Archive for May, 2018

A Gift

 

Over the past year I have been fighting.

 

 

I have been fighting against my natural inclination to wallow in the midst of life’s circumstances. I have been purposeful in trying to make myself happy. Trying to find some sustainable source of happiness through activity, busyness, mission, relationships with others, and also in isolation. Each of these provided some temporary elevation of mood—as a smoke that temporarily masks your view from the things around you, but just as quickly dissipates.

 

 

I’ve read books, positive quotes, bible verses, watched Ted Talks, sermons—just about everything I could think of, I tried. I wanted to take the power away from my circumstances, and to be honest the power of people to influence my ability to be happy. I meditated, practiced mindfulness, de-cluttered, traveled, filled up the pages in my passport, went outside my comfort zone, learned, took risks, met new friends, and crossed things off my bucket list. I’ve done everything I could think of to try to outrun and win the battles waging in my head.

 

 

I know I’m not alone in this. The prevalence of self-help books, videos, and articles on how to make yourself happy are a testament to the fact that many of us are seeking this missing link that would make our life more fulfilling and bearable.

 

 

Many people try to find that happiness in people, money or education. But the truth is many of these things though important, are often times insufficient. Life generally does not afford us perfect circumstances.

You can have money, education, and a family that is falling apart.

You can have a one true love… who loves someone else.

A beautiful house, a wonderful family, and lose your job.

 

The one thing that life can actually guarantee us is that we should expect the unexpected, and that rarely will everything be perfect all at the same time.

 

 

That lends to the common belief that happiness, or some would say joy, should transcend circumstances. But how? That is what I’ve spent the past year trying to discover. How! The answer is incredibly simple. Maybe I didn’t need to travel across the world, and isolate myself to discover it, but then again maybe I did.

 

 

 

There is a story in the bible of a woman who lost a coin.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'” Luke 15:8–10

 

Though Jesus was using this story to talk about the importance of saving lost souls (which I fully support), I also think this story very aptly describes human nature. Our penchant is to be unsatisfied with the 9 coins we have, and seek after the 1 we are missing. The hoax is that there will always be 1 missing. There will always be something that makes our joy incomplete. Something negative that if we choose to focus on, will steal our joy concerning what isn’t missing and is still present. If we took the same happiness that the woman had when she found the 1 lost coin and multiplied it by 9, we might see that what we do have is more than what we do not. And happiness comes in our perspective in choosing to focus on the 9 remaining even while we search for the 1.

 

Recently I’ve begun to keep a gratitude journal. When I first started it was hard to even think of one thing to put down because all the things that were going wrong weighed so heavily on my mind. But over the past 80 days of writing in this journal, which thanks to the 21st century I have on my phone in the form of an app, it has become easier to fill the lines for each day with things I’m grateful for.

 

Nevertheless, gratitude, and perspective are not the tools for happiness that I have found to be most effective. It is far simpler than that. The tool is simply the knowledge and acceptance of one fact. And that fact is that there is nothing I have that I deserve.

 

We become unhappy because we think we do not have something that we should. We think that life or God, owes us something. We think we deserve to have the things we have, and even the things we don’t.

 

Biblically we could turn to Deuteronomy 10:14 that says “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”

 

Or for those of you less biblically inclined we could consider parents that lose their kids in a school shooting, or kids that grow up in poverty. Did a child who has no agency (defined: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power) deserve poverty more that you who grew up in relative abundance? Or do you as a parent deserve to have your kids alive and healthy more than another parent does? Of course not! So if all the bad things that happen to us are not necessarily happening because we deserve them, then the good that happens is not always necessarily because we deserve them either. So all the good things that happen to us are then not owed to us, but rather a gift.

 

 

Thus I’ve realized that I should measure happiness not in what I lack, or that which I think is owed to me, but rather by the gifts I’ve been given. And when I do that I find them to be present in surplus.

 

 

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

 

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