steadfast

We’ve all experienced relationships whether it be friendships or lovers that were simply no good for our well-being. We tolerated them, argued with them, and shared experiences with them but most importantly, always stuck by their side. Rationally speaking, you wonder why you endure these emotional challenges. I have a motto, if you will, that “it’s not about how they make you feel, it’s about how you feel about them”. When you truly love someone for who they are, those feelings aren’t easily swayed by how they treat you and make you feel. Sometimes we wonder how in the world did we withstand those toxic relationships, abusive partners, or simply put up with people who negatively impacted our lives. We could be delusional, psychologically impaired, or clouded by manipulation but I believe that underlying all those are a deep sense of love for the other person that triumphs.

“We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Similar to love is joy. We tend to mistaken joy for happiness and lust for love. But joy is not happiness. Happiness is originated from the word ‘hap’ which is a favourable occurrence projecting a sense of pleasure. Happiness is situational. When you win a game of poker, you are happy but when you lose, you are not. Joy however, is not dependent on the outcome. Real joy comes from a sense of pleasure whether or not you win. Love is much like this concept whereby it is not necessarily dependent on how the other person makes you feel.

The problem with loving against all odds is that you can be open to others who devalue your morals and undermine your worthiness. Love prevails whether or not we are in a relationship but a relationship cannot exist without reciprocal love. Both parties require the kind of love that is exclusive of ‘how the other person makes me feel’ in order to be lasting. This is what is defined as steadfast love. Steadfast because you can love the other person at their worst, most intolerable, unpleasant moments not because how they feel about you but simply because of how you feel toward them.

same same but different

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

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I used to say, “people are life’s greatest disappointment”. If you think about all the time you’ve been disappointed it has always been because of people. Perhaps your boss is vindictive, your spouse cheats, your family member manipulates. Whatever the scenario is, it is always caused by people. A friend of mine suggested however that, some of life’s greatest moments are created by people. True, but pure joy can be found in many other things. The joy I get from climbing a mountain and viewing the landscape from above sometimes leaves me overwhelmed with bliss. Self induced happiness can be just as satisfying and much more reliable. But like Albert Eisntein puts it, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe…” To divorce ourselves of each other, between man and man, between man and nature, and void our connections as a whole is not only ignorant, it’s life threatening.

Brené Brown author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead says,“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”

I believe that underlying each of us, regardless of culture, skin colour, family background, social status, etc we are far more similar than we ever are different. Humanity knows no borders. We all want to be loved, to have a sense of belonging, to know we’re enough, and that life in all it’s disappointments and failures still has meaning. Things that hold much more value about our existence than qualities in which we differentiate ourselves. It’s part of our natural development to be able to distinguish differences however, the need to identify what is different stems from our need to determine what is familiar. A study by Bushnell et al in 1989 showed infants who were between 12 and 36 hours old demonstrated a clear preference for watching their mothers’ faces (rather than the faces of strangers). Other studies have replicated these results, and offer insight into the clues such as differences in face shape, hairstyle, and colour (Pascalis et al 1994) to tell people apart. As we grow older, we use these differences to segregate, judge, stereotype, and shame. We fail to see that when stripped away of all our individual qualities we are all the same.

That’s the real beauty of humanity, to see the differences but know we are all the same.

 

sharing is caring

“Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours” – C. S. Lewis

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Since we were little, our parents and teachers have told us “sharing is caring”. It’s so simple, yet, sometimes we let our fears of rejection, judgment, vulnerability, and acceptance hold us back from sharing. Personally, sharing is much more than just showing someone they are important. Sharing is life’s purpose.

“Nothing in life matters if it can’t be shared or given away.”

Today’s culture is very much focused on self-satisfaction. Doing what is best for yourself. If there are areas in your life that are lacking, focus on yourself first. We strive to become better, stronger, smarter, faster and driven by society to thrive on idealistic standards. It consists of wanting and having. You want a dream job, a high salary, a nice car, vacations, holidays, stuff and more stuff. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting these things but what does this all mean when you have them?

  • What is a dream job if it takes your time away from spending time with friends and family?
  • What is a high salary if the only thing you spend it on is accumulating things? A bigger TV, fancy dinners and luxurious vacations?
  • What is a nice car when your concern is how others perceive you in it?
  • What is a vacation when you spend 2 weeks laying on a beach somewhere drinking margaritas all day?

What I am trying to say is, why want what we want if we can’t share what we have? Your high salary paying dream job that allows you the luxury of travel and extravagant materials are only temporary self-satisfying fulfillments of joy. They don’t mean anything because at the end of the day, in terms of secular worldviews, we all end up in the same place. Dead. The problem isn’t about what we want; it’s why we want them. We’re so focused on having that we miss the true joys in life. For example, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people who have a strong desire to travel. They want to travel to as many places possible, see the world, live a nomadic lifestyle moving from countries to countries. I have no objection to travel, in fact, I would strongly encourage it but what does it mean? You get to see visit all these places to satisfy travel hungers, take on new challenges, experience different cultures and then die. It’s a bit selfish isn’t it? Something like travelling offers so much enrichment to our lives it would be greedy not to share it, talk about it, write about it, or maybe even teach it.

Shifting our mindset

When you ask yourself why you want the things you want, what are your answers? Is it for your satisfaction or is there a greater purpose?

I want to travel the world. Why?

So that I can share stories with my children and show them how nothing is truly weird, they just don’t confirm to normality. Normality being that the majority of societal views has agreed on for cultural acceptance. That Mexicans eat 12 grapes on New Years at the stroke of midnight. And in an Indonesian tribal custom, the young adolescents have their teeth shaven down to make them all even in belief that it will rid evil spirits.

I want to make more money. Why?

So you can buy a nicer car? A nice suit? A new watch? I say “yes!” buy these things, you’ve worked hard for them but that should not be the reason for why you would like to earn more money. How about take your family on a vacation? Or perhaps a higher salary to donate to charities or fund a research or project you believe in?

Even something as simple as, I want to learn how to cook. Why?

So you can be well fed or do you want to learn how to cook for your husband/wife/children? Or perhaps you want to be able to host feasts, parties and gatherings for your closest friends?

Erwin McManus, an American author, lecturer and pastor once said, “people are not generous because they are never truly grateful”. We say we’re grateful yet many of us live selfishly by supporting the things we want for ourselves. But life isn’t about you. If you lived in isolation, by all means, live for you. The downside to living for yourself is that you are not worth a whole lot. Your value exists because of the people in your life. Much like a piece of gold cannot establish it’s own worth without the people who see value in it. In essence, the world and the people around you give you more than you can comprehend yet you say, “I’m keeping this for myself”.

Sharing is caring and nothing in your life really matters until you care to share.

 

when we believe in something greater than ourselves

“Faith in Faith’ he answered. ‘It isn’t necessary to have something to believe in. It’s only necessary to believe that somewhere there’s something worthy of belief.”

– Afred Bester, The Stars My Destination

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So much of the 21st century culture is focused on ourselves. We do what we think is best for us. Forget X and Y generation, we’re labeled the narcissistic generation. The idea that ‘I’m better than you’ has become so normal it’s socially acceptable. Why rely on anyone when you can rely on yourself? Why trust anyone when people are the very root of life’s greatest disappointments? I’m just going to live for myself. Because I know what’s best for me. Sounds about right doesn’t it?

Unfortunately life consists of ups and downs. You can’t have the highs without the lows. We all have different experiences, opportunities, events, and challenges but one thing we share in common are those moments when we simply don’t have an answer to why things happen. Why did my family member pass away? Why did I lose my job? Why am I not succeeding? Why did my husband/wife leave me? Why am I sick?

There are two types of people when it comes to faith. Those who ask why and those who simply accept things for what they are. They don’t fathom beyond the very surface of events. These people generally lack empathy because asking why denotes the intention to understand conditions, reasoning, perspectives and so on. It is our very nature to try and understand the world around us. We create systems, laws, formulas, equations, and definitions to understand everything that exists through our senses.

Humble

Believing in something greater than ourselves says, “I don’t know all the answers”. It’s a humble choice to admit you don’t know. In today’s society, we fault when we don’t know. When your boss asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, it can hinder your professional skills assessment. If your children ask you questions you don’t know the answer to, it can inhibit their trust towards you. Admitting you don’t know takes courage. I believe everyone (with the exception of psychopaths who lack empathy) have questions about life. What is our purpose? Why am I here? Where we differ is what we put our faith in that answers those questions. For some people, they can answer these questions on their own – Individualism. For others it can be Scientology, Buddhism, Naturalism, Christianity, etc. Whatever it may be, these people have made a choice in faith that these ideas, theories, or truth(s) have provided sufficient response to their questions about life.

Hope

Hope does not come from within. You cannot create hope for yourself. Hope comes from the doctor who tells you he is confident in your surgery. Hope comes from knowing that your family will be there and that the sun will rise and set tomorrow. For some, hope comes from a higher spirit. When you say you know what’s best for you, you don’t need hope. Why would you? Believing in hope means believing in external factors that are not manifested from within. However, I am confident that in those moments of despair, grief, and loss, hope is your only option to treading life’s waters. You can’t believe in yourself and believe that hope exists because hope is greater than you.

So where does your faith lie? Can the people of our generation acquit their self-deception to knowing all of life’s answers? When we strip away everything we have – family, friends, job, hobbies, money, everything that we hold valuable, what is left?

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

– Thomas Aquinas

 

 

love is not a feeling

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

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What if we’ve got it all wrong? What if love isn’t a feeling? It’s a choice. A conscious decision we have to make to love someone we truly care about.

Sometimes we get mixed up with lust, attraction, affection and love. Love isn’t instantaneous. It endures time, overcomes obstacles, sacrifices, and is utterly selfless. Our culture have come to use the term love in such broad definitions it’s easy to love and say you love. I love pizza, I love riding a bike, or I love reading, and so on. We even confuse sex with love. When two people physically connect, that’s called love. Frankly, it doesn’t take a lot to tangle. Sex is not love, sex is sex. So what is love then? And how do we know when we’re in love? I am no expert on this, and I can’t say I know what love is. But in effort to uncover love at its true meaning, maybe we should eliminate everything we’ve come to accept of what love actually is.

Love is not a feeling.

The definition of a feeling is an emotional state or reaction. Love produces feelings but is not the object of such emotions. You can be sad, mad, or joyful from love but that is not what love is. We have expressions of love like, “I fell in love” or, “I can’t help it, I just love her” – like it’s some ditch that appeared and we simply fell into and can’t get out of. If that were true then how do people fall out of love just as easily as they fell in? If our love for others was simply based on how you feel towards them, how feeble is that relationship? Feelings change, moods change, and somedays we just don’t feel like loving.

Love isn’t about you.

The greatest love is selfless love. When you can put someone else in front of yourself and say, this person means more to me than I to myself. If you say you love someone for “everything you do for me”, or “I love it when we’re together”, or, “I love that you support me no matter what”, you only love the other person as an object of them in the condition of giving for you. You don’t love them entirely for who they are, you love them for who they are in the presence of being with you and what they provide for you. You really just love you.

Love is a choice

Matthew Kelly in The Rhythm of Life says “Everything is a choice, and our choices echo throughout our lives…and into history…and on and on into eternity. ” We are hardwired for love, acceptance and belonging. Even in our most primitive being, humans bonded with one another to increase the chance of survival. If we want everlasting love, it is a choice we have to make every single day. Because feelings falter, moods change, emotions come and go. But if we choose to love, there is no obstacle it can’t overcome. Choosing to love doesn’t just mean choosing to show affection, emotion, or simply reacting in a loving way. Choosing to love says, I choose to give you my time, I choose to be more patient, I choose to do what it takes to put you first, and I choose to try.

But is it worth it?

When you ask this question you are really asking, is this person deserving of my love? If knowing your first love is God’s love, do you think you are deserving of his love? Most likely the answer is no. But he offers it anyway, and freely to us sinners. If God can sow love on us despite our shortcomings, sins, and pitiful lives, how can we not share a love that is also selfless to others?

what women mean when they say ‘nice guys’

We hear this all the time. It has essentially become one of those hard press slogans of the dating culture. “Nice guys finish last”. You hear women say they just want a nice guy yet tend to date the a**holes, jerks, or simply no goods. This leaves single, decent, good natured men completely mind boggled. WHY? The answer is, when women say ‘nice guys’, our definition of ‘nice’ is not the same ‘nice’ as what men think. Confusing? Yes. More often than not women confuse themselves, but let me break it down for you.

What men think of a nice guy.

Someone who is well mannered, has a good job, respectful, romantic and courteous to women.

What women think of a nice guy.

Someone who is loving, well mannered, respectful but authoritative. We want men to know what they want and isn’t afraid go for it. Women like to be led. Even the strongest female leader will want her man to be that sounding guide. I believe you can be authoritative without being aggressive. You can be nice without being passive.

That’s the simple definition of it. The list of qualities we want in men go on and on but the point is, we don’t want someone who’s just nice. The problem with men’s definition of ‘nice guy’ is what women often perceive as weakness. Sure, it’s nice that you open our doors, go out of your way to pick us up, hold our bags, or take us to fancy dinners. These are gestures – bonus points for dating.

Say for example, your dinner date wants to go for sushi but Japanese cuisine just isn’t your thing. Please say you’d prefer to go elsewhere. Don’t be that nice guy that just complies because you’re not really doing anyone a favour in the long run. Assuming you want to be with someone who is understanding, I don’t think considerable prospects would be offended by your dietary preferences. What am saying is, don’t lose yourself in the midst of pleasing others. It’ll only lead you to what so many nice guys out there know as the ‘friendzone’.

am I missing something?

When it comes to men investing in relationships, a friend once told me, “we only put in 60-70% of the work and once we see that she’s the right one, we’ll go 100%”. This is a perfect example of vulnerability. We’re afraid to put it all out there in fear of rejection. Human beings shy away from the unknown. Brene Brown describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. We’re only going to put out just enough to hold on until we’re sure it can be reciprocated with equal or more. Our feelings have become an emotional commodity of varying values.

Everyone has a fear of something. Spiders, darkness, the end of the world, or zombie apocalypse. If someone were to ask me what my greatest fear is, I’d nail it down to vulnerability. In fact, I spent the past 4 years building my wall as high as possible.

“The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous. When we spend our lives pushing away and protecting ourselves from feeling vulnerable or from being perceived as too emotional, we feel contempt when others are less capable or willing to mask feelings, suck it up, and soldier on. We’ve to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgement and criticism.”

– Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transform the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Browns

We’re afraid to love yet we yearn for it. We expect it, and we hope that it arrives at our doorsteps ready for our embrace. Unfortunately, until you leave the house, no one is going to even know you even exist. That door we’re all hiding behind (or in my case a mile high wall), maybe even peeking out of for the chance of being loved is not going to reward you with the wholehearted connection we’re hardwired for.

But is it worth it?

Is that love, connection, partnership worth eveything we’ve got? Is it so remarkable that in order for us to attain it we have to risk the uncertainty and be emotionally naked? So far my answer is no. No, it’s not worth being vulnerable. I’m certain that those who have seen the end of the rainbow, experienced that defying love and connection will say otherwise. If you’re willing to risk it, you have a fighting chance of being rewarded, but to be honest, the reward doesn’t seem all that stellar. It’s a gamble. As Canada’s largest lottery corporation puts it, “Know your limits, play within it”.

Alpha

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to take the Alpha course during my stay in Sydney. A girlfriend of mine from Vancouver suggested it to me and to be honest, I decided to sign up for the course simply because I was unemployed and had nothing better to do. With no expectations or real understanding of what the Alpha course is, I attended my first session with seven others in various ‘journeys’ of their faith. Contrary to my peers, I did not grow up in a Christian household, I’ve never been to church, nor did I even know who Jesus was. I had questions about life and questions about this figurative almighty whom billions of people worship as God. The format of the Alpha course is quite simple. Once a week we would gather in a roundtable setting for dinner. This was one of the perks of the Alpha course and if you’re lucky like me, I had some delicious meals during those 10 weeks. Homemade pumpkin pies, chicken marsala, lamb stew, ice cream cake, yogurt salad, and so on. It only made the experience more inviting. Each week would focus on a specific topic carried out by a 25 minute Alpha video. Topics that we can relate to such as ‘Is there more to life than this?’, ‘How do we have faith?’ and what the Bible tells us about the life we are yet to know. After the video, we engage in a open and candid discussion. Encouraged that there is never a right or wrong answer and that we have the ability, without criticism, to express our own thoughts. Beyond the messages from the videos, the roundtable discussions were the most valuable part of Alpha. People shared experiences, thoughts, and understandings about what was said. How one message can be taken away differently by each individual was a lesson in itself.

It was only until after my first discussion session did I realize I had subconsciously expected to walk in with questions and walk out with answers. Unfortunately that was not the case. One of the most important things I’ve learned from the Alpha group is that regardless if you are a devote Christian or a non-believer, we all have questions about life. We are all searching for answers to life’s purpose, suffering, pain, grief, love, self control, and faith. Alpha isn’t Q&A (although I really wish it was that simple).

After 10 weeks of the Alpha course, I can truly say the experience has been enlightening. Never once have I felt like the courses were cultivating me to become a Christian, but only allowed me to deeply explore the possibilities of faith. What it means to believe in something greater than myself. Each night (except one) I left feeling excited. I wanted to share with others what I’ve learned. Ask people I knew who grew up going to Catholic school why they no longer attended church. Why do devote Christians pick and choose which sins to act and not act. There was a hunger (both literal and intellectual) feeling for more. When I finally had to fare goodbye to my last day at Alpha, I left feeling humble, stronger, safer, and happier? There is much more to learn beyond those 10 weeks. I can watch the same videos over and over and take away something new each time. Needless to say I am looking forward to attending the Alpha course yet again.

Join me at the upcoming Alpha Launch Party to experience what it’s really about.

alpha

Google is the answer

I always say, “Google answers all my life’s questions”. Which, for the most part is true. There is literally nothing Google cannot provide an answer to. Whether that answer is useful, helpful, correct, or accurate is up for your better judgement. With the rise of the internet, information has become so easily accessible. It’s all about content, content, content. Tech companies are booming left, right, and centre to provide platforms for users to share content. In one single word, Google is powerful. Unfortunately, with so much information available, users are not taught how to decipher what’s true or false. Children today are taught to use these resources but fail to learn that you simply can’t “take it for what it is”.

So often I witness this through information shared on my Facebook feed. Friends sending articles citing “Drinking soy milk can cause cancer”, “High levels of radiation found in Pacific seafood”, or “Study finds President has the lowest IQ in Country’s history”. We read these, pass them along, and share them on various social media networks. There are identifiable evidence(s) that can make you question whether what you read is true or false. Things such as the source, website, or article writer. I would encourage you to read the “About” page. Who’s behind all this information? Perhaps find out more about the writer. What’s his/her background? Unfortunately people fail to filter even the most basic clues of identifying whether or not information comes from a credible source. Let me say this loud and clear, websites such as http://www.realfacts.com, http://www.thetruthaboutscience.com, http://www.propolitics.blogspot.com (I made these up) are NOT credible sources! Registering for a URL name is just as easy as picking up orange juice from your local grocer. In fact, it’s easier. You don’t even have to leave your house. Similarly it’s convenient, simple, and costs little money.

We cannot deny that what the media shares is selective. It’s a fact that any beholder of information understands. CNN can choose what they want and don’t want to tell you. However, the level of playing field is not quite the same. Media conglomerates, representing associations, and Government agencies have a duty to provide facts. In a world filled with information from everyone about everything, we too need to be selective in what we believe. If the article about the President having the lowest IQ in history can only be found on a several websites, none of which are from a major media provider, you’d have to questions if some college student in his basement got really bored, or perhaps was paid by a representative from the opposing political party to spark some media gossip. Who knows. Whatever the reason is for people to release false information on the internet, we must learn to unravel the truth or simply not accept it and move on.

The above image is an example of something that recently popped up on my Facebook feed. Over 50,000 users liked/shared this article from http://www.worldtruth.tv. 50,000! In conclusion, we as recipients of these information have a duty to do our research. Read, question, understand and accept, because what we gain from the internet is far more valuable than what we have to doubt.

who are you?

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I have just finished reading Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey. A millennial upfront take on how women should behave in order to get the man they’ve always wanted. His realistic approach reads like a slap in the face. One of the very first thing Harvey writes about is the mind set of a man.

“There is no truer statement: men are simple. Get this into your head first, and everything you learn about us in this book will begin to fall into place. Once you get that down, you’ll have to understand a few essential truths: men are driven by who they are, what they do, and how much they make. No matter if a man is a CEO, a CON, or both, everything he does is filtered through his title (who he is), how he gets that title (what he does), and the reward he gets for the effort (how much he makes).”

The moment I read “title” I began to think if both men and women have titles. A single character that we are identified as. For example, take a moment and think about your circle of friends. There might be John the Doctor, Jessica the piano teacher, Fred the funny guy, Stacy the loud one and Lucy the stay-at-home mom. We often identify a person by one particular characteristic, position, or role they play that dominates everything else we associate with them. I’m sure Fred the funny guy isn’t just funny, he may also be an engineer, a father and an avid beer connoisseur. What makes his humour stand out above all other attributes?

Your identity is determined by how the greater part of society will illustrate you. Of course, this varies depending on the context, setting, and nature of conversation. At work Fred may be referred to as the engineer, at home, a father, and in social gatherings, the funny guy. What I’m saying is there’s a bigger picture that encompasses our identity. One that triumphs above all other attributes that make up who we are. I would challenge you to first write down who you think you are (in a single word/phrase) when people make reference to you. Are you a lawyer, jock, guy who never has a girlfriend, or girl who’s always on the dating list? I encourage you to ask around. What do your friends, coworkers, family members think of you? When you begin to see a pattern, that’s your identity. That’s who you are when people ask, which ________ (insert your name here) are you talking about? How does this differ from what you thought of yourself?

The French noble and writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld once wrote, “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.”