by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.
We are happiest when we give to others, when we care, share and have compassion. When we live our life for a greater purpose, and when care for others is balanced with care for self.
- Emma Seppälä, Ph.D
Co-Director, Well-Being, Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence | Faculty Director, Women’s Leadership Program, Yale School of Management | Science Director, Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education | Author: The Happiness Track | www.emmaseppala.com | TEDx on Breathing Happiness
If you were to ask others what would make them happy, they'd typically answer with such things as, winning the lottery, buying a car or home, or going on an exotic vacation. These material externalities are fleeting and temporal. Others look for happiness within themselves, going so far as a Tibetan monastery high atop a Himalayan mountain to find it. However, lowering your expectations or denying the reality of life only numbs the pain.
The word itself, Happiness, implies circumstantial conditions, like happenstance, or luck. However, Joy is so much more important than happiness. And joy is much closer than you might think.
Joy can be found in your heart, words, and actions. A heart for God seeks to obey his commandments for life, the greatest of which are to love God and your neighbor. Put God first, others second, and yourself third.
My younger brother Todd is one of the happiest people I know, and he’s a complete quadriplegic with ALS. He’s mostly confined to his home, but he lives his life in service to others. He helps his wife, Kristen, with her fiction writing and her YouTube channel The ALS411. He volunteers with his church as a webmaster and graphic artist. He speaks and maintains a blog, nevastory.com, on topics of grief and suffering.
I've asked him several times how he remains so happy, and he can't give me an answer. But if you look at his life, he puts God first, others second, and himself third. He strives to live a godly life by obeying his commandments, and he seems to have joy in spite of his circumstances.
Suffering in life is a given. We all must suffer in some way, physically or mentally, at some point in our lives. If we love others, we’ll suffer all the more through our compassion, but we can still have joy. Rather than running away from our problems, embrace them and run toward the problems of others by helping them carry their burdens in some way.
This is not to diminish the need for medical help when needed. If you're sick, go to a doctor and take your medicine. If you're depressed or anxious talk with a confidant, a clergyman, or mental health provider and take their advice. Depression and anxiety can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain, and thankfully medicines today can relieve some of the symptoms. If you’re struggling with addiction, find a twelve-step program. Don’t suffer in silence. Give others the opportunity to live outside themselves and come alongside you and help you carry your cross.
Suffering, sadness, and happiness are all parts of the human condition. Find joy in all those situations through your heart, words, and actions. We all must suffer. So embrace your sufferings but do your best to overcome it. You'll never appreciate the mountains until you've traveled through the valleys.
Accepting our sufferings gives us hope and meaning in our lives and ultimately leads to joy and happiness.