"I gave all my oxygen to people that could breathe
I gave away my money and now we don't even speak
I drove miles and miles, but would you do the same for me?
Offered off my shoulder just for you to cry upon
Gave you constant shelter and a bed to keep you warm
They gave me the heartache and in return I gave a song
It goes on and on
So before I save someone else, I've got to save myself"
-Ed Sheeran "Save Myself"
I believe we all innately have the capacity to empathize. Some of us find it easier to connect with others' pain or others' joy. Some of us are so caught up in our own struggles that we fail to notice the suffering going on all around us. And some of us go past empathy to the point of drowning ourselves in others' problems that we have become blind or immune to our own.
Nevertheless, empathy is a powerful thing, and a beautiful one at that. It allows us to just for a moment experience with another the strongest expressions of their emotions, tap into something we perhaps do not understand, broaden our perspectives, and see beyond ourselves. When we empathize, we cannot help but be changed, and I like to think the other person's pain is lessened a least a little. I know personally that pain hurts a little less when there is someone who understands.
It was a lesson that took me years to learn. We cannot solve everyone else's problems. The most we can usually do is listen, offer what little wisdom we have to share, and allow them to feel less alone because suffering is lonely. However, I easily get caught in dwelling in people's problems. More recently I've realized that for me it is a distraction from my own complications and my own struggles and insecurities that are easier to ignore when they are pushed behind everything else.
How can we expect to heal others when we ignore the brokenness inside ourselves? Obviously not all kinds of broken are easily healed, and sometimes it's those that are the most broken that heal the most. As honorable as this is, it's incredibly draining. Often we aren't fully equipped to be reaching out to others when we haven't healed our own kind of broken.
I want to close these short thoughts with a little self reflection... Ed Sheeran's song really hit me tonight. I realized that my exhaustion at the end of the day is because I am constantly finding myself dwelling in the problems of others. While the ability to empathize is something to be treasured, it's quite another to dwell. It's an easy distraction from some of my own insecurities that aren't as easy to address.
So before going out and solving the problems of the world, make sure you know if the problem solver has their own problems relatively solved. Remember that at the end of the day, its your own insecurities, your own struggles, you have to face when you wake up in the morning. It's much easier to wake up and begin touching others' lives in a positive way when you can look at yourself and look at the world with confidence.
I think while God was making the world, He took one look at Adam and thought, "This world is going to be too boring. I think I'll make woman to make things a little more interesting." At least we know that an omniscient God knew what He was getting Himself into.
As I've mentioned before, I love the word remarkable. And girls have a remarkable way of tearing each other down. I hate the word remarkable in this context but it fits quite well. We, as the female species, have a talent not derived from our maker for using our words and actions to scratch at each other's hearts and leave scars which we cannot even fathom except by feeling the scars on our own. I don't know what it is about our nature, human nature in general, that drives us to bring others down to our level when we are in pain or suffering. Somehow we think that if we have to be in agony, it will somehow be lessened by taking others down with us.
I've met people before whose scars I recognize simply from looking into their eyes. The scars of self harm, insecurity, bullying, depression, and so many others can be so prevalent. I am terrified of them and yet drawn to them at the same time. These scars can cause people to viciously attack the unblemished places on our hearts, and opposingly it can also make them some of the strongest people I have ever met.
Most of the scratches and cuts on our hearts never really go away. Sometimes they become inflamed and infected again and other times they fade into the background. But we all have the cuts that will always hurt at least a little bit. This pain should be a reminder to us of the pain in the world we live in and the desperate need for the love we can provide.
I laughed a little reading that. I give advice much better than I follow it. I've left countless scars on people, as have all of us. Every scratch we leave on another cuts a small mark on our own hearts, and those marks add up. Sometimes I think those are the marks on my heart that hurt the most.
But this wasn't a testimony to the awfulness of the human condition. Certainly at times in my life I've had very little, if any, faith in humanity. However, time and time again I have been reminded of the human capacity to heal, so much stronger than the capacity to hurt. We girls have mastered the art of picking up our own broken pieces just enough to put others' back together again when they themselves cannot. Get yourself some friends like mine who in the midst of their own broken hearts have found nothing less than miraculous ways to mend mine. And sure they aren't perfect. In their own unintentional and sometimes intentional ways they have left some scratches on my heart as I'm sure I have on theirs. But those scars are a reminder to me of the beautiful ways in which they managed to heal me. And this is nothing short of a God given talent and gift.
love the word serenity. I'm a wordy kind of person where I love finding the perfect word to describe something, a word that embodies exactly what I am trying to express. And some of those incredible words are absolutely beautiful, like the word serenity.
People talk about the loud and noisy and busy world we live in all the time. Some people absolutely live for the noise, they relish it. And being an outgoing person myself, I admit myself that I love conversations and doing interesting things with different and unique people. Quite simply, I love people. But people are very loud. Even quiet, shy people are loud. Their silence and quietude is almost louder than noisy and talkative people like me. When you live life constantly thinking about the next thing and the next conversation and the next activity, you rarely stop to truly listen to yourself. If you believe like I do that there is a deep reason everybody is on this planet, then you understand like I do that everybody has something incredible to say and contribute but before we can share that with the world, we have to listen to us ourselves.
Though it's rather a contradiction, I find it quite easy to hide in conversation. I hide from myself and God as well in many things, including conversation. I prefer tuning into the busy world that tells me to do what I want instead of myself and my inner thoughts and consciousness which is telling me something that I don't want to hear: this planet that I both love and despise simultaneously is WRONG, that I am wrong to listen to it and throw myself into it.
And then we return to serenity, "the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled". I laughed the first time I read the definition. I'm only fifteen but oh to be UNTROUBLED again. I can't distinctly point out a time where I have been absolutely and completely untroubled since what I call the point of "awareness" in my life when I began to actually understand and comprehend and think about important things. For a time I didn't like the word serenity since it felt like an impossible ideal to reach. But truly, it isn't an impossible thing.
I am no expert in this (believe me), but I am working on ways to teach it to myself. I am such a goal oriented person, that I become terrified when I take a step back and realize I'm not in any way enjoying the present moment. Serenity is the way in which I've discovered I can do that. For the first time in my life, I search for serene moments and time where I am completely tuned in to myself and my thoughts. Doing that allows me to then write down my thoughts here.
Calmness is such an essential part of serenity. Find somewhere where you can truly be alone. Personally, I've found the best way to "tune in" is by focusing on the white noise that is always present, the sound of the waves, the air conditioner, the wind, perhaps the physical silence. I allow myself to focus on the first, most random thought train that rolls through my mind. And I dwell on it for a while. Sometimes our consciousness and our instinct (guided by God) gives us the best advice we could ask for. Without worrying or being anxiousness and just simply BEING and THINKING, you start understanding yourself more than you ever thought you could. It rarely occurs to us that at some level, we have to meet ourselves. We and God are the only two beings we absolutely have to live with for the rest of our lives, shouldn't we be able to know and understand them?
I read a quote today (randomly on a shopping bag) that said something along the lines of "your outlook on life is a reflection of the way you view yourself." If any of you have ever had a mind blowing moment, you'll understand my description of this revelation of mine as a small, personal epiphany. It's often small things that strike us the most. For me it's usually a random quote on Pinterest, or something that is casually said to me. I'm sure I will be discussing a number of other epiphanies like these in future blog posts, though you likely may have already thought similar things yourself.
To return back to the epiphany at hand, I certainly don't consider myself a negative person though I wouldn't go as far as to describe myself as a positive person at all times, as few if any at all are. That being said, I have a number of dissatisfactions in life which I often blame on my circumstances, rather than myself (egotistical, I know). The first time I read the much afore mentioned quote it didn't quite register with me until I really began to think about the problems in my life that can deter my naturally positive outlook into a negative view. My dissatisfaction with my family isn't necessarily because of any fault of theirs. Rather, the deeper root is due to my dissatisfactions with my own failures as a daughter and sister. It's a similar situation with my friendships. My occasionally negative views aren't due to any wrongdoings of my friends, but my faults in being a good friend.
So instead of blaming others for our personal problems that lead to negative life outlooks, we really should be looking to ourselves and bettering our own actions in order to improve the way we view the world around us.
"Joy is the serious business of heaven." - C. S. Lewis
I thought I'd begin this blog page with one of my absolute favorite things to talk about: joy. Joy is an underrated word. People often substitute the word happiness in its place, when really, the two are not synonyms at all.
Statistics experts say that about 30% of the American population consider themselves "happy", a rather depressing percentage if you ask me. However, I think if our world understood happiness and joy a little better, we all would be a lot more happy and joyful. Up until a few weeks ago, I considered happiness to be a destination. If I worked hard in school, put all my effort into projects and extracurriculars, did well on testing, got into a good college, got a good job, worked hard and got promoted, made money until I retired, retired and then...died? I thought I could conclude this plan of "if I do all this," with "then I will be happy". But the "ifs" never ended. I had my life planned out, but there was no stop for happiness along the way. It was quite honestly a very sobering thought. At this low point, I was quite convinced that I would never be happy. I was going to live my life like any average person, and someday die. Then the darker thought occurred to me which comes to all people at some point in their lives which is what on earth am I doing this all for?
If you were living like I was, if happiness was a distant attainment conditional on reaching certain goals, you are not living at all. For if one of those goals isn't reached, your entire foundation upon which your future happiness was based completely falls apart. And then what do you do next? Start over with new goals for happiness? But here's the thing, my friends, there is no certainty you will reach certain goals. By all means, give them everything you've got, but remember, these are goals, not certainties, which must force you to conclude that your happiness can never be a certainty.
Now if this was the only reality there was, all that remains is a pretty bleak outlook on life. But life doesn't have to be that way. And that's where joy comes in. You see, happiness is fleeting. It's uncertain, perhaps conditional. The happiness you achieve from eating an ice cream cone can only last so long before you forget about it entirely. The happiness you achieve from reaching a goal can't sustain you for an entire lifetime. It's the culmination of all these small happy moments that brings you something much deeper, joy. If there was one thing you could take away from this, it should be that happiness is temporary and joy is forever. Not everything you do makes you happy. But it's the motivation behind working, behind the struggles, the reason why you continue to struggle through the unpleasant things, that brings you joy. My personal motivation is my faith, and my faith brings me more joy than any unhappy moments could ever overpower. But everyone's motivation is different.
However, joy is a choice. There's not a lot of choice when it comes to happiness. Some things make us happy, some don't. But joy is a decision you make, it's a decision that allows you to search for the extraordinary, deeper underlying things in your life that make you absolutely joyful. It's a decision you make every day to find the joy in the little things, in the big things, in the sad things, in the happy things. And when you choose to make that decision, the joy you attain is forever.
You can choose to wait for happiness, to make it dependent on certain goals or aspirations. The reality of it is though, we don't know if we even have the time to wait to reach those goals. We never know when our time is up. It could be today, tomorrow, or in 100 years. If we don't choose joy now, we might never be happy. And who wants to live their lives without ever knowing happiness and eternal joy?
Claire Crafts is a young author and aspiring poet from Southern California. She published her first novel, Trust the Wind, at the age of sixteen. She is currently pursuing new creative projects and hopes to publish again soon in the future. When not writing, Claire enjoys reading, practicing yoga, spending time with family and friends, and exploring positive psychology.