Learning How to Be Happier
Happiness is one of those goals that if people are honest it is a significant value in their lives. However, if happiness comes from outside circumstance and other people this means that only to the extent we can control these, could we plan to be happy. Also happiness would always be fragile since we have little or no control over events or others. What can be done?
The key to happiness is realistic expectations and committed acceptance of a community of imperfect people. If we can lower our expectations and increase our tolerance of others we will find that ourselves and others, then we will find our happiness increasing.
Donald Miller in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years summarizes this idea in the following comment.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions. And when you stop expecting God to end all your troubles, you’d be surprised how much you like spending time with God.“
So if we expect perfection from other people, circumstances, or things we will get nothing from them emotionally. But if we have more realistic expectations then we will appreciate more who people are and the circumstances we have. Even our relationship with God is impacted by expectations. If I wake up every morning expecting God to have given me paradise on earth I am going to be mad at God all day for not doing a very good job. But if I accept the fact I live “East of Eden” with God, then this is not such a bad day and I can appreciate my fellowship with God in the difficult world.
What would this look like?
1. Understand that God offers greater emotional peace and joyful confidence that God is at work in bad circumstances, but never perfect health, wealth, or prosperity in this life.
2. Understand that marriage and family offer a fellowship of companionship and mutual “as is” love, but with people who are wounded, weak, and wicked.
3. Understand that God has allowed us to still have some things of beauty and joy in this life, but many times less is more. Materialism where we are owned by the things we own, soon kills our contentment. Desire less and enjoy what you have more.
4. Understand that we cannot be everything and do everything. We are limited. We must focus on a few things and do many things just enough to get by. We will not be great at everything and we must be OK with that.
5. Understand people are wonderful yet struggling. Don’t expect perfection, remember the mercy God has shown you in forgiving you your sins in Christ Jesus, and give them some room to be less than perfect. Accept them by grace not by their performance.
6. Understand you need grace also. Self-condemnation does not make us better people but does increase our stress. Hard to be happy when you hate who God has made you. God most likely has less on HIS task list for you to do today than you do in many cases.
7. Remember God’s big plan. You are part of that big plan. You are important enough to have Christ Jesus die for you so that you can be forever with God in that big plan. Today is easier to handle when we keep it in perspective.
So how do we find happiness? Not for looking for everyone and everything to change. Instead we find happiness by coming to want today what we have and having realistic expectations about East of Eden living.