Archive for December, 2014

Applied Christianity: Suspend Judgment, Show Compassion

December 29, 2014 5 comments

It’s hard to understand and easy to judge people for what they think, say, and do if you don’t know the circumstances that have lead them to think, say and act the way they do.

Usually it’s only when you find yourself in the same situation as the person you passed judgment on that you finally understand him better and are actually compassionate to his situation, because now you can finally relate to what he’s going through.

Being in the same tough situation as another person and thus becoming empathetic to his plight is a hard lesson to learn.  Sometimes the best lessons in life are learned the hard way.  Maybe someday, we will be able to learn these hard lessons in life without experiencing such for ourselves; that day might happen when we finally learn from the mistakes of others.  For what it is worth, the experience keeps you humble because you’re reminded that you’re no better than anyone else.  You unfortunately also know the pain involved; this is good because you know you’re still human, because you can still feel something about life.  And for as long as you can still feel the pain, the one you and also others are experiencing, you know that you’re still alive.

Note that this doesn’t give anyone the excuse to do what is wrong if in fact what the other person is thinking, saying, or doing is wrong.  Rather, understanding why some people do the wrong that they do only gives all the more reason why they need mercy and acceptance.

Besides, if the truth is really with you, then in God’s mercy and time, they will come to that truth, too.  Sometimes the path of salvation laid out for people to take can involve a very circuitous route, but they’ll eventually get there when the time is right and they’re ready for it.  However they won’t get there if they feel a spirit of condemnation from those who supposedly practice the understanding and compassion that they need.

Hopefully being able to understand people better will lead to a more loving, more compassionate, and less judgmental attitude towards people who think, say, and do things differently than you do.

Categories: Religion

Life Stress: Life Is Challenging – And Also Exciting!

December 26, 2014 4 comments

At some point all of us are playing the game of life in hard mode.  It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it really can be a source of torment.  And the harsh reality is that there are many people in this world who play life in hard mode almost all the time.

It’s critical to find a reason to be happy in the midst of life’s challenges.  Life is too short to be anything but happy.  To spend most of your time being unhappy is obviously a very miserable experience.

Ironically, a source of happiness is the various challenges that come our way.  Specifically, it’s in the excitement and thrill of facing such challenges and ultimately surmounting them where one can find fulfillment and happiness.  It’s actually a source of pride when you’re able to stretch yourself and achieve something great that never in your wildest imaginations you thought you could ever do.

There’s still some sense of comfort to be gained even during those times when you don’t succeed (yet), or things could have and should have turned out better than they did.  The times that you feel a lot of stress are the times that keep you humble and remind you that you’re still human; the day you don’t feel such is the day you’re dead.  Sometimes, the times that you’re in a lot of pain are the times that you feel the most alive, for the simple reason that you still feel; sometimes, this by itself is worth the experience.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to literally die of boredom.  But at the very least, figuratively it can happen.  When it seems like you have nothing more to live for in life, because there’s nothing left to fight for, then there doesn’t seem to be any point in life anymore.

Life would certainly be boring without the excitement that comes with the daily challenges you have to face.  It’s in the hardships of life where you’re forced to come out of your comfort zone, and it’s in doing so that you grow and eventually make things better for yourself.  If only for this reason alone, it makes the challenges of life exciting, knowing that ultimately such will help you become so much more than what you are now.

It’s said that what won’t kill you now will most likely try again next time.  But next time you will be stronger from the experience gained.  God is here for you now as you face the day’s challenges.  The next time such come up, He will still be there to face the challenge by your side.  In this world of constant change, take comfort in the thought that this is one never-changing reality of our faith, and for that reason be at peace.

Lastly, I’d like to think that looking at the challenges of life with a sense of excitement is a healthy form of mental conditioning.  You no longer fear that time is running out on you.  It’s no longer a dreaded countdown to the end of good things, but rather an enthusiastic countdown for the start of confronting the pressing concerns of the day, to get such resolved once and for all.

If you want to live a life of excitement, then the challenges that life throws at you is where you will get it.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

Trust in God: Acceptance, Source of Peace

December 26, 2014 2 comments

The world is full of things that can cause us physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual turmoil.  For as long as we are in this world, it’s difficult to not be affected by such things.  We can go crazy by letting such affect us.  The only way to be able to deal with the toxicity of this world is to be at peace.

It’s said that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.  This is obviously easier said than done – but for the sake of one’s sanity, it has to be done, somehow.

Accept that reality will always change, for the only thing constant in life is change.  There will always be some new reality that we will just have to adapt to survive.  Some changes won’t even make any sense at all.  It’s irrelevant if we understand the change or not; we’ll still have to deal with it as best as we can.

Accept that there are many things in life that are out of our control.  The only thing we can do is to take things in stride.  Try to be open to possibilities brought by the change that cannot be changed.  For all we know, there might even be opportunities hidden in the new reality that we can exploit to our advantage, if we only try to look at things in a new light.

Accept that sometimes we won’t always be successful even in changing the things that are under our control.  It can be extremely exasperating since supposedly these are the things that we should be able to manage.  At the end of the day, that’s still okay because at least we tried rather than never tried at all.  The fact that we at least tried can also give us some sense of comfort because at least we tried to address the concern rather than be in fear of such.

Accept the reality that time will not wait for anyone and will burn away what little time we have in this world.  We either make the most of what we have, or we just watch life pass us by and ultimately be miserable for doing so.

In all things, we ought to be at peace in the midst of stress and turmoil, because we’re really not alone in our journey in life.  God might be very silent in a lot of the times that such are happening.  However do not mistake His silence for His absence.  God is with us all the way, working things out in the background per His grand scheme for what’s ultimately best for our life.  He’s especially there for us in the darkest hours of our life.

God’s love and providence for us is a reality of our faith that will never change.  It’s this fact that should give us comfort and peace, and thus enable us to truly live.

Categories: Religion

Burning Time That Is Unstoppable

December 24, 2014 2 comments

As of this point, I feel like I burned through two days of my vacation leave.

Each day has so far been useful and productive with the things I wanted to do.  No time was wasted, and that’s a good thing.  However the fact that I was busy felt like I was “working” and so there’s a part of me that felt like I was also “wasting” my time.  The only other thing I could think of to do is to literally not do anything at all and just watch the day go by.  In other words, it would be somewhat interesting, for a change, to just waste the time away doing nothing.

When I had a chat with a lovely friend of mine, we talked about the hectic work and schedule that was waiting for me when I got back next year.  There’s a lot of pressure for me to deliver.  Last night, I dreamt about a myriad of meetings that filled my calendar and the stress that came from trying to manage all of them.  Even during these times that I’m on break I feel like I’ve already resumed working instead.

I realize that I feel stressed with the pressure of doing something or not doing something during this time, given that there’s plenty of work waiting for me, soon.  It just doesn’t feel like there’s enough time to do things – or to not even do anything at all!  There’s just never enough time for everything and anything.

There are things that I think I should be doing.  However I feel that there are things that are actually more fulfilling and valuable in my life, and so I should be prioritizing these instead.  I don’t have time to do everything, and so I’ll inevitably miss out on pursuing some things.  But doing the things that makes me happier are ultimately worth whatever it is that I’m losing.

Whatever I do or not do, one thing is clear to me at this point: I’m burning time as it marches on, and there’s no stopping it.  My only hope is that everything and anything that I do or intentionally not do, either on break or during business as usual moments, counts and adds value to my life.  Besides, I don’t need the time to do everything and anything; I just need the time to do the right things.

I shall light the fire and watch time burn brightly.  It’s something I have to do.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

The Pattern Solver

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment

When I was in college, our professors would periodically admonish us to NOT be pattern solvers.

Pattern solving essentially means solving a particular problem in a fixed way, literally just like how a similarly-worded or situated problem that was previously solved.  It’s a problem because applying this approach typically means you do not think about solving the problem – and hence truly understanding the material – too much anymore.  You execute the solution for the expediency of providing an answer without really understanding why it’s right.  And when you limit yourself to fixed patterns of thought, when you encounter a completely different problem, you cannot solve it anymore because you lack the deep understanding of the material to tackle said problem in whatever myriad of ways it presents itself.

Creative, out-of-the-box thinking is an important life skill.  This helps in handling the many challenges of life that often times come with a lot of unknowns or factors out of your control that you have to take into consideration.  This is also the driver for a lot of innovation and invention, the reason why we have new things that we never saw before, solutions to problems we never knew needed to be solved, or an improvement in situations that we didn’t think could be so much better.

All this being said, I think there is some value to pattern solving provided it’s used the right way.

If you do not know anything at all, then knowing such solution patterns gives you knowledge of how a particular problem can be tackled.  In other words, you’re being efficient: Rather than re-learning or re-making something that someone has already done before, you learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes and use what they got from it immediately.  When there are issues with technology, a typical standard operating procedure is to determine the root cause of the problem; the knowledge gained will, at the very least, help quickly identify and resolve similar problems in the future should such come up, and even prevent such from happening in the first place.  Knowing what solution pattern works for a particular situation is a very useful skill in itself also, if you think about it.

I know for a fact that Microsoft has published a set of design patterns and practices that cover the typical scenarios one would face in solving application development problems.  This makes development more efficient, and time to market / delivery faster in the fast-paced world of the IT industry.  This is a very practical example of how useful pattern solving, applied the right way, can become.

Pattern solving also gives you a perspective of how things can be solved.  Provided that you take the time to understand and learn what you can from how different problems can be tackled in different ways, then it actually has a lot of value.  The knowledge and understanding obtained from knowing different ways to solve different problems gives you a wide perspective of ideas to draw inspiration and insight when you eventually encounter a problem you’ve never seen before.

If you do not find the time to get a deep-dive understanding of how a solution works, then pattern solving is a serious disservice to your learning and growth.  But if you use it properly, then you gain a certain level of knowledge and efficiency in solving problems, and you prepare yourself better to handle new problems you’ve never encountered before.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

Free Will and the Resurrection

December 22, 2014 1 comment

When Jesus rose from the dead, He only showed Himself to a select group of His followers before ascending to Heaven.  He could have showed Himself to literally everybody, thereby showcasing and proving beyond reasonable doubt that He is God, but He didn’t do that.

It made me wonder why He didn’t show Himself to everybody.  I could think of a couple of reasons.

  1. Showing Himself to everybody will definitely display all His power and might.  People will follow and obey Him henceforth.  Although that looks all nice and what-not, the level of freedom that people operate with to come to such a decision seems limited.  They’re not following Jesus out of love for Him; they’re doing it just because He has proven that He is God, and everything that comes with that.  In other words, they’re doing it out of fear.  And God doesn’t want us to love Him out of fear, for such isn’t true love at all.
  2. To the truly obstinate, no show of force or grandiose display of miracles will ever convince them to believe.  Their hearts are closed to the truth, and for such people, showing off one’s power is just a waste of time.

The way I see it, this all comes back to the concept of God respecting the gift of free will that He has given to us.  And in this case, not showing off after the Resurrection gives people the full freedom to choose to believe or not.

Discretion is a tool to ensure the element of free will is still preserved.  No one has to make a choice to do good or simply not to sin out of duress.

On a related note, discretion is how the devil seems to work in this world.  The enemy doesn’t want people to believe he exists, otherwise to blatantly show his hand in how he influences evil in the lives of people will ironically strike fear in everyone’s heart, so much so that we wouldn’t be sinning anymore.  This, in a way, is also wrong, because we’re not choosing to avoid sin out of love but out of fear instead.

I could be wrong here, of course.  There could be a much deeper and even completely different meaning to how Jesus handled his public relations post-Resurrection.  But based on how I understand God’s design for the free will He has given to us, this makes sense (at least to me anyway).

I think in the end, Jesus didn’t need to show Himself to everybody.  The testimony of the few that saw Him before He ascended, in how they lived and literally died for His sake, is enough proof to show that He lived again.  And ultimately it’s through God’s grace that we believe, for faith is a gift given to those who with an open mind seek the Truth of our existence.

Whether we believe or not, God has designated for each one of us a particular path to salvation.  Though, in my opinion, doing things your own way is like journeying towards salvation on “hard mode.”  Fortunate are the ones who have been called to follow the path that Jesus laid out for us, for we are already on the direct route towards Him – should we choose to follow Him.

Categories: Religion

Biases, Assumptions, and Critical Thinking

December 21, 2014 4 comments

I noticed from my own experience and the experience of others that we have the tendency to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and think what we want to think despite evidence that shows otherwise or the lack of such that supports our position.

I was starkly reminded of this reality last December 5 when I asked my team to compute how many “Pogi Points” I had as part of a Christmas basket raffle.  Despite giving clear guidelines, many people got it wrong.  Some gave a wrong count of points when the instructions were very clear about how many points should be awarded for a particular category.  One even read what he wanted to read and computed for his own “Pogi Points;” that was hysterically hilarious but also hysterically wrong.

I’m not immune to this; I found myself jumping to the wrong conclusions based on my own interpretation of a particular situation.  The other day I was told the story of someone, who happened to be going on a diet, and who suddenly contracted tuberculosis.  By some leap of logic, what crossed my mind was that it doesn’t make sense that someone would incur tuberculosis because he went on a diet.  Of course it didn’t make sense, as there’s no connection between the two – but that wasn’t the point.  I noticed that I assumed there was a connection being made between going on a diet and getting tuberculosis, when in reality no such implication was being made.

The biases and assumptions that we have are based on our perception of life and our understanding of the world.

These biases and assumptions can influence the way we perceive people.  If we like someone, then this person can do no wrong even if he actually does something wrong.  And if we don’t like someone, then this person can do no right no matter how much he tries.  It’s not fair either way, but it happens.

These biases and assumptions can influence our reaction to what happens to us in life.  For example, an initially bad impression, true or false, can linger long after the facts have proven such to be incorrect.  We can sometimes interpret a situation in a very stark light and thus become very negative and worrisome about it when in fact the situation may not be as bad as it seems, and such happens because of our preconceived notions of how bad the situation can be based on previous experiences which may no longer be true.

The danger with biases and assumptions is that we have a tendency to either close our minds to the possibility of something else, or not accept the actual reality of how things are.  Because we only see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and think what we want to think, everything that we see, hear or think just reinforces our biases and assumptions even more.  It’s a feedback looped in on itself where no further input, potentially differing and dissenting and what-not, comes in to our lives.  That’s not good, because we’re not growing and learning anything new, and we’re stagnating ourselves in the process.

For the most part, I’d like to think that there’s nothing malicious about having such biases and assumptions.  It’s part of what makes us human, after all.  There’s probably some evolutionary reason why we have such tendencies.  The best that we can do is to be aware of such, and to always try to keep an open mind to consider other opinions and possibilities.

Critical thinking is crucial.  Finding the time to stop and think and test and validate if what we have is correct or if we understood the situation appropriately will help us avoid seeing only one perspective or making decisions based on incorrect notions of the situation.

Remaining open to different possibilities helps a lot, too.  Be willing to receive feedback from others, even if such isn’t the same as what we have in mind – and this is precisely why we should be open to receive such feedback in the first place.  A second opinion helps increase our breadth of insight.  Seeing a different perspective of a situation helps us respond rather than just react to it, too.  Being open to other ideas also helps us to adapt better to always-changing situations.

Be humble to accept the reality that we could also be wrong.  Without humility we will not learn anything new, and will never be able to correct the wrong biases and assumptions in our mind.

We all have our personal biases and assumptions; critical thinking will hopefully save us from unnecessary pain.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy