Category Archives: By: Christiana Cha

Label Me Kindly

By: Christiana Cha

Disclaimer: there will be a couple of quotes of potentially offensive language.

Recently I ran across some disrespectful hashtags on a Facebook photo, including: #allmine and #nobitch. The photo was about not having to share food with a girlfriend because the guy did not have one. I suppose it is common for a girlfriend to want a bite of her boyfriend’s food, but calling her a bitch for that seems a bit strong, no? I found it to be highly disrespectful and lacking in thought.

Sometimes, words are words and seem to be nothing else. But what about when we address each other or label each other in our minds?

Working as a host at a restaurant, I witness a variety of moods and manners of speech in people; some are kind, others incredibly rude. The result has been that I am more attentive both to the way others speak and the way I speak to others…because it matters. It is my job to be kind to everyone who walks through the door, and I take that seriously, but that does not mean that I enjoy when people are rude to me when I am trying to help seat them in a timely fashion.

I will be the first to admit that sometimes unkind words drift through my mind regarding particularly rude people at work, and that affects my heart toward those people. Do I manage to still be nice? Yes, but how I label a person in my mind completely changes who they become in my eyes. “That _____!” versus, “Maybe s/he had a bad day,” sets an entirely different expectation of who a person is or how that person will continue to act throughout the night. If I write someone off as a jerk, I give them no chance at redemption, and sometimes redemption happens! One such instance happened in the past month when a woman was outright hostile to me when I kindly told her there would be a wait for a table (clearly, as all the tables were full), but twenty minutes later she came and was very contrite and apologized for being rude! Had I been rude in return, I am certain she would not have come to apologize to me. But posturing myself toward her as someone who was frazzled rather than someone whose character was mean allowed me to still be kind to her and for her to remember that she, too, was kind.

This concept carries over into the rest of life as well. We live in a society wherein individuals feel increasingly entitled to having what they want, when they want it, even if it means trampling someone else, and I think part of that stems from the sort of language we use to address each other. People are calling each other – whether earnestly or in jest, it matters not – bitches, hoes, dicks, and other such names that certainly I would not and most likely you would not like to be called (if you want that, someone needs to sit you down and talk with you!). Men objectify women, women bemoan the entire male population, parents call their children “a pain in the butt” and expect to somehow still have a good attitude about their kids, and brothers and sisters call each other names.

Words are words, right? Wrong. Words matter. Calling your child a pain in the butt instead of calling her by name creates a vast difference in your heart posture toward that child and in that child’s concept of who s/he is and will become. It is harder to be unkind to James or Ashley than it is to be ugly to “that d-bag” or “that beezy”. We do not always know people’s names, but we can remind ourselves that they all have names. People say (and some research says) that the sound of our own names is one of the safest sounds people can hear, and a name signifies a real, live, breathing person with feelings. The second someone becomes an a-hole in our minds, s/he is for a moment not that living, breathing person with feelings. His/her identity in our minds becomes “a-hole.” And how you treat an a-hole is different from how you treat Bev or Scott.

I may not know your name, but I would like to label you kindly because how I treat you stems from that label, and should I speak that label out loud, it also affects your concept of yourself whether you would like to admit it or not. I would also like to invite you to join me in labeling others kindly. It may seem small, but it has the potential to greatly improve the way we treat each other.

The Absence of Love

By: Christiana Cha

We live in a society obsessed with the idea of love – not obsessed with love so much as obsessed with the idea of love. We love love. It’s why we watch romantic comedies that show unrealistic “love” stories of infatuation; I’m hot, you’re hot, let’s be together for the duration of this movie. Meanwhile, marriages continue to end in divorce and more and more children are growing up angry, afraid, not knowing their place in their world. I have been blessed with parents who continue to uphold the commitment they made to one another in the witness of God and man, but I have friends whose hearts are broken as their parents’ marriages are broken, and in turn my heart breaks for them.

It makes me wonder…do we know how to love? Have we seen it? Do we have love in our lives?

There is a reason we are obsessed with the idea of love; we love love because we need love. We need it to survive and to thrive. We need to know that someone cares that we exist, that our existence holds some significance.

Remember with me for a moment the scandalous research by Harry Harlow on love and the effects of deprivation of love on young rhesus monkeys. (Here’s a link: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/p/harlow_love.htm ) The comfort of another fuzzy body nearby (not even their real mothers) was enough for the monkeys to cling to, but when that small comfort was taken away, they suffered pitifully. Let me say that I certainly do not think Harlow’s experiment was kind, but it illustrated a point and contradicted the popular opinion at the time. These are only monkeys, but move on to human psychology and you will find that love and affection are just as crucial in the growth and development of humans as well. We can feel that we need love to thrive, but science will confirm that feeling as being valid.

So what happens when we don’t have the love we need? In the 1950s Harlow would have told us that the deprivation of love would lead to fear, suffering, and stunted development.

What about today?

Today we have people like Dr. Brené Brown, author of “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection” who have done research on vulnerability and love. Dr. Brown writes, “In the absence of love and belonging, there will always be suffering.” (Daring Greatly) So it would seem that this statement has only held and collected evidence again over 60 years later.

In the absence of love and belonging, there will always be suffering.

For me this feels like a daunting statement because I know that we as humans are not perfect at loving the people around us. I know that I have felt an absence of love before, and I am certain that someone else has probably felt that absence of love from me as well. (I’m sorry.) But when we feel the absence of love, do we suffer and leave it at that, or is there another way we react?

You are free to disagree with me, but I would say that in the midst of our suffering we seek out sources of love and belonging because those are two of the things for which our souls are hungriest. We thirst, we strive, we pine, and we fight for love. It is that which we desire above all things. And if we do not find it in the traditional places – with our parents, with our significant others, with friends and brothers and sisters – we will most certainly look for it elsewhere.
In our society we see this in many ways: addiction to drugs and pornography, gangs, clubs, fraternities and sororities, peer pressure, fashion trends and brand names, workplace humor, bullying, and unhealthy relationships that we know we shouldn’t be in but that we can’t give up because it gives us that little kick of feeling like we belong somewhere. I would say most if not all of us have been at that last place. Some of those things are in the grand scheme are fairly harmless, but others only create more suffering and hurt in our hearts.

I think you follow me – I don’t think I need to explain further to you why some of those things are harmful for you to understand that love and belonging are important, and if we don’t find it in healthy ways, we will find it some way or another because we do not want to suffer through the absence of love.

What’s my point? My point is this: LOVE those around you. Hold close the ones dearest to you. Choose to curb your frustration and say something kind instead. Don’t make fun of that coworker behind his/her back just to feel like another one likes you a little more. Instead, stand up for that person when someone ridicules him/her. Strive to be a safe place for your friends so that they know they are welcome and loved. See the beauty in the man and the woman’s soul, not in their outfits. Put down the bottle and call a friend. Choose to hang out with someone who is not part of your clique.

We have all felt the sting of love absent, and we know the suffering it brings. Give someone else a chance to feel relief from suffering, and may you also find that relief.

I’m Guilty

mentor

By: Christiana Cha

I’m guilty of depending too much on myself and trying to figure everything out on my own, using my own resources and my own brain.

The past year of my life has not been my easiest, but it has been full of lessons and small blessings along the way. One such blessing has been a woman (we’ll call her M) who has been friend, mentor, sister, prophet, and mother to me. M’s and my meeting in life seems increasingly serendipitous, and we are able to gain encouragement, a sense of not being alone, and words of wisdom from each other.

I was still a teenager the first time someone called me an “old soul,” and growing up I tended to be the one in a friendship who played the part of listener, mentor, and adviser. It wasn’t until I was an upperclassman in college that I had my first real mentor figure, and now a few years later I can confidently say that M is a mentor to me. It’s a relief – a relief to be on the receiving end of a mentoring relationship and a relief to know that no matter what, there’s someone who loves me unconditionally and will gently advise, comfort, or challenge me as the occasion arises.

It’s a relief to know there’s someone on my team, that I don’t have to go it alone.

I spent the first twenty years of my life almost refusing to be on the receiving end of a mentoring relationship, but as I’ve made it a little farther along in my twenties, I’ve realized how important it is to have a mentor. I was hungry for a mentor. I searched for a mentor the first year and a half or so of graduate school with not much to show for it, and just when I was getting discouraged, M and I clicked.

Each day I am thankful for M’s friendship and loyalty, and I eagerly drink in her Spirit-inspired words of encouragement. I let myself be alternately a child and an old woman with M, and we pray together and listen for the still, small voice together on each other’s behalf.

If you don’t already have a mentor figure or someone to mentor in your life, I would encourage you to carefully or prayerfully (whichever one is your thing) seek one out. It is a mutually beneficent relationship I would not trade, and I hope that you can be open to the baring of your soul to another person.

Breaking the Silence

godhateslust

By: Christiana Cha

For a moment, I was stunned; I had expected to hear some profound thoughts, but somehow I had not expected to get hit by such a small phrase.

I was sitting in a room filled mostly with people in their forties and older but a few other twenty-somethings like myself listening to an acquaintance, Sally Gary (founder of CenterPeace and author of “Loves God, Likes Girls”) talking about how stigmatized homosexuality/same sex attraction was and in many cases still is. But that wasn’t what caught my attention. It was what she said next:

“Would that some of the other things we struggle with had been so socially unacceptable.”

A million thoughts flooded my mind – things like uncontrolled tempers, lust, jealousy, making fun of others to make ourselves feel better, excluding others because they somehow don’t “fit in” to the narrow definitions we set for our tiny elitist cliques, and so on…. Those are things about which we don’t talk. We hold our silence, and we paste on a fake smile and pretend to be nice whilst waiting for someone to pass just to turn and say, “What a dork,” or some other derogatory name-calling.

Why do we do it?  And more importantly, why do we not point that out more as something that needs to be “fixed”? Why do we put other “issues” under the microscope instead?

A young boy is being verbally abused at home, but no one breathes a word or tells his father that he needs to change his stance toward his son or his son will have a world of baggage that will cripple him as an adult and make him continually believe the lie that he is inadequate, incapable, and worthless.

Men and women young and not-so-young lust after one another, sometimes having affairs, sleeping around, or becoming addicted to pornography. But we don’t talk about that, either. We almost seem to condone it, in fact.

We encourage exclusivity and cliques, we make fun of those who are different from us (let’s face it, we’re all different from one another), and we laugh when others trip and fall whether it’s physically or socially.  (Don’t tell me you’ve never laughed at playground fails or Scarlett taking a tumble on Youtube – I have).

And, don’t tell me you’ve never had road rage. I’d be lying to you if I said I never have road rage. But beyond road rage, what about a general lack of control of one’s temper? That is something that can be very hurtful, especially to family members, who generally bear the brunt of a person’s rage.

And yet…we focus on topics like same-sex attraction. Why? Why don’t we talk more about the other topics I listed and so many more that are ultimately so much more hurtful to us? I almost stopped listening to the rest of what Sally had to say after she said that one line, “Would that some of the other things we struggle with had been so socially unacceptable.” Indeed! I wish they were, and I wish we talked about those things more and brought them to light so children did not have to grow up being verbally abused with no one to be their advocates! I wish that we didn’t make fun of each other so viciously just to get a laugh and feel good about ourselves. I wish bedding someone wasn’t such a conquest and a game to so many people. I wish, I wish, I wish. But how do we change it?

Well for starters, let’s talk about it.

I Love Science

By: Christiana Cha

“I love science,” I said. 
“You mean creation?” my friend responded.

I like to call it “the science of creation.” Yes, I believe in a creator God, and yes, I believe in science (you may read that the way Steven says it in Nacho Libre). I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I think sometimes people get overly protective of their territory and try to rule out one or the other, but for me, it’s like a beautiful symbiotic relationship; science only convinces me more that a Creator God exists.

I could – and do – spend hours upon hours just sitting outside and watching the birds, the bees, and the plants around me (even though there seem to be less here in Texas than in Oregon!). It’s something that I find to be fascinating – how something as small as a bee can be so intricate is beyond me! Reading and knowing all the science behind bees only makes me more in awe that a Creator could have made something so detailed. They have pollen baskets, cute little antennae, long pointy tongues, little hairs all over their bodies, joints in their legs…and they eat nectar and puke it up as honey! I bet you really want some honey now that you know it’s bee puke…perhaps the tastiest vomit on earth!

I have been carefully tending a small garden and am constantly intrigued by the way that all I have to do is water them and they grow. Sunlight hits their leaves, chlorophyll does its work, I pour a few pitchers of water, and my plants – I call them my babies – produce more leaves and in some cases, flowers which will eventually become peppers and squash. Plants don’t go anywhere; they don’t forage, and they don’t hunt, and yet, they thrive in their native environments. One could say they were designed that way and be done with it, but I like to learn the science behind how it all ticks because then I can really appreciate the complexity of something seemingly as simple and ordinary as a leaf.

Science and Creation are, in my assessment, not the only non-mutually-exclusive things that we as people treat as incompatible. We have our biases, our preferences, our prejudices; a hundred years ago, interracial marriage was inconceivable, not to mention even using the same restroom as someone of a different ethnicity! Some of our prejudices are as weighty as questions of humanity and some more lighthearted like the combination of sweet and salty flavors (something I had to acquire with effort). It seems to me that all we need is a good smack to the back of our heads and a little open-mindedness or shift in perspective, and we can find how things work well together rather than bullheadedly assuming they could never exist on the same plane. Seeing science and creation as symbiotic partners has given me a greater appreciation for both individually; perhaps recognizing the beauty of the interwoven fabric of our lives can help us appreciate each other and the world around us better.