An important thing I learned from being laughed at

Everyone laughed, and I was the butt of the joke. I hated it. But I realized something about life. 

A group of us sat around a large circular dining table, and a newly married couple started talking about how they met. It was a great story with surprising twists and turns. And then a guy shared about him and his girlfriend and how he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. So I said something from my story to comfort him. It was revealing and somewhat vulnerable. But I thought it would help him, so I put myself out there. Then he turned it around and made it into a joke about me–and everyone laughed heartily.

It felt like being kids on the playground, except we were in our thirties and forties. It was silly, but real.  

It’s most introverts nightmare—to be outed, and publicly, and I’m an introvert. The embarrassment didn’t show on my face. But it was there, along with disappointment and disdain.

Afterward, as I played the moment over in my head more times than I’d like to admit, I was tempted to stop opening myself up to others. It seemed futile, useless. But truth be told, the utility had nothing to do with my reaction; I just wanted to protect myself. 

And I realized that I shouldn’t let any person stop me from giving of myself, being vulnerable, sharing my story—even the revealing parts—and living as I ought. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly (affiliate), writes that vulnerability is fundamental to our being.

“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

Brené Brown

We shouldn’t let others stop us from sharing our lives, opening our hearts, living with purpose. The cost is too high: we would lose you.

You have ideas, insights, knowledge, feelings, stories that can impact those around you for good. They are the inner workings you’ve been ruminating on over the years. Share them. Yes, someone may make you the butt of their joke; they may transport you back to middle school. But that doesn’t diminish the great value you can give to the world. Give generously.

Be vulnerable.

The truth you need to know about your pain

Pain. It marks and makes us.

The death of a loved one, the breaking of love, the broken promises, the promising future never realized, the realization that your body won’t stop aching…causes us great grief; but they often act as the compass of life, directing us to our true north.

Who would we be without it? We are marked, like babes at birth.

We yearn for it to disappear, though. How could we not? It’s pain. If we could rid ourselves of it, we would in a moment, a breath. Instead, we lie awake, swallowed in darkness—pining—dreaming of healing, sustained relief, a whole wholeness, love.

It’s there. We can feel it, sensing that relief is near, and sometimes we find it. But some pains are beyond the healing found in this world, now. That adds to our suffering; it’s the pain of pain.

But it’s that ache that grows us, molds us, deepens us, enrich us. It’s our seasoning. By it, our life’s song is more sonorous—richer. It lets us resonate and connect with others, so we can weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice. Our pain unites us.

Nevertheless, I believe there is a place where whole wholeness comes, washing over us like the inevitable tide washes the shore. And we will bathe in it like a hot bath in winter, relief, but not temporary—eternal.

For now, we must move forward through the pain, forsaking bitterness, jealousy, hopelessness. Forsake them. Choose to grow. Ask for help. Pray. Seek, and you shall find. And, in the process, you will be surprised.

Our pain is like the pangs of childbirth, throbbing, ornery, agonizing. But it births something, no, someone amazing.

You.


Book Recommendations:
Here are some books that I found very helpful in dealing with and thinking about pain. Now, to be upfront, these are coming from a Christian framework. Nonetheless, they are immensely beneficial.


1) Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis (affiliate): This is a philosophical look into the subject and answers the big questions about pain that we all have.
2) A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis (affiliate): After Lewis’s wife died, he wrote this book. It’s raw and beautiful.


This post is dedicated to Michelle and Matt, college friends who just lost their 19 year old son. My heart breaks.

One of the most important people we forget to be kind to

Be kind to yourself today. 

You might have screwed up, but you’re not a screwup. 

You might have made a mistake, but you aren’t a mistake. 

You are worthy. You are lovable. You are beautiful. 

Punishing yourself will not right the wrong. That would only add to it. 

Forgive yourself. Let it go. Move forward. 

Love yourself.


The pic below made my day when I saw it. So I thought it might brighten up yours and help you get on the path of self-compassion.


If you want to read a book to help you with this, I recommend Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (affiliate link).

It’s a fantastic read, what helped me see my need for self-compassion.

Today is the most powerful day you have

Today you can start changing your life. Right now. This moment.

The career change you wanted to make, the life partner you wanted to find, the blog you’ve talked about starting, today you can do something about them. 

The past needn’t define you. The present is everyone’s opportunity to redefine themselves. 

The future is too cloudy to see it clearly. But what is clear is that the acts done today do mold tomorrow. 

Today isn’t just another day; it’s the story of your life being written with the ink of your actions. 

So act. Begin. Do. 

What will you do today?

One of the best ways to become happy

More. It’s one of the greatest lies there is. 

More money, more sex, more friends, more cars, more education, more this, more that will help me be happy, fulfilled, feel better about myself. But it never does. 

Yes, More can bring happiness. But it’s there; then it’s not. It’s a flash, a moment. Then it’s gone. 

And we are left with this empty feeling, an old ache that no amount of ointment, medicine, gifts, success, fame, can sooth. 

No. More is not what we need. What our hearts long for is this. 

Better. 

You don’t need more crap. Stop buying more. No one needs that much clothes, gadgets, toys, furniture, stuff. Instead, give away what doesn’t add real value to your life.

And, if you buy anything else, only invest in better things, ones that you really need or enjoy, ones that add richness, euphoria, bliss, delight, and function to your life.

We don’t need more friends; we need better friendships, ones that are deep, rich, sacred, trusted. We need intimacy. When they say I love you, it doesn’t sound hollow. It’s as solid as the ground you stand on. It’s real. 

We don’t need more pleasure, finding that next person to bed, the delicious meal to devour, the foreign destination to explore. Sure, they can tickle us, but aren’t we longing for something else, something further away from us, unreachable? 

In my life, I’ve noticed that what I really long for isn’t here, in this world. What I search and pine for always eluded me. It’s a phantom.

It’s like an echo of a tune you’ve never heard, a glimpse of a blinding beauty you have never seen, an aroma of a fare you’ve never tasted; yet, there you are, yearning for it.

It is there. It’s the Better. It’s a world beyond this one, a better world.

It’s transcendent.

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself: Forgive

We all make mistakes, and we forgive others. But often forgiving ourselves is harder. 

But we must. 

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that thing you did or continue doing that you can’t release and forgive yourself. Instead, you punish. 

I know all about that. 

Defiance marked my teenage face, as I screamed at her. She stopped speaking. And I started calling my mom unspeakable names, unleashing words like armed missiles. She would flee, and I would seethe. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

In college, I started to follow Jesus and accepted his forgiveness. But I would always say that there was one thing I could not forgive, and that was the way I treated my mom. 

So I held on to my guilt and shame. Unknowingly, I beat myself up, launching armed missiles at myself, perpetuating an old wound. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

Then one day, some guy I knew talked to me. And somehow we got on this subject, and he said something that I would never forget, “If God can forgive you for everything, why can’t you forgive yourself? Are you better than God?” 

I was stunned. 

The truth of his statement and the utter blindness of my behavior and mindset were stunning to me. The understanding washed over me like a wave washes over you on the seashore. 

My burden melted away from me; I was free. 

What I didn’t expect was how much better I was going to feel. The quickness and sharpness of my anger lost its snap and edge. My missiles were disarmed. I felt calmer and was kinder to others, to myself. 

It was work, though. It wasn’t just a one and done kind of thing. I had to continually forgive myself, reminding myself of what my friend told me, remembering that it was foolish to beat myself up over my past failings. 

And slowly over the years, I wasn’t just continually forgiving myself; I forgave myself. 

Forgive yourself. Holding onto your failings, shame, sin doesn’t do anyone good. It certainly does you no good. 

It’s counterintuitive to think that if I forgive myself that I will become a better person. It’s tempting to believe that if I just keep on lashing myself with the past, I’ll get better; but it doesn’t work that way. We don’t get better. We get worse. 

Shame begets shame; unkindness begets unkindness. It’s a cycle–vicious and bloody. 

It takes a radical act to break it.

Forgiveness is the only door through which true healing comes. And that’s exactly what we need to mend our wounds and cease to perpetuate them. We need balm and bandage. We need to forgive ourselves. 

And you will find that you will no longer see yourself as that person who did that terrible thing. You will see yourself as a person who can change. You will no longer be trapped in the cage of the past. You will be released to live anew. 

You will be free. 

Do you know how valuable you really are?

You are more valuable than you think you are, believe you are. 

Even with all of your mistakes, guilt, shame, sin, flaws, and failures, you are worth more than all of the gold in the world. 

The people who told you you are worthless lied to you. They spoke out of their shame and lack of understanding of their value. 

They are wrong about you. 

No matter how many have rejected you, you are worthy: worthy of love, worthy of belonging, worthy of dignity, worthy of being, worthy of forgiveness, deserving of infinite value. 

You are kings and queens, adorned with honor, grace, and light. 

And no amount of makeup, muscle mass, injections, bronzed skin, jewelry, or the like can add to it. The numbers on the scale, in your account, on your blog do not make you better or worse, nor will your accomplishments, what you’ve done, are doing, will do.

You are valuable as you are now, as you were born.

Your value is inherently infinitely valuable. Even with nothing, you are priceless.

I am not lying to you; it is true. This is what I remind myself. 

When I look into your face, I see the face of God. 

What is the greatest greatness in life?

In the process of becoming better, it’s easy to think we are greater than we really are. And it’s one of the worst mistakes we can make, touting our strengths and toting our accomplishments. 

But the answer isn’t to think we are lesser than we are. That won’t do; it does no good. 

For we may be great. And we can become even better. And that isn’t accomplished by looking down on ourselves or thinking that we are unworthy or incapable. No. 

So what do we do instead? 

We ought to think others better than ourselves. Hold them up, serve them, care for them, and use our greatness to help them become greater than they imagined. 

Service and love subdues pride. 

And what is interesting is in doing that, you will find that people will tout your strengths and tote your accomplishments for you. 

They will do it out of love. 

And the reward you will reap may or may not be riches, but it will be fullness. You can feel whole, blessed, rich, connected. 

Loving others is the greatest greatness.

Fatherhood: Reflections on the last days of summer with my son

Popcorn, beer, and fans in blue surrounded us. Summer sun was beating down; a cool wind comforted us; and the crowd roared when a homerun soared over the back wall.

His face glowed with hope and joy as we sat: My son and I perched in the Bronx. 

He knew that I didn’t like staying for a full game, but he asked me, “Dad, can we stay till the end?” 

Usually, I said no, giving a reason like we needed to get home to do something important. 

But a realization slapped me, hard. And it was this. The only summer I have with my son as a five-year-old is ending. 

“Make the most of it, fool,” I thought to myself. 

Making as many happy memories as I could with him became my aim, doing the things he wanted, even if they went against what I preferred. 

So we stayed. 

The innings were exciting. But witnessing the wonder and excitement in his eyes brought me the greatest joy. My son smiled, cheered, clapped, and laughed. And I couldn’t help but join him.

And I found myself not wanting to leave the game even after the last out. 

But we both left satisfied, hand-in-hand—father and son. 

Confessions of an introvert: unexpected events at a barbecue

Walking into a room full of people can be hard. A party isn’t just a party, especially if you’re an introvert like me. They are work.

But it’s summer in the city, and people want to barbecue. And I got invited to one in Brooklyn.

Usually, I would have stayed safely at home, giving an excuse about needing to take care of our newborn (children are always the perfect leave-me-alone-I’m-an-introvert card). But this day I felt like it would be good to put myself out there and connect.

When I arrived at the beautiful rooftop, a breeze was blowing, and the weather was unseasonably cool for an evening in August; but the crisp air was magical in the midst of the canvas of twinkling city lights surrounding us like the stars in the night. 

About fifteen guys broken into smaller groups of two to four were drinking beer, talking, and getting ready to devour meat. They were friendly, but not all were my friends. Not because they weren’t good guys, I just didn’t know them well enough yet. 

There were some I knew better than others and would even call them friends. But I didn’t expect them to treat me the way they did. They ignored me. 

At one point, one of them reached around me to throw something away but didn’t even bother to say hello. I had to remind myself that I had been invited, even though it felt so uninviting.

The night wasn’t a complete disaster. There were two good conversations with a couple of people I didn’t know well, and hearing their stories was a privilege. It felt as though I might have made two new friends. 

As the hours wore on, my bed’s call to me transformed from gentle wooing to shouting; resisting was too hard, so I left. 

And as I walked home, I reflected on the time, the interactions, and the lack of them. Gratitude filled me as I thought about the conversations had, but I couldn’t help thinking about the friends who seemingly ignored me. It was hard not to blame them. It was what they did to me. 

But then an unsettling thought occurred to me: I didn’t greet them either. I didn’t walk up to them and say hello. I wasn’t inviting; I wasn’t friendly. 

Furthermore, I said to myself, “Maybe they are introverts like me, where a party isn’t just a party but an inner battle. Maybe they were working through their own issues, and none of it had anything to do with me; and it was just me being self-absorbed and petty. Maybe. Probably.” 

A new voice filled my mind. It was a mentor’s. “Those who extend friendship have friends; those who don’t won’t,” he told me once when I was a college student. 

Two decades later, I’m still learning this lesson:

To have friends, you must be one.