“Like most teenagers, I spent part of my teens reveling in my angst. One day, however, the thought occurred to me that being unhappy was easy – in fact, the easy way out – and that it took no courage, effort, or greatness to be unhappy. Anyone could be unhappy. True achievement, I realized at an early age, lay in struggling to be happy.”
– Dennis Prager, Happiness Is a Serious Problem –
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Last week, on the fourth Thursday in November, we American’s celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday. There were many people talking about or posting thoughts on “Giving Thanks.”
I want to take a little bit of a twist on this idea and point to the secret to happiness which I believe is gratitude.
According to Aristotle, ‘the supreme good for man’ – is ‘Happiness.’ And Aristotle said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
Over the last couple of years I’ve been pursuing and developing, not so much “Happiness,” but seeking to be more grateful. It’s a daily exercise I’ve been working on to be grateful not only for the “wonderful” experiences, but also for the simple things, the good things in my life, even in the face of great challenges. I’m still struggling with gratefulness for the hard stuff, but I do believe from very difficult circumstances good things can be the result.
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
There is a book I’ve yet to get around to reading called Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual. It was written almost 20 twenty years ago by Dennis Prager. I’ve heard Mr. Prager talk about the subject of Happiness on the radio many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be in agreement with the contents of the book when I do finally get around to picking up a copy and reading it.
A quote from Prager’s book:
“Yes, there is a “secret to happiness”—and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”
Everyone goes through hard times in their life, obviously some more than others. Over the last few years my wife and I have experienced several things, just one or two of which, could knock a person down to the point that they don’t ever think they could get back up.
I’ve lost a couple of jobs. My wife has had several setbacks with her health (three surgeries over the last five years). One thing, then another, and another, resulting in the loss of our house.
Through it all our faith in a good and faithful God has been chief in our keeping our heads above water in the face of an ocean of despair. In the Psalms, chapter 30, are words that encourage – “you lifted me out of the depths” . . . “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Looking at the present, and to a future, where a personal God understands and is as close as a simple prayer away, I’m able, sometimes giving it quite a bit of effort, to find peace and strength, and look for and find so much to be thankful for.
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Our mom, divorced and with five kids on her own, raised us in her Catholic faith. In my late teens, I met the girl who would become my wife at a Passover Seder sponsored by a Baptist church. We now attend a non denominational protestant church.
I had a great example growing up of a woman who kept moving forward in the face of adversity, finding a way to enjoy the good things that came along the way. My wife too, through the challenges she has faced over the last several years, continues to look to the simple pleasures that put a smile on her face – a humming bird at the feeder, several moments of rest and relaxation at a Starbucks, with a good book and her current favorite beverage to sip.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yeah, that’s pretty simplistic, . . . but, it does point out something important. A lot of lemons come our way in life. It’s what we then choose to do that makes the difference. I am trying to more often than not, choose to look around to find something good, something that helps to get a smile on my face.
“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”
– Mark Twain
The smile on my face is not only good for my soul, it’s good for that person who see’s me, and then smiles back.
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“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”
– Irving Berlin