Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My 3rd Commandment

"Joy is a sign of righteousness. Misery is a sign of evil." 

This is a truth I've been learning over the past several months, and it's one of the things that prompted me to start my own happiness project (other than The Happiness Project book itself, of course).

I want to clarify what this means. Let me tell you what it doesn't mean: It doesn't mean that miserable people are evil, or that good people are happy all the time. It doesn't mean that bad things only happen to bad people, or that only good things happen to good people.

What it means is that what we feel shows how we're allowing outside influences to affect us. 

There are millions of influences outside us that can affect us in many different ways. No matter what, there will always be bad things in our lives. We might think other people have perfect lives, but the truth is, nobody does. (And we all know that, at least deep down.) Even if we're doing everything right, there will always be some accident, mishap, misunderstanding, etc, etc, etc. We can't stop bad things from happening! But we can choose whether those negative things will affect us negatively.

This is what I believe (and you may think this is total crackpot theory, but this is my happiness project, after all): I believe that there are forces outside of us that want us to think negative thoughts. (I had a mentor that called those forces "minions," so that's the way I think of them now; forgive the term.) Those minions can make it really hard for us to look at the bad things in life with any kind of serenity. They constantly feed us negative thoughts to think about all the bad stuff.

But what about the things that aren't just regular bad; what about the things in life that are really devastating?

Well, I definitely don't have all the answers, but this is what I think about it: There's a reason I used the words "joy" and "misery" in my commandment instead of the words "happiness" and "unhappiness." "Happiness" and "unhappiness" are just two sides of a coin, two changeable states of being. You're happy and smiley, or you're unhappy and frowny. "Joy" and "misery," on the other hand, mean something very different to me. I think there can be an underlying thread of joy or misery in every person; maybe even a little of both. A joyful person doesn't ignore sadness. It's okay to deal with things that are devastating and heartbreaking in a normal, human way. Jesus Christ mourned, too. But if you've given in to joy instead of misery, then you'll know, even as you're mourning, that everything is going to be okay in the end. You know that God has a plan and He's going to take care of things. You know that sadness is temporary and it won't last forever.

People who give in to misery, on the other hand, curse God when they have to deal with devastating things. They listen to the minions who give them all the worst possible ways to interpret the causes of their heartbreak. They fall apart.

It's easy to give in to misery; don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to condemn anyone. I've given in to misery myself, many times and in many ways, even just in small ways. It's impossible for any of us to be perfectly joyful; then we'd be perfect! The best we can do is just that: our best.

So, to bring things full circle: What does the 3rd Commandment mean? It means that if I'm miserable, then I'm allowing evil minions to teach me to think badly of my circumstances. On the flip side, if I'm joyful, then I'm allowing goodness to lift my spirits, trust in God, and do the right things.

Examining how joyful and/or miserable I am can help me to see, not what my own nature is, but what influences I'm allowing in. And I can choose which ones I want!

This commandment, I knew, is key to my Year of Joy. This next year, I want to choose the good influences!

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