5 “Alternative Facts” of Dating

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orlandoI’ve lost two best friends to toxic relationships.

I’ve witnessed my friends cry because they put their self-worth in the hands of someone who didn’t deserve it.

I’ve experienced the pain of wondering why I wasn’t good enough for guys who I thought were Prince Charming.

Then, something crazy happened: I met someone.

I, the self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, was relentlessly pursued by the first (and only) suitor. He called me Princess and made sure he treated me like one. We are almost three years in and he has never stopped, no matter what happens in our lives.

For the last few years, he has shown me how exciting, scary, and worthwhile it can be to let my guard down and be vulnerable. I never expected how loving him and being loved by him could make me want to be more honest, kind, giving, and more committed to my friends, family, and God. He has always been intentional, Through every surprise coffee, compliment, joke, and conversation, he continues to pursue me and remind me that I am worthy of a love that challenges and empowers.

From talking to friends, family, and coworkers, I have discovered that there are many “alternative facts” that dominate how we view relationships. These ideas have distorted relationships into the polar opposite of what they were designed for. I want to show you these manipulations for what they truly are: lies.

LIE #1: You are not complete until you are in a relationship. I see this all the time with people who hop from relationship to relationship without any time to spend getting to know themselves. As much as I hated when my Mom told me that, she was actually right (Don’t tell her I said that!) The more secure you are as in individual, the happier and stronger your relationship will be. Why? Because when you begin a relationship, you will notice that your insecurities and characteristics as an individual will translate into the characteristics of your relationship. We’ll talk more about this later.

TRUTH #1: You are worthy of fairytale love. You are more than what you can offer the world. Your sense of humor, compassion, intelligence, wisdom, charisma, and empathy are only some of what makes you special. You are worth it just simply for being the person God created you to be. It’s as simple as that–and there are no exceptions.

LIE #2: Being in a relationship will make your life easier. It’s like people actually think a boyfriend/girlfriend will act as a magical band-aid and heal the broken parts of life. What is interesting about this statement is that it’s a half-truth that is twisted out of context. A healthy, empowering, God-honoring relationship will help you in a lot of areas in life. However, we tend to “forget” that people are all imperfect. Relationships take work, forgiveness and trust. We have all grown up with the saying “I’ve found my other half” but that statement is a scary way to look at relationships! Co-dependency, or leaning on someone else to make you feel whole, is the result of living this alternative fact. This type of life is complicated and actually does more harm than good.

TRUTH #2:  You can function apart but thrive together.  One of the best decisions I have ever made was to establish a core group of girl friends who would protect my heart and tell me truth. By the time I got to know my boyfriend, they were (apparently) asking around about him to make sure he was trustworthy and spent time with us to get to know him better. These types of friends will not only bring pepper spray and tasers (true story) when they meet him, but will support you and help you stay grounded at all times. Of course it’s great to be able to share hobbies and interests with your significant other, but having lives apart from each other keeps you a well-rounded person. Two individuals choosing to love each other is a more powerful testament than two halves of a person trying to squeak by on their own.

LIE #3: You have to give up your life to be in a relationship. Just like any area of life, you need to learn how to balance it with your other priorities. Your significant other is a part of your life, not your entire life. This goes hand in hand with pretty much everything I’ve said, but it’s still worth saying! We can all think of at least one friend who you’ve never heard from after they met their significant other. This lie usually presents itself when a friend decides to bail on your planned dinner because she hasn’t seen her boyfriend since that morning.  Time is the most valuable thing you can offer anyone in any type of relationship you have. Learn how to use your time wisely and your relationship will be that much more successful.

TRUTH #3: A relationship should be a gain-not a loss. If you’re spending so much time with your SO that your friends are catching up with you on their social media feeds and your parents have to use “Find My Friends” to figure out if you’re alive, there is a problem. You should be able to spend time in groups with your SO and your friends/family. Intrinsically speaking, you should notice that you’ll gain a better sense of kindness, respect, compassion, and understanding of others that encourages you to become a better person. At the very least, you can use all their jokes and seem like a funnier person 😉  

LIE #4: It’s okay to be a psycho girlfriend/boyfriend. Let me be very clear: JEALOUSY AND POSSESSIVENESS IS NOT CUTE. It is absurd to me to see how many people are laughing off and trivializing this issue. Being “psycho” is a major red flag of an abusive partner. I’ve been noticing a trend where women-and sometimes men- flippantly joke about how possessive they are with their partner. Jealousy is a human response to a threatening situation, but the problem is when everything becomes a threat and this behavior results in isolation and belittling of the partner.

TRUTH #4: Trust issues and insecurities are not funny, nor are they a trend. Honestly, the fact that I have to even talk about this is very upsetting. Earlier in this blog I mentioned that your characteristics translate into healthy or unhealthy relationship behaviors. This is probably the most underrated idea considering it’s normal to hear statements like “my boyfriend won’t let me….” or “my girlfriend said I can’t be friends with you….” I realize that jealousy itself is a normal human characteristic, but we all know that this kind of jealousy far surpasses the norm and is transformed into abusive and/or destructive behaviors. Stop joking with your friends that you’re a “psycho” girlfriend for not liking the way another girl looks at him. Stop telling your partner that they can’t hang out with friends of the opposite sex because you have trust issues. It’s about time we start calling these people and behaviors out because it enables serious physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

LIE #5: As long as you’re happy, everyone else should be happy for you. Emotions aren’t always reflective of reality. Most people are trapped in this lie because they believe that their rose-colored glasses can see better than everyone else’s crystal clear lenses. My friends that have lied, manipulated, and hurt people in their life all to support their relationship have angrily told me this lie. If you are having to tell people to support you against their better judgement, you aren’t only hurting yourself- you’re actually undermining the relationships you currently have. Why would you even want that?

TRUTH #5: A good relationship makes you better, so if this is not happening, your friends and family will be able to tell. After watching a few of my friends let their lives explode for a SO, I decided to make sure that all my friends and family approved of my relationship. I made sure he got to know my friends and my family while he was still getting to know me so he could understand what truly matters to me. It also gave my loved ones a front row seat to how my relationship with him affected my life. As I stated before, one of the best things I ever did was to form a close-knit group of friends and has made my relationship that much stronger. If I ever reached a point where someone needed to step in, I knew my friends and family would tell me that I needed to end it. Your loved ones care about you, so that’s why you should listen to them if they come to you with concerns about your SO.

I think it’s time to see these alternative facts for what they are: characteristics of an abusive relationship. (i.e. isolation, guilting, belittling, and manipulation) If we started to recognize the motives behind the behaviors, maybe we would see an increase in healthy self-image and relationship behaviors.

Remember, you are beautiful, special, and worthy of healthy, empowering love.

If you think you or your loved one is in an abusive relationship, please get help now. Click here to learn more about the signs of a toxic relationship or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


What About Me?

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For the past four months, when anyone would ask me how I was feeling, only one word came to mind: exhausted. As the semester progressed, I began to add the phrase “per usual” to this response.

Do you want to know a secret? Every single time I answered, I hated myself.

As long as I can remember, I’ve hated saying no. I always wanted to make everyone happy and show I was worthy of their trust. When I went off to college, what made my parents most fearful was going crazy due to overcommitting myself. In their defense, I’ve been known to give my all, even when I shouldn’t. In high school, I was that girl who made the study guides for everyone in the class, even when the other students didn’t treat me well. In college, I would spend too much time helping someone else on their homework or talking out their problems before I’d have the chance to do my own work. I’ve always been this way—it’s just who I am. I didn’t think that a time would ever come that this quality would actually become my downfall, so I continued to live my life blissfully unaware of the consequences.

The past four months have been full of teaching moments and character building situations. For a Type-A, perfectionist, need-to-be-in-control type of girl, this was brutal. Living with anxiety made it all the more difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So many times, I felt like I was being backed into a corner and being punished because I had nowhere else to run. I tried to see how God could be at work in my senior thesis that required me to sacrifice everything in order to put a temporary fix on the real issues that were happening. I didn’t understand why my job called me in so many times while I was not on the clock to ask me simple questions. I started to become distant and bitter because I couldn’t comprehend why everyone needed me all the time. I never asked for this amount of responsibility and I kept telling myself that my situations were so unfair.

Fortunately, this season did not come without moments of bliss and joy. My new relationship and friendships have been such a blessing since they’ve empowered me in my darkest moments and encouraged me to keep pressing forward. They have been my cheerleaders, therapists, and superheroes all the while personifying the gift of unconditional love.

Now that this season in my life has come to a close, there are three things that I look back on and wish I could tell myself:

Learn where your boundaries are and stick by them. Anyone who knows me can testify that I am an incredibly driven person. When I know what I want, I give everything I am to that cause/project/assignment/job/relationship. This is a quality about myself that I have grown to love. However, I wish I had found my boundaries without actually crossing them. It’s important to realize that this wonderful characteristic also comes with some weaknesses. I have trouble giving up control when I don’t trust others. This translates into taking the majority of the work for fear of others ruining it. Four months of this behavior has made me understand that this doesn’t help anyone. People will never learn if you take away their opportunities to grow and I cannot expect to take on the work of multiple people and achieve perfection. I can’t do everything or fix every problem—but that is okay! If your mental health suffers as a result of a situation, making progress is nearly impossible. Learning to find your boundaries without crossing them is the best thing you can do for yourself. Sticking by these boundaries can be uncomfortable and awkward, but it saves you from an unbearable amount of stress later!

When I am spread too thin, I am unable to be present for the ones I love. This was undoubtedly the most painful and difficult lesson I had to learn. My focus was so often on myself and my inability to keep up with my responsibilities, that it was difficult for me to notice when my friends needed me. It may seem obvious, but since I had less time to spend building my relationships, I felt more alone than I ever have. There were so many times that I would spend time with my friends…only to be interrupted by work or my senior thesis group…and I would have to take time to solve the issue before I could give my full attention back to my friends. I am so thankful for friends who stood by me and were so understanding and supportive instead of turning their backs on me.

Saying “no” does not mean you are admitting to weakness. Instead, you are showing wisdom and discernment by saying you don’t want to take on more than you can actually handle. My work ethic can sometimes take over the rest of my mind and I tend to think that saying “no” to someone means I am not capable enough to balance this new task. It may take the rest of my life for me to learn that saying” no” should not make me feel incapable, untrustworthy, or unworthy. It takes discipline, maturity, and self-understanding to know what you can and cannot handle.

Putting yourself first may not always be as easy as one would think. Although we are generally taught to put others first, there are some situations when you have to ask the question, “What about me?” so that you can help others by helping yourself. After all, you can’t expect to pour into others’ lives if you are empty and have nothing to offer.

Rewriting Your Role

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I’ve often heard it said that we should be kind to all people we meet because we don’t have an idea of their story or the battle they’re facing.

We all have a story that we’re meant to tell.

In life, we all play a role in the lives of those who we interact with. Often times, these roles can bring about a dramatic “Aha!” moment or it can be simply a cameo that brings momentary happiness.

The beautiful part of this story is that we have the power to choose what kind of impact we have.

It makes me wonder what role I’m playing in the lives of others and how I want them to remember my character.

People enter and exit from our lives all the time. Sometimes it’s by our own choice, sometimes it’s by their choice, and sometimes people just grow apart. No matter what, there is always a reason why someone has come into your life.  Taking every relationship as a growing experience or an opportunity to encourage has been the most difficult-yet most worthwhile-lesson I’ve learned.

When we are hurt by those we love, sometimes we wish they were never a part of our lives in the first place. Finally understanding this concept has made my heart more willing to forgive and to see through the eyes of mercy because it gives a reason for the madness. Instead of allowing myself to see someone only as the cause of my misery, recognizing the lessons I’ve learned through them restores their humanity. This concept forces mental, emotional, and spiritual progress because it destroys the need to fall into a pit of hopelessness. Imagine what life would look like if you could look back on a painful situation and see that you’ve become a stronger person because of it. Who wouldn’t want to accept this freeing gift?

The more people I meet, the more I realize that God, as the Master Storyteller, orchestrates these stories-and the characters within them-very strategically. As I sit and think of the friendships I have, friendships I’m developing, and friendships I’ve lost, I can’t help but smile because God knew that the presence of these characters would encourage, challenge, and love me into the person I am today.  Every fight, tear, laugh, and conversation I’ve ever had reveals more of how I can become a better friend/sister/daughter/child of God.

Just like chapters in a book have an ending, not all relationships are meant to last forever.  The silver lining is that some will have longevity that span a multitude of chapters.  No matter how long a friend will play a role in our lives, it’s important to leave a lasting impact on theirs. I’m sure you can think of at least one time when a friend did something so selfless that it changed your attitude for the day. Just by being present, embracing an attitude of love and a willingness to learn, you have the power to impact someone in the long run.

We’re all human, and as such, we want someone to love us. Let’s remember that as we meet new people and spend time with those we already love. Whether you like it or not, your existence has an impact on the people around you. In your heart, you hold the power to make that impact constructive or destructive. Take the chance to inspire someone and you would be surprised to find how inspired you’ll become.


Me, Myself, and You?

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Finally, I am relaxing.

I’m sitting in Starbucks in a comfortable chair, sipping a green tea latte and listening to NeedToBreathe quietly enough to still hear the sounds of the baristas making drinks behind me.

This is wonderful– being able to clear my head from my full class load, part time job, duties for the 2 clubs I’m officers in, the album reviews I do for NewReleaseTuesday.com, and a social life. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the activities I’m involved in. But sometimes, I just need time to simply be.

There’s something very special about just taking time away from a routine to give time to yourself. For some reason, it makes the day-to-day problems seem so far away. It gives me the time to stop focusing on my to-do list and live in the present.

During this time of being, I just thought about where I am in life. I thought about how happy I am to have the opportunities I’ve been given.  However, the best part about this hour of being was the ability to filter out any negativity that would normally make its way into my thoughts. I noticed that the longer I was being, the more my insecurities melted away. My intrapersonal communication became more encouraging and I saw the beauty in my surroundings.

This made me realize that I had taken the necessity of being and turned it into a luxury. One that I did not often afford myself.

I’ve walked through a valley in my self-esteem for the past couple of weeks. Without trying, I’ve managed to compare myself to almost everyone I meet. Whenever I would see someone, I would always think they were somehow better than me in some way or another. I would try to constantly make myself better…but not for my own sake. I was destroying myself in a race to keep up with the rest of the world. While I was relentlessly trying to run that race, I was neglecting myself because I wasn’t giving myself any breaks. This created a cycle until I felt like I didn’t have any time to simply be.

There are some days that I just don’t seem to be enough to fit the perfectionist monster inside of my head. But the more time I spent just being, the less time I spent worrying.

Taking time to be isn’t the same thing as being alone because being requires discipline and effort. I realized that I was thinking more clearly when I was specifically taking time to be versus when I was left alone. Having the control to step away from the world to be was empowering.

Simply taking an hour out of my day to be changed my attitude towards life and actually refueled my energy. Now, I’ve decided to be more proactive in prioritizing my being time. This will make me more confident and will allow me to become the person that I need to be.

In a constantly multitasking world, the best way to keep your sanity is simpler than we want to think. Just take yourself on a being date. Intentionally take all the pressure of everyday life away and you’ll be amazed as to what happens.

Take an hour. Go to Starbucks. Just take the time to be.


Forgiveness Isn’t Enough

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Hurt people hurt people.

It’s the cycle that is often swept under the rug because the root problem has been neglected. For those who have grown up in the Church, we know that we are supposed to forgive others regardless of the offense…because we are just as sinful and Christ forgives us. It’s as simple as that.

But what happens when someone hurts us in a way we could never imagine hurting them?

I’ve often felt guilty and angry at myself because I can’t forgive someone instantaneously and “get over it” shortly after I’m hurt. Instead, I desperately rack my brain for ways to solve the problem and ask others for their opinions. Once my mind has exhausted itself, the pain starts to settle in. I tend to become angry and will often lose the ability to see the good in that person.

After going through a difficult situation this summer that resulted in the loss of a close friendship, I realized that there is a clear difference between forgiveness and letting goforgiveness is for the offender’s benefit and deals with the act itself, whereas letting go is for your own benefit and deals with the emotional response to the problem. Complete healing cannot exist without a union of these two ideals.

Forgiveness lays the ground work for the more difficult part of the healing process. This decision propels the ability to let go of the pain and move on from the heartache, transforming the victim into a victor.

Letting go is essentially the application of forgiveness. This is not letting someone “off the hook,” rather it is letting you break free from the chains of bitterness, anger, and pride. When people talk about “drinking your enemy’s poison and expecting them to suffer,” I think this most relates to one’s ability to let go of the pain. Deal with your emotions as they come, but be careful to set boundaries with how you do so. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to work through your emotional responses, but when they restrict you from moving forward, it’s time to let them go. It’s also not healthy to ignore your emotions as they unexpectedly manage to catch up to you. Letting go requires an incredible amount of time and discipline and shouldn’t be expected to happen overnight. And that is okay. Letting go isn’t supposed to be easy, but it allows one to look at a mess and instead, see a message.

When it comes to forgiving yourself, however, it takes more time, discipline, and mercy than forgiving another person. It may be decisions from your past, choices you would give anything for to re-make, or a certain personality trait you desperately want to change. Whatever it may be, forgiveness and letting go take on a new challenge when the “offender” and the “victim” are the same person. It now becomes an issue of self-worth. When you struggle to forgive and let go of something you’ve done, you are neglecting the truth that a person is worth more than their mistakes. It’s easy to say that about anyone else, but it takes maturity, discipline, and strength to be able to believe that about oneself. Since you’re already letting go of pain others have caused you, it’s about time to start treating yourself the same way.

With the belief that both forgiveness and letting go have their place in the healing process, maybe hurt people don’t have to hurt people. Instead, hurt people can help people.


Confessions of a “Good Girl”

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The cat’s out of the bag.

I’m a “good girl” by society’s standards. I don’t drink, do drugs, have sex, swear, or wear crop tops with high waisted shorts. For a culture that preaches tolerance and hates being “judged,” I’ve noticed that I to have to defend my life choices quite a lot.

The “good girl” label comes with a lot of (wrong) pre-conceived notions about my character, intelligence, and interests. Most people assume that I’m ignorant or painfully awkward because I choose not to partake in nights that I won’t remember the next morning. Others assume that I think I’m better than everyone else because I wear a purity ring, representing my commitment to chastity until marriage.

Media doesn’t exactly help my case. Characters that have high morals are often shown as cocky, self-entitled, and/or stupid. Just look at Marianne from “Easy A” or Grace from “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Even the celebrities themselves are scrutinized for their personal beliefs, like the Jonas Brothers in regards to the purity rings issue. And when people decide to abandon these principles, they are often applauded for “being themselves” because everybody loves a “good girl gone bad” story like that of Miley Cyrus.

After trying to explain why I refuse to use the F bomb for what seems like the millionth time, I’ve decided to list a few “confessions” of my life as a “good girl.”

I don’t need your pity. If I had a dollar for the number of times someone gave me a pouty face and an “Oh…” in response to my lifestyle choices, I could probably pay off my student loans or buy a car. To be honest, I don’t understand why anyone feels bad for me regarding the path I’ve chosen to take. Maybe I’m not having “fun” by the standards of others, but I thoroughly enjoy my life. There’s nothing to be sorry for.

I’m not a child. Just because I make lifestyle choices that are not in conjunction with others’ doesn’t justify treating me like a child. On multiple occasions, I have been asked to swear—and sometimes have been offered money to do so. Other times, I’ll be told that “someday” I’ll want to make the choices that they’re making or at least understand them. What is most fascinating to me is that apparently now the rite of passage to adulthood requires at least one hookup, one hangover, and the mouth of a sailor. Until that point is reached, one will always be thought of as a child. And that is just as much terrifying as it is ridiculous.

I don’t need you to agree with my decisions. The differences between respecting, agreeing, and understanding need to be recognized. Respect acknowledges the credibility behind an idea whether or not it is believed by someone. Agreement is the full support of an idea on behalf of an individual. Understanding requires a basic knowledge of an idea. I’m not asking anyone to agree with the way I live my life, but I am expecting respect and understanding–especially considering I give the same courtesy to you.

I don’t look down on you. As a Christian, I know that a lot of people have said terrible things in the name of Jesus. (I’ve discussed how I think about this in a former post) And just for that, I would like to take a moment to apologize on behalf of those people for anything cruel and unjust that was said to you. At this point, it may be best to get off your high horse and understand that just because I don’t agree with the way you live your life doesn’t mean that I think I’m any better. I’ve never understood why my unwillingness to drink, smoke, or sleep around automatically makes me “holier-than-thou.” In such a culture of moral relativity as this, I would expect that disagreeing over those issues would be handled in a more mature fashion.

I’m more than just “nice” or “good.” Some of the most hurtful things I’ve ever been told is that I’m actually funny or actually interesting. Why is it so surprising that I can make someone laugh or have intelligent thoughts on politics, law, or society? Being “nice” or “good” doesn’t cancel out all my other characteristics. Putting me into the “good girl” box limits what I’m able to offer the world. Contrary to what some may think, being a “good” or “nice” girl does not inhibit the confidence in myself or ambition to reach my goals.

With all this said, I don’t mind discussing differences of opinion on lifestyle choices. In fact, I encourage the healthy understanding of why people believe and act the way they do. What I do mind are the discouraging, subhuman, ignorant remarks that are so often made.

All I ask is that people stop badgering me and other “good girls” for our opinions and beliefs. I’m not asking for this because it’s “right” or “moral” but rather because we’re human…just like you.


You Are What You Listen To

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youarewhatyoulistentoEverybody has that one song that can bring them back to a moment when they felt on top of the world. The beauty of music is that it can connect with listeners so deeply that people will associate memories with songs. It can also empower and inspire, instigate anger, and initiate sadness. When you take into consideration the personhood of the singer or band, music can have more power than you realize. From my experiences, I’ve seen that people tend to listen to music that reflects their values. Of course, this is not always the case, but most of the time it is.

After writing a research paper on the influence of the music industry, I have become fascinated with just how much power it holds. In a world when 60% of college students believe that their core values have been influenced by a celebrity, the messages behind the music have more power than most people give them credit for.

Now, there’s the age old debate concerning Christian vs. Secular music. Many Christians believe that it isn’t right to listen to secular music. They pride themselves on their many Newsboys and Tobymac albums, thinking this makes them a better Christian. I want to challenge this idea. Barring yourself from anything that isn’t explicitly Christian advances the “Christian Bubble Culture.” It creates a barrier between you and the rest of the world. In fact, listening to secular music makes you more relatable as a person. It’s possible to have a happy medium of listening to both secular and Christian music. I listen to both Christian and secular music on a daily basis. Given that music has power, I am diligent about discerning the messages that come from both my Christian and secular music. I want to be listening to music that reflects who I am and who I want to be. Because of that, my iTunes library consists of Britt Nicole, Kari Jobe, Demi Lovato, Lecrae, Needtobreathe, Katy Perry, Tori Kelly, Maroon 5, and Little Mix just to name a few.

Rejecting secular music because some of it is “immoral” is a completely ridiculous claim. Similarly, rejecting Christian music because some of it is “not up to par” is also ridiculous. There are many incredible musicians with genuine hearts that want to help others in both genres. There are also many musicians who are insensitive and selfish in both genres. The key is to understand the messages behind what you’re listening to.

The connection that people feel to music is very real and powerful. In my own life I have seen how the music I listen to has affected my worldview. When I was in middle school, Britt Nicole’s first album was released. One of the many reasons why I admire her is that her music meets you where you’re at in life. It spans from ballads about God’s grace to upbeat mixes about having fun with friends. The balance of “Christian” versus not explicitly Christian songs makes her relatable on a completely different level. This is why I’m still a fan after seven years.

Even though I am a Christian, I am also a human being with feelings and desires. When I feel lonely, I like to listen to “Dear No One” by Tori Kelly or “Love Me” by Katy Perry. Since most Christian artists are all married, I would rather not listen to songs about how wonderful their spouse is. I want a song to connect with that meets me at the place I’m in. Sometimes I want to listen to music about having fun with friends and listening to Hillsong doesn’t quite cut it. This isn’t a bad thing. It just means that I’m not denying myself my humanity. Since I have chosen to set a higher standard for myself in terms of music, I’m a bit picky. But it’s entirely possible to find secular music with messages that align with my worldview and reflect where I’m at in life.

Music is a blessing and putting unnecessary limitations on it defeats its purpose. Be wise in your discernment and realize that although the music may not be from the “Christian & Gospel” genre, it can be a positive and beneficial addition to your iTunes library and your life. If you don’t like Christian music, try researching artists that have the sound you like and messages that relate to you. Upon realizing that there is positives and negatives to both genres, the battle between Christian and secular music doesn’t have to exist.