The Secret to Happiness
"I want to tell you the secret to happiness," I said to my daughters at a ramen restaurant a couple of weeks ago.
"Just us?" The older one joked.
Playing off each other like they always do, the younger one added, "Mom, you shouldn't keep it a secret."
So here it is. It comes out of a recent newsletter from Leslie Vernick. She's a counselor who teaches: "The happiest people are those who find purpose for their pain."
My girls didn't get it at first. Until I pointed out how they both became interested in the medical field after experiencing their own health issues. Now they are CNAs, pursuing degrees to help others overcome health issues. They used their pain for purpose.
That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt or you can't mourn. It simply means you have the power to use that which comes against you for good. And I feel like the week of Thanksgiving is the appropriate time to talk about this.
We aren't thankful for the pain, but we choose to be thankful for the passion and the opportunities it brings. For example, one night when I couldn't sleep because of the steroids I was given during my chemo treatments, I wrote a picture book about cancer. Because breast cancer is a lot different from childhood cancers and I wanted to be sensitive to families who lose children, I asked a friend who'd lost his son if he'd be willing to meet with me and my illustrator, Jennifer Peters, to look over our manuscript.
Jen and I both sat there in tears as Jason told us about his son Josiah. Losing a child has to be the greatest emotional pain a person could ever go through. But this story isn't only sad, it's inspirational. See... Josiah (AKA Siah), was a big fan of Marvel comics and smashing things like The Hulk, so, in loving memory, Jason had an Ironman costume made to wear when he visits the pediatric cancer ward. He calls the foundation Siah Smash. The pain from losing Josiah has given Jason purpose in encouraging other families going through similar heartbreak.
Wherever you're at and whatever challenges you're going through, I want to encourage you to be thankful for the beauty that can come from tragedy - not only this week, but everyday. A Harvard study claims that if the benefits of thankfulness/gratitude could be bottled, it would be the most expensive drug on the market. It affects everything from your appearance to your internal organs. And it's free.
There are seasons in life. This season won't last forever, but your thanksgiving can.
I heard a quote about happiness in middle school, and it's not only stuck with me ever since, but it's been a motto for my life. "Happiness isn't having what you want, but wanting what you have." -Rabbi Hyman Schachtel
With this quote in mind, I asked Jim how he would define happiness. He responded with one word. "Peace." And I think that perhaps they are the same thing.
As the Apostle Paul said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." He wanted what he had. He was thankful. He had peace. He found purpose through his pain.
He knew the secret.
How have you turned your pain into purpose?