Did somebody say resolutions?

It’s that time of the year when a great number of people are still holding on to their resolutions. We often take pride in accomplishing our goals/resolutions solely on our own strengths. But our own efforts can only go so far.

It never hurts to have a sustaining resource from which to obtain whatever is required to conquer our resolutions or any task at hand. The source I heavily rely on is God, through His son Jesus. When I think some task is so straight forward that I can get it done on my own, I am reminded of my insufficiency once I get stuck and frustrated. The opposite always happens when I look to that Infinite Power to accomplish any goal I set for myself.

Why not resolve to lean on The Power greater than yourself to achieve your resolutions this year and the ones to come? Having a trustworthy ally to whom you can be accountable is also a plus. There’s amazing strength in knowing you’re not alone in endeavoring a challenging journey. One reason for that is we are not fashioned to be alone. In other words, we have an innate desire for having people around us, whether it’s for their sheer presence, their active support or both. A resolution without a strong foundation is more likely to fail when the going gets tough. This year, why not modify your strategies by not leaning only “on your own understanding”. A quick prayer for divine help always works; so does asking loved ones for their support. To a successful year of attaining your goals, dreams and resolutions!

 

Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD

Tis The Season!

The holidays (from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Year’s) are undoubtedly some of the most joyous times of the year. The excitement of spending quality time with loved ones, coupled with giving and receiving gifts, are priceless memories of a lifetime. Yet, it is the opposite for many people. While some eagerly await this time of the year, others dread its arrival because it is a loud reminder of their loneliness. The holidays for someone who has no family and friends to celebrate with are torturous, as it makes them face their predicament head on, with no way to avoid it. They are reminded of it everywhere they go, with holiday decorations in the streets and at every store, as well as Christmas shows/movies on almost every channel. As a result, they cannot wait for the season to be behind them.

If you are fortunate enough to have family and friends with whom you celebrate, don’t take it for granted. If you have lost some loved ones along the way, hold the ones you still have in your life a little tighter. Be grateful for them and cherish their presence more than the gifts you will interchange.

Tis the season to share the joy and blessings with those who are alone and those who can’t afford to engage in gift exchanges and lavish meals. Tis the season to reach out to the less fortunate (such as the homeless, impoverished families, and senior citizens) through a genuine conversation, a small gift (i.e. a cup of coffee and/or a meal), or simply a smile. “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do” (Mother Teresa). Tis the season to share the love of The One who was born on this season to save us all.

Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanza! Happy Hanukkah!

 

Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD

The Love Factor

          Upon hearing of someone facing such dire predicament as losing a loved one or fighting for their life, I can’t help but feel bad for them and their loved ones, as it is far from being an easy situation. I empathize with them because years ago I too was fighting for my life. So I struggle with not internalizing the troublesome headlines regarding brutal attacks, murder and abuse of power. I carry the grief of those affected by the reported tragedies; I also share their anguish in situations that are direct results of injustice.

          While many people are able to empathize with victims of accidents or natural disasters, it has been disconcerting to witness others’ insensitivity toward the demise of those in crisis. That applies to taking other people’s lives due to dissatisfaction in life or discrimination. No matter what anyone has done, it does not justify murdering them, as every life is precious. It is also inhumane to shoot a person or beat them to death due to their ethnicity and/or social rank. Whether the perpetrator is an authority figure or a civilian, it is unfair to have no consideration for another’s life.  In such instances, compassion seems to be nonexistent. In reading news reports about any tragedy, I am dumbfounded to see the comments, most of which are ridicules and insults toward the person(s) facing the tragedy. That triples when they are celebrities, who happen to be fellow human beings with the same feelings we all have (fear, hurt, and shame etc.). Somehow it becomes acceptable to speak of another individual facing a calamity in a derisive manner, with no concern as to what that person and their family must be going through in the moments following their tragedy. It was sad to read the comments following the news reports in a recent event. When one commentator suggested a bit of compassion toward the individual in question, one of the responses was “Save your compassion for someone who deserves it”. Everyone is deserving of compassion. We would all be wiped out long ago if it weren’t for God’s compassion toward us.

          What’s alarming is that the scarcity of sensitivity seems to go unnoticed. The decline in compassion is scary because it seems to have become very easy to cross over to the other side and stop caring without even realizing it; that is a sobering thought. Life could be so much easier and simpler if we were to sympathize and “laugh with those who are laughing, and mourn with those who are mourning”. Uplifting one another would benefit us more than tearing one another down, especially in times of crisis. A little love goes a long way. Love can bridge the gap between different views, race, religion, and socioeconomic status. In dealing with others, love can make us see a human being as opposed to a poor person, one who’s uneducated (or not educated enough), the color of their skin, or their level of popularity/fame etc. Love enables us to see beyond an individual’s undesirable actions to empathize with them. Love forces us to want to know all the facts before making any assumptions about our fellow men. Love prompts us to pray for a complete stranger as we drive pass an accident site, because it is a person whose loved ones would be devastated if they were to lose them. With love we see the person before everything else.

“Let my heart break for the things that break the heart of God”

 

 

Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD

Heart to Heart

           Every year I joyfully attend a women’s retreat, which never fails in helping me regroup. This year I not only got to regroup, but I also gained revolutionary insights about some personal storms I’ve been facing. I’m choosing to blog about it in the hopes that it would help others who are having similar experiences.

          The said personal storms involved my experience with a number of broken relationships. I was blindsided almost every time; all I kept thinking was “I thought we were okay?” Though things were going wonderfully for me in certain areas, the last few years have been emotionally taxing in this particular area. I’ve watched some friendships/relationships I deemed to be solid abruptly turn sour. These situations left me feeling hurt, disappointed, betrayed, and (to be honest) bitter. However, I made it a point to constantly run to the Father to ask him to rid me of all unforgiveness. According to the speaker at the retreat, “Bitterness is to rehearse something in your mind over and over. If you feel it when you talk about a past hurt, that’s bitterness.” On the other hand, “Forgiveness is to give up the wish to get even.” As I was listening to the speaker, it dawned on me that bitterness is as harmful as unforgiveness. Bitterness is not only toxic to one’s health, but it can be a distraction as well. When we are facing heartaches, our ability to function (in terms of tending to our daily duties) may be limited as a result. Therefore, distraction due to heartaches and feelings of bitterness becomes an enemy that keeps us in bondage; it also prevents us from fulfilling what we are called to do in life.

          Another aspect of the revolutionary insights I gained is my coming to terms with the hurt I experienced from people I loved and respected. I kept allowing others to emotionally abuse me through hurtful words, innuendos, and belittling (either subtly or not so subtly). One of the reasons is that I’m not one for confrontation, especially with people I care about. The other reason is that I tend to sweep others’ offenses toward me under the rug, which becomes a viscous cycle. While I can stand up for myself if a stranger offends me, it’s a whole other story with those for whom I care, because I cherish my relationships with friends and family. For the longest time, my way of dealing with being hurt by those I love was to cry my eyes out. In the meantime nothing gets resolved and the cycle continues. But, lately the increasingly blatant carelessness and disregard for my feelings began to wear my patience thin. As stated by T.D. Jakes, “There’s no relationship without reciprocity.” Therefore, I had to walk away from situations/relationships in which I was being made to feel devalued, while I continually strived to uplift, support, and respect everyone. It has been a painful but necessary decision to face such uncharted territory of parting with hurt-provoking associations. I made this choice as a means to preserve my self-worth. One of the breakthrough-statements of the speaker at the retreat was when you’re not emotionally strong (or depressed), you easily give others permission to mistreat you. I then made the connection with how I kept accepting the unnecessary disrespect and dismissive attitude from a number of individuals.

          It all boils down to one principle: “Know thyself”. Knowing oneself helps in refuting all statements that do not portray one’s true self. The speaker relayed the story about a man named Shimei who despised King David. David failed to remember who he was, based on what his creator instilled in him. Consequently, he began to agree with and went so far as repeating Shimei’s negative declarations about him (2 Samuel 16). When you know who you are in Christ, you don’t have to accept mistreatment, belittling, or accusation of any sort. Although the process had begun prior to the retreat, the speaker’s message reinforced and sealed my decision to value myself enough not to permit anyone to debase me. So, I left all the hurt up on that mountain, choosing to live in the freedom Christ died to give me. I most likely will face offenses again, but I don’t have to let it crush me to the point of carrying the burden of bitterness and unforgiveness. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3: 13

Action plan: If you’ve had similar experiences, ask God to help you to let go of any bitterness and resentment/unforgiveness incurred due to past offenses. Also, address the emotional hurt you have inflicted on anyone. Finally, resist the urge to ruminate on past/present offenses by remaining focused on what is positive and productive.

 

Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD

Letter to The Bully And Bullied

       As school is getting ready to begin, I can’t help but think of the issue of bullying. It is an overwhelming problem that many students face alone, sometimes resulting in harming themselves or even suicide. That’s how horrific the situation has escalated into in the last few years. I must bracket here that bullying does take place in other settings, such as the workplace, social settings, relationships, and sadly even in church settings. The dictionary defines a bully as a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people. Whenever you use force or scare tactics to intimidate someone, you are a bully. The individual being bullied often sinks into despair due to the fact that they not only feel helpless, but they are also convinced no one can help them either. The bully makes sure the one who is bullied think they can’t seek help, for the bully insinuates they would make the life of the bullied even more miserable; hence the sense of helplessness and hopelessness of the bullied.

Dear bully,

       This world can be so cruel. A lot of times you contribute to the emotional pain of someone who’s already struggling with either personal problems at home or other hardships you’re not even aware they are facing. You contribute to that kind of cruelty under the guise that “you’re joking”. If both parties aren’t laughing, it’s not funny. Your insensitivity can cause long-term damages to the other person’s self-esteem, thus preventing them from fully achieving their God-given potentials. Even worst, they may be crushed for life and unable to function at all because they internalized your callous and insensitive teasing. Are you prepared to live with the fact that your bullying could emotionally unravel another human being so badly that they become a shell of a person? Your tongue is a small part of your body which has the ability to disintegrate an individual physically and emotionally. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the person you’ve been bullying for just a moment. How does it feel? You feel small, isolated with nobody to confide in, and hopeless (just to name a few)? Multiply that by 100, based on the length of time the bullied has endured bullying from different people/situations. Before you do or say anything to another person, ask yourself how you would feel if the roles were reversed. If it doesn’t feel pleasant to you, then refrain from doing or saying it to someone else. Be mindful of how you treat others, because we all have to answer for everything we’ve done here on earth. Do unto others as you would like to be done unto you. And guess what, dear bully, it takes much more energy to be unkind and unpleasant than to be nice and respectful of others (no matter their socio-economic background or physical appearance). You should try being kind. Who knows, you might like it and even be happier! Underneath your condescending attitude lay great attributes that can be more beneficial to you and those around you. You CAN do better. This year, start fresh by exploring the goods you have in you!

Dear bullied,

You are not alone in your battle with bullies. Most importantly, there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t allow anybody’s obnoxious behavior to make you think it’s normal or that you deserve that type of treatment. You deserve the same amount of respect as everyone else, because you are valuable. In the words of singer Mandisa, “You’re worth more than gold”; don’t let anyone or circumstance make you think otherwise. As a matter of fact, your bully might have seen something in you that he/she would have liked to have himself/herself, prompting them to tease you as a form of retaliation. You’re probably thinking “What could I possibly have that they’d want?”. A lot of the times, you’re not even aware of the qualities that make you the unique and wonderful individual you are. In the meantime, dear bullied, your bully may simply be projecting their insecurities on you, just to make you feel as bad as they may be feeling deep down inside. The misguided bully says” “You’re ugly”, “You’re not good enough”, and so on and so forth. Your creator who truly knows you says: “You are precious in my sight”, “You are loved”, “You are beautiful”, “You are more than a conqueror”, “You can do ALL things through Christ who gives you strength”. Therefore, dear bullied, hold your head up and stand your ground against bullies. The bullies know it will all be over once you speak up or stand up to them; they will take notice and think twice before harassing you again. The world would be less bright without the many things you have to offer. Believe in yourself so you can start using the great qualities you possess. Don’t carry any resentment toward your oppressors; that will only hold you captive to the past. Go and conquer the world with fierceness. You can do it!

A beautiful soul that is reflected in one’s behavior and treatment of others is a prized possession worth acquiring. We should all aspire to Socrates’ own desire: “Grant that I may be beautiful inside. Let all my external possessions be in friendly harmony with what is within”.

 

Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD

 

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