are still some people lurking about, who are so filled with hate, they are willing to hurt a young man’s feelings simply because he is gay, and not think twice about it.
Secondly, I also learned that, at least a few people, are completely ignorant in regard to certain facts about HIV and disease transmission. One would think that after twenty years of public health messages, educating people about how HIV is transmitted, that everyone would have learned the facts by now. Wrong again! Some people, apparently, still believe that HIV can be transmitted by sharing a toilet seat. We obviously need to get some more public service messages into circulation, to educate all people on how HIV is transmitted. For example, you cannot get HIV from sitting on a toilet seat. Unless you find a rare circumstance, in which the toilet is covered in HIV infected blood and your backside has open lacerations on it! You also can’t catch HIV from hugging someone, or shaking their hand. I don’t mean too sound condescending, I am almost positive that the majority of people, who might be reading this, already know these things. The point I am trying to make is that there are still some people who actually don’t have this common knowledge. After last night, I now know this to be a fact.
Let me jump off my soapbox now, and tell you about what happened last night, that ruffled my feathers. My teenage son has a very good friend who is openly gay. My son and I, and this gay friend, were all at the home of one of my relative’s. I will refer to my son’s friend as Andrew, because I don’t want to share real names here, and I also don’t want to keep referring to him as “the gay friend”. At one point in the evening, Andrew needed to use the restroom. There are two bathrooms in the house, but apparently the toilet in the main bathroom was not working. So my son asked this relative of ours, if “they” could use the bathroom in her master bedroom. She responded to my son, and indirectly to Andrew, with these hateful words, she said “you can use it, but he can’t” (while she was looking directly at Andrew). The dejected look on that young man’s face, when he heard that response, hurt me to the very core of my soul. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she proceeded to add insult to injury by following up with, “I’m sorry but it’s my personal toilet and I don’t want his bodily fluids all over it. I am sure you can understand that I just don’t want to catch something.” The young man simply needed to use a restroom (and side note, he doesn’t have HIV either). I immediately took Andrew out of the room and apologized profusely. I went in the main bathroom and “fixed” the toilet, which simply just needed to be plunged, so the boy could relieve himself. Then, after uttering some stern words of education, to my relative, we left. However, I don’t think those hateful and ignorant words will ever leave that young man’s mind. They certainly won’t leave my mind or heart.
“Andrew” has enough ugliness to deal with in this world. He is not only gay, but has also confided in me that he, feels more like a woman than a man inside, and sometimes dresses as a female. Kids and teenagers can be cruel, especially when someone is “different”, and where we live in the bible belt “backwoods”, neither one of those two things are readily accepted. So I am sure those spiteful words he heard last night were not the first he has heard, and won’t be the last. He has a long fight ahead of him, to be able to keep his head held high, and hold on to his self-esteem. It was very hard to witness, what was probably just one more hurtful remark, in a lifetime of insults.
Since my blog is basically dedicated to mental health, I will share what I have learned from a mental health viewpoint on this topic. First and foremost, self-esteem is essential to being mentally healthy. Low self-esteem is linked to anxiety, depression, isolation, eating disorders, opposition to social “norms”, substance use disorders, self-neglect, inability to take on challenges which often leads to lower socioeconomic status, higher suicide rates, and the list goes on. I don’t know about everyone else, but I certainly don’t want to be responsible for helping to send a person down such a dismal life path. One comment may not destroy a person’s self worth, but hurtful words most certainly do chip away at a person’s self-esteem.
We are all guilty of saying things out of anger, or even fear, that were mean spirited or insensitive. Nobody can be perfect all the time. However, if we value our own self worth, we feel a sense of guilt after saying something hurtful, and if possible, we take the first opportunity to apologize and make amends. People who truly have high self-esteem, desire to lift others up, not tear them down. I am not implying that we have to agree with everyone either. People with self worth, and confidence in their own personal values, have the ability to “agree to disagree”, when necessary. I personally hold religious beliefs that would not enable me to choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. And that’s okay, I have a right to my own personal beliefs. But I don’t feel I have the right to impose my beliefs on others, or to be mean if someone believes differently than me. And, I certainly have no authority to judge another person. I can hold my personal beliefs, “agree to disagree”, and still love another person who has belief’s different from my own. And I love “Andrew” dearly, he is one of the most kindhearted people I know, and I am truly glad he is in my life.
When you ask a class of kindergarten children, “What makes a good friend?” You often hear things like: “being nice”, “sharing”, “having fun together”, “helping me when I am sad”, and so on. When you ask an adult to name good qualities about a person, you often hear similar characteristics, such as: “kind”, “caring”, “empathetic”, “nonjudgmental”, “easygoing”, “honest”, “reliable”, “compassionate”, “loyal”, “helpful”, “unselfish”, among many others. We improve our own self worth by embodying good qualities in our own personalities. In other words, when we act in a hateful or egocentric manner, we actually damage our own self-esteem, in addition to the self confidence of others. It seems as though being tolerant, accepting, respectful, and thoughtful of others, is a win-win for both sides.
Differences, such as race, culture, lifestyle, personal convictions, knowledge, and opinions, can be viewed as unique characteristics among individuals. Diversity among people can make the world an interesting place, rather than reasons to hate each other. Variations among ideas, cultures, viewpoints, and so forth, give us things to talk about, and even debate. You can even stand up for your beliefs without knocking someone else down. There are tactful ways to get your point across. You will most likely never convince someone to join your way of thinking, by being belligerent, and hateful towards them. And you don’t have too convince anyone, you can still keep your cherished values and opinions, even if others don’t share them.
We all have the freedom to think for ourselves and speak our opinions. Every so often, there are even instances in which we feel it is important to defend our beliefs. But there is never a situation where we need to make someone feel less than, or spew hateful insults, in the process of defending our ideals. None of us are superior. I know sometimes our standards are dear to our heart, and we hold on to them strongly. But that’s just it, they are our own personal beliefs. Everyone has the the liberty to decide what they will believe in, that is why they are so often called “personal beliefs”.
So please, even if you don’t like someone, there is no need to be hateful. Words uttered, with a mean spirit, can hurt worse than being hit with a bat. The hateful words I heard last night were not even directed at me, but they may as well have been, because the memory of the look on that boy’s face is still making my heart ache. That image, will forever, be a stern reminder in my memory to think before I speak.
As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts on this topic, if you wish to share in the comments section below. Pretty please, with sugar on top, let’s just all remember to be nice when discussing these sensitive topics. Sometimes, I get upset or frustrated with someone, maybe it’s a waiter that brings me ice cold food, a slow cashier when I am in a hurry, or a hard to deal with coworker. I take a deep breath and always try to remember that this person, that I am frustrated with, is someone else’s son, daughter, mother, grandmother, father, etc… I wouldn’t want someone to say something hurtful to my child, my parents, my grandparents, or anyone that I love. So I try to choose my words wisely and treat others, not only as I would like to be treated, but also like I would want my dearest loved ones to be treated. I hope some day my relative will try to do the same, or at the very least learn to bite her tongue.
“You never know what someone else is going through. Be nice, it’s that simple.” –unknown