New Year Thoughts on Happiness

I have been reading Desmond Tutu’s The Bookwheelchair-familyof Forgiving. It has got me thinking about happiness in the year ahead.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our communities were more deeply founded on the principle of happiness? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was normal to remove the obstacles to happiness?

Who knows what the year ahead brings. Whatever it may be, I know that happiness is what I wish for myself, my family and all the people around me. The happier others are, the happier I will be.

I understand that real happiness always involves relationship. I know that I draw on relationships from others to fuel my sense of joy and wellbeing.  It is where I find love, meaning and validation. The corollary to this is that unhappiness also comes from relationship. This is where I experience hurt, violation and anger. What’s new is how my happiness is affected by the relationships that I don’t pay much attention to. The strangers in my community affect my happiness.

Although we would often like to think of ourselves as better than those who hurt, no person gets through life without hurting self, or others. Sometimes its deliberate in the form of anger and revenge, sometimes its accidental in the form of unaware prejudices. I have been painfully reminded of this in conversations with First Nation friends and people who have less than me.

So, as in all relationships, it’s a two way street and it involves all the people in my community. Some of them, I have to forgive, for some of them, I have to forgive myself. Then, I can have a more abundant happiness.

The Book of Forgivenss shows us the four step path to forgiveness: Tell the story, Name the hurt, Find forgiveness by recognizing our common humanity, And finally, renew the relationship or let it go. For me, the tough part is often recognizing our common humanity, especially when my story has made a monster out of someone I might not even know.

What is brilliant about this process is it has nothing to do with what the other person does. It has to do with what I do. In the end, I may have a friend or I might not, but by recognizing our shared humanity, I can move on and let go of hurt and anger and grab onto happiness. Maybe in the process, I might actually bring some happiness to someone else as well.

What would happen if our communities were more deeply founded on this principle of happiness? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was normal to remove happiness obstacles through forgiveness?  Our eccentric neighbor, the rude driver, the obnoxious kid, the contrarian, the street beggar, the culturally different, the person not like us, the people I don’t normally hang with.

My wish for the world in 2017 is we all learn to get better at forgiveness on our path to greater happiness.  Perhaps it can start with a story, that names a hurt, which can lead to a real exploration of our shared humanity, where we can renew or release a relationship so we can both move forward in peace and joy.

May real happiness fill your New Year with peace and joy.

Barry

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