Happiness is not a vacation spot. It’s a state where everyone has the opportunity to reside permanently. The state of happiness is analogous to the governed geographical territories where most of us live. And, just like you can go to different localities within a state, you can experience various areas of happiness.
To make this analogy clearer, I’ll use the state of Ohio as an example. Ohio is an integral part of a large group of states, each with its own border, but united to form a great nation. As a result, people from other states can choose to live, work, visit, or vacation in any of Ohio’s different areas. These localities include cities, towns, villages, rural areas, and bodies of water. You can travel to any of these places by various modes of transportation. But, no matter what vicinity you go to, you’re still in the state of Ohio – unless you cross its border.
Areas Within Happiness
Happiness is also integral to something grander – an infinite realm. Similarly, happiness consists of different areas: joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. A unique aspect of this state is that you can be in more than one area at a time. So, for example, you may not be joyful in a particular situation, but you can still be at peace and content.
Happiness is More Than a Vacation Spot
Happiness is not a vacation spot or place to visit. It is a state where God wants everyone to live. But more people need to reside there. Instead, many view it as a reprieve from their chaotic lives. They want to be there, but don’t know where it is, don’t have good directions, or don’t use the proper transportation.
Even though we express our happiness through physical actions, it is rooted in in our spirit – our hearts, minds, and souls. Happy people have a joyful heart, peaceful mind, and loving soul.
Direction to Happiness
It’s not always easy to find happiness, especially if you didn’t develop a good guidance system. The most direct route to happiness is gratitude. When you are grateful, you acknowledge that you have something good. And having something good brings joy, satisfaction, contentment, and love to the recipient and the giver.
Transport Yourself to Happiness with Fruits
Unlike physical transportation you would use in Ohio, transit in the state of happiness is spiritual. You reach joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment via obedience, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruits of the Holy Spirit). Additionally, you must follow certain travel laws to ensure secure and complete happiness. These world-wide rules are Honesty, Empathy, Accountability, Respect, and Trust (HEART).
Happiness’s Invisible Border
When we travel from state to state we cross borders. Most states have multiple borders, but happiness has only one. Its border separates happiness from unhappiness. Moreover, this border is often difficult to discern. There are no visible lines or “Welcome to…” signs that define one state from the other.
The invisible border surrounding happiness is a powerful force that impacts everyone who encounters it. This border is absolute Truth. And like any border, people can breach, disregard, or willingly cross it. People breach and ignore happiness’s boundaries when they overlook, subdue, diminish, bend, redefine, or deny the Truth. Those who willingly cross the border do so because they feel like it. They feel they need to get revenge, control things, worry, or take care of other people’s problems. In addition, many people often feel an impulsive need to indulge the corporeal desires of others or themselves. Unfortunately, the people who cross happiness’s border don’t think about where they are going, how they are getting there, and who they are affecting. As a result, a single border crosser can negatively impact thousands of people.
The State of Unhappiness
Once you cross happiness’s border, you are left in a state of unhappiness because crossing the border means passing over the Truth. Therefore, the Truth does not exist in unhappiness. Furthermore, overpowering the Truth and the excitement of seizing your desires gives you a sense of authority. This self-acquired authority in the absence of Truth gives you the power to create your own Truth.
Relative Truth is Not True
Individually created truths are merely self-made declarations based on the opinions, feelings, beliefs, desires, and preferences of the person who makes them. Therefore, individual Truth relates only to the person who declares it. And this makes that truth relative.
We know that Truth cannot oppose itself. Therefore, if your relative Truth opposes my relative Truth, there is no truth. When Truth is absent, confusion and conflict take over leaving unhappiness’s border open and unlimited.
Unhappiness is Our Nature
It’s easy to slip through unhappiness’s open border. In fact, the emotions of unhappiness are familiar and come easy because we are born there. Have you ever seen a baby at birth smiling and enjoying his/her entrance into the world? We are born with instincts to survive, not thoughts for living happily. Therefore, we must learn how to be happy. And that knowledge must be accurate. Unless we know the Truth, we will continue to live the way we were born – in the natural world of survival, where we constantly experience fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt.
Unhappiness Causes Severe Illnesses
The feelings people experience in unhappiness generate more severe physical, emotional, and social illnesses. Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, loneliness, and anxiety are some physical and emotional illnesses. Abortion, addiction, random killings, lawlessness, and fragmented families are just a few social issues that result from many people living in the chaos and limitlessness of unhappiness. There is no safety and security here.
The Truth Keeps You Safe and Secure
In the realm of happiness, the Truth keeps you safe and secure. There cannot be relative Truth for happiness. But Truth is relative to happiness. The more you live the Truth, the happier you will be.
We Have What We Need to Live Happily
God didn’t create us to briefly visit joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. Instead, he wants us to live happily now as a prelude to what is beyond this world. Despite the fact that we live in a world where our nature keeps us unhappy, God has given us everything we need to live in the state of happiness in this world. He has given us thinking brains so we can be consciously aware of our attitudes and behaviors, but more so that we can know Him. To know God is to know love.
Absolute Truth Makes Us Free
Moreover, our ability to think allows us to be grateful, obedient, tolerant, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and disciplined – to practice the good fruits of the spirit. As a result, they provide us and others with joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. Most of all, God has given us absolute Truth in His word and His son. Absolute Truth makes us free which keeps us happy.
Following Leads You to Happiness
How do we find our way to happiness? Jesus said to his confused and conflicted disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” “Follow me.”
“To be happy, you must value happiness” sounds like one of those Proverbs that we agree with but don’t apply. In truth, we should pay more attention to these words of wisdom and live accordingly. We would be happier. Find out why and how valuing happiness will make you a happier person.
What Do You Value?
What do you value? Recently, I asked about forty people, both professionally and personally, that same question. Every person had to stop and think about it. Some people seemed embarrassed to answer. A few got slightly indignant, and some struggled to find an answer. How did you respond?
Like most people, you probably have a shortlist of people and things. Common answers include family, friends, job, home, and health. Even though all of us want to be happy, no one in my survey answered, “Happiness.” Only two people answered, “God,” which is the only way to complete happiness.
Why People Struggle Saying What They Value
I wondered why people had such a difficult time answering a question that has no wrong answer. So, I studied it. People struggle with acknowledging what they value because they’ve lost sight of it. The things you value most are your priorities in life. Your priorities are the things and people you focus on the most. Therefore, what and whom you focus on the most is what you truly value. You might claim to value one thing, but your focus may be on something totally different. For example, say you claim to value your children, but you focus on getting them involved in all kinds of sports. You buy the best equipment for them. Then, constantly tell them how to play better. What is your real focus? In truth, you’ve lost sight of what you claim is most important to you.
Here are four reasons people lose sight of what they value. See if you can relate to any.
Are too busy
Never had much value to begin with
Distracted Because of Competition and Criticism
By nature, we are competitive, greedy, jealous, impatient, and self-centered. Therefore, it’s easy to become distracted by what other people have. Comparing yourself to other people creates competitions that you’ll want to win. So, instead of focusing on how blessed you are with what and who you have, you’ll focus on wanting more or being better than your competition.
One way to make yourself better than others is by criticizing them. Conversely, our need for acceptance makes us averse to being criticized. This double standard distracts us from what we truly value.
If you were criticized and judged by your parents or others instead of valued, you’d be the one to create a high opinion of yourself. This overestimation of oneself is known as pride. The worst sin of all, pride, causes us to judge and criticize others as a means to prevent the pain of rejection. Therefore, pride causes you to value yourself by focusing on other people’s flaws.
Distraction Because of Pain
Besides the pain of criticism, other emotional and physical pain can distract you. We are wired to avoid pain. However, pain is inevitable. Therefore, when we have any pain, we tend to focus on getting relief. In addition, pharmaceutical companies, hospital councils for accreditation, and the medical community have prioritized pain relief. Likewise, too many parents try to prevent their children from experiencing the pain of disappointment. Therefore, they are less inclined to tell their children, “No.” This kind of pain has become intolerant and taboo.
Certainly, there some conditions require pain relief. But, we must be careful that we don’t cancel out our ability to tolerate pain. If you lose the ability to handle physical or emotional pain, you’ll lose faith. And, fear will prevail. You, the people, and the things you value will suffer because you’ll be too focused on being “afraid of…” rather than having faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, the what and whom you focus on the most determines your behavior.
Competition, averting criticism and avoiding pain keep us busy. Maybe that’s part of the reason people are so busy these days. Most conversations I have with people include the phrase, “so busy.” With so many people being so busy all the time, our Gross National Product should be record-breaking. And, “Now Hiring” signs should be a rare sight. Neither is true. Productivity is not equivalent to busyness. Much of today’s busyness is fruitless. And now, people can make more money by not working!
When I ask people exactly what they are so busy doing, they usually respond, “Oh, you know….” Honestly, I don’t. And, it’s apparent they aren’t impressed with their accomplishments since they can’t recall any. Unimpressively busy people don’t focus on anything productive. Therefore, they rely on other people to give them something to value. Such reliance creates temptation for both parties.
Temptation is Satan’s way of getting you to sin – transgress God’s law. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Today, you don’t have to get out of bed to be tempted. And, instead of being led into temptation, you carry it around with you.
Cell phones are a significant source of temptation. It’s easy to peek at your screen to see who’s texting, trending, or posting when you know you should be working, studying, or listening. Therefore, you focus on doing what you feel like doing instead of doing what is right.
In the natural (our nature), we prioritize our instincts and feelings. Therefore, we do what we feel like to get what we want instead of doing what is right and just. Temptation comes out of our nature only to keep us stuck there. How many times have you done something you felt like doing but knew wasn’t right and felt guilty about it afterward? Then, you were tempted to do something else that wasn’t right to ease your guilt. It’s easy to get caught in this cycle that makes you constantly focus on misery and relief.
Who are the Tempters?
Marketing strategists know how easy it is to tap into our nature. They tempt you into buying things you don’t need and can’t afford. Moreover, they condition you into believing it’s so essential that you should have it right now. Therefore, you focus on instant gratification.
Advertisers aren’t the only ones promoting temptation. Parents foster temptation by giving their children credit cards. Since credit cards are abstract currency, children can easily imagine the credit card will cover the purchase of whatever they want. It becomes easy for them to focus on getting what they feel like they naturally deserve.
Parents also cave to temptation when they give their young children cell phones based on the assumption, “In case something happens.” This message provides children with a sense of impending doom. So, the phone becomes necessary for survival. Children learn to value safety and security by focusing on the need for technology.
Society’s Reformed Temptation
Temptation is not restricted to acquisition. It’s a rampant deception that society constantly ameliorates into acceptable behaviors. Society’s proliferation of uninhibited sex and vulgar language has reformed degenerate actions into normal social behaviors. Moreover, the mainstream media has abolished temptation by making individuals’ amoral behaviors nothing less than ordinary conduct. This revised form of temptation gives value to wickedness and allows people to focus on fulfilling their desires and urges.
Lack of Esteem
Self-centered people focus on themselves because no one else did. The last reason people lose sight of what they value is that they never had it in the first place. Abused and neglected children grow to see themselves as worthless, damaged goods or commodities used for other people’s pleasure. In addition, children raised by parents who compromised moral and ethical values or had weak core values continue to be influenced by the laws of nature instead of God’s laws. As a result, they value life by focusing on survival.
When you focus on surviving, you live in survival mode – your natural and primal way of existence. It’s how we are born. Scripture refers to this level of existence as living in the flesh or sinful nature. To live in survival mode means you are always on the lookout for danger and strive to dominate. Therefore, you tend to expect the worst and try to control others. Your primary emotions are fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. These negative emotions cause anxiety and depression, which cause you to focus more on yourself.
Nature is in Opposition to Happiness
Nature is central to why people lose sight of what they value. Don’t underestimate the power of your nature and natural emotions. The Apostle Paul is explicit about what happens when we prioritize and focus on our nature. He reminds us how our nature contradicts the Spirit of God. Since complete happiness comes from the Spirit of God, we can conclude that our nature is in opposition to happiness. Therefore, if you value happiness, you cannot focus on your nature.
Don’t let competition, pain and fear, busyness, temptations, and low self-esteem make you transgress from what really matters. When you value something, you prioritize and pay attention to what he, she, or it needs to function well. You nurture, support, and protect what you value because you want it to last. In fact, we often want to pass the things we value on to other people.
To Value is to be Disciplined, Committed, and Willing
A lot of time and effort is required to nurture and preserve what you value. Therefore, it’s not always easy. It’s challenging when you’re hurt or tired. So, to value someone or something, you must be disciplined, committed, and willing to submit and serve – abilities we have, but choose if and when we want to engage them.
The willingness to submit and serve others comes from another type of value. These are core values – the beliefs we have about what is right and wrong and most important in life. Our core values control our behaviors.
God created people and rules for the people to follow so we could live in His love and be happy. A summary of His laws includes Honesty, Empathy, Accountability, Respect, and Trust (HEART). These rules are systemic core values that must be obeyed so everyone can experience peace, joy, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment.
To Value Happiness You Must Be God-Centered
Therefore, to be happy, you must value happiness by focusing on the core values that God gave us. You must be God-centered, meaning you must love God first. When you put God first, everyone and everything you value will be blessed and a blessing.
Our Two Minds Must Work Together to Value God
To value God, you must feel His presence, and you must know Him. Therefore, God created us to have two minds. We are born into the world with instincts and emotions that allow us to exist and have deep intuitions. But, they do not create happiness.
They are a function of our first mind that develops, our subconscious mind. Our second mind, the conscious, comes alive after we are born. It is located above our subconscious mind and makes us knowingly aware of the world. Our conscious mind gives us a higher level of understanding that inspires happiness.
The Earthly Subconscious Mind and Spiritual Conscious Mind
We can describe our conscious and subconscious minds the same way Jesus explained himself to those who didn’t believe Him. “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23) Therefore, we can connect our subconscious mind to earthly (natural) ways and our conscious mind to the Spirit of God.
While our subconscious mind protects our existence, our conscious mind discerns right, wrong, good, and bad. It’s where we think through situations and assess outcomes. The conscious mind allows us to know God through His Word and the teachings of Jesus Christ. But, both minds are necessary to have a complete relationship with God.
Jesus taught his followers the truth that often conflicted with their beliefs. However, because he valued them, He persisted with love and patience. You must do the same for yourself. Your subconscious mind may be filled with false beliefs that other people or you created. But, your conscious mind knows the truth, and through love and persistence, it must teach that truth to your subconscious mind. You do this through conscious awareness and repetition of good thoughts and the use of good words. Then, your subconscious mind will create good habits that will protect and promote who and what you value.
How Your Habits Affect the Value of Your Happiness
Assess your habits. How do they affect who and what you value? Do they bring you closer to God or push you from God? Do they line up with the core values? If they lead you to a conscious awareness of joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment, you value happiness. On the other hand, if you are left feeling sad, angry, and resentful, stuck, dissatisfied, or guilty, your values are not God-centered.
How to be God-Centered
Figure out what prevents you from being God-centered. Do this by paying attention to how you value the important things in your life.
Do you practice the core values within the confines of love with people? If not, what prevents you from doing that?
What obstacles do you need to remove?
What do you need to eliminate?
Who do you need to remove from your life?
What do you need to replace what you removed or eliminated?
To become more God-centered, read and study the Bible for wisdom. Pray for God’s help and find good role models. Seek therapy or counseling for guidance if necessary.
Being Happy Here is a Primer for Eternal Happiness
God created us to be happy in this world as a primer for eternal happiness in His kingdom. To be happy, you must value happiness. To value happiness, you must value God. When you value God, you’ll focus on how to have eternal happiness. Jesus tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves [material] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-22 AMP)
You can still be happy when life isn’t fair. Happy people know this. They don’t always like the fact that life isn’t fair, but they understand and accept it. Happy people uphold their values, practice forgiveness, and rely on their faith to overcome unfairness. However, people who can’t handle the reality that life isn’t fair are dissatisfied and malcontent. They are unhappy. This post explains how you can still be happy when life isn’t fair.
Correcting Unfairness Doesn’t Create Happiness
Unhappy people reject the fact that life isn’t fair and have difficulty tolerating the discomfort that comes with unfairness. Instead of accepting this reality, they brood over past and current hurt, pain, and suffering. Therefore, they continually seek justice to correct inequity rather than seek wisdom to prevail over it.
In their pursuit of rightness, unhappy people, whether individuals or groups, manipulate or abandon the core values (God’s laws). Moreover, they blame and punish others and use their own beliefs to determine reparations. They want the impossible – to conquer unfairness. This ideal puts them in a superior position, which itself is unfair! Maybe these people think conquering the impossible will make them happy. Whatever their reasons, their attempts to make life fair creates more unfairness because of the choices they make in those attempts.
The desire to correct inequity is not new. To have this desire, people had to recognize the existence of injustice. This recognition came when people realized they had a choice. And, the first people to realize this were Eve and Adam.
Freedom of Choice
God is love. He is not a dictator. He created us to have free will so we can choose to love and obey Him, not be slaves to Him. In that obedience and love, we live fuller and happier lives. And that is God’s desire for us. But, for us to utilize free will, we must have something to obey. Therefore, we must have rules. Then, we can choose to follow or not follow them.
Rules Give Us Choices
For fairness to exist, we must have rules, and we must obey them. Genesis shows this through the story of Adam and Eve. God gave Adam and Eve everything to make their lives happy. They were free of inequity. There was nothing to make them feel fear, anger, shame, or guilt. They were free to walk anywhere in the garden and eat as much as they pleased.
Adam and Eve seemed to have the kind of choices we typically have on vacation – where, when, and what to eat. But, like any good parent, God had house rules. One basic instruction was, “Do Not Touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It would have been an easy rule to obey if God had tucked the tree in the corner of the garden. But, He placed it smack in the middle. So no matter what direction Adam and Eve went, they passed the tree. God’s rule gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey God.
Intrusive Thoughts Cause Bad Choices
Adam and Eve could choose what God desired or what they desired. Eventually, their desires won out. Eve yielded to the serpent, an intruder that intensified temptation and planted doubt in her mind. The attraction was a better-tasting, better-looking fruit that would improve their existence. And, it was doubtful that God would have them die after all the work he went through to create them. These intrusive thoughts justified their disobedience.
Adam and Eve challenged God by putting their desires and interests ahead of His. Is there any competition more unfair than that between parent and child?
Many times people, especially children, think unfairness is punishment. It occurs as a result of someone’s will. Therefore, unfairness, itself is not a punishment.
Negative Emotions Make Us Recognize Unfairness
After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they felt ashamed and afraid – two emotions that allow us to recognize the existence of unfairness. When God called them out, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. This sequence of events shows us that inequity started with Satan (temptation and doubt) and persisted by a lack of obedience to God. In other words, unfairness occurs due to irreverence and bad choices.
Forgiveness Nullifies Injustice
Happy people revere God’s word and rely on it to help them overcome the challenges of temptation and doubt. They adhere to God’s rules through conscious thought, awareness, and faith to maintain their obedience and fairness. If they falter, they know repentance yields God’s mercy, which reconciles them and sets them free. Therefore, they know that forgiveness does not correct unfairness but nullifies it.
To forgive is not as easy for us as it is for God. Our negative bias (our natural inclination for survival) makes it difficult to let go of bad things that happened. Therefore, to forgive, we must be closer to God. We must get out of our natural state and into a spiritual level by being consciously aware of human frailties.
Yesterday’s Choice May Be Today’s Injustice
Reality is everyone makes mistakes and bad choices. No one can alter this truth. Accepting it sets you up to know unfairness happens for reasons that extend beyond the information you have. For example, an ancestor’s lack of obedience and bad choices done years ago might be a reason for a family’s dysfunction today.
While the actual cause for inequity might not be known, remembering that human beings are not perfect and offering forgiveness allows you to manage your current situation without seeking justice or demanding compensation. It sets you free and prevents you from making more bad choices that would cause additional unfairness to others, including your descendants.
Jesus’s Greatest Lesson
Forgiveness and tolerance of people’s fallibility require obedience to Jesus’s teaching. Two of his most excellent teachings are Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you practice these two commandments, you focus less on the unfairness of life and more on how to love others.
Choose to Believe the Best
Happy people understand love and know it involves choice. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a thorough definition of love, and part of the description tells us that love believes the best. Since our negative bias pulls us in the opposite direction, we must choose what we want to think. For example, say I invite my friend for lunch, and she doesn’t show up. If I go with my nature, I’ll think of all kinds of negative reasons she didn’t meet me. Maybe she’s mad at me, she got into an accident, or she didn’t remember. None of these makes me feel good, and I won’t feel good about my friend either. That’s not fair to her or me. Therefore, if I choose to believe the best and think she must have a good reason not to come to lunch, I remind myself that she is a worthy person and I feel good. No matter her explanation, I’ve loved both myself and her. I’ve been obedient and fair.
It isn’t always easy to love someone, especially if the person or persons have treated you unfairly. Therefore, the choice to love and believe the best requires obedience through discipline or self-control. As long as you can think, you can exercise discipline. But again, it’s your choice.
Faith and Unfairness
People who think life should be fair may acknowledge God, but they are more obedient to themselves and their beliefs of what is right than to God and His righteousness. Therefore, they put their faith in information rather than God. They “follow the science” instead of following Jesus and question God instead of questioning science.
Science is the systematic study of structure and behavior through observation and experiment. To use this approach for assessing and overcoming unfairness means quantifying the inequities in life.
Retribution or Reconciliation
People who follow this train of thought would assert there should be quantifiable compensation for those who’ve experienced unfairness. You can only do this if you can put a particular value amount on someone or something. We see this in civil justice to settle problems caused by unfair practices. This kind of settlement is retribution, not reconciliation.
Unhappy people who meditate on past human errors seek this kind of compensation for historical injustices. Sometimes adult children carry grudges against their parents. It can also happen in certain groups. In truth, how can you measure the right amount of compensation for something that happened years before and under different conditions? How satisfied would you be if you received payment for an injustice that occurred seventy years ago by someone you don’t even know?
Compensation for a historical injustice is difficult to settle. This kind of debt is challenging since the debtor is unknown or no longer here. Therefore, someone who currently exists must pay. That would be like you paying for a car your great uncle purchased one hundred years ago. How fair is that?
Extinguishing Unfairness Means Denying Truth and Reality
People who believe there should be no unfairness try to extinguish it. They do this by omitting historical information for education, tearing down historical statues and portraits, and changing schools’ names. Deleting or rewriting history does not erase it, nor does it eliminate unfairness. If you burned all the pictures of your grandmother because she left your cousin a larger inheritance than you, that doesn’t erase her existence. After all, if she didn’t exist, neither would you. This type of thinking denies the truth and reality, which isn’t fair.
People who continue to feel bad because of things that happened to them when they were younger try to prevent injustices for their children. I hear this a lot when clients tell me they learned what not to do from their parents. Other examples where adults try to ensure fairness for children include:
Lowering test scores for school admissions.
Eliminating team tryouts.
Giving everyone on the team a trophy.
These efforts to correct unfairness deny children truth and reality and set them up for future disappointment. When people try to spare children the frustration of inequity, they prevent children from being strong and courageous in overcoming adversity. They don’t allow children to be encouraged to be the best they can be. It’s unfair.
Negative Bias Perpetuates Negative View
People who get stuck about life being unfair view life from their negative bias. Therefore, they focus on what they don’t have compared to what others do have. People who accept life isn’t fair look in both directions. They can see how much better things might be, but they also realize how much worse things could be for them. These people maintain an accurate and fair perspective of reality that allows them to be more grateful for what they have. Their gratitude reminds them of all the good they have that enables them to give to others.
Accepting Life Isn’t Fair Makes You More Generous
People who accept that life is unfair are more generous. They don’t give out of guilt or fear but out of compassion and love. Generous people plan what they give. They support, encourage, uphold, and uplift others because they want to build up, not compensate or punish.
Unhappy people spend too much time in their nature, which makes them more competitive than generous. Dominance and greed overtake humility and generosity, so they determine who should have what. They base their determinations on their thoughts and feelings. So, they may see someone who is momentarily vulnerable as a chronic victim (poor soul) and incapable of taking care of his/her problems. Thus, they must rescue these poor unfortunate souls. Rescuers determine what victims need. Therefore, they don’t honor vulnerable people. How fair is that?
Unfair Doesn’t Mean Unable
Happy people know that unfair doesn’t mean unable. Moreover, they are forward thinkers, so they look towards the future with hope and optimism. They don’t see unfairness as the extinction of equality but as existential diversity that allows them to strive for self-improvement and encourage others to do the same.
Unhappy people view unfairness as a malformation of existence, a grave injustice for those who are or have been on the underside of prosperity. Deuteronomy tells us there will always be poor people, whether they are deficient in material goods, money, health, or spirit. We are to honor them through generous support, encouragement, and love. Retaliating to correct the unfairness doesn’t promote better conditions. It takes you away from those in need and leaves them feeling abandoned.
If Life Were Fair We Wouldn’t Fair Well
If life were fair, everyone would have the same skills, talents, intellect, illnesses, amount of money, and good looks. There would be no competition and no specialties – nothing to compete for and nothing to make you unique. If life were fair and we all had the same, people would become complacent and live their lives following the orders of those who dictate equality.
Life isn’t fair – thank goodness! Because of that, we can have healthy competition, serve others, experience mercy and grace, be grateful, commit to our values, be obedient, and have an intimate relationship with God. It allows us to love more.
What happens to you when you are with someone who is negative? You know who I mean – the guy or gal who complains more than compliments, finds more wrongs than rights in the world, assumes the worst, and counters any glimmer of hope with a “but….” None of us is immune to negativity, and few, if any, enjoy being with people who are. “Overcome Negativity Part 1” explains the origins and necessity of negativity, why it’s so easy to be negative, and the effects of being negative. “Overcome Negativity Part 2″ shows you how to overcome your own negativity and “Overcome Negativity Part 3” helps you understand other people’s negativity and how to overcome it. Read on so you can be more positive and happier!
It’s Easier to See Other People’s Negativity More Than Your Own
It’s easy to see how negative other people are, but we are less inclined to see it in ourselves. We often overlook our own negativity and label it as venting, being realistic, or unhealed wounds resulting from an injustice, aka “victimization.” All of us have negative moments. However, if you find you habitually do any of the following, you may be more negative than you realize.
Routinely use negative contractions (can’t, won’t don’t, etc.)
Dread rather than anticipate the future
Commonly use foul language
Are quick to judge and criticize
Are easily offended
Tend to help people by pointing out what’s wrong with them
Express your opinions like they are facts
We are designed to look forward and assess what we see. Therefore, it’s unnatural for us to look inward and evaluate ourselves. Many times our introspection is just a quick glance into the way other people made us feel. (Example – If your perfectionist mother criticized you or perfected a task you had already done, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough.) Your focus would most likely be on how negative your mother was and not the negative behaviors you’ve adopted to overcome your feeling of being unacceptable.
If the people in charge of our development were negative, our chances are more significant. Growing up in a hostile environment conditions us to be more at ease with negativity. It becomes a way of life so that we don’t recognize it as negativity. We view it as survival.
Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1829 version defines negative: Implying denial or negation (a declaration that something is not; opposed to affirmation); Implying absence; opposed to positive.
We practice negativity when we deny, avoid, and disregard. When there is an absence of joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, contentment, and gratitude, we are negative. To live negatively means we’re left with nothing that adds to our existence. We are not happy.
The same dictionary defines positive as properly set; direct; absolute; real; existing in fact; confident; fully assured.
Positivity occurs when we practice what is right and just – when we honor, empathize, respect, encourage, are accountable, trustworthy, and grateful. When there is a presence of joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment, we are optimistic. Thus, we live with an abundance that enriches our lives. We live beyond our nature in the spiritual realm of consciousness, where we bring God’s love into our hearts and recognize our blessings. We are happy.
Why It’s Easy to Be Negative
Inarguably, most people like positivity. But how many people are truly that way? It’s easier to be negative, and here’s why:
We are born in survival mode.
We wake up in our nature every day.
Negativity is extremely contagious.
Marketing strategies make consumers feel bad and covertly instill fear.
Social media and news media overload us with negative hype and misleading information.
Born in Survival Mode
About 28 days after conception, the neural tube forms — the beginning of our brain and spinal cord. Like every living organism, once we exist, we want to continue that existence. So, the first part of our brain that forms is the sensory area. This intuitive part of our brain functions below our level knowledge. It operates behind the scenes and is called the subconscious mind. This area is our storehouse for memories and it regulates our heart rate, breathing, digestion, alertness, and wakefulness. It also senses and alerts us to danger. Therefore, it is the source for our survival emotions of fear, anger, and contempt.
Fear alerts us to threats and positions us to fight back, take flight, or freeze (play dead). Anger and contempt allow us to dominate others through intimidation without compunction. These primal instincts promote the existence of lawless groups. They are akin to jungle law. Needless to say, living this way is destructive.
Our conscious mind doesn’t activate until after we are born. It takes several months of infant development before we can process conscious thoughts. Therefore, our survival emotions have at least an 8-month head start. We even experience these negative emotions before we are born. While they are necessary for our existence, they cause us to feel bad and behave badly. Born in survival mode makes us naturally negative.
We get a greater physical and emotional charge in our brains when we experience adverse events than when we experience positive ones. Our brains are formed to be more sensitive to negative situations. Studies by Dr. John Cacioppo at The University of Ohio showed, “the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. There is a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news.”
Think about it; say someone at work gave you a random gift one morning. One hour later, your boss comes to you and criticizes you with a snarly remark. What event will you contemplate longer?
Researchers speculate a reason we have such an intense reaction to negative situations is to ensure our survival. Early on, humans had to be keenly aware of the dangers threatening their existence. Therefore, our brain developed a safety system to sense and remember trouble quickly. The more fixed the memory, the better our chances of preventing injury or death. And the better chance of perpetuating our species.
Whenever we have a bad experience with others the memory can become fixed. The intensity of these kinds of memories can cause us to hold grudges, keep score with others, feel the need to seek justice and revenge, and perpetuate a bad mood.
We Wake up in Our Nature
The conscious mind sleeps. We become unconscious, but our body continues to function. Our subconscious mind does not sleep.
Otherwise, our vital functions would stop. Therefore, every morning we wake up, we wake in survival mode, aka our nature. How many of us are incoherent and grumpy before we have our coffee? We are more alert after our conscious brain gets activated. It is easier then for our survival emotions to take the lead.
Negativity is Contagious
It takes no more than one second to react to a negative person. We naturally assess people for safety by reading their faces and body language. Then, using our emotional instincts, we get a sense about them. Therefore, a negative person doesn’t even have to say anything for us to react. When we sense someone is negative, we don’t feel safe. We don’t trust an angry or contemptible person. And, we can’t count on someone laden with sadness. Therefore, to ensure our safety and security, we try to correct other people’s negative by countering it.
We automatically counter people’s negative attitudes, moods, behaviors, or comments by responding with something positive. It’s usually futile. Behavioralists’ studies and Dr. Cacioppo’s results have quantified a positive to negative ratio. It is 5:1. For every negative comment someone makes, you need five positive comments to affect a positive change. Imagine if the person made three successive negative comments. You would have to come up with 15 positive counter comments. The chore this presents is too exhausting and frustrating. So, you lose or “if you can’t beat ’em, you join ’em.”
Marketing Strategies Instill Negativity
Ads have pervaded the countryside, highway systems, television, radio, internet, and media. A free-market society and capitalism are productive. But, ad campaigns have surged. Back in the day, we used to see maybe one or two ads during a commercial break. Now, 12-15 ads dart by during the four-plus minute commercial break.
The quickness and repetition of commercial ads give us little time to think. Therefore, they emotionally connect to us via our subconscious mind where they get stored.
Memories get stored in our subconscious minds through pain and repetition. We remember pain (except childbirth) to prevent us from repeating things that could harm or kill us. It is how we preserve our species. We also fix memories into our subconscious is through repetition. Practicing something until we can do it without thinking means it is locked into our subconscious mind.
Many of today’s marketing strategies use pain and repetition. They remind us of the problem we have or threaten us with the pain of feeling unacceptable while they promise their products will bring us relief and happiness. Ads are also grossly repeated. Marketing is so prevalent and powerful that it fuels our negativity without us even realizing it.
News Media Incites Negativity
When I think of the devil, I no longer picture a demon in a red suit with horns and a forked tail holding a pitchfork. I see social and news media. You know, the infamous FB, bluebird, TV stations, and online tabloids.
What happened to Joe Friday’s famous directive, “Just the facts ma’am”? Today’s news facts vary from source to source which creates skepticism. And the news media has gone beyond sensationalism to a perverted level of degeneracy. Surveys indicate that people become more anxious and agitated when they watch the news.
According to Graham Davy, Ph.D. Psychology Sussex University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, “The way that news is presented and the way that we access news has changed significantly over the last 15 to 20 years. These changes have often been detrimental to general mental health.” He goes on to say that today’s news is “increasingly visual and shocking.”
Videos from smartphones and the like give the news a sense of immediacy and urgency. Dr. Davey indicates this medium for information can be so intense that it can cause acute stress symptoms—like problems sleeping, mood swings, aggressive behavior, or PTSD. (www.Time.com)
Social Media is a Catalyst for Negativity
Social Media includes news from “friends.” Some of the stories we see from our friends remind us of what we don’t have, so we focus on our absences. We are left in a negative orbit. When we give too much attention to what is absent in our lives, we feel lonely and deem ourselves failures.
It isn’t easy to discern reality on Social Media. Anyone can take pictures being happy and make their lives look perfect. Happiness indicates successful living. So, who would want to advertise their miserable existence? Anyone who does will most assuredly blame it on someone or something else.
Social media can also be a medium for cyber violence. It’s easy for a perpetrator to hide behind a screen and mouse to attack someone. Therefore, people are easily assaulted and threatened on social media.
Our negative bias makes people eager to share negative information. We call this gossiping and deriding. These are common practices in both news and social media, which oppose what God teaches us – to be kind and encourage one another.
Negativity is Easy, Powerful, and a Choice
The ease and power of negativity can defeat an individual, couple, family, community, and society. While it’s easier to be negative than positive, we all can change our course and live our lives with optimism and fullness. God has given us this ability and the freedom to choose how we live.
We have been saved from the snares of negativity. But, to be directly set, fully assured, and have complete fullness, we must follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, and believe God’s word. God’s word is absolute. It is positive truth.
There are no absences when you live in the word through Jesus Christ. It is the way to a more positive life and outcome. God gave us the ability to set our course, but we decide where we want to go.
Learn more on how to overcome negativity in yourself and others in my next posts. Blessed be you!
Overcome Negativity Part 1: Source, Reasons, and Effects of Negativity
Throughout the ages, people’s desire to be happy has not changed. However, their approach for making that happen has taken a wrong turn. One simple way to be happy is to talk happy. You must talk happy to be happy. This creates a cycle. You talk happy to be happy and when you’re happy, you talk happy.
We want to be happy and want other people to be happy because we feel safe with happy people. When we view people as safe, we believe they are successful at life and want to be around them. So, happiness is kind of an indicator for how successful one is with relationships and accomplishments.
Even though people want to be happy, many are not. Some people put on a good front to fool others into believing they are happy. Those who admit to being unhappy usually blame it on their circumstances or other people. But, listen to the way these folks talk, especially the words they use. They don’t talk happy – even during everyday conversations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking down the street or in the grocery store and overheard conversations that if viewed on family television, would be nothing but a steady tone of beeps. People don’t realize the importance of their words.
Words Define Who We Are
Our words define who we are. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34 AMP) So, how can anyone define him/herself as happy when he or she talks using foulmouthed, angry, bad words?
With the last name, Fuchs (pronounced Few-ks), I’ve had my share of hearing obscenities. I am confounded why people aren’t more sensitive to last name pronunciations. After all, last names are important. They came about to identify one’s geographical roots, occupation, physical features, or parents. In my case, the mispronunciation of Fuchs, when people assume the h has a k sound, alleges bad things about me. It’s a disrespectful gesture from people I don’t even know.
Perhaps the ease of name mispronunciation comes from the ease in which people use such indecorous language. Our society is becoming more and more accepting of words, behaviors, and attitudes that in prior years were immoral and socially illegal. This cannot be indicative of an advanced society since an advanced society would strive to better its health and happiness by encouraging one another.
Social Rules, Including the Way we Talk, Are Like Guardrails on the Highway to Happiness
A healthy society must have laws. Therefore, we must have civil, moral, and ethical standards. We must have limits for what is acceptable and unacceptable. Think of social rules like guardrails. They help us stay safe and happy. They keep us in alignment, prevent us from running into each other, prevent us from veering off course, and keep us from going over the edge plunging to our deaths. If you remove these balustrades, keep bending them, allow them to deteriorate, or don’t put any in place you jeopardize the health and wellbeing of people. Society will suffer.
Some of these social rules include the way we talk, especially the words we use. Our words, inflection, and tone of voice express how we feel about ourselves and others. People tend to focus on the effects their communication has on others, but don’t realize the impact it has on them.
Words Affect the Speaker More Than the Listener
When we talk to others, they hear, see, feel, and maybe think about what we are saying. But, as speakers we see (in our minds or maybe on paper), say, feel, physically gesture, think, and hear our words. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg, Director of Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and Mark Robert Waldman, Executive MBA Faculty at Loyola Marymount University write, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” “Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobe.” Therefore, we are how we talk.
Bending the Guardrails Allows You to Just Survive
We must talk happy to be happy and it’s true that everyone wants to be happy. Then, why do so many people talk badly? For example, I’ve noticed the f-word is being integrated into every day vernacular, seemingly with no resistance. This acceptance is bending the guardrails.
F*** was a negatively connoted word when it originated in the 14th century and that hasn’t changed. Therefore, anyone born after 1399 knows the f-word is a “bad” word. In fact, it became one of the most vulgar and obscene words in English history.
I confess I’ve dropped the occasional f-bomb. I was mad and frustrated when I used it so I already didn’t feel good. But, I felt worse after the fact. The moral of the story for using immoral words – when you use a bad word during a time you already feel mad, frustrated, and contemptable you end up feeling guilt, shame, anger, and hatred. Recall these are our natural survival emotions. (Survive means to just exist, not live happy.)
Survival Mode Perpetuates Bad Talk and Vice Versa
When you use negative, obscene, distasteful, and disrespectful words that you know are bad, you make yourself feel as bad as the words you use. “For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food.” (Job 34:3). This kind of talk keeps you in survival mode (your nature) leaving you with the defensive attitude of self-preservation. In turn, your attitude will lead you to use more bad words.
Maintain Social Guardrails
We must maintain social guardrails in order to have a healthy happy society. Start by keeping your guardrails in position:
Pay attention to the words you use and how you feel when and after you use them.
Think about the effects your words have on other people. Are they encouraging or discouraging?
Decide how you want to feel and use words associated with that, e.g. “I really enjoyed…” “My heart is so joyfu!” “I am satisfied with ____.”
When you are mad, frustrated, or offended use funny or silly words. For example, the f-word originally meant “To strike.” The next time someone offends you, maybe you could just say, “Strike you!” Back in the day, we used words like, “Rat fink” and “Stinker.” Using words that sound silly instead of mean will diffuse your anger and make the situation less serious for you. You’ll keep your heart light and healthy.
Use “happy” a lot.
Simply refuse to use words that make you feel bad.
Use words that are uplifting.
Bless Others With Your Words
We get happy when we help or do for others. Therefore, use words that bless others. “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].” (Ephesians 4:29 AMP) Bless others and you’ll be blessed – just by talking happy.
You naturally know what you need to be happy. But, do you know the truth about getting what you need to be happy? If you are like many people, you’ve been deceived!
Physical Needs vs. Emotional Needs
We know we need food, water, and shelter in order to survive. And, we instinctually figure out how to get them when necessary. When we are denied these needs and become desperate, we will do things that, in normal circumstances, are considered to be disgusting and unlawful. Some of these behaviors can look like madness and some can disrupt order in our relationships, communities, and society.
Our physical needs are more severe in that without them we will cease to exist. However, we also have emotional needs (Refer to Post #22 for a detailed list) that are inherent. But, since they are intangible and cannot be quantified, it’s easy for them to go unnoticed, unmet, or discounted.
Our emotional needs are food for our spirit. If we don’t get them met, we won’t cease to exist, but our spirit will suffer and wither away. And, just like our physical needs, if we are denied our emotional needs, we become desperate and our behaviors will reflect that. Hence, why children act out in negative ways and jilted lovers seek revenge.
The more adequately our needs are fulfilled, the more loved and satisfied we are. And, the more loved and satisfied we are, the happier we’ll be. But, many of us were deceived about getting what we need to be happy.
Three Deceptions About Getting What You Need to Be Happy
The deceptions you were taught about getting what you need to be happy came out of your nature. Perhaps you learned them naturally from your parents. Or, maybe your parents spent too much time living in their own nature and created an environment that promoted these ideas.
The three deceptions are:
Other people are responsible for fulfilling your needs
You are responsible for anticipating and giving other people what they need
Circumstances dictate what people need
Many people live their lives based on these principles. If you’re one of them, “How is it working out for you?”
I used to live this way. So, my answer is, “It doesn’t work. None of these makes anyone happy.” After years of disappointment and exhaustion, I came to realize that these principles for getting what you need to be happy cause more pain and suffering than happiness. I had been deceived.
Deceptions are Generational
These deceptions are passed along from generation to generation until someone changes them. My parents lived with these deceptions. They didn’t teach them to me so I would be miserable. They got them from their parents and their parents from their parents, and down the generational line. So, they just passed them along to me.
People Who Didn’t Get Their Needs Adequately Met Stay in Their Nature
People who didn’t get their emotional and physical needs adequately met spend most of their lives in survival mode. Or, what I refer to as their nature and Scripture refers to as “sin nature,” “the natural,” or “the flesh.” Living in the natural results in a life of dissatisfaction and conflict and the actions of our nature are sinful. (Galatians 5: 19-21, NIV) Therefore, we perpetuate our lack of emotional needs. We constantly experience fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. Those overused survival emotions produce anxiety, depression, poor health conditions, unfulfilled relationships, and an unhealthy society.
When you live in your nature, you experience more emotions than emotional needs. So, fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt become your primary needs and your emotional needs become wishful thinking. Your need for these emotions intensifies. You need them to stay alive, to use as means to get what you want (for manipulation), and so you can feel something that confirms you’re alive. Your need for these survival emotions prevents you from experiencing joy, peace, love, freedom, contentment, and satisfaction.
Why People Don’t Get Their Needs Met
I’m hard pressed to believe that parents have children so they can purposefully screw them up. Unfortunately, parents who are messed up create messed up lives for their children. These children learn messed up ways to cope with their messed up lives, so they become messed up too. It’s called dysfunction.
Dysfunction is not a disease, but it is a dis-ease. It disrupts the ease of life. Dysfunction steals our peace and joy. It distorts our sense of reality. Dysfunction is a cause and effect of alcohol and drug abuse, neglect, physical and emotional abuse, violence, untreated mental illness, and sexual abuse. It results from not having emotional and physical needs adequately met and prevents people from getting their needs met.
Seemingly well intended behaviors such as overindulgence and overprotection of children by parents actually create dysfunction. Overindulgence enforces the actions of our nature. Overprotection cultivates our natural fear.
Dysfunctional parents live and raise their children in the natural. But, after the children grow they can choose where they want to live – in the natural or above and beyond in the super-natural (in the Spirit of God).
Deceptions vs. the Truth
When you live via the super-natural you know the truth and experience ultimate happiness. You learn the truth about getting what you need to be happy. Living in the super-natural is in opposition to living in your nature where deception runs rampant. So, let’s look at three deceptions vs. the truth about getting what you need to be happy.
Deception #1: Other People are Responsible for Knowing and Fulfilling Your Needs
Why this happens: Because of dysfunction from living in the natural.
When you are born, you depend on other people (primarily mothers) to know and fulfill your needs. As you get older and more independent, you are more aware of what you need and try to get them met through communication and behaviors. If your living conditions are unrealistic and your needs are denied or your parents overindulge you, you won’t learn how to identify your needs and you won’t learn how to acquire them. You will resort to what you naturally know. Thus, you will depend on other people to know and fulfill your needs for you.
Dysfunctional people and those who continue to live in the natural focus more on their emotions than their emotional needs. Therefore, they aren’t good at identifying emotional needs nor do they know how to get them met. They rely on other people to do that for them, like when they were infants.
Why This Doesn’t Work
This doesn’t work because no one is a mind reader. Each person knows what he/she needs and everyone does not have the same need at the same time. Therefore, you cannot expect someone to know exactly what you need.
If you continue this unrealistic expectation, you will be constantly disappointed and set people up for failure. You will be angry with the person who should have known your needs and find him in contempt. Then, you will put guilt and shame on him. You will deny the person love because you do not believe the best in him. This keeps your emotional instincts alive and you in your nature.
Truth #1: You Are Responsible for Getting Your Own Needs Met
As adults, it’s true that we depend on other people to fulfill our needs sometimes, not always. No one can know with any accuracy or consistency what you need at any given moment. No one is a mind reader.
There are certain situations when people can anticipate the needs of others. For example, when couples are committed to each other and live in the super-natural, they are so mutually supportive of one another that they become aware of each other’s needs. And, are willing to submit in order to fulfill those needs. Therefore, these loyal twosomes know how to meet the needs of each other.
You must know yourself well enough to identify what you need. Then, you can communicate it to someone one. If no one is there to help you, be patient. If no one is available, communicate it to God. He has given us everything we need. But, to recognize those needs, you have to look beyond your physical expectations.
Being responsible for your own needs gives you value. It allows you to be honest, empathic towards yourself and others, accountable, respectful, and trusting. These are the values that lead to happiness.
Deception #2: You Are Responsible for Knowing and Fulfilling Other People’s Needs
Why this happens: Because parents lack discipline and are weak family leaders. Circumstances are threatening. Parents are control freaks. Co-dependency.
We all want people to be happy. This is especially true between children and parents. One reason we want people to be happy is for our own wellbeing. Happy people are less inclined to hurt us and are more likely to be generous. We know people are happy when they get what they need. Therefore, it’s easy to believe if we give people what they need, we will make them happy.
Weak Family Leaders and Lack of Discipline
We learn to accommodate people’s needs as children. This especially happens when parents are weak family leaders and lack discipline. This occurs when parents are permissive, overindulge their children, are narcissistic, have poor self-esteem, and lack confidence. It can also occur when parents have mood disorders or mental illness and substance abuse issues.
Growing up in these types of environments is unnerving for children and leaves them feeling insecure and scared. In order to make their situations better, children naturally take charge. They become leaders before they are equipped to do so and base their leadership skills on what they know – their nature. Since no one is there to fulfill their needs, they dominate the needs of others by giving people what they think the people need or by telling people what they need or what they need to do.
Any kind of abuse is unacceptable. When children are raised in abusive homes, they focus on making their parents happy. Since we all instinctually know what we need, children assume what parents need based on what their own needs. So, they try to anticipate and fulfill the needs of their parents based on what they know and for self-preservation.
Control freaks need to have things their way. They are anxious and bossy. To maintain control, they tell people what the people need instead of listening to what the people need. Their children will learn how to control the needs of others from how their parent(s) do this to them and others.
Control freaks make their point by pointing at others. They are quick to say, “You need to….”
In situations where a parent is physically or emotionally abusive, an alcoholic, or drug abuser, children may learn how to anticipate and fulfill the needs of others from the non-abusive parent’s behaviors. If Mom is always anticipating what alcoholic Dad needs to be happier, she will teach her children to do the same. This is the making of co-dependency. Children of alcoholic parents learn to focus on the problem and how to mitigate it. They become addicted to taking care of people’s problems in order to make people happy. Alas, they become co-dependent. When you take someone’s problem from him, you assume you know what he needs to correct it.
Why This Doesn’t Work
In situations where children put other people’s needs before their own, the children learn their needs are less important. Therefore, the children grow to feel less valuable, less acceptable, and less loveable.
Truth #2: You are Responsible for Helping Meet the Needs of Others, but With Discipline and Prudence
In truth, we should help meet the needs of others and put others first, but with discipline and prudence. If you accommodate someone’s need just to please that person or for self-preservation, you are not being honest. As good stewards, we must serve others, not enable them. In addition, to serve people effectively, they must communicate to us what they need.
It is right to make sacrifices and extend ourselves for the good of others. But, we cannot continue to do that without tending to ourselves. It would be like driving a car on an empty tank of gas.
Sometimes we have to tend to our needs first. Think about the oxygen protocol on an airplane where you put your oxygen mask on first then you can help others. Knowing how and when to tend to our needs first requires discipline, discernment, and prudence. Sometimes we must ask for God’s guidance for this.
There are occasions when we must simply provide people with emotional needs the best way we know how. In situations where someone is grief-stricken, traumatized, or experiencing acute stress and isn’t capable of caring for himself or making decisions, we must do our best to assess the person and the situation. Then, provide the person with what we believe he needs at that time.
Why This Works
When we allow other people to be responsible for their own needs, we respect and honor them. We also trust them to be honest in asking for what they need. This gives them the ability to be accountable for themselves. It gives us the ability to be empathic and respectful. These are the values that bring us to happiness.
Deception #3: Circumstances Dictate Our Needs
Circumstances can cause us to have certain needs, but not everyone handles situations the same way. For example, when I get tense, I need privacy, but when my husband gets tense, he needs more attention and to be listened to.
We cannot assume what people need based on their circumstances and must be careful to not judge and criticize others because they don’t have the same needs that we do in similar situations.
Truth #3: Our Needs Are Unique to Us in Our Circumstances
The truth is that certain circumstances elicit certain needs. But, not everyone responds the same way. Everyone has his/her own tolerance to pain, capacity for adversity, and coping skills. Therefore, we must allow people to show us what they need. Then, do our best to serve them.
When we pay attention and listen to people, we’re already fulfilling some of their emotional needs. From the information we gather from this, we can provide them with more of what they need. This will be far more satisfying for them and us.
We all have the same needs, but not at the same time and in the same situations. Even though our needs are the same, we are not. Therefore, we must be mindful of our needs and the needs of others and with understanding, discipline, and prudence do our best to know and fulfill them.
The Truth About Getting What You Need to Be Happy:
What we need to be happy goes beyond what we need to stay alive. Food and water satisfy our physical needs, but our happiness doesn’t come from our physical nature. It comes from our spirit. Therefore, what we need to be happy are unquantifiable practices that satisfy our spirit. These are known as emotional needs.
Our natural emotions are necessary for us to stay alive, but our emotional needs are necessary for us to thrive and live in happiness. They are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we are born knowing but must learn how to acquire and to give. When our emotional needs are adequately met, the result is love, peace, joy, freedom, satisfaction and contentment, healthier self-esteem, and better relationships. We are happier.
Emotional Needs are Harder To Get Than Physical Needs
It’s easy to get our physical needs met because they are easy to communicate, easy to understand, and quantifiable. Everyone knows what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty. Therefore, all we have to do is say the words, “hungry” or “thirsty” and people understand it enough to accommodate our needs.
Physical needs are quantifiable. This makes it easier to distribute or share them. Say, you and I are hungry and I have four pretzels, I can give you two and keep two so we are both satisfied. However, communicating and getting our emotional needs met is more challenging.
Emotional needs are intangible and variable so it’s difficult to discern their authenticity. If I look healthy and am not crying, but tell you I feel depressed, how would you fulfill my emotional need(s)?
It’s difficult to fulfill the emotional needs of others because:
The person in need might not know what he/she needs. Therefore he can’t communicate it to you.
Emotional needs are emotionally based. Therefore, your emotional need might not make sense to someone else. This can lead to the other person feeling frustrated instead of compassionate.
Your emotional need might be the same as the person with you. It’s difficult to give what you need to someone else.
We must learn to identify our emotional needs and how to get them met. We must also learn how to be patient when we don’t get them met right away. As important as getting our own needs met, we must learn how to meet the needs of others.
Parents are Responsible for Providing and Teaching Needs
Our parents are responsible for satisfying our physical and emotional needs until we are old enough to acquire them ourselves. They are also responsible for teaching us how to get our needs met, which helps us learn how to meet the needs of others. But, if parents lack their own emotional needs, they can’t meet their children’s needs nor can they teach their children how to get their needs met. The children grow up feeling needless. They don’t know how to identify their needs, don’t know how to get their needs met, and cannot meet the needs of others. This lack of emotional needs makes them needy.
We often think of needy people as being weak and clingy. However, some needy people convince themselves they don’t need anything. These folks come across as being hardcore, independent, and tough. Either way, needy people lack what they need to be happy so they tend to stay where it’s most natural – in their nature. Here, their emotional needs are replaced with their survival emotions (fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt). Since we are born with these emotions, it’s no effort to acquire them. And, they are dependable.
Needy people develop a dependency on their survival emotions. These emotions keep them alive, but they come to depend on them so they can feel alive. Their dependency on these self-defeating emotions causes them to behave like addicts. They behave in ways that perpetuate their survival and survival emotions.
Most needy people don’t have bad intentions. They didn’t grow enough in truth and are blind to the reality of emotional needs since emotional needs weren’t part of their reality. So, in trying to help someone, a needy person may get too involved in that person’s business and overstep his/her boundaries. This will cause more discord than peace.
Needy people struggle in relationships because they need to be needed. So, they seek out victims or make people into poor souls who need to be saved. Fear, guilt, and shame push them to save all the helpless poor souls they encounter. Since they imagine people are victims, needy people also imagine how the victims feel and what they need. Then, they provide them with imagine based goods and services. While these goods and services work in their minds, the recipients don’t usually share the same view. The result is dissatisfaction for all involved.
We Need Other People
We depend on our parents to first provide us with what we need. As we get older, friends are our emotional needs suppliers. If we get married, spouses are responsible for meeting each other’s needs. We can’t expect anyone to know exactly what we need unless that person is committed and really knows us. Even then, we may have to communicate our needs.
The one being we can always depend on, who is committed to us and knows each of us better than anyone, is God. Therefore, if other people fall short of meeting our needs, God will give us exactly what we need. We just have to communicate with Him.
Our Needs Vary But Serve The Same Purpose
Our emotional needs vary just like our physical needs. They vary depending on our age and what’s going on in our lives. Even though they vary, they are interrelated. As food can be a liquid that also quenches our thirst and a liquid can be food that also satisfies our hunger, our emotional needs are linked and overlap. Regardless of their specific function, all emotional needs have the same purpose. They feed our souls and make us happy.
The Emotional Needs That Make Us Happy
I have identified 20 emotional needs that we all have. They are safety/security, touch, attention, acceptance, support, nurtured, to be listened to, discipline, guidance, to accomplish, humor, to play and have fun, ability to grieve, truth, loyalty, freedom, privacy, gratitude, spirituality, and unconditional love.
We are born knowing and desiring these needs. For example, a baby will naturally grip his mother’s finger. And, how many times have you or your teenager cried, “You’re not listening to me!”? The level to which we get our emotional needs met correlates with the elements of happiness we experience. And, how well our emotional needs were met is proportional to how acceptable, valuable, and loveable we believe we are.
Effects and Importance of Our Emotional Needs
This next section details the effects and importance each need has on our happiness.
Safety and security go hand in hand because when we are safe and secure, we develop confidence and courage to explore and pursue opportunities. We are free of worry and fear. This leads to a more satisfying life. If we feel unsafe or insecure, we are always on alert for danger. Our survival emotions are overused and we develop anxiety and depression.
Touch is the first sensory system we develop. Babies are comforted and thrive better when they are touched. Numerous studies show how touch promotes healing and good health and is linked to lowering blood pressure and heart rate. It reduces stress, strengthens team dynamics, and binds relationships.
There are numerous stories in the Bible about Jesus healing people through touch.
If we didn’t get attention, we wouldn’t get noticed. If we didn’t get noticed, we wouldn’t get anything we need. When we get good attention, we are valued. However, when we get bad attention, we are devalued. When we get the attention we need, we are satisfied. This satisfaction allows us to pay better attention to others and our environment. When we pay attention, we benefit more.
A great Biblical example is the story of Peter healing the lame beggar. The beggar only wanted money, but by paying attention to Peter and John, he got more than money. He was healed. This teaches us that we get more than we ask for when we pay attention. Acts 3:1-8
One of the three things we must believe about ourselves to be happy is that we are acceptable (good enough). We develop this belief early on from how accepted we felt by our parents. Feeling acceptable gives us a sense of value. When we feel acceptable we are more accepting of others.
Jesus repeatedly accepted people who behaved in unacceptable ways. The message is what we do does not define who we are. If God accepts us even when we sin, we should accept ourselves and others within the context of His love.
Support means to hold up, encourage, help stay upright. It takes effort, compassion, integrity, and patience to support someone. We rely on others for support during those rough times in life. And, we need to support others even when their difficulties seem minor to us. Support is built on integrity and faith. When we support one another, we strengthen our relationship.
“They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.” Psalms 18:18 NIV
To be Nurtured
When we nurture something, we care about it enough to encourage and train it to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes we nurture by comforting and encouraging. Other times we must do things that seem painful. For example, to help plants grow better, we cut off unproductive branches. When we nurture our children, we may cause them pain (disappointment) by prohibiting them from getting what they want at the moment. We yield more fruit when we are nurtured.
God’s word nurtures us by giving us comfort and encouragement. It provides us with lessons that can be painful but make us more physically and spiritually fruitful. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” God tells parents about the importance of nurturing their children.
To Be Listened To
Have you ever needed to talk to someone about something really important to you, only to see that the “listener” wasn’t paying attention? It makes the speaker feel deflated and devalued. Regrettably, it’s happened to me and more regrettably, I’ve done it to others.
In truth, we need to be listened to and be good listeners. Both give us value. When we are listened to, we are esteemed. We are validated. When we listen to others, we esteem them. We show them they are worthy of our precious time. When we are not listened to, we are rejected. This leads to negative outcomes. When we are not good listeners, we reject others. We deny them validation and deny ourselves the opportunity to serve others.
God told Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. God’s message was to pay attention, understand, and be disciplined in following His ways. Jesus was straight forward to say what happens to relationships when people don’t listen. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 (NIV)
The word “discipline” originates from the Latin word disciplina which means “instruction.” It’s derived from the root word, discere which means “to learn.” “Disciple” or “Pupil” comes from the Latin word discipulus which is also derived from disciplina.
Discipline is also synonymous with punishment. But, punishment is used as a way to get people to learn how to behave better.
We associate discipline with rules and associate rules with restriction and deprivation. This makes us feel like we aren’t free. Some of us will proclaim that we have no willpower (discipline). Perhaps this is just a proclamation to ensure one’s sense of freedom.
It’s not true that no one has willpower. God gave us the ability to think. If you can think, you can practice discipline and be a disciple (a pupil of knowledge). Discipline doesn’t take away our freedom. It regulates our feelings and adjusts our attitudes and behaviors to prevent us from things that cause us harm. Discipline makes us wise, keeps us healthy, and gives us freedom. It positions us closer to God.
The Bible has several references about the importance of discipline, especially children’s need for discipline. These include Job 5:17 and Proverbs 5:23, 12:1, 13:24, 19:18, and 29:17. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
None of us has an internal GPS for our life’s journey. We must learn how to live well and how to be happy through wise counsel, aka guidance. This knowledge comes from people with experience and knowledge, including those who wrote the word of God. Even if you aren’t a believer but want to live a good life, the Bible is a great guide to help you achieve this.
“let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
Have you ever known someone who grew up not having to do chores or things for him/herself? These unaccomplished children grow up dissatisfied. They feel like something is missing because they were cheated out of developing their skills and talents. They also missed out on the rewards and satisfaction that comes with completing something on their own.
We all have abilities, talents, and skills that allow us to accomplish. When we work to accomplish, we gather knowledge, learn our limits, learn how to fail, learn how to succeed, and learn how to ask for help. We learn how to serve others.
Exodus 35: 31-33 (NIV) shows how God gives us gifts to accomplish: “and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.”
One of the first things we do with babies is to try to make them laugh. Humor gives us the ability to use the creative part of our brains. It lightens our mood and brings about laughter. We all have a funny bone. Read post #21 about the benefits of laughter.
“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21 (NLT)
Play and Have Fun
One of the things we associate with children is playing. It’s their primary activity. Children are expected to play until they get older, then we yell at them for “playing around.” Our need to play and have fun ever stops. It’s what and how we play that changes.
Childhood play is necessary for physical and mental development. It also teaches cooperation and develops good social interaction. During adulthood, we play and have fun to ease our minds away from the seriousness of life and for social interaction. As senior citizens, we play to keep our minds sharp and for social interaction.
Playing and having fun brings about peace and prosperity and is the result of peace and prosperity.
Zechariah describes the peace and prosperity coming to Zion. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets (public places) of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of his advanced age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'” Zechariah 8:4-5 (AMP)
Ability to Grieve
Grief is the reaction to a loss. We often refer to grief when we suffer a major loss. However, grief occurs when we lose – period. Since no one goes through life without losing, no one escapes grief. The sooner you experience it, the better you will be at managing it later on. Children need to know how to lose without getting compensated. Their first lesson comes when they want something and their parents tell them, “No.” They lose out.
Grief is so miserable, we try to avoid it. Parents do this by giving into children or replacing what the children lost with something else. But, in real grief, there is no replacement. We need to be allowed to work through the pain of grief with the help of love, comfort, support, and hope.
Grief is temporary when we rely on God’s help. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18 (NIV)
We cannot live without truth. God is truth and a successful society is based on truth. Since God is in us, we also have truth in us. Truth is the basis for love and freedom.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6 ” “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Loyalty is akin to integrity. It is synonymous with commitment, devotion, dependability, trustworthy, steadfast, firm, constant support. Knowing this, how can any relationship work without loyalty?
“Commit to the Lord, he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
Freedom is not the same as taking license. It is given to those who work for it, whether that means following rules to maintain order or fighting against tyrants. Taking license is an “abusive disregard for rules of personal conduct.” Taking license takes away freedom because it can cause permanent damage to others.
Jesus died so we can be eternally free from the bondage of condemnation. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
Children start to avoid the family around the age of 13. They need their own time. Mothers retreat to the bathtub and fathers go work out in the garage or retreat to their man caves. We need this time alone to just be.
Privacy teaches us boundaries, allows us to relax, and allows us to do good without being seen. This prevents us from bragging and boasting. Privacy gives us time to have good conversations with God. Our private time can enlighten us and renew our minds.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
“Thank you!” How does this response affect you when you’ve done something for someone? Gratitude shows how much we appreciate someone and reminds us of the good things we have. We need to be grateful and we need to be appreciated. Being grateful makes us be happy.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
Happiness comes from our spirit. God is spirit. Therefore, we need to live beyond are nature and embrace our spirituality. It gives us hope and hope gives us motivation and strength to move ahead. We are the happiest when we live in our spirit.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalms 62:5
The ultimate love is unconditional. While many of us want to believe that we love unconditionally, our human weakness sets us back and we put expectations on people, keep score with people, and live by the “if you… then I will…” principle of love. We all want to receive unconditional love but struggle with giving unconditional love. It can’t be one way. We have unconditional love from God and we learn how to love unconditionally by following Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
We need each other and depend on each other to fulfill our needs. There will be times when it seems like no one is there to satisfy your needs. During those times as always, God is there to supply us with all that we need. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Everyone wants to be happy. But, how many people say why they want to be happy? How many people really think about the advantages of living in happiness? There’s a lot more to living in happiness than feeling a sense of elation. For instance, hundreds of people can benefit from one person living in happiness. So, what really happens to us and others when we live in happiness? This post explains the physiological, physical, psychological, and relational advantages of living in happiness.
What it Means to Live in Happiness
Before I continue, I want to remind you what it means to live in happiness. It means experiencing the elements of happiness; to live in peace and love, to have freedom, and to experience joy, satisfaction, and contentment. To live in happiness means you live in, with, and through the spirit of God.
Living in Your Nature is Hard
When you take up residence in your nature, you just go through life surviving as opposed to thriving and living in happiness. To maintain your residence/survival, you must constantly hunt or scavenge. Sadly, the things you pursue are things that make you feel sick so you can have something from which you survive. This sickness comes from the very emotions that allow you to survive – fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt.
Residents of the natural need these emotions to stay alive and develop a need to feel them so they can feel alive. Their cycle parallels the Israelites’ forty-year ramble in the wilderness. Life becomes an exhausting journey of dissatisfaction, murmuring, and unrest summarized as, “No rest for the wicked.” Living in your nature is hard.
You Can Reside in Happiness no Matter What
Living in happiness is like being in a particular state. For me, it’s like living in the state of Michigan (for you it’s wherever you live). Once I’m here, no matter what happens – tornados, floods, statewide shutdowns, etc. – I am still in Michigan. To get myself out, I have to drive, walk, or sail, over the state line.
While in Michigan, I can freely choose to go to different places within the state. If I go to a particular area of Michigan and really enjoy it, it’s easy to feel good about the entire state. If I go to a city I don’t enjoy, I’m still breathing air in Michigan, using Michigan roads, and eating and drinking in Michigan, which I do enjoy. Therefore, I am satisfied and content despite my lack of joy in that city. Similarly, if we lack a certain element of happiness, we still have the other elements so we’re still in happiness. Therefore, we can live in happiness no matter what.
It’s Easy to Live in Happiness
The elements of happiness are interdependent. So, it’s easy to live in happiness because you don’t have to go very far to get from one element to the next. And, since each element of happiness contains pieces of the others, having just one element quickly brings about all the others. For example, I might not feel joyful because of my current situation. But, if I hold my peace, I will soon feel satisfied and content, and be free of stress. I will be happier.
Our Emotions are Well Trained When We Live in Happiness
When you live in your nature, you feel, then you react. When you live in happiness, you do something, then feel. This allows you to manage your situation and feel better about it. Take the “current situation” example above. I had to do something in order to hold my peace. First, I had to think about what I needed to do to hold my peace. Then, do it. I could have held my tongue, found a quiet place to pray or meditate, did deep breathing, did a fun activity, repeated a calming phrase to myself, or went for a walk.
Unlike living in your nature where your emotions are quick to take the lead, when you live in happiness, your emotions are well trained. Your thoughts lead your emotions and God leads your thoughts. This prudent chain of command results in better decisions and the ability for you to handle unfavorable situations in a favorable way. It’s especially useful for handling disappointment which happens when we don’t get what we want.
Living in your nature might get you what you want so you don’t have to experience disappointment. But, living in happiness gives you the freedom to want whatever you want and be satisfied with what you get.
Our Nature Opposes Our Happiness
Our nature opposes our happiness. Therefore, the effects of living in happiness are the opposite of living in your nature. Post #20 explains the disadvantages of living in the natural. When we live there, we suffer. When we live in happiness, we continue to get happier.
Physiological Advantages of Living in Happiness
Research shows that living in happiness causes chemical reactions in our brain that directly affect our physical health, psychological health, and relationships.
Our natural emotions come from the area of our brain that also regulates our vital organs. Therefore, our bodies react to our natural emotions and our natural emotions react to our bodies. When we are afraid, our heart rate increases, breathing is rapid, and digestion slows down. If we had tachycardia, shortness of breath, or IBS, we would feel afraid (anxious).
Higher levels of happiness affect our bodies similar to the way fear does. When we are elated, our hearts race and pound, we may feel light-headed, and we can’t sleep. Our bodies’ responses are similar, but the causes are better, so the outcomes are better.
Our survival emotions produce stress hormones that tense our bodies to fight or run. Extreme happiness produces hormones and neurotransmitters (chemicals that cause brain cells to connect) that contribute to relaxed healthier bodies.
More Stress = Less Happiness = More Stress Hormones = Less Good Health
The hormone that prepares our bodies to fight or flight is Cortisol. This stress hormone is released when we sense danger or feel threatened. Cortisol is supposed to be used as needed, not long term. But, when we live in survival mode, we constantly produce Cortisol and that results in adverse conditions such as impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, decreased bone density, muscle weakness and fatigue, high blood pressure, lower immunity, and increased abdominal fat.
Advantages of Dopamine
When we experience pleasure, anticipate something good, or are extremely happy, Dopamine is released. Dopamine functions as a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Simply put, Dopamine lights up the joy center of our brain. Like many things, Dopamine is good in moderation. Too much or too little can have negative consequences. People who live in happiness maintain a well-balanced Dopamine level. This gives them healthier brains and bodies.
Dopamine contributes to learning, motivation, and attention. The prefrontal cortex area of the brain is where thinking and memory take place. When there is an adequate level of Dopamine in that area during an event, we are motivated to be interested and remember it better. Dopamine also helps us focus and stay on task.
Good levels of Dopamine contribute to the good health of our vital functions including heart rate, blood vessel function, and kidney function. It’s also involved in regulating sleep and mood.
Suffice it to say, happy people have good levels of Dopamine. Therefore, they have better moods, are better rested, and have the potential to be more focused and motived which leads to greater success. They have better overall health, which leads to longer more productive lives.
This next section explains additional advantages of living in happiness. Specifically, how the elements of happiness affect the physical, psychological, and relational aspects of our lives.
The Elements That Make Up Happiness
The fullness of our lives is made up of happiness and our happiness is made up of the elements joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. To appreciate the benefits of these elements, it’s important to understand their meaning. I used Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, compact ed., (Working Lion Press), to define the elements because of the purity of its originality.
Joy: The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire. Synonyms are blessedness, satisfaction, and contentedness.
Peace: A state of quiet or tranquility; freedom from disturbance or agitation (fear, terror, anger, anxiety).
Love: An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure (or gratification).
To further understand love, the Bible gives a thorough description of what our behaviors ought to be when we love. In summary, love is patient, serene, kind, thoughtful, not jealous or envious, does not brag, is not proud or arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not overly sensitive or easily angered, does not hold grudges, does not take pleasure in injustice, and rejoices in the truth. When we truly love, we love without conditions, choose to believe the best in others, remain steadfast during difficult times, and endure things without weakening. Love never ends.
Freedom: A state of exemption from the power or control of another.
Satisfaction: That state of mind which results from the full gratification of desire; repose (to rest in confidence) of mind or contentment with present possessions and enjoyment. Synonyms are contentedness, joy, and gratification.
Contentment: Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness. Synonyms are satisfied, gratified, and overjoyed.
No Excuse For Not Living in Happiness
There is no excuse for not living in happiness. God made the elements of happiness available to us as evidenced in Scripture: We are promised joy; Jesus gave us his peace; God gave us love through His son; God gives us satisfaction in His goodness; we have freedom through our acceptance of God; we have contentment in knowing God will never leave us.
Advantages of Living in Happiness
The elements of happiness are always available to use. They are what we need to be happy and they make us healthy. But, it is our choice if we want them. And, in order to have them, we must do something – we must follow Jesus.
Here are are the physical, psychological, and relational advantages of living in happiness.
Research shows that people who are happy live healthier longer lives. Besides the benefit of good Dopamine levels, happy people are reported to have:
Lower blood pressure
Less risk of cardiovascular disease
Lower incidence of coronary artery disease
Lower risk of stroke
Higher functioning immune systems resulting in fewer illnesses
Lower risk of injury
Fewer pain symptoms
Better eating habits
More exercise and activity
Faster healing and recovery
Slower signs of aging
It’s also worth noting the benefits of laughter that especially come from joy. Research shows that a good chuckle increases Dopamine. This is a similar reaction to what alcohol and drugs do. Laughter resolves tension and releases inhibitions.
In addition, laughter helps decrease blood glucose levels, increases pain tolerance, increases the activity of several critical antibodies and natural killer cells, which are essential in anti-tumor defense, and contributes to a healthier heart.
When we experience joy, peace, love, and freedom, our brains experience the same. This results in:
Our thoughts are more open to creativity and inventiveness
Better problem solving
A better understanding of forgiveness
More thoughtful decision making and fewer regrets
Being more mindful which makes us more self-aware. Leads to:
A better sense of reality. This allows us to be more accepting.
Better awareness of our physical and emotional pain (When we are aware of our pain, we can focus on it instead of who caused it or how to get rid of it. Meditation experts teach that focusing on the pain itself alleviates it.)
A positive frame of mind that leads to:
A better outlook for the future – more optimism
Satisfaction and contentment
The ability to gain more knowledge and wisdom
When we are peaceful, we quiet our minds. This allows us to think more clearly, see the truth, and opens us up to faith and gratitude. It allows us to hear God’s voice.
Life is relational. We cannot exist without some kind of relationship. We have a relationship with ourselves, with God, and with other people. Our happiness affects our relationships and our relationships affect our happiness. The common denominator in both of these situations is us. Therefore, we are responsible for what we present to others and how we receive what other people give us. We can never predict how people will respond to us. Even if we are happy and treat others accordingly, there is no guarantee they will respond in kind. A quiet mind, joyful heart, and loving spirit will overcome whatever response we get from others. This prevents feuds, hostility, and regrets.
Better relationships with Ourselves and Others
When we live in happiness, we will be better to ourselves. We’ll have better self-esteem and love for ourselves. Since we can only give what we have, those who live in happiness have many good things to give to others.
Joy is the one element we can see. Smiles, laughter, whistling, singing, humming, and cheerful voices are obvious indicators of joy. When we see someone who is joyful or happy, we feel safe because the person isn’t threatening. We will want to be with that person.
While we cannot see peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment, we can sense it. People who have these elements behave in ways that relay confidence, trust, and faith and other people sense that. People who live in happiness are inspirational and role models to those who are struggling in the natural.
Most people want someone to depend on, especially when they are in a vulnerable position. These folks rely on the people who live in happiness for comfort, strength, and courage.
Better Relationship with God
We can only be happy by following God. He wants us to follow Him and lead others to Him. People who live in happiness are the stewards who do just that. God gives us what He has and we give others what we have.
Living in Happiness Give us a Better Life
When we live in happiness, we have better relationships in our families, at work, with friends, at school, and in our communities because we know where our happiness comes from and how to secure it. We are not afraid to pursue it and are always grateful to have it. When we live in happiness, we relate to the grace and mercy of God. We receive His gifts with constant gratitude. And, we share His love with the hope of being good and faithful servants.
When we live in our nature (aka the natural), we live the way we are born – with our survival instincts and emotions in charge. These life preservers allow us to survive. They also limit our freedom to live life fully. However, we have the freedom to choose where we want to live and how happy we want to be. We can choose to live life in the natural or to go beyond that and live life in the super-natural. To make this decision, we must know what it’s really like to live in both places. This post, How Happy Are We When We Live in Our Nature? describes what it’s like physically, psychologically, and relationally when we continue to live how we are born.
Our survival instincts and emotions originate when we originate making them a powerful part of who we are. These emotional life preservers include fear, anger, and contempt. Shame and guilt come after we are born. They are especially important for the survival of our species but don’t develop until we realize the concepts of right and wrong. Our primal instincts correlate with the laws of nature, which are survival of the fittest and might makes right. Post #17 explains these laws and how we naturally follow them.
Our natural emotions are always at the ready protecting us from danger, harm, and death. But, when we overuse them they cause danger, harm, and death. In excess, these life preservers cause us to kill, steal, covet, cheat (commit adultery), lie, persecute, be slothful, and worship material goods and status. They set us up to be superior to others, dishonor those who were here before us, and ignore the goodness of our Creator.
Even though our species depends on these instincts, they function under the auspices of, “Every man for himself.” We are, by nature, self-oriented and selfish.
Natural Emotions are Directly Connected to Vital Functions
Our emotional instincts initiate as soon as there is life. Therefore, they are directly connected to our life sources – our vital functions. They arise in the same area of the brain where our heart rate, breathing, digestion, alertness, and wakefulness are regulated. This makes our natural emotions have a direct effect on our vital functions and our vital functions directly affect our natural emotions. When we feel afraid, angry, contempt, shame, and guilt our heart rate, breathing, digestion, alertness, and wakefulness are affected. If we experience issues with our heart, breathing, digestion, attentiveness, or sleeping, we become afraid, angry, irritable, guilty, and sometimes ashamed.
Natural Emotions Affect us Physically, Psychologically, and Relationally
This interdependent system between mind and body affects us physically, psychologically, and relationally. Let’s take a closer look at these effects starting with physical symptoms of excessive fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt:
As soon as we are alerted to danger, certain hormones get released that prepare our bodies to fight off the offender or take flight from the threat. If we are overcome with fear and don’t know what to do, our minds shut off and our bodies become paralyzed. In other words, we freeze. Many of us went into freeze mode as kids, covering up our heads to hide from the monsters in our rooms.
In order to fight or flight, we need more blood flow to our extremities. Therefore, our heart rate increases to push more blood to our extremities. This increases our blood pressure. Our breathing becomes rapid to increase the oxygen in our bloodstream. We sweat to regulate our body temperature. Digestion stops since blood flow is directed to more functional sites. Muscles tighten. We become more acute in our alertness and wakefulness (pupils dilate) and our immune response goes down so we don’t feel any pain.
If we live in chronic fear (like people with anxiety), we can end up with high blood pressure, digestive issues, excessive sweating, sensitivity to sound and light that induce migraines, muscle aches and pain, headaches, and a weakened immune system that makes us more susceptible to viruses, infections, and diseases.
The feeling of anger causes a surge of blood flow into the frontal lobe of the brain. Have you ever seen someone who was really mad get red from the neck up, like a human thermometer? Not only does the surge of blood cause a skin tone change, but it causes veins in the neck to expand. This causes an increase in blood pressure. Anger also causes breathing to be more rapid. When we are angry, we posture ourselves for the attack so our muscles become tense.
People who live angry tend to have high blood pressure and frequent body aches and pains. They’re inclined to develop weakened hearts and are more prone to coronary artery disease.
Anger can be turned inward or outward. Anger turned outward is demonstrated by physical and/or verbal assaults. Because of social norms, women usually turn their anger inward. This results in passive-aggressive behaviors such as sarcasm or sulkiness. The results of these negative behaviors can be pain, digestive issues, and illnesses.
Contempt is a combination of disdain, anger, and disgust. When something is disgusting, we know it’s not good for our health, so we want to rid ourselves of it. We express our disgust by saying things like, “That makes me sick,” “It made me gag,” or “I felt like I needed a shower….” People who hold onto contempt keep trying to rid themselves of something that is not good for them. Therefore, they are more inclined to have colds, coughs, aches, pains, and lowered immune systems.
According to Brené Brown, Ph.D. LMSW, an expert in shame, vulnerability, and empathy, shame is defined as, “An intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
Internalizing the sense of being unlovable and unacceptable leads to fear and self-contempt. The disgust we have for ourselves when we feel shame can lead to issues with the pancreas and duodenum since the body wants to rid itself of what is disgusting (ourselves). People who are filled with shame frequently experience nausea, lethargy, digestive issues, inflammation, and infection.
Guilt differs from shame in that guilt focuses on the feelings of others and shame focuses on our own feelings. We feel guilty when we know we’ve done something wrong that affects others. Guilt is determined by our conscience. According to Brené Brown, guilt is, “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.”
Guilt is helpful because it keeps us in right moral standing. But, carrying too much guilt is like walking around with a giant boulder strapped to your back. It weighs you down. Excessive guilt causes back and shoulder aches, insomnia, stomach pain, muscle tension, and headaches.
Living in our nature prolongs the production and use of stress hormones. Overdosing on these natural chemicals causes physical and psychological issues. It can lead to chronic pain, migraines, fatigue, respiratory issues, heart problems, obesity, diabetes, infertility, ED, and IBS. These issues have a direct effect on one’s mood and relationships.
Psychological Effects of Living in Our Nature
The stress hormones produced by living in our nature cause mood issues such as anxiety, panic episodes, depression, and irritability. In turn, anxiety and depression cause additional issues. Depression causes fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, loss of appetite, and irritability. Anxiety can lead to panic episodes that produce physical trembling, elevated heart rate, sweating, dizziness, and sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking.
Living in our nature also causes issues of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, poor social judgment, isolation, paranoia, suspicion, lack of empathy, memory loss, poor recall, and poor concentration.
Effects of Our Natural Emotions on Relationships
Survival emotions are not mutually exclusive. They are linked. Each emotion has pieces of the others in it and each one leads to another. This compounds our physical and psychological effects which directly impact relationships. While the effects can start with one person, they are like a contagion that quickly spreads to others. In addition, the functionality of relationships can provoke a higher level of survival emotions.
The physical and psychological implications of living in the natural have a direct impact on relationships. Here is what living in nature looks like in relationships.
Fight, Flight, Freeze
The fight, flight, and freeze modes of fear translate into human behaviors of aggression, avoidance, and denial.
Fight mode/aggressive behaviors include:
Use of sarcasm
These behaviors make a person threatening and unapproachable. No one wants to be around someone like this.
Flight mode/avoidance includes:
Ignoring or not acknowledging someone, like not answering or returning a phone call, not speaking to someone.
Changing the subject when someone is talking to you.
Stonewalling– this is a blocking maneuver done more by men. They avoid talking about an issue that’s important to their wife or girlfriend.
A lack of commitment or loyalty in relationships. This applies to many cohabiting couples, especially those who have children together. Children don’t learn commitment and are not shown loyalty in these relationships. It sets them up to continue living in the natural.
People who avoid create communication issues. Avoiders might be viewed as being snobby, stuck-up, weak, weird, or unfriendly.
Freeze mode/denial includes:
Disconfirming – Is when someone talks over you and denies you the opportunity to talk, denies your importance, or denies you what you need or know. Examples: if you told someone you were thirsty and the person replied, “No you’re not. You just had a drink.” If you told someone in authority about something that happened to you and the person said you were wrong and it didn’t happen.
Lying – We all know lying is wrong, bad, disrespectful, sinful, unethical, and immoral but it is easy to do. Whether we lie to ourselves or someone else, the outcome is never good. We lie by saying something that is not true or it by omission of information.
People who live in fear think of themselves first and foremost. They lack empathy, respect, and kindness for others. Their self-oriented attitude causes them to take things personally. This makes them easily offended. They are poor listeners since they are on constant alert. They are too busy anticipating what might happen to really hear what is being said to them.
Fearful folks tend to look at the dark side. They expect the worst and are wishful believers for the best. These “Negative Nellies” have a negative outlook on life. When you’re with these folks, you tend to counterbalance their negativity by being even more positive. This futile task becomes exhausting.
We know how it feels to be angry and how it feels when other people are angry. Angry people control others through dominance. Scaring people into doing what you want them to do destroys trust and love and all the goodness that goes with them. While angry people control others, they can lose control of themselves and create dangerous situations. We try to avoid angry people or work hard at trying to prevent them from being angry.
Shame Filled People
People who live filled with shame constantly work to protect themselves. They either fight to fend off potential attackers or flight and freeze by trying to shrink away from the crowd, isolate, or be invisible.
Shameful people fight to prove they are good enough. They feel so rotten on the inside (self-contempt), they try to cover it up by hiding behind a facade. They can:
Make themselves look perfect with makeup or cosmetic surgery
Alter their appearance with facial tattoos and piercings
Inflate themselves by bragging, boasting, or being a know-it-all
Dominate others by judging and criticizing or with aggressive behaviors
Pretend to be super happy all of the time
Be overly kind and generous towards people
People who are filled with shame and live in the natural may insulate themselves from the world with extra layers of fat and become overweight. Some may simply isolate themselves and become antisocial.
*Remember, this does not mean everyone who has tattoos, piercings, wears makeup, is happy, kind, and generous is filled with shame.
Live in Guilt, Drown in Responsibility
Guilt serves a good purpose in that it keeps us in check so we don’t commit harmful acts. However, to live in guilt is to be flooded with duty and responsibility. People who live guilty in the natural are overly responsible. They feel responsible for things out of their control, for other people, and other people’s actions. This sense of extreme duty and responsibility makes them control freaks, but in a nice way – by being people pleasers.
Guilty people must constantly atone for their transgressions and the transgressions of others. So, they over apologize. “I’m sorry” is a recurring expression for them. It becomes annoying to others and exhausting for the one bearing the guilt, especially when the guilty party apologizes for something he didn’t do or cause. “I’m sorry” turns into sorrow which turns into grief. It’s a miserable experience for everyone.
Use Our Natural Emotions on Others and We Need to Feel Them
When we live in our nature we experience our natural emotions more than any other emotions. We practice them with others, use them with ourselves, and we feel them. They are the emotions we have most. Since we can only give what we have, even if we intend to give someone love or joy, we will give them what we have. For instance, my mom was riddled with guilt. One day when I was a little girl, she held up her well-worn underwear and said, “See, this is what I wear so you can have nice clothes.” She was trying to tell me how much she loved me through her sacrifice of having nicer clothers. I didn’t get that. I felt guilty.
After we’ve lived in our nature for so long, we associate living with how we feel. So, we set ourselves up to keep feeling fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. As long as we feel them, we know we’re alive.
Even though we know happiness exists and we want it, our natural emotions are easy and powerful. Unless we know what it’s really like to be happy, can accept the goodness of happiness, and learn how to be happy, we’ll stay where we are most familiar and our emotions keep us safe — in our nature.
What Scripture Says About Our Nature
The Apostle Paul tells us about our nature. “The sinful nature of man craves and wants to do evil (something that brings about sorrow, trouble, and destruction.) But it is not evil for ourselves we want this. It is evil for others and the opposite of love for others.” (Note: this demonstrates the laws of nature).
Paul describes in Galatians 5: 19-21 the effects of living in our nature. He says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Depravity of Living In Our Nature
When we live in our nature, we ignore God, seek our own desires, and follow the rules we make as we go. This lack of discipline and disrespect for God leads us to negative behaviors, internal suffering, discord, and strife. Paul tells us this in Romans.
Romans 1:26-27 goes on to explain the depravity of living in our nature: “…they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. …Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserve.”
Romans 1:29-32: “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful.”
Paul goes on to say how living in our nature requires no discipline so people invent new ways of sinning and are disobedient to authority. “They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”
Who Lives Here?
Who are the characters that reside in their nature and what are their roles? My next posts describe the residents of nature and the way they function, and what it’s like to live in happiness. Stay posted!
Human beings are wired to constantly want. We want things for ourselves and we want things for other people. A want that is common to all of us is the want to be happy. We want to be happy and we want other people to be happy. However, I’ve learned that many people can’t define happiness and don’t understand what being happy really means. Perhaps that’s why so many people talk more about their unhappiness than their happiness. Before we can get what we want, we must know what that want is. How to Live Longer in Happiness – Part 2: Defining Happiness explains the true meaning of happiness and what it means to be happy.
Why We Struggle With Happiness
Many of us struggle with being happy because we were misinformed about it and happiness. Many of us were led to believe that we must depend on other people to make us happy, that we have to make other people happy, and our circumstances determine our happiness. We were also led to believe that being happy is an emotion. We should have learned the truth; that we must pursue our own happiness, everyone is responsible for his/her own happiness, and we can experience some level of happiness despite our circumstances. We should have also been taught that being happy is not an emotion. It is a condition. We know emotions are fickle. If happiness is an emotion, it cannot be constant. So, what is happiness?
Definition of Happy and Happiness
The best didactic definition of happiness I found is in Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (compact edition, Walking Lion Press). It states this: Happiness is “The agreeable sensations that spring from the enjoyment of good; the state of a being in which his desires are gratified by the enjoyment of pleasure without pain. Happiness is comparative. To a person distressed with pain, relief from that pain affords happiness; in other cases, we give the name happiness to positive pleasure or an excitement of agreeable sensations. Happiness, therefore, admits of indefinite degrees of increase in enjoyment, or gratification of desires. Perfect happiness, or pleasure unalloyed with pain, is not attainable in this life.”
The 1828 Dictionary says this about happy: “The pleasurable sensations derived from gratification of sensual appetites render a person temporarily happy; but he only can be esteemed really and permanently happy, who enjoys peace of mind in the favor of God.”
Where Happiness Comes From
We see that happiness is relative, varies in intensity, can be constant, but not absolute in this life, and is a natural desire, but not an inherent sensation. Happiness comes from good and God. Therefore, it comes from good thoughts, good behaviors, good intentions, and good grief. We find it beyond our natural being. We find happiness in our supernatural state of being.
I bet sometime during your childhood you were told to, “Think good thoughts.” People tell us this when we are scared or nervous. When we think good thoughts, we activate our conscious mind (thinking brain) so it overrides the activity of our subconscious mind (emotional instincts), making us more mindful, and we feel better. As adults, visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads is not as effective as realistic thoughts. So, we think good thoughts be recalling pleasant memories and through gratitude. Just thanking God throughout the day for what you have and what you can do creates good thoughts, which turn into good behaviors, and good intentions.
Good behavior and good intentions occur when we are prudent. Prudence leads to knowledge, wisdom, and a happier life. Good behaviors and good intentions result in more satisfying relationships and greater satisfaction with ourselves and we are happier.
“Good grief” is an expression of dismay frequently droned by Charlie Brown. It’s an oxymoron since grief does not feel good. A more accurate expression would be, “Good after grief” because God promises us joy after mourning. When we are deep in grief it is difficult to imagine any kind of joy. However, we can hold onto our peace by remembering Jesus’s peace, thinking in terms of peace, and simply telling ourselves to be peaceful. Then, joy will follow and we will return to happiness.
Happiness is Comparative to Pleasure and Pain
The definition shows happiness is proportional to pleasure and pain. It is easy to be happy when we are gratified (pleased by getting what we want) or free of pain. During these good times, there is no need to be on alert, so our alert system goes into standby mode. But, when we don’t get what we want or we’re in pain, our alert system is triggered. We get flooded with fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt – the antitheses of happiness. To overcome these emotions, we must have a deeper understanding of pain, pleasure, and the abilities God gave us to pursue happiness.
To further understand happiness, let’s take a closer look at pain and pleasure. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines pain as: “An uneasy sensation in animal bodies, of any degree from slight to extreme distress or torture, proceeding from pressure, tension or spasm, separation of parts by violence, or any derangement of functions. Uneasiness of mind; disquietude; anxiety; solicitude for the future, grief, sorrow for the past. We suffer pain when we fear or expect evil; we feel pain at the loss of friends or property.”
When we are in physical pain, we focus on acquiring relief and we rely on other people to help us with that. We take medication, have medical procedures, or get physical therapy. When we have emotional pain, we are less inclined to rely on others for help and try to relieve it ourselves. We complain, whine, or self-medicate with food, alcohol, drugs, or shopping. Soon, these relief aids have more control over us than we have over them and we “need” a drink, “don’t mean to complain, but can’t help it,” or “can’t eat just one cookie.” We are victims of our own misery and suffer from chronic unhappiness.
Pleasure is defined as, “The gratification of the senses or of the mind; agreeable sensations or emotions; the excitement produced by enjoyment or the expectation of good. We receive pleasure from the indulgence of appetite, the view of a beautiful landscape, the harmony of sounds, an agreeable society, the expectation of seeing an absent friend; from the prospect of gain or success of any kind. Pleasure is properly positive excitement of the mind.”
We need pleasure and God wants us to have it. Everyone needs pleasure because it motivates us to do things we remember as enjoyable and avoid past situations that caused pain. Pleasure is important for continuing a healthy existence because many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying our basic needs, such as eating, sleeping, hygiene, exercising, and sex.
The definition of pleasure shows it is good if it comes from good and used for good. It also indicates we can get pleasure from others and we can find it ourselves. Either way, happiness exists when we are prudent in seeking pleasure. There is little to no happiness when we seek pleasure for relief.
In this series, I refer to two kinds of pleasure; relief pleasure and prudent pleasure. In Part 1 of How to Live Longer in Happiness, I talked about living in the natural or survival mode. When people live in the natural or survival mode they have higher levels of stress hormones and experience chronic fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. This causes them to be anxious, depressed, resentful, bitter, jealous, irritable, and petulant. Clearly, these emotions, attitudes, and behaviors do not activate the joy center of the brain. To light up the joy center of their brains and get relief from their misery, these nature dwellers need a hit of “happy hormones,” like Dopamine. They get this through seeking and experiencing pleasure.
Desperate for relief, these folks seek quick fix pleasure or binge with impulsive pleasures; and lots of it. Relief pleasure is anything that gives them a rush. It could be sensual or sexual pleasure; they might overeat, over drink, binge shop, or engage in risky behaviors. They may find pleasure in gambling or even over-exercising.
This kind of pleasure is temporary because it’s only remembered as a relief. It usually ends in regret and is costly. It costs money, time, reputation, or worse. Impulsive pleasure gives temporary relief from the agony of living in survival mode. Unlike prudent pleasure that perpetuates happiness, relief pleasure perpetuates misery.
Pleasure and Living in Survival Mode vs. Living in Happiness
This illustration shows what we experience when we live in the natural and live in happiness and the pleasure cycle for each.
Prudent pleasure is planned. It’s the kind of pleasure that comes from good thinking and good intent. This kind of pleasure is like the kind described in the definition. It also includes things like vacations, fellowship with family and friends, planned nights out, massages, or just taking time to relax. This pleasure has a lasting effect. It’s the kind of pleasure we enjoy remembering with photos and reminiscing. It puts us in a state of happiness.
The Elements of Happiness
Happiness is a state of being resulting from an amalgamation of certain elements. These elements are God’s gifts to us and a direct connection to Him. While we have a natural desire for them, they are not naturally acquired. We must go beyond our natural state, above our instincts and subconscious mind for them. They are literally in the higher part of our brain where we think and make decisions; in the supernatural area of our mind. This puts them in a supernatural realm. These elements are joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment.
Pleasure is a catalyst for happiness, but we can create and maintain happiness for ourselves by practicing and experiencing any one of the elements. Each element has pieces of the other elements in them. For example, when we have joy, we also have peace, freedom, love, and satisfaction. When we have peace, we have freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. So, this makes it easier to acquire all of them even when we only have one.
Definitions and Details of Elements
To know happiness, we must fully understand these elements. Here is a detailed explanation of the elements that make up happiness along with supernatural details that come from Scripture. (Note that all definitions are from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as indicated above.)
Joy is defined as, “The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition of expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire.”
Joy was described in the Old Testament. As early as Samuel, joy was described as God’s mercy and shown to include the elements of freedom and peace as God led the Israelites to freedom with peace and joy.
Like joy, we can’t just wait around for our lives to become peaceful. We must make a concerted effort to have it. First, we must know what peace is. Then, we must be patient, mindful, empathic, strong, determined, and kind so we can create and maintain it.
Peace is synonymous with freedom from worry and fear. It also brings us joy, satisfaction, contentment, and love.
Love is defined as, “An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicates pleasure.” An even better definition of love is in 1 Corinthians 13 4-8:
“4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. 5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. 7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. 8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or come to an end].” *
When we live in love, we can’t help but live in happiness.
Freedom is defined as, “A state of exemption from the power of control of another. Exemptions from restraint or control.”
For anything to grow, it must be free. This includes us as individuals and as children of God.
Freedom is not a rite of passage or a God-given right. Someone has to pay for it. For ages, people have sacrificed their lives, money, and families for freedom from tyranny on this earth. And, Jesus paid for our eternal freedom with His life. God wants us to be free to grow. So, through His love, He created us to have freedom of choice. We can choose to live in the natural or in the free spiritual realm of happiness. To live in freedom, we must live in the spirit of Christ with peace, joy, and love.
Satisfaction is defined as, “That state of mind which results from the full gratification of desire; to rest in confidence of mind or contentment with present possessions and enjoyment. The act of pleasing or gratifying.” Satisfaction is synonymous with contentment, joy, and gratification.
Since we are greedy and competitive by nature, we are easily dissatisfied. Comparing what we have with what other people have keeps us in high alert (fear in natural). We take constant inventory of what we see other people have and what we have. This gives us no rest (peace) of mind and no appreciation for what we do have. It prohibits us from enjoying our own gifts and talents. And, the things we acquire are not gratifying since they are merely devices to get us ahead of our competitors.
We must learn how to be satisfied through appreciation, truth, and acceptance. Scripture tells us that we will be satisfied when we satisfy others (Isaiah 59: 10-11) and that God satisfies us when we rely upon and honor Him. Psalms 107: 8-9 and Proverbs 19:23.
Many nature dwellers focus so much on their own misery, they become blind to the needs of others. Therefore, they fail to be empathic and don’t extend themselves to the mercy of others. They miss out on the act of pleasing others through service and remain dissatisfied and distressed.
Contentment is defined as, “Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness.” It is synonymous with satisfaction, gratification, and overjoyed.
Contentment is also counterintuitive. We must learn to be content, which is counter to what we first learned. By nature, we learned that other people are responsible for our contentment. When we were infants, we expressed dissatisfaction, like hunger and discomfort, through crying. Our mothers tended to our needs and we were content. This makes us believe that other people are responsible for our contentment.
If we were raised in less than ideal conditions where the people in charge were only content when things were going their way or there was a celebration, we learned that contentment is determined by our circumstances. This is also untrue. We can be content in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, but only through our faith in God. Paul explains this in Philippians 4: 11-13 while he was in prison. It was under these dismal conditions that Paul wrote so many good letters in the Bible.
Paul tells us that we can be content with success and failure. Contentment does not mean we are complacent. Complacency means we just settle into apathy. When we are content, we continue to have goals and dreams we want to achieve and we continue constant work at being better versions of ourselves. We continue efforts to live longer in happiness.
Understanding the composition of happiness, the need for pleasure, and the role pain has to deepen our happiness is the second step for living longer in happiness. Part 3 will explain how you get from nature/survival mode to living in happiness. Stay tuned!
How to Live Longer in Happiness Part 2: Defining Happiness: