According to the World Population Clock there are approximately 7,774,000,000 people on our planet. That’s a lot of people. Some are truly happy and joyful and some are chronically unhappy. Some of us bounce back and forth between happiness and unhappiness depending on the day.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned there are certain traits and habits chronically unhappy people seem to exhibit and have mastered. Let me make clear, we all have bad days, even weeks when we crash and burn. But these are some of the chronically unhappy traits and habits I have particularly noticed in people I know.
Unhappy people get stuck in a default belief that life is hard. I liken it to how a computer works. Default is a preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer. Without any other direction, it automatically slips into this default. It is what I call falling back into the old rut. For an unhappy person, when life gets tough they fall back into their default setting. They are the victim of life. Woe is me. They freeze and stay stuck in the “look what happened to me” attitude versus finding a way through and out the other side.
Happy people, on the other hand, know life can be hard and tend to bounce through hard times with a different attitude. They take responsibility for how they got themselves into a mess, and focus on getting themselves out of it as soon as possible. Perseverance towards problem-solving versus complaining over circumstances is a symptom of a happy person.
The chronically unhappy person focuses on what’s wrong in this world versus what’s right. There’s plenty wrong with this world, no arguments there. But unhappy people turn a blind eye to what’s actually right in this world. Unhappy people tend to close one eye towards anything good so they aren’t distracted from lamenting about what’s wrong.
Happy people are aware of global issues, but balance their concern with also seeing what’s right. They keep it in perspective. Keeping a balanced perspective.
Now let’s consider the big one. Control.
Unhappy people tend to micromanage their life in an effort to control all outcomes but fall apart when life throws a wrench in their plan. And when they fall apart, it is very dramatic. And it’s all about me. The entire universe is after me.
Happy people take steps daily to achieve their goals, but realize in the end, there’s very little control over what life throws their way. Happy people have the ability to go with the flow and not melt down when life delivers a curve-ball.
The key here is to be goal-oriented and focused, but allow room for letting life happen without falling apart when the best laid plans go sideways because they will. Going with the flow is what happy people have as plan B. They recognize everything that happens is just life.
The chronically unhappy like to live in the past. What’s happened to them and life’s hardships are their conversation of choice. When they run out of things to say, they’ll turn to other people’s lives and gossip.
Happy people live in the now and dream about the future. You can feel their positive vibe from across the room. They’re excited about something they’re working on, grateful for what they have and dreaming about the possibilities of life.
Obviously, none of us are perfect. We’re all going to wallow in negative waters once in a while, but what matters is how long we stay there and how quickly we work to get ourselves out.
Now forget about what the world has to say happiness is and listen to what Jesus has to say about it.
Beatitude” is Latin for “an abundant happiness”. Each Beatitude, in Matthew 5, begins with the word “blessed.” The Greek word translated as “blessed” means “extremely fortunate, well off, and truly happy” because one is favored by God.
Matthew 5 has eight statements about happiness or being blessed that we should allow to become our guides for our own search for happiness and joy to be in our life. The Beatitudes are some of the most profound statements ever recorded. They are often quoted. Here Jesus tells us of the kind of happiness we can experience.
The happiness that Jesus promises in the Beatitudes is of Divine origin and therefore cannot be bought, produced, or packaged. Living the life to which He has called us gives us a happiness that isn’t human in origin. It comes from God. They are an invitation to a way of living that brings true happiness and peace.
Matthew 5:1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We become poor in spirit when everything we rely on falls apart. For some, it is losing loved ones, or the loss of a job, loss of faith in others or ourselves, periods of dryness in our spiritual life, illness, or other experiences. We learn not to rely on the usual things that our culture relies on to define our happiness like wealth and possessions and even other people. All of that can be taken from us. Jesus says that the poor in spirit are received into the kingdom of heaven, where all of creation is once again in the right relationship with God and with each other
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus promises that each of us will be comforted by His presence. Those who sorrow and mourn include those grieving over the death of a loved one, those who are in physical pain, and those who have a disabling condition such as a chronic disease. Those who mourn include the hungry, the homeless, the persecuted, those without hope, and those suffering from depression or mental illness.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Meekness toward others implies loving-kindness and gentleness of spirit, and a freedom from malice and a vengeful spirit. Meekness is also how we respond to others in the face of insult and suffering. The meek do not resist evil, but overcome evil with good. Matthew 5:39
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. In the days in which Jesus lived and taught, it was common for people to literally die of hunger and thirst. They lived where both food and water were scare. “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” Psalm 42:1. The soul longs for spiritual food and finds it in Christ’s presence.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The Aramaic word that Jesus used for “mercy” implies that we identify with others: we see things as others see them, we feel as others feel, we are going through what the other person is going through because we have experienced the same things ourselves. Our experiences allow us to know what that person needs and to respond in a way that is right for them.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. In the days of Jesus’ earthly life, the heart was considered the source of an individual’s thoughts, desires, and actions. The person was whatever his or her heart was. In the Hebrew Bible, only Yahweh could truly know one’s heart. “Those with clean hands and a pure heart will ascend the hill of the Lord.” Psalm 24:3
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Jesus, in His final talk with His disciples before His death, said “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you.” John 14:27. When one is at peace, one is in a perfect state of well-being within one’s self and with others and is in perfect synchrony with God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Those who have devoted their life to God and living by God’s values and are being led in all things by God, are inevitably going to challenge systems based on other values.
The beatitudes call us to a new way of being and doing. They bring true happiness and the deepest of joy in our relationship with God.
The definition of happiness given to us in the Beatitudes is simple and practical. Happiness is knowing that we were created good and that we are loved and blessed. It means allowing this goodness to flourish in ourselves and being an instrument of this goodness in others.
Father, we are reminded today that your blessings do not necessarily follow the logic of the world. The world believes that the rich are blessed, but Jesus reminds us that it is the poor who are blessed, the poor in spirit and the materially poor as well.
We pray for a more just world in which all have enough and none are left behind. Jesus tells us that those who mourn are blessed. Bring healing to those who are sick and comfort those of us who have lost loved ones. While people covet power, Jesus blesses the meek. Instruct us in the ways of humility.
Give us a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Fill our hearts with love and mercy.
In our society divided by so many labels we alone have created, remind us that we are created in your image. Each of us is a reflection of you, each of us your child. Help us then to end our conflicts. Help us to be peacemakers and people of reconciliation.