Saturday, October 22, 2016

Strive for Joy

One of my most popular posts in my blog is when I confess that my husband doesn't make me happy.

To read the post, click here.  

My guess is that the title causes people to ask:

1. Why would she admit something so personal?

2. A certain Englishman seems like a pretty decent guy, why what's wrong with him?

I can assure you nothing is wrong with a certain Englishman, he is a great guy.

To find out how he got the nickname, a certain Englishman, click here.  

My other guess is that when you read "my husband doesn't make me happy" you focus on the word happy.

But read it again, only this time pay attention to a different word.

My husband doesn't make me happy.

See the difference?  I don't look to my husband as my source of happiness, because if I did, he'd also have to be the source for my sadness.  Instead, I try not to look for happiness at all.

I strive for joy.

LDS Apostle President Russel M. Nelson spoke at the Sunday morning session of General Conference in October 2016.  His talk was titled, "Joy and Spiritual Survival"

To read his talk, click here. 

Notice his talk isn't titled, "Joy and Spiritual Enhancement" or "Joy and Spiritual Boost" or even "Joy and Spiritual Good Ideas"; he used the word SURVIVAL.

This tells me that if we don't want spiritual death, we need joy.

He warns us that we should avoid anything that could cause us to interrupt our joy.  Since our joy should be rooted in Jesus Christ, anything that goes against the Savior's doctrine can prevent us from feeling joy.

I would like to submit to you three things that I think could be considered interruptions to joy.

1. Avoid chasing HAPPINESS


You are probably wondering why I think happiness interrupts joy.  First, we need to figure out how these two words differ.

Merriam Webster defines happiness as an experience that makes you happy, and it defines joy as a source or cause of delight.

Since they sound pretty much like the same thing, I think we tend to use them interchangeably in the English language. But I think we should reserve using the word happy for moments that are fleeting and joy for a continual feeling.  Can we feel joy and sadness at the same time?  I think so.  Just ask these two.

Disney's 2015 movie Inside Out
I love how this movie shows us we don't need to be afraid of sadness nor constantly strive to be happy all the time.

While it's great to be happy, it's not very realistic to be happy all the time.

Just ask marriage and family therapist Christine S Holding.

To read more about Christine's practice, click here. 

At the 2015 BYU Women's Conference, Christine told a powerful story.  She said that her client list was filling up with young LDS brides who had been married about 4 to 5 months.  They would come into her office and cry, "Something is wrong with my husband.  He doesn't make me happy anymore."

She would then reply, "Why do you think your husband is supposed to make you happy?"

"Because my Church leaders told me that if I earned my Personal Progress Award, found a returned missionary, and got married in an LDS temple, I would be happy.  I have done all those things, and I'm not happy, so it must be my husband's fault."

Then she told a powerful story.

One day she was invited to go ice climbing up the face of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.  Which looks something like this.

http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/travel/ci_14136118
While Christine is extremely athletic and loves to hike, this activity was daunting for her.  She couldn't see how she could scale an icy wall without falling.  She was shown the rope that she would be attached to and promised that it would prevent her from falling.

After getting secured to the rope, she proceeded to climb the wall.  Sure enough she slipped and lost her grip on the ice.  To her surprise, instead of falling to the bottom, the rope grabbed her and she swung out and away from the mountain.  She kicked her way back towards the mountain, and using her tools, was able to start climbing again.  No sooner than she got back on the mountain, she lost her footing, and swung out again.

While she was able to gain confidence in the rope, she didn't feel like she was making much progress up the mountain.  She would do her best, but kept losing her grip and swinging away from the mountain.  She'd kick her way back and try again.

And then to her surprise, she saw the top.  What she didn't realize, was that she had been making progress every time she kicked her way back to the mountain.

She told us that marriage is the same.  It is a relationship of two individuals who make mistakes and will slip and fall.  But we have a rope, and that rope is Jesus Christ.  If we never let go of the rope, we will be able to stay on the mountain.  If we keep kicking our way back to the mountain we are resilient.  She said that it is that resiliency that will eventually get us to the top.  She counseled us to try to have a resilient marriage instead of a happy one.

I think this analogy can apply to more than just a marriage.  Really, just about any relationship we have is made easier if we are willing to stay anchored in Christ.

In the New Testament, we read in James 1:2

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

At first glance, this scripture can be confusing.  We should be joyous when we fall into temptation?  That doesn't make much sense.  But if you look up the definition of temptation in the 1828 Webster Dictionary, you'll see that temptation used to also mean trial.  That means that even when facing adversity, we can still feel joy.  

That doesn't mean we should minimize our trials or, even worse, ignore them.  Some of our trials can be very serious and require major intervention.  But no matter what causes us to fall off the mountain, we can keep trusting our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and that brings us joy.  

To read more about adversity or trials, click here.  

So my first recommendation is to 

FORGET HAPPINESS, SEEK RESILIENCY


2. Avoid pursuing SELF-ESTEEM


My interest in self-esteem began years ago when my kids were little.  I was visiting a girlfriend and our kids were playing together in the backyard.  Her 4-year-old daughter came running in and told her mom that her brother had hit her.  


My friend stroked her face and said, "You are so pretty."  

Confused, her daughter ran back outside.  

I was confused as well.  "Why did you say that to your daughter?"

"When I was little, my parents didn't do anything to give me self-esteem, and I don't want that to happen to my daughter." 

I didn't say any more, but I wanted to ask, "But didn't you just teach your daughter that it's okay if a boy hits you as long as you're pretty?"  

Her comment started me on a quest to learn more about self-esteem.  And this is what I've learned.  


  • Self-esteem is combination of confidence and competence, just telling someone they are good at something doesn't create self-esteem, they actually have to know they are good at something (and be right). 
  • Self-esteem is how one feels about oneself.  If a mom tells her child how wonderful she is, the daughter will have mom-esteem not self-esteem. 
  • High self-esteem and low self-esteem have something in common, focusing on oneself, and doing that interrupts joy.  


One of the popular LDS Face to Face series featured Apostle Elder David Bednar and his wife.  During the event, a question was asked by a girl who felt like she wasn't pretty and wanted advice on how to improve her self-esteem.  

Sister Bednar's answer should be heard by every teenager who is struggling with their body image or popularity.  

To view her answer, click here.  

Sister Bednar's answer confirmed what I've felt all along.  We shouldn't be building our self-esteem, but identifying our individual worth.  Individual worth is understanding our inherent value as a child of a loving Heavenly Father. 

In fact, if you look for self-esteem in the LDS youth programs, you won't find it mentioned in the Young Women values, the Duty to God booklet, or in the Strength for Youth pamphlet.  Don't you think that if self-esteem was important, the LDS Church would encourage our teenagers to have it?  

My second recommendation is

FORGET SELF-ESTEEM, SEEK INDIVIDUAL WORTH


3. Avoid meeting PERSONAL NEEDS


It seems obvious that in order to feel joy we would need to have our needs met.  To a small extent, I can see how that would be true.  If we are cold, hungry, and naked, it would be hard to feel joy.  Not to say, that we couldn't, but it would be hard.

What I think is an interruption to joy is not so much having our needs met, but worrying about whether our needs are being met.

Have you ever heard of the hedonistic treadmill?

https://www.justcurves.net/blogs/news/93795457-5-ways-to-be-happier-every-day

Essentially it is the concept that no amount of acquiring material items or improving our circumstances will make us happier than we are right now.  Because while a new purchase, job, or house might make us happier for a moment, eventually we'll adjust to the change and go back to the previous state of happiness.

So if more money, a better job, or a better home doesn't create more joy in our life, what will?

Alma, a missionary in the Book of Mormon, offers an idea.

But I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren... Alma 29:14

How can we get to a point where our joy is more full because of others' successes and not our own?

My friend was kind enough to share this experience with me, which I believe shows the answer.

Later in life, she was surprised to learn that she was expecting.  At 44, she had resigned herself to never having a child.  Being blessed with this amazing gift motivated her to be the best mother she could be.  Within a few short years, she felt like she was failing in her quest.  It was as if her daughter came to earth already knowing all the things she had wanted to teach her.

One day she knelt in prayer and offered a heartfelt plea to the Lord.  "What would you have me teach my child?  She knows everything already!"

The answer came to her clearly and simply.

"Teach her to serve."

My friend got up off her knees and went straight to work.  She started a new branch of an existing nonprofit that teaches young children how to serve others.  One of the young moms heard about her efforts and started a her own nonprofit in her hometown.  That nonprofit is now getting national recognition and children across America are learning how to serve others before they are even potty trained.

Imagine a rising generation that is more concerned about the needs of others than their own.

That is why my last recommendation is to

FORGET YOUR OWN NEEDS, SEEK TO MEET OTHERS' NEEDS

Finding joy in our life can seem impossible in a world that is riddled with war, pestilence, and corruption.  But we have been promised by many prophets, that it is possible.  Lehi taught us that we exist to have joy.  Former president of the LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley told us life is to be enjoyed, not just endured. And recently our current prophet, Pres. Thomas S. Monson, told us how we can enjoy eternal happiness.

Joy is possible!  Instead of trying to be happy all the time, focus on being resilient.  Don't worry about your self-esteem, try to find out your real value and purpose.  And look to meet other people's needs instead of worrying about your own.

It's true that my husband doesn't MAKE me happy, but I know where I can turn to find eternal happiness.


If you liked this article, you might also like,

Claim the Joy

My Husband Doesn't Make Me Happy

The Second Act