call it what you will

We started a great discussion yesterday, and I've responded to some of the comments on yesterday's post in the comment section.  Today is part II - written at the same time as yesterday's post (but I didn't want to break any records for the World's Longest Blog Post!).

I know a person who always seems to see the bright side of things.  Who always seems happy to see you - and everyone else, who loves kids - even the annoying ones - and loves to bring fun into any and every situation.  People sometimes think this person is goofy or oblivious or a pie-in-the-sky Pollyanna.  I have thought it must be exhausting to feel compelled to be so positive and optimistic.  People - Christians - I know have openly mocked this happy-go-lucky attitude and I have rolled my eyes (to my shame) at this person's unending enthusiasm.

Are some people naturally like this?

could be.

I am not naturally positive and optimistic - does that mean I'm destined to a life of negativism, of being a life-sucker rather than a life giver?

maybe not....

In chapter 11 of Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, in discussing keeping a contented heart, she comes around to idea of choosing to "give positive reviews."  By her definition this means to be more enthusiastic and to become one of the "joyous ones."  She quickly realizes how very difficult it is to abandon a lifestyle of  enjoying the "delicious satisfaction" of criticizing.  She readily identifies how being critical made her "feel more sophisticated and intelligent" and how studies have shown that "people who are critical are often perceived as more discerning."[p. 268]  As she seeks to keep her resolution to "Give positive reviews," she attempts an intensive approach - no negative comments for one week. 

Could you do that?  I'm not sure I could (certainly not without the Lord's help!)....

Here's what she learned:

"Once I started trying to give positive reviews, though, I began to understand how much happiness I took from the joyous ones in my life - and how much effort it must take for them to be consistently good-tempered and positive. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. We non-joyous types suck energy and cheer from the joyous ones; we rely on them to buoy us with their good spirit and to cushion our agitation and anxiety.  At the same time, because of a dark element in human nature, we're sometimes provoked to try to shake the enthusiastic, cheery folk out of their fog of illusion....instead of shielding their joy, we blast it." [p.270]

And I thought of the person I know who is consistently good-tempered, who is one of the joyous ones.  And it occurred to me that this person might not "naturally" be like that.  Perhaps a lifetime of choosing to be positive and enthusiastic has led to the seemingly effortless fun and delight that defines them.  As I continued reading, I was convicted by the realization that it takes a great deal of humility to lay aside the desire and impulse to use "sarcasm, ironic asides and cynical comments" to make myself appear smart and discerning. "A willingness to be pleased," Rubin says, "requires modesty and even innocence - easy to deride as mawkish and sentimental."

Having "ready laughter" is something that I've valued in others and have desired to bless others with.  For me this often means delighting with someone in the "obvious" joke, rather than just smiling out of courtesy.  To be there for those around me, laying aside my personal preferences in humour or entertainment styles.

I've never preferred the word "happy."  Something in me has always considered it unspiritual.  JOY - yes that is good and godly, but it isn't something that is necessarily reflected on the outside.  It's a deep sense of peace and satisfaction that comes from the security of a relationship with the Lord - but doesn't mean you'll be happy.  Happy is fluffy.  Happy is circumstantial.  Happy is for morning people.  Happy isn't necessary for Christians....

found it here
notice the vacancy sign??
I'm thankful for this book because through Rubin's writing, the Lord gave me peace with this little word.  Happy is ok.  Happy is not a feeling in and of itself, it's an external view of my heart.  (Be joyful in hope... Rom 12:12)  For me, happy is the outward display of being joyful.  Happy will draw people in instead of pushing them away.  Happy will reflect the character of a loving God as it reflects that deep sense of joy that comes from a meaningful relationship with Jesus. Happy will enable me to speak joy into the lives of my family, friends and community.  And maybe I'll never achieve the kind of happiness displayed by "the person I know" but I am sure that every time I lay down my pride to show more of what God can do in a person like me, I will make Him happy (pleased, joy-filled, delighted, glad - call it what you will) too.

May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Psalm 68:3


  1. Deanne23.1.11

    Positive reviews...my new challenge!

  2. I've been so excited to join in this discussion...I've been reading The Happiness Project and Proverbs lately and I've been thinking a lot about happiness! I really want to live my life with wisdom, efficiency, creativity, deep joy and outward expressions of that joy...authentic happiness. I've been finding The Happiness Project really interesting. I believe that God calls us to live lives of discipline and wisdom but sometimes I get really caught up in that pursuit and end up feeling tired, frustrated, defeated and discouraged when I fail. "But as you live more wisely, you will be inclined to regard a life well lived as an end in itself and to believe that making wise choices will reliably fill your soul with meaning and joy. It won't." - Larry Crabb. As I was thinking of all this I was reminded of Mary and Martha. I need to keep my priorities in order. Sitting at Jesus' feet and worshiping him in humility and thanksgiving needs to always precede whatever I do for Him/the way I live for Him. Martha wanting to make Jesus a meal was a GOOD thing but it should have come second. The way we live our lives is secondary to simply enjoying being in a relationship with our Savior. Maybe this is so obvious to you guys, but I really needed to be reminded of this lately. As I read Proverbs and The Happiness Project, the perfectionist in me wants to strive to accomplish all the goals and live so right that I will be bursting with happiness and contentment. Over and over I need to remind myself that what I DO for Christ (the way I live my life...eg. following Rubin's tips) needs to come out of who I AM in Christ. What I DO does not make me who I AM. So often I think that my obedience and wise-living will satisfy me...and make me feel secure and loved and HAPPY. I'm hoping that by constantly recognizing that my own efforts are useful, they are not the place to start. My motto has been "heart before head" as I work through all the tips in Rubin's book and Solomon's book. What do you think about all this Becky? I'm finding that reading books like these are tricky for me and I need to be really mindful as I read them.

    ps. Yes, my Dad really is that naturally happy. ;) Although he doesn't have to work very hard at that area of his life, I know that he works very hard at other areas that he's weaker in. I couldn't help but think that he might be your happy friend!

  3. Leah, you are insightful in many ways!

    I love that you're reading a book like the Happiness Project alongside the scriptures. No Book beside God's will truly give us the answers we long for.

    You have said all things I have thought. Sometimes this blogging thing is hard because, go figure, people can't read my mind and while my inclination is to spell everything out in extreme detail, most people don't want read that! :) "heart before head" - great motto! not heart INSTEAD of head or vice versa...it's always in the balancing. I think this might be why the Bible tells us to love God with all our heart, soul mind and strength...God knew we'd never get it right if we tried to use just one part of who we are! Gotta love Him for His grace!

    This has been a real blessing to me, ladies. I have really missed being part of a regular bible study this year, and it's mostly because I miss having like-minded people to bounce ideas off of.

    love you all!

  4. and God bless Buckeye for his naturally UP disposition - he's a real encouragement to me in the ministry God has give me. :)


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