Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happiness Is an Inside Job

The title of this post is also the title of a book by John Powell. It's one of my favorite books, and it's one that I credit with having a major influence on the changes in my life.

Recently I read this quote:
"He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove." ~Samuel Johnson~

How many of us realize that our own happiness is our responsibility. We often blame our mate, our circumstances, our job, our church, and/or our friends for our lack of happiness. But, if happiness is really an inside job, then that means we have the key to our own happiness.

How revolutionary is that?

My absolutely favorite quote in Powell's book is, "Growth begins where blaming ends." So if I quit blaming others for my unhappiness, perhaps I can begin learning how to enjoy the happiness that's mine from the inside out.

I think I'll write about this concept in my next few posts.
Fun ideas to think about.


Cathy H said...

I think I learned this concept from Bill and Anabell Gillham. It was transforming for me too.

But over the past year, I've been on the edge of it. I'm curious to know how this plays out in cases of major life hurts. You know, the ones you didn't see coming. The kind that inspire deep grief.

What do you do when there is no blame, no feeling life is unfair, no anger at God, but still very real sadness, confusion and loss to work through?

How do you get back to happy in an authentic way?

Mary Burleson said...

Great question.
This is one of those questions that may not have a direct answer, but I would like to share some thoughts.

Events in life do happen, and some cause pain and hurt and deep grief. And each of us will experience these. Can we be happy as we work through these times and our resulting emotions?

I think not. But I do think that our own happiness is an inside job. Note the word "job." It is work. And part of that work is to be real and to feel.

One of my events was the death of my sister. I had learned from two people in my life that unexpressed grief can cause terrible physical damage. One of my friends lost her hair and her doctor said it was from unexpressed grief. I determined to feel and not repress, and to express appropriately the grief I felt. That was a year-long process. Extremely painful and I can honestly say, agonizing at times.

It's my thought that feeling and expressing grief and sadness and loss were part of my "job" of working back through to being settled and accepting of life as it is and being okay with it. To me, that's true happiness.

I think you get back to "happy" in an authentic way by being real all along the way. My "anchor" is knowing that I'm not in charge of life and life's happenings, but I am in charge of my response. I do know and trust the One who is in charge.

I hope that doesn't sound like a cliché. It's very difficult to be real and authentic and not hide behind religious phrases.

Thanks for your comment and question.