The Beauty of Who You Are

Earlier this afternoon I was on YouTube watching through all the NBA playoff highlight reels. During my lazy adventure I noticed a short video by Colin Cowherd reacting to the death of an ex-football player. The football player’s name was Aaron Hernandez, a  tight end for the New England Patriots from 2010-2012. He was convicted of murder charges and was sentenced to prison. Today, security found him hanged and he was pronounced dead at around 4 a.m. 

As I was listening to Colin Cowherd’s reaction I kept thinking about what Hernandez may have been feeling. You were just convvicted of murder and essentially sentenced to prison for life. You’ve disappointed your family and friends and lost your freedom. People hate you, despise you and are disgusted by you. You’ve taken away a person from a family and probably feel like the most despicable person ever. As a result, you try to desensitize yourself from your responsiblilities and act like an uncaring, unfeeling human being. You take in the hate, the loathing of other people and continue to carry on. Eventually, the burden of the guilt and shame become too much and you start realizing, “I hate myself.” 

“I hate myself” is a phrase that is becoming more and more common in teens and younger adults. Those with low self-esteem are constantly put into situations and circumstances where they must “prove” themselves to be worthy rather than be reminded their immense value. A certain materialistic standard needs to be reached before one can even start to be acknowledged. There are students that make grades such a major part of who they are that they consider suicide when they get a failing grade. People that feel lonely resort to pranks and misdeeds to gain more and more attention. Others who have been bullied fall into drug and substance abuse as a way to feel “happy” again. For a short period of my life, I was a pastor and during that time I heard all kinds of stories about people’s struggles. People felt unworthy, students thought their parents loved them based on what grade they earned and others experienced abuse and questioned their purpose for living. The startling trend that I found was that most, if not all these people said “I hate myself” at least once and many of them also struggled with severe depression and self-esteem issues. 

It’s difficult to high self-esteem in a society where accolades, accomplishments and individual ability is highly coveted. People’s obsession over what other people have has created a world where human value has had its importance stripped away. Human value has deteriorated to being about, the height of GPA, the scores of SAT/GRE, the experience of a worker, the appearance of classiness, the number of diplomas, etc. Human value is not scored or priced based on materialistic accolades that other people give. Living in a place where materialistic possession, accolades and skills makes it near impossible for one to love oneself. There will always be someone better or someone who can do more. There will always be a goal you couldn’t reach because of your financial status, or your lack of ability, or your lack of accomplishments. If people could just take a step back and really take time to think about the value of the person who is in front of them, then this world wouldn’t be so caught up in trying to be busy for the sake of being busy.

For the people that cannot love themselves please know that your very existence is precious. The fact that you breathe air and call yourself human is the beauty of you. Don’t make accomplishments your life, or your GPA, or what school you go to, or even what job you get. Make it about realizing your immense value as a person and helping others realize their immense values as people.

“Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.” – Desmond Tutu

Do People Actually Love One Another?

Most people believe that living with love is the most idealistic way to live life. Posters about coexistence, the peace sign, LGBT marches all point to a visionary utopia called love. All these symbols have made love into something completely positive and good. However, I want to point out that love could equally be as dangerous as it is good. Some people out of love go and commit acts that society calls immoral, atrocious or evil. Perhaps it’s not the actual concept of love that is immoral but the placement of love that is immoral. A mother showing her great love for her kids by working day and night to provide food on the table would be considered amazing and admirable. On the other hand, a criminal charged for murder because he loves to kill and hunt would be considered as insane and psychotic. Even those who cast judgement about what kind of love is immoral or moral is similarly deemed hypercritical and narrow-minded. 

Is it a criminal’s fault for loving an illegal activity that society naturally condemns? After all, murder in other societies is considered okay. Or is the fault on those who choose to condemn rather than to help rehabilitate? One of the greatest issues I see in church is that people claim that they love one another when they encourage other people in their church with open arms and gentleness. However, when people outside of church come as fellow people they are met with hostility and judgement. Selectively loving people does not equate to being a loving person. When you see someone bullying another person do you rush to help the victim or do you become a passive bystander who watches the scene unfold? When you see a death row inmate do you hope that he or she turns away from prior attitudes and beliefs in an attempt to be an outstanding individual? Or do you simply write the person off by saying he or she deserved it? I believe that loving people based on my own principles is immoral. Not only do I immediately cast judgment on someone’s character but I reinforce the idea, “he or she isn’t worthy of me.” 

I personally can claim that I love select people and thus I cannot confidentally say that I’m a loving person. I have people who I hate, people who I hold grudges against. To call myself loving would be a lie filled with hypocrisy. Church, there is a reason why the people outside your walls don’t like you. It’s because you claim to be loving when in reality you only selectively love who resonate with your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Since when was it okay to only cry for a fellow Christan but not a fellow human? Why is it that you encourage those in the church so easily but cannot go on the streets to say, “I love you” to a homeless person or a random stranger? This is not just a knock on the church but is an open challenge to any person who claims to be loving and preaches about what love is. To be frank, all the movements in America today is not out of love but out of general hatred for a specific group of people. We have walked our way back to discriminatory America by separating certain interest groups based on where we place love. If you don’t love the church, then leave. If you don’t love the LGBT community, then leave. If you don’t love the women’s activist group, then leave. I know that I’m bringing up a lot of touchy subjects and I apologize in advance if any reader gets offended but the truth is the brutal truth. 

The problem is not because of love itself but where the concept of love was born. True love is a real thing, a fantastic experience, an action, an attitude and belief but the love that we have been encouraging is a love built on the foundations of human morality (which is problematic because human morality is relative to the individual person). Love, not conceptual love, exists but we as a nation, as a race still need to discover it. Science claims that space is the final frontier for humanity but I have to respectfully disagree. I believe that love is the final and most important frontier. Do I claim that I know what the answer to true love is? Hell no. What I am saying is that every time I was a receiver of someone else’s selective, conceptual love it was amazing. The primary daily, selective experience I receive is from my girlfriend and it is one of the greatest gifts I receive on a daily basis (I love it as much as I love the air) and I make sure to reciprocate. If a conceptual, selective love is already so amazing and fulfilling how much more will true love be? 

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C.S. Lewis

My Life-Long Love

It was a cold evening, my family was getting themselves dressed and washed up to go out for dinner except my dad. My dad for the past hour and a half was on his laptop clacking away on the keyboard. Curious, I walked up behind him to see what he was so focused on. I expected to see some number crunching and business words that I didn’t understand. To my surprise it was a video game filled with characters whose heads were way too large for their bodies. My dad turned around and looked at me and asked, “Do you want to try?” Filled with excitement I jumped onto my dad’s lap ready to play this new game. The game was called “Maplestory” and immediately I was sucked into its virtual world filled which chibi characters, snails and cute bouncing orange mushrooms. My immersion suffered an abrupt ending when my mom came charging in through the door shouting that we were late for the dinner meeting. My dad with a mischievous smile intentionally got up slowly to tease my mother and went to go change. I, instead of closing the laptop decided to sneak in another five minutes of playtime. I got yelled at for not listening and with great reluctance, shut down the laptop.

During the dinner, I frequently looked up at the clock to see what time it was because I wanted to know if I would be able to play a bit more before my bedtime. To my great disappointment and grief we left the dinner well past my bed time which meant I needed to sleep as soon as I got home. While I was laying in my bed I couldn’t help but dream about the intruiging new game I played. It was more than just a game or a fantasy to me. I put my personality into my character and the character became part of me. I played Maplestory for the next five years. During that time I made over a dozen characters all over level 120 (To get to level 100 took about 6-8 months on average of intense playing), spent hundreds of dollars and used a lot of time. 

I guess you could call me a typical guy for playing video games. But video games were more than just a tool to pass by time. They were a place for me to escape and to completely immerse myself in a brand new world. Growing up, I was never the most popular person or the best-looking. Most of my elementary school days were spent alone at recess and my middle school career was a chaotic mess of awkward transitions. I was bullied quite often for my physical looks and things only got worse when my dad became a pastor. I had to live up to absolute perfection in the eyes of the church adults. I was expected to be a leader in every ministry and to follow elders without question. Video games was a place where I could develop my own strength, where I would not be living in my father’s shadow and where I could defend myself when people provoked me. It was a place where I was in control of my own destiny. I loved video games. Not because it was just fun but because it was my safe haven. Games were the place where I socialized and made friends who liked my interests and thought my ideas were cool. This would probably explain why whenever I played a game, I was always in the largest guilds or constantly talking in the “World Chat.”

My love for video games soon went completely out of hand. I began stealing from my parents and from complete strangers so that I could buy in-game currency for special items. All the money I was given as allowance for food was spent on prepaid game cash cards and the like. My love quickly escalated to an absolute addiction and obsession and my life was completely revolved around video games. The addiction became an all time worse when I was introduced to the now famous game “League of Legends.” Regrettably, I can easily admit that I spent the absolute most amount of money on this game (over $500). Although I didn’t go around stealing from people anymore, I used a portion of my paycheck every month to buy some new skin or champion. I watched gameplay videos for hours and neglected my school duties resulting in to failed college courses. For about a year, I holed up in my home most of the time and absolutely hated going outside. In the rare cases where I was outside I would calculate how much time I had left in the day to play instead of actively enjoying the company of my friends. My personal relationships fell apart and/or drifted away. I was left alone and the scary part was that I liked it.

Fast-forward three years later, it’s now been about five months since I last played a computer game (although I have been on the Clash Royale grind from time to time) and I do find myself to be a lot happier and productive. I do have to work hard to rebuild the relationships that I made drift away but life has become much more fulfilling. I don’t ever believe that I’ll completely quit video games but I do believe now I have control over my impulses and now find much more joy in my relationships with others. And with marriage becoming more and more of a reality, I find myself wanting to prepare myself to take care of my future wife. I want to be a father for my future kids and a friend to my friends. 

What have I been doing to prepare myself? Well, one thing that I take pride in is that whenever my girlfriend calls me and I happen to be in a middle of any kind of game, I immediately quit and pick up the phone. The first few times were hellishly difficult but now it’s pretty easy to just click the exit button. I have also found a new passion in cooking and have become much more determined in pursuing my career in marketing. 

I still love video games. Not because of how it’s an escape away from my responsibilies or because it’s a fantasy where I take control of my destiny. No, I love video games simply because it is fun. I love video games because it’s now a way for me to connect to other people and have more of an opportunity to build intimate relationships with them. I love video games because although I had a tough fight with it, it had great influence in who I am today. I can now proudly say that I am creative, ambitious, caring, patient, loving, inspiring, responsible and so many other things because God allowed me to struggle and fight through my addiction. 

Everyone has a love and some of those loves become addictions that are seemingly impossible to give up or to conquer. I encourage every person who is struggle with addiction, to pleaes not give up and keep pressing on. It’s an arduous journey and you will inevitably fall but that doesn’t make you any less amazing. Your failures are doors of opportunity only to make you stronger. So use every experience and every struggle to make your story into something that will inspire and convict every person around you. 

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. when you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Does Tolerance + Acceptance Equate to Love?

Tolerance: a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.

The world, well, America at least, has found a new addiction: tolerance. Everywhere we see billboards, advertisements and people all claiming the same thing- be tolerant. Every kind of religion, gender, lifestyle, job, ethnicity, attitude and/or actions are to be analyzed objectively and never are to have objective truth attached. Objective truth to some degree is a taboo in our culture because it denies individuals to make choices. That’s probably why people hate customer service workers and service industries so much. Due to the fact that people are given an objective truth (to an extent) rather than a choice of control.

I actually work in the customer service industry as a salesman and let me tell you, when things don’t go someone’s way, all hell breaks loose. A couple days ago I had a customer walk in around the afternoon. He had the typical face of a pissed off customer wraught with anger, frustration and the “I’m going to be a complete douche today” look. All my co-workers, including myself looked at one another internally shouting, “Please, you help him!” Since I was the youngest at that moment I was immediately thrown into the fire and boy, the fire was scorching. As soon as I asked, “How can I help you today sir?” the man blew up like a volcano. I serviced the man as best I could for about an hour and a half and he eventually left the same way he came in. I won’t dive too much into detail but at the end of the day the problem was that I couldn’t give him what he wanted: choice. Everything he asked of me was either not a power I possessed as a salesperson or completely against my company’s policy. So I firmly had to say, “Sorry, I can’t do that sir.” The objective truths that I gave the customer was the cause of his frustration and anger and society largely operates in a similar fashion. Resulting in the creation of a counter-attack which was to elevate tolerance as a desirable characteristic in individuals.

I’m not saying tolerance is bad but I am trying to point out that it’s not as good as people make it out to be. Frankly, the message of tolerance is just as bigoted and hypocritical as narrow-mindedness. Reinforcing the idea that tolerance should be praised and intolerance should be dejected is very similar to what narrow-minded practices also preach (e.g. “You can’t do that because my way is better. Therefore, you should follow what I do”). Yet, because the word, “tolerance” is included, everything is automatically permissible and more likeable. Following tolerance came acceptance and acceptance had and still has many problematic implications in society today.

Acceptance: The action or process of being received as adequate or suitable.

To accept everyone and anyone is realistically impossible. No matter how many people one may accept there are always people one will reject. Even the people who an individual “accepts” aren’t completely accepted but rather selectively accepted. For example, a person may accept the fact that “x” person likes Apple products but will reject the same person because he or she doesn’t use Apple earphones. Selective acceptance is to filter out all of the parts of a person one isn’t fond of then ignoring them. Because the individual created an illusion that “x” person is likeable to their standards, it is concluded that he or she is an accepting person. What’s even more interesting is that people often make enough room to tolerate certain qualities that they are not fond of to strengthen their belief that they are accepting.

The sum of these two qualities frequently became associated with love. Love by definition is, affection based on benevolance. In other words affection to do good to another person. Lately what I have been questioning is, “Does tolerance and acceptance stem from my disposition to do good to another person or for some other extneral/internal reason?” Sometimes the answer was yes (e.g. yesterday’s blog post) but many other times it was no. After further evaluation I found that many times when I was “tolerating” or “accepting” someone it was due to my inclination to look like a good person. The world likes “good” people and goodness regularly is paired with tolerance and acceptance making it difficult to act on the basis of love.

The conclusion I came to was that tolerance and acceptance are avenues that love could come from but so are narrow-mindedness and stubbornness. We all have had that one friend where he or she would be so against the person you were dating. Not because they didn’t like you or didn’t want you to be happy but because they did like you and did want you to be happy. Too many times my friend’s or parent’s stubborness about a certain topic have led me to realize their love for me and my well-being. Too many times have I witnessed tolerance ending up to be a toxic mess. To many times I have seen acceptance rip relationships apart. Too many times can I recall that those moments weren’t love.

Love is a complicated concept. It is tolerant and understanding but also firm and truthful. It is accepting and receptive but also rejecting and spurning. However, that’s probably why the human race is so fascinated by it. Love is something that is so difficult to completely comprehend that we can’t help to reimagine and redefine what it is on a daily basis. Love in essence, is a paradox so wide, deep and high that it is everything.

Listen to Our Hearts

I recently fell in love with an old song called “Listen to Our Hearts” by Geoff Moore. I love the rendition by Tim be Told and Koo Chung more than the original but that’s a story for another day. “Listen to Our Hearts” is a song about how words are not enough to fully describe love.

16 months ago I met my girlfriend and to this day my stomach still flutters when I see her. From time to time she asks me “Josh, do you love me?” and with a resounding voice I respond confidently, “Yes, I love you so much!” For some reason, she always follows up with a second question which I find to be much more difficult to answer. She asks, “How much do you love me?” Why do I say that this a difficult question to answer? I love my girlfriend so much that words cannot wholly express intensity of my heart. I’ll be honest, I don’t like that question all that much because I can’t give her an answer that clearly explains my heart for her. It’s frustrating to know that the language that I have used all my life cannot describe my heart for her.

The song has a part in the chorus where it says, “Words are not enough/ To tell you of our love/ So listen to our hearts.” The blog post for today will be more of a letter than an actual post. A letter to my girlfriend addressing the issue of words not being enough.

“Dear Kyuhwa Lee,

I first began talking to you and realizing that you existed on December 24th 2015 in a Boba (Bubble Tea) shop. That night you came in while I was talking to a friend of ours. In the most awkward of situations, our friend left leaving us both alone together. Not knowing where or when to start a conversation you instead asked me to help you out with a report for your work. As you know, we didn’t work. Instead we talked until the workers in the Boba shop notified us that they were closing. We proceeded to go outside and talked some more despite the chilly California night (It wasn’t really that cold but Californians are weak).

Since that night, my life has improved ten fold. Why you ask? You gave me joy. Your smile, laugh, eyes, everything about you made my heart leap. I swear to you, I woke up way earlier than any human being should ever wake up to see if you were awake. To my disappointment, you’re a sleeper so I was always left at night wondering how you felt and how your day went. Well, I’m a curious cat so I got dressed at 3 a.m. drove to your house and waited till 4:15 a.m. to take you to morning prayer. Thankfully, you didn’t take me as a creeper which is probably why you’re still with me.

Fast forward to the present and let me tell you that I still wake up in the morning (too early for any normal human being) thinking about you. My heart beats faster when I think about seeing you later in the day. To be honest, I still can’t look directly into your eyes because my heart flutters so much that I feel sick. Yeah, all this time I wasn’t telling you the truth about looking into your eyes because I wanted you to be proud of my small accomplishment. Enough about me being lame and back to the topic.

Kyuhwa, goodness I love you so much. In this case, words aren’t providing me freedom but a prison. There is no word or combination of words that could accurately express my love for you. I wish there was (or maybe I don’t because it sounds sweeter this way) but there isn’t.

So from now on, whenever you ask me “How much do you love me?” I will respond by saying, “Listen to my heart. Every beat will say, “I love you more than yesterday, I love you today and I will love you more tomorrow.” I’ll also say, “I love you a lot” because I know you like hearing me say it anyways.

This was my attempt to use words to express my love for you. At the end of the day words are not enough to tell you of my love.

I love you Kyuhwa.

-Joshua Han

The Beginning

Most of us already know the story of creation in the Bible and other religious texts. Whether you believe creationism as true or false is up to you. At some point one needs to ask him/herself, “how did I end up here?” Why am I here? Is there more to this life?

The question, “Why?” is a very profound and mysterious inquiry that every human loves (also hates) to ask. “Why am I going to school?” “Why do I have this job?” “Why do I like him/her?” In fact, asking why proves our desire to find a purpose that is beyond human comprehension and logic. What that desire is, is love. Take time to think and ponder about love. Love itself is confusing, outrageous, ridiculous, illogical. Yet, at the same time it is also amazing, fascinating, desirable and fulfilling.

“Why do I go to school?”- “Because I love my parents and I don’t want to disappoint them.”

“Why was I born?” – “Because two people loved each other and decided to express their love physically” 

Those two examples are what I like to call, “Pure Love.” But much like all things in this world, love can become tainted, defecated and tarnished which I call “Impure Love.”

“Why do I go to school?” – “Because I love the idea of leaving my parent’s house to show them how much they needed me.”

“Why was I born?” – “Because a man loved to show is sexual dominance so he raped an innocent women.”

Here’s the reality. Love encompasses and penetrates all areas and points of every person’s life. It’s more than a three word phrase of “I love you”; it’s a human-made construct that we respond with our minds and hearts. We send and receive love with millions of different responses and outcomes. But no matter how toxic the responses are or how beautiful they are we all want to love and to be loved

I argue that the beginning of your life and mine all began because there was and is love. Why you go to school is because you love something. Why you read this post is because there is something to love. Why you even breathe is because something is worthy enough to love. Again, whether you believe that or not is up to you. But the point of this blog is to challenge your beliefs about love. So that we can discuss and share with one another what we love while exploring and identifying why we love those things.

This blog began because I love talking to others about what I and what others love.