Dr. Mark Baker
What does it take to be a happy person? I’m going to give you two elements of happiness today and I’ll tell you upfront happiness is not the absence of suffering in your life but it’s the presence of certain qualities that you need to be happy. I’m going to tell you about two. The first is true optimism. Now, there’s a difference between true optimism and false optimism. True optimism is looking for the good in your circumstances, false optimism is based on fear. False optimism is believing that things are going to work out fine no matter what true optimism says. I don’t know how things are going to work out but I believe that God is with me in this and He’s going to be with me to get through this, and so I’m gonna look for the good in my circumstances.
The second thing you need to really live a happy life is gratitude. Now you know this verse from first Thessalonians 5 which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now, did you hear what I said it says? Give thanks in all circumstances – it doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances. True gratitude is being able to find something to be grateful for in the midst of your circumstances, which might be terrible circumstances. I am NOT grateful for all the circumstances in my life, because some of them are really bad but I really look for something to be grateful for in the midst of all my circumstances because that is what helps me be a happier person.
Let me give you an example of that; I asked Dr. Fred Luskin to give a lecture on his work in the forgiveness project. He’s the director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, which is the largest forgiveness project in the world, studying how people can learn to forgive. He told us a story about a woman who had been brutally abused and had her child murdered and she was supposed to somehow figure out how to forgive the people who had done this to her. Dr. Luskin realized that she first needed to learn gratitude before she could approach forgiveness, because her circumstances were so terrible, so he let her tell her story. She told it until she couldn’t talk about it any further in horrible circumstances and then he got her to stand up and walk over and go towards the window. It was a cold day in San Francisco and she felt just the sun on her face, she was able in that moment to be grateful for that one simple thing. That beginning of gratitude was the beginning of her ability to restore the faith that maybe someday, she could forgive. If she could be grateful for that one thing that maybe she could be grateful for other things. This is what we’ve learned, that you have to have the capacity to find things to be grateful for in the midst of terrible circumstances in order for you to move towards happiness in life. Neither Dr. Luskin nor the Bible is telling you to be grateful for all circumstances, they’re both telling you to figure out how to be grateful inall circumstances. Happiness is not the absence of suffering in your life, happiness is the ability to find the presence of true optimism and gratitude in it.
Did you know that the emotional part of your brain is many times faster than the thinking part of your brain? That scientific fact led me to write my new book, Spiritual Wisdom for a Happier Life, How Your Eight Key Emotions Could Work For You. I’m very excited to let you know that Revell is bringing that book here to the United States and publishing it in English because it has already been published in other languages and sold about 250,000 copies already. I believe that if you can harness the power of those eight key emotions you’re gonna live a fuller and richer life, and be able to be in a more complete way the person that God has created you to be.