by: Nicholeen Peck
“Men are that they might have joy.” Really? Is this what life is about; finding happiness? Yes. The Lord said, “For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the eternal life and happiness of man.” The Savior’s sacrifice was intended to bring us happiness. The gospel principles and ordinances are intended for our eternal joy. From the beginning of time, our lives were prescribed to experience happiness and sadness for our learning and benefit, and we were admonished to choose the path of happiness.
With such a grand plan for happiness, why do so many people seem so sad? Why do couples fight? Why do child pout in their rooms and roll their eyes at their parents? These behaviors are not happy. Why do people choose to do them?
Simple Answers To Tough Questions
They don’t understand the bigger picture.
- They don’t want to take responsibility for their own happiness.
- They don’t know they are not happy.
- They haven’t learned the happiness skill yet.
The Bigger Picture
“Wickedness Never Was Happiness.” the scriptures say. So, this must mean obedience never was sadness, grief, or misery, right? Yes. When people are obedient, they feel happy. This goes for children who are obedient to parents, couples who honor each other and their covenants, and people who obey the will of God. When a person chooses to go against the will of the Lord or his parents, it is wickedness. Such action historically leads the person to feeling that life is some how miserable or unfair. I often hear complain about aspects of life and relationships on a weekly basis. These people don’t understand the bigger picture of life. They don’t see that the happiness possible in life is not determined by one or two of life’s experiences or misfortunes, but is instead determined throughout the stages of life by the heart of the person living. This is the bigger picture. Life isn’t about everything going your way all the time. It is about appreciating the opportunity to learn more and serve more each day for the good of God and mankind no matter what happens each day.
Years ago, when I experienced my second of four miscarriages, I developed a new habit which changed my life. We desperately wanted to have a baby again. But, for some reason the hoped for blessing would not come. When we miscarried yet again I went straight to the Lord in prayer. Instead of asking why, or asking for something to make me feel better, I asked a new kind of question. I asked the Lord what it was he wanted me to learn from that hard situation. I went into this prayer with an open heart, ready to learn and to do what was required for my good and growth. Over a short period of time, I was shown the wisdom of the Lord and what lessons I needed to learn from that hard experience. Since that time my approach on life has changed. In fact, my whole view of my life has changed. My picture is bigger and my purpose is more focused. I now know what ‘to endure’ means. Endure means to be happy no matter the circumstances. That is the bigger picture. Storms will come, but happiness will always be there if we choose to accept it.
Responsibility Requires Courage
It is so much easier to base your happiness on the actions and emotions of someone else. If your neighbor doesn’t talk to you much, you can choose to feel disliked and not included. If your parent gives you an extra chore or a negative consequence, you can feel picked on and mistreated. If your spouse gives you criticism, you can feel unappreciated and vindictive. All of these feelings are common enough, and they are all signs of selfishness. When a person bases their feelings upon the actions of others, not only will they always feel anxious because life will feel so uncertain, but they will not be able to embrace happiness and keep it. Never put anyone else in charge of your happiness.
Happiness is a choice. But, choosing happiness takes courage. As a parenting expert, I have the opportunity to evaluate many parents in their daily interactions with the children. At each home I visit, there always seems to be either a child, or a parent, who wants me to fix someone else in the family in order to bring the other person happiness. However, if they could see the bigger picture, they would see that I can’t change anyone due to God’s gift of agency. And, happiness will never be achieved when based upon the actions of another. Happiness is also agency based, and can only stay constant when the person understands her duty to practice self-government in order to experience happiness.
“Are You Happy?”
I believe in being very assertive with my parenting as well as my general communication. It has been proven that loving, direct communication decreases anxiety and increases self-government. I also believe in analyzing a situation before taking any action. This generally keeps my communication more proactive, instead of reactive.
A while ago I was visiting a family to help them implement self-government in their home when a child in the family decided to go completely out of instructional control. She was angry because she had to do a chore when she didn’t want to. Her anger looked like pouting, whining, crying, eye rolling, running to her room, and burying her face in her pillow to cry. I recognized immediately that this child had developed a habit of negative attention seeking and manipulating when she didn’t want to do something. Her behavior often worked to get her way, or she wouldn’t have made a habit of doing it.
She knew what part of the behavior was working for her to get her way, but she didn’t see what the behavior was doing to hurt her. So, I showed her by asking a question I have asked angry children for many years now, “Are you happy? This girl looked at me from off her bed, with tears streaming down her face, and said, “No.”
So I replied, as I always do, “You should choose to be happy.”
I don’t believe in lecturing, so that was the end of the topic. After a few more seconds of sitting on the bed thinking about my statement, the girl said, “Okay.” and then she started breathing more calmly.
To help others remember their responsibility to their own happiness, or to remind yourself to not take life so seriously, ask, “Are you happy?”
The Happiness Skill
Have you ever had one of those situations where you let someone offend you in some way, and then you say something you shouldn’t have said out of anger and frustration? Later, you feel bad about what you said. You know it didn’t do any good. In fact, it only hurt your relationships. You know that if you would have said, “okay” and not been contrary before, the situation would have had a different out-come. I’m sure many of us have been in these situations before. They are the kind that keep us feeling unsettled for days.
The blessing of these kinds of situations, are the situations which can potentially follow. I hope that when you have had an experience similar to the one described above that you have also taken the opportunity to apologize to the other person. When we really humble ourselves to feel sorry for the frustration and grief we might have caused another person then we experience a special kind of happiness. This is the joy which comes from repentance, love and respect. In these humble moments we are able to connect to the heart of another. We let down our walls, and stop thinking of ourselves. These are magical times which lead to better relationships.
The heart of the magic is honesty. In order to be humble, you must first be honest. You must first take responsibility for the wicked intentions and selfish desires you once had. Also, you must recognized happiness as truth and desire it. Then you must communicate in an honest, loving way. No matter the person. No matter the situation, this process usually works to bring happiness.
This is the magical skill for being happy. Be honest with yourself. Don’t tell lies to yourself to create more anger and more contention. And, when you feel yourself starting to panic, rage, or feel frustration, ask yourself, “Are you happy?” Ask it to your children too. You will find that this simple question is perfect for reminding someone that their happiness is up to them, and that being sad or angry doesn’t help them get more positive attention. It also inspires them to choose happiness instead.
When I talk about finding happiness, I am referring to having self-government. Happiness is a choice, and it is obvious to me that many many people still want to blame someone or something for their negative disposition. If it weren’t so, the world would be happier, and the people would be more united and loving toward each other. Choose to be happy. Knowing that it is your choice is the key to happiness which all people are searching for.
“Are you happy?” Is there really any other choice which makes sense? Be honest with yourself. Choose happiness.
Nicholeen’s Blog is www.TeachingSelfGovernment.com