Saturday, June 10, 2017

Are You Happy?

I recently finished reading “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly. Remember the yellow book that was handed out to all in attendance at the Easter Masses which was donated by a parishioner. It was inspirational, helpful and an easy read. Each day since Easter I read one chapter and then meditated during the day on the guidance each chapter provided. Most chapters were only two to four pages long and easily digestible with an action step to follow for each day. I strongly recommend it.

What makes you happy? It is a good question to ask because some of the things that make you think you are happy are only fleeting memories and leave you wanting for more. More money begets wanting more money. After a while the thrill of a new car wears off and you want another new car. You think that a new gadget will make you happy, until the next new toy comes out. It’s easy to fall into the old axiom that the one with the most toys in the end wins. But can you take your toys with you when you die.

I see a lot of patients in the hospital who are approaching the end of their life and they don’t talk about what cars they have, or how much money they’ve made. They talk about what’s most important to them and what they are most grateful for in their lives. The number one subject is family. You can see their faces light up when they talk about the children, or especially their grandchildren. Their relationships are what make them happy. The second most common topic discussed is their relationship with God. Some talk about all they do in the church and how important their service to the church is. Others regret that they haven’t been to church in a long time and want to go back. It’s an opportunity for them to think about their relationship with God and how it may need to be improved. You have a lot of time to think in the hospital and often it is the first time a person has faced their own mortality. They start thinking about what is most important in their lives. Invariably, it is about relationships; relationships with family and relationships with God.

Why is it that we so often ignore what is most important in our lives, what makes us truly happy, and instead focus on material goods that may make us good for a while but are fleeting. That is what Michael Kelly focuses on in his book, why we put off focusing on what makes us happy and creating habits that lead us to true happiness. He talks about the resistance that stands between us and happiness. As he says in his book, “We know the things that will make us happy, but we don’t always do them.” First we have to determine what makes us happy. One of his first action steps is simple: “Identify three activities that increase your happiness and write them down.” He says that “only by pacing God at the center of everything that we can make sense of life.” He reminds us that we all have burdens in our lives and often carry a heavy load so be gentle with people because you never know what they are carrying around inside.

One big takeaway from the book that has helped me is to spend time with God. Take just ten minutes in the morning and talk with God, ask him what you should do with some situation that comes up. What is you plan for the day. In other words, ask God for his advice. It helps me to focus on what is important in my life.

Deacon Greg Beckel

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