Happiness Is Not A Dirty Word
My daughter recently told me about an incident that happened to her…
She was walking to the grocery store and just as she rounded the corner, suddenly a man jumped right out in front of her and yelled really loudly in her face!
Startled, she gave a shout of fright and stopped in her tracks.
The man looked like he was in his 40’s and well dressed.
It only took a moment before the man began to apologize profusely, “I’m SO sorry.” He held out his hands in a placating gesture.
All of a sudden my daughter heard a woman behind her cracking up. She turned and saw a woman who looked like she was close in age to the man. The lady was bent almost double, laughing.
Then my daughter said to the man,
“You just made my day!”
The man thought she was being sarcastic and began to apologize again, but she interrupted him.
“No! I mean it – this is the funniest thing that’s happened to me in awhile. And now I have a great story to tell all my friends and family!”
The woman stopped laughing long enough to chime in,
“This is the funniest thing that’s happened to me in quite some time too!”
Happiness Is Good For Your Health
When my daughter told me the story, we laughed together about it but it also made me think…
Humour is important – happiness is important. One of my favourite sounds in the whole world is hearing Melis laugh.
Sometimes I’ll hide in the closet before he comes home from to surprise him just to see him laugh, and then we have a big belly laugh together.
My daughter could have been annoyed by this strange man scaring her, but she wasn’t… instead, she shared a laugh with strangers and they had a moment of connection. And it made each of their days a bit brighter, a bit happier.
Don’t underestimate the importance of happiness.
Did you know that laughter lowers your stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, while at the same time increasing your “happy” chemicals, like oxytocin?
So why is the word “happiness” sometimes controversial in Christian circles?
My Rant About Happiness
In Christian culture, sometimes we talk a lot about the joy of the Lord, while at the same time we view “happiness” as a dirty word…
(I know I’m going to step on some toes here, but this is important, so hear me out. I also want to mention that this article is not talking at all about people who struggle with mental illness, so please keep that in mind.)
Of course, there’s the other extreme camp where if you’re not smiling all the time and happy-clappy, that there’s something wrong with you… but that’s another topic.
In the camp of somber Christians (where there are no parties), happiness is treated as a dirty word because we’re taught that it’s a selfish thing. And selfishness is, of course, wrong.
So the end result is that we sometimes have churches full of Christians who sing about the joy of the Lord with long, sad faces. They’re really negative people and no fun to be around.
Take a moment and think of the most unhappy person you know. This person is someone that you can just feel their unhappiness when they walk into the room. They’re party stoppers…
Is that who you want to be with today?
Is that who you want to be around?
Is that who you want to be?
Why Happiness Is Like An Oxygen Mask
Happiness is kind of like putting your oxygen mask on first.
You know how when you’re on the plane, they always tell you to always, always put your own mask on first before helping others? It feels kind of selfish, doesn’t it… I mean, help myself before helping the elderly lady next to me, before helping my friend or even my own child??
Yet, we all logically know that if we don’t do it, we won’t be able to help anyone.
Quite simply, we can’t give what we don’t have.
If I can’t celebrate, if I’m not happy, if I don’t laugh, then I can’t pass it on to others. From this perspective then, happiness is actually unselfish. Because otherwise, if I’m serious and unhappy, then that’s what I have to give to others – a joyless, serious existence.
However, if I’m a happy, hopeful, thankful, or intentional person, then I have those qualities to give to the people around me.
I can lift other people up and encourage them to live fuller, richer and happier lives.
Happiness Helps Us Connect
Another reason happiness is important is that it helps us to connect better with others. If I’m unhappy, then I’m very inward focused and it’s hard for me to open up or connect with others.
On the other hand, when I’m happy, then my whole body language, tone and mannerisms change. People will be drawn to me because I’m warm, inviting, and outward focused.
Therefore, happiness is our oxygen mask. It’s a selfless act.
What Happiness Is Not
Given all the different cultural definitions of happiness out there, I’ll give you my own definition of what it’s not.
Happiness is not about measuring how we feel today.
It’s not about taking our emotional temperature every day (this is really important to understand in a culture that so highly values feelings and encourages people to live by what they feel today).
Happiness is not frivolous.
It can’t be easily knocked down.
And it’s not based on material things like a new pair of boots.
What Happiness Is
Happiness comes from the inside and true happiness understands what to value and what to prioritize in our lives.
Happiness is the intention of how we live. It’s the result of consistently looking for joy even in the hard times.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to be happy.
What Happiness Takes
I’ll talk about the formula for happiness in two weeks, so in the meantime, I want to encourage you to go out make someone’s day. (I’m not suggesting that you jump out and scare strangers… but I’m sure you can find another way.)
My mentor, John C. Maxwell said that it doesn’t take a whole lot to make somebody’s day, but it does take something.
Happiness doesn’t take a whole lot extra… but it does take something.
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