Life

Don’t Miss Out (or, Why we shouldn’t try to be Happy all the time)

I love being happy. Absolutely love it. In fact, just last night I found myself with all these incredibly happy feelings inside of me, and they needed to be let out in some form of silliness or another. Whenever I’m struck with so much happy like that, I wonder 1. where the heck it came from, and 2. how long is going to last?

Because I want it to stay. Being happy feels so wonderful. Come one, I really don’t need to go on here; we all relate to this.

It’s smileyfascinating to think about why we love being happy so much, and why everyone on earth, in one form or another, is spending their time, money and energy looking for that next rush of happiness.  It’s intoxicating. You know why? Because it’s in our blood – we were meant to feel that way. Joy is a huge part of God’s nature and he made us in his image. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy.

Happiness isn’t meant to be our only emotion though, as the movie “Inside Out” so poignantly demonstrates. In fact, in this excellent blog post over here, Amy talks about several good reasons to be sad. I love the way she illustrates how we are taught to cater to our own happiness:

“No religious belief can be true if it doesn’t match up with our internal smiley-face-meter. We shouldn’t have to do work we aren’t passionate about, stay in relationships that no longer serve us, or deny ourselves any desire or pleasure. Pretty much the entire world is telling us that our goal should be to be happy, happy, happy, all the time, even at the expense of others.”

Ouch. I don’t know about you, but when I read that I felt a healthy dose of conviction. Because I do live like that a lot of the time, especially (for me) in the work area. I’m so prone to only spending my time on things I enjoy.

But she is absolutely right.* Think of all the relationships that are strangled because each is thinking only of their own happiness instead of the other person’s. Seriously, we need to re-think our priorities if they are all about being happy.

We’re missing out.

There is something beautiful (and also God-natured) about feeling a diversity of emotions, including the so-called ugly ones. We are complex things, us humans. And our makeup includes a capacity to be a deeply-feeling and hence deeply-caring being.

I’m going to stay on that “caring” train of thought for a moment because if you think about it, if our chief goal is happiness, how often are we going to hang around hurting and broken people? Being around these people hurts. Especially if you’re a naturally empathetic person, because you start feeling all of the sadness, rejection and pain that they are feeling. It’s not fun, and it’s definitely not happy. Yet it’s one of the most profound experiences – to be willing to share someone’s sufferings. There is extreme beauty in that.

So no, I don’t go chasing after the sad feelings, but I don’t want to be closed off to them either. Besides empathy there are countless legitimate reasons to feel those things. They are healthy. They hurt, yes. But to push them away with distractions instead of letting yourself feel them, process them and (if necessary) deal with them is to stunt your growth.

The best book I’ve read on grief (A Grace Disguised) talks quite a bit about how important it is to let the grief shape you – to not deny it, but to let it in, painful as it is. Because that grief will grow your soul, if you let it. It will enlarge your soul so that your capacity for joy – and for sorrow – is deeper.

I love that image, and it helped me to let my own grief enlarge me instead of stunting me. I do cry much easier now, and experience things very deeply … but I’m not in the least sorry. I still love feeling happy, but I’ve found beauty in the many feelings that we encounter in this crazy life.

Don’t miss out on all of that, my friends. Because if your primary goal is to be happy… you will miss out.

 

 

*She’s right about a lot of stuff, actually. I highly recommend her blog. All sorts of delicious unconventional thoughts and lovely things like that.

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