Galatians 6:4, 5 - Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
When people talk about an unpleasant situation, some can always find that silver lining. But the rest of us. Well. When something unpleasant is happening, we don’t just see the glass half empty. We can’t even see that a glass exists in the first place!
No matter what may be happening, good or bad, the pessimist always looks at the bad and can’t believe that things will ever work out. They believe if we don’t expect that something good will happen then we won’t be disappointed.
A lot depends on our past experiences. As children, we learn quickly whether we’re one of the “cool” kids or someone that gets stomped on.
As adults, pessimists try to overcompensate for their lack of “coolness” by finding shortcuts, cheating and lying their way through believing that they’ll get the next promotion instead of their coworkers. Pessimists still try to achieve that fame which will make them look cool. But they never quite get there. And this coping mechanism turns into pessimism.
It’s here that the pessimist learns to lower his expectations in life. After all, if we don’t expect that something good will happen then we won’t be disappointed. Right? I don’t think so.
Even in the dark valley of our broken hearts there still beats a longing for a different outcome in life. So how does one drop the pessimism and transform into an optimist?
First, let’s go back to the food chain and see what we can learn -- Even at the bottom of the food chain there’s still that silver lining. Pessimists discover that they’re not the only one down there. They learn that together they’re not a disappointment after all. And they don’t have to cheat and lie their way to the top.
Next, we can learn that it’s never too late to turn our life around. It may hurt when disappointment greets us at the door, but it doesn’t mean that it has to permanently live with us. Don’t drop your expectations. Believe that good is just around the corner. Keep your eyes and ears open looking for how you can grow through the situation.
Third, be aware of the affect other people can have on your attitude. There’s power in those pessimistic friends of yours. Have you ever noticed that when you’re around a pessimist that pretty soon you’re riding the same train to that cloudy sky?
Forth, get some help. There’s no shame in admitting we can’t get through a bad situation alone. Instead of worrying how bad you might look to your boss, ask for help. He might surprise you by commending you for not being afraid to get his advice. This will show him that you’re in it for the long haul.
Psychologytoday.com also sheds some like on the problem of becoming an optimist instead of a pessimist in their article, “Becoming an Optimist – How to Turn Away from the Dark Side.” The article suggests that when you find yourself saying something negative, think of something positive to say and search for positive aspects of negative situations.
Take a look at the Bible verses above. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just do the best you can do in a situation. If you give your best and turn the outcome over to God, he will surely make a way for you to carry your load and to carry it well. Don’t just see the glass half-empty or half-full. Your glass is always ready to become a full glass and to turn you from a pessimist into an optimist. And you will soon believe that if you do expect something good to happen, we don’t have to worry that we’ll just be disappointed. Learn to see the good.
Isaiah 63:9 - In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Stress is an everyday occurrence in our lives. It can be a “good” kind of stress like getting a new job or having company over for dinner. However, it can also be a “bad” kind of stress like losing a job, not being able to pay your bills, or having a flare-up of chronic pain.
But there is also a third kind of stress, and it’s called “secondhand stress”.
Have you ever been at the airport waiting for your flight and a guy at the end of your row of seats is on his phone and obviously stressed out? You can tell by his voice and body language.
So, can you catch another person’s stress like you can catch the flu?
The answer is yes. Stress can be passed on through things like facial expressions, the sound of their voice, odor and touch.
It’s hard enough to avoid getting stressed when you’re in difficult circumstances, but you can also get stressed just by being around someone who is stressed or by watching something stressful on TV. What’s on TV then can become another example of secondhand stress.
Distress is another concern. This is when you’ve experienced stress on a daily, lengthy time period. This kind of stress has negative effects on the body. Examples are: stomach aches, muscle tension, headaches, raised blood pressure and mental effects such as anxiety and depression.
Hbr.org in their article, “Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress,” tells us what Secondhand Stress is and how to keep yourself from being caught in it. Some of their suggestions include change your response by having a positive mindset about stress. Another idea is to inoculate yourself against stress by thinking of three things you can be thankful for in your day.
In the Bible verse above we see that even God was distressed as the Israelites were distressed. He feels what we feel. You’re not alone in your distress. God’s love and mercy can lift us up away from anyone’s secondhand stress and place us back onto green pastures of the heart and mind.
Psalm 143:8 - Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Out the front window you can see your car parked in the driveway. That’s the same place the car bedded down for the night for many years. Yet sitting there, with no one in front of the wheel, the car is alone.
Alone. That’s a word that you’ve felt for some time yourself. You’ve been stranded on a desert island, because you can no longer come and go as you please.
I know what that’s like, because I’m the one looking out my window, but the car’s not just parked there alone. It’s gone. Someone else has it. And with the loss of my car came a loss of my independence.
But it’s a choice I had to make. About three years ago I developed double vision. There were many things that the doctors tried to help my vision go back to normal. But it hasn’t.
I thought I’d be independent again after purchasing new glasses. And yes, the glasses did help some. But not enough. So here I am, looking out my window and feeling alone.
Now I have to depend on other people to take me where I need to go – the grocery store, church, to pick up prescriptions and to doctor’s appointments. Depending on other people has not always been easy for me, because of my past. It’s really a trust issue.
Trusting the person behind the wheel. Trusting that they’ll get you to your appointments on time. Trusting that this is what they want to do not something that’s been thrust upon them that they feel they have to do, “their duty”.
Many people have been kind to me and have supported my mixed feelings about needing someone else’s help. I look at them in the eye and wonder if they think I’m in some way faking what my body is going through and that I want to be sick. Just so that I have someone to see. To talk to. To feel for a few moments like someone cares.
So if I break through my trust issues and lay my needs at the feet of another person, it has been my goal to not just take their help, but to also give something back in return. My gift back to the people who support me is to encourage them. Just because they have the physical ability to drive you somewhere, or clean your house or cook some meals, they have needs, too. I watch for small opportunities to clearly tell them how important they are and what their service means to me.
Leanonwe.com in their article, “5 Simple Ways to Help Your Senior Trust a New Caregiver,” provides us with some suggestions you can take to ease a new caregiver into the care for a senior. Their suggestions can also apply to someone who has in-home support service but not a live-in caregiver. First, they suggest that you involve other family members. Get the help on some responsibilities from other family members. This can help the senior get used to trusting other people to help them. Along the same vein, transition slowly. Plain a visit from the new caregiver to simply get to know the senior. This will help with trust issues as they build confidence in this new person in their lives. The family should share with the senior their feelings about the process and ask for the senior’s feelings as well. Feeling needed and involved, rather than helpless, is an important element of a senior’s emotional heath.
When we trust in God’s unfailing love, he will show us the way to go. And that means he will also direct us toward someone we can trust to help fill in the gap for us.
Luke 6:45 - A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
“Well, Susan, it’s time to hang up for now. We’ll talk later.”
“Ok, Denise. Have a good day. Bye.”
Let’s take a look at this conversation. When you end a phone call do you say your “goodbye” with a monotone voice, a depressed goodbye with a downward tone, or with your voice lifted?
I’ve thought a lot about this lately and have been paying attention to my phone conversations. I think the tone of your voice at the end a phone call matters.
I know you may be depressed, angry, or have had a really bad day. You don’t feel like being positive.
And I’m not suggesting that we try to hide what’s going on. Sometimes there are very valid reasons why our voice may be shaking as in the loss of a loved one or frustration with a project that keeps hitting roadblocks.
However, often our feelings are expressed in our words and how we say them. Our communication with others is not just about what we say but how we say it that counts.
And, since we can’t see the reactions of a caller through facial features or body language, the words we speak, and the tone of our voice is that much more important. It may be the only thing we have to go on. The same is true of the listener becoming the speaker. It shows the attitude you’re showing to that person.
While speech is how you use words, voice is how you create sound. To your listeners, your voice is a part of who you are and what you believe.
Wikihow.com in their article, “How to Develop a Friendly Tone of Voice,” talks about some of the things that affect how we speak including changing your speaking patterns by slowing down your speech as well as important words in your sentence should be spoken in a higher pitch while lower pitches can show calmness to your listeners and will keep people engaged while you speak. In addition, don’t just keep the conversation one sided. Allow your listening time to speak into the conversation as well.
The Bible verses above talk about our hearts and that what we speak is out of the overflow of our hearts. What’s inside finds its way outside. So let’s paint a picture with our voice that we want to pass on to our listener.
Psalm 44:21 - Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?
All across America people are sitting in churches, PTA meetings, in cubicles at work and at the dinner table at home. They put smiles on their faces trying to hold onto control and not give even a hint of the secret they hold inside.
So what is this secret? Two words – mental illness.
Whether it be depression, anxiety, PTSD, or Bipolar Disorder they all hold a stigma. Many don’t know how to deal with it when it affects a friend or loved one. They want to pretend it doesn’t exist, so they pull away. If you’re the one who has a mental illness you may not know how to handle it either. And it’s almost like people treat you as if it’s somehow your fault and that you can “snap out of it” if you want.
There is another great secret: Mental illness also affects church pastors. Pastors rarely talk about mental illness while those sitting in the pews who have a mental illness would like them to open up more.
But thankfully this isn’t on a one-to-one basis. Many pastors have compassion for those who are mentally ill, just as they comfort those living with physical illness. However, they appear to find it difficult when speaking to a larger audience.
Perhaps it is difficult for pastors to speak about mental illness from the pulpit, because as I said above, many also suffer from some form of mental illness.
So, what’s a person or a church to do? Let’s take a look at the Bible. God knows our secret struggles and has compassion and comfort waiting to touch our hearts, just as he’s been touching hearts throughout biblical times.
There are many people in the Bible who struggled with mental health issues. Moses, Elijah and Paul thought about suicide (Numbers 11:15, 1 Kings 19:4; Philippians 1:20-26). Jacob, Job and David went through seasons of depression (Genesis 37:35; Job 3:11 and Psalm 38:6). Jesus was also among those who felt emotions like we do including anger, distress and sorrow. Paul, one of the great heroes of our faith was not healed from all of his struggles. Whether they were physical or mental we don’t know. But we do know he cried out for help, and it wasn’t God’s will for him to be healed (2 Corinthians12).
I know it’s a risk, but never be afraid to cry out for help from God and from others. Keeping your mental illness hidden in a secret place only keeps you from being the only person who can help someone else who is suffering. Take the risk. I did. And when I did, I found others who had seasons, and sometimes lifetimes, of struggling with mental health. God meant for us to be together in our efforts to remove the stigma of mental health and bring the help others are waiting for. It’s time to take action and dismiss the great secret of mental illness.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
In the beginning there was a thought. It wasn’t much really. Just thinking about what someone said to me that I thought was hurtful. All day I tried to push that thought away, but it kept knocking at my door.
Pretty soon a friend called, and I told her about that thought. I thought just having someone else empathize with me would make me feel better and I could let the thought go. But it didn’t help.
Then a few days passed and someone else said something to me that I thought was hurtful. This time I skipped past talking to a friend about it. I took that thought and tied it around my neck, as if it were a necklace, with the two hurtful thoughts hanging down the front.
Yet, as I went through the next few days, I found myself avoiding people. I didn’t want anyone else to hurt me. I thought I was protecting myself. Soon it’s what I did every time I was around other people. A week or two later, with those thoughts around my neck, I found myself angry and resentful of other people walking around looking so happy.
Everything inside began to harden like cement. I stood there stuck. My heart became hard. No longer was I known as the person who smiled no matter what happened, who could find the bright side even in the darkness. What had happened to me? Well here’s a possible answer:
Watch your thoughts;
they become your words.
Watch your words;
they become your actions.
Watch your actions;
they become your habits.
Watch your habits;
they become your character.
Watch your character;
it becomes your destiny.
--- Chinese Proverb, author unknown
Take a look at the article on huffpost.com titled, “Be Careful of Your Thoughts: They Control Your Destiny.” In the article, it describes the progression of how our negative thoughts affect our lives. It is true that our thoughts can control our destiny by causing our hearts to harden.
I did some soul searching and prayed that I would be released from who I had become. And though it still grieves my spirit when someone says something hurtful to me, I don’t let the thought take control of even one day. There’s so much in this world that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
We can’t let negative thoughts take over our lives and harden our hearts. When something difficult happens, acknowledge that it happened, but also try to see something else around you that can bring beauty to your life. I have and hope that you can, too.
Psalm 29:11 – The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
We are drawn each day to make a choice: Will you complicate your day more than it needs to be or will you choose a simple life.
I know people who live in my apartment complex who live a simple life. The highlight of their day is congregating while waiting for the mail to arrive.
However, do they want that simple life or were they thrust into it by the choices they made for years?
And what does a simple life look like anyway?
It’s never too late to begin to move into a more peaceful lifestyle. Start enjoying what you have instead of wanting what’s out of your reach.
How do you take a chaotic situation and bring peace to it?
Find some other ways to life a simple life in purewow.com’s article, “How to Live a Simple Life (and Let Go of All the Crap Bogging You Down.” A couple of their ideas include declutter to lessen distractions. Clutter hinders your ability to focus and the way your brain processes information because it’s constantly competing for your attention. Here’s another way, start saying “No” to requests to do something another person wants you to do. This will help you stop being busy all of the time. And here’s one more on the list, stop multitasking to truly focus. You tend to make more mistakes when multitasking.
Did you find any of the above ways helpful to learning how to have a simple life? If not, read the article above and see if any seem reasonable to attain.
Choosing a more simple life can bring peace. And as the Bible verse above says, God gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace. Strive to change your life to a more peaceful one. Then you may find you have fewer bouts of anxiety and more time focusing on what matters the most to you.
Ecclesiastes 2:21-23 – What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
I didn’t like what a friend told me. He said that I must like stress because you certainly have enough of it.
“I don’t like stress,” I said to myself. But was there truth to what my friend said? I did some soul searching and decided to write down all the stresses in my life.
Some stresses were small things:
Then there were the big stresses:
I thought back to what my friend had said about liking stress and I still didn’t agree, but I decided when confronted with a small or large stress that I would take a deep breath and walk back from it and not let it ruin the good things I was experiencing.
In order to find out if we’re a stress addict we must take a look at what stress has to offer. Stress releases those “fight or flight” activating hormones into our body to get through a tough spot. It releases energy that can cause a temporary high. Once your body gets used to this feeling, the body craves more. So you take on that extra job when there really isn’t any time for you to do it. You take on a task at work and are on the job habitually building up overtime. The upside of this scenario is that the overtime when bring in more money.
But stress takes a toll on our body. The brain will continually demand more of those “feel good” chemicals in order to maintain the same stress level. Soon we become addicted to those chemicals.
Talkspace.com in their article, “Can You be Addicted to Stress?” suggests ideas on how to calm your stress level down like meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, working out, and guided imagery.
Take a look at the Bible verses above. You can see that even in Bible times people got stressed out. And as it says, what do we get for all our grief and pain? It’s meaningless. We may feel like we’re making a true contribution to society, but it isn’t worth the damage it does to our relationships and to our bodies. Even at night our minds don’t rest. It’s time to reexamine your life to see if there are areas in your life where you’ve become addicted to stress. We start to like stress and that’s why so much of it is in our lives. It’s time to stop the stress and relax.
1 Timothy 5:13 – Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.
It’s good to have friends.
It’s good to have family that care about you.
But what if your friends or family have a tendency to tell you what to do? Well, that can cause you to think less of yourself and stop trusting your judgment.
Every time you speak to them, it feels like they try to pick you apart. It feels like no matter what you do it isn’t good enough.
They always think that they know better than you, and after all, aren’t they just showing how much they care about you? Wouldn’t it be better if you gave in and did what they were trying to tell you to do?
No. Absolutely no. It is important to ask others their opinion on an important decision, but to have to get their opinion on every little thing. No.
So how do we put an end to their prying without hurting their feelings? Let’s take a look at an article on psychologytoday.com in their article, “9 Ways to Handle Nosy People.” Though the article has to do with questions people ask you who are just plain nosy, the article can give us some clues on how we can put an end to people prying into our lives. One way is to always tell the truth. Telling lies when trying to prevent people from knowing what you’re doing isn’t going to end well. You’ll run out of lies to cover up lies and you’ll have to tell the truth anyway. This may cause people to try to tell you what to do even more strongly. Also, I like this one: use deflection. Change the subject. If there are other people where you are try shifting your conversation to them.
The article helped me see that by changing your focus by subject or finding others can help you feel better about yourself, because you are in charge of the conversation and not the one who’s prying.
So as the Bible verse above tells us, let’s not be idle and prying into someone’s life and trying to tell them what to do all of the time. In turn, don’t be the person who pries into other’s lives. Be a good conversationalist, but don’t let it become a heavy pressure on the one who is trying to do the best they can do in the situation they are in.
James 3:6 – The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Regret is one thing in life that can literally hold you back. You have a conversation with a family member, and it starts to spin out of control. Words fly out of your mouth and out of the mouth of the one you’re speaking to. Then out it comes – Words that you can’t take back.
There you have it. It’s engraved in stone and there’s no way to erase it. How do you get past this?
Here’s another wrinkle – What if you have no idea what you said or did that has caused this large breach in your relationship. You scan your memory banks wondering which memory is from the day you hurt the one you love.
I think a lot has to do with whether or not the person you care about will forgive you when you ask them too.
But forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget what happened. Forgiveness is for you, the one who was hurt. If you harbor bad feelings toward someone it may not upset them, but it can continue to upset you, the one who was hurt. The only way to freedom is to forgive the person who vomited out hurtful words, and then begin the process of reconciliation because sometimes there is hope and there is a way back. You can’t take your words back, but you can let go of the past and wait patiently for your family member to heal and are ready to move past the words that were spoken.
Sbs.com.au in their article, “Separated and Hurting: How to Reconnect with Estranged Family Members,” talks about how no individual is perfect and neither is anyone’s family unit. Family estrangements occur in all cultures. When trying to decide whether you can reestablish some form of conversation with the hurt party, you have to decide if it’s a good idea to open up old wounds. You need to look past thinking that you’re going to have a happy family where everyone gets along. We may need to realize that some families never reconcile.
I know this is difficult to face, but it is a possibility that there truly is no going back. It all may feel like it’s out of control. The article above also discusses steps to take if you want to reconnect such as it will take time and effort to rebuilt trust and respect. Considering family counseling may be the best choice for all parties.
Our tongues truly are a fire that can corrupt the whole body and set the whole course of one’s life on fire. That tongue may cause a situation where you can’t take back your words once they are spoken and regret may put up a stop sign preventing either party from moving forward. It is here, in the midst of the storm, that life has a chance to more forward, or where you may have to accept that your family is going to remain estranged. But there is hope. God can send out a life raft to provide a way out of the storm and find love in his presence where you don’t find any in your family.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.