I’m always surprised at how many people ask themselves if they deserve to be happy.
We let the things we’ve done wrong drag us down. I’m not saying we don’t have to correct those things. We do need to address mistakes we’ve made, try to make restitution, apologize, forgive, and learn not to do them again. But it ends there.
There is nothing noble about keeping yourself unhappy because of something you’ve already repented for.
So do you deserve to be happy? It’s the wrong question. It seems to me that you are actually obligated to build your self-worth and happiness.
Why? Let me explain.
The Necessity of the Pursuit of Happiness
You may or may not know that I was widowed at age 39. That’s a story for another time, but suffice it to say that after a loss like that it can take a while to find hope again. I spent a lot of time hoping my late husband would get better and, strangely enough, I continued to hope even after he died. I’d gotten so used to it!
Once that hope wore off, it was hard to get it back and I just went around focused on myself and the unfairness of what had happened to us. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. I just knew something was missing.
After about five years of this emptiness, I had a simple conversation with a stranger on Facebook.
Me: “I find that I have trouble with hope. It doesn’t seem to exist at all.”
Stranger: “Hope is in other people. You find it by focusing on others.”
Much to my surprise, he was right! Focusing on others made me more hopeful, which made me happier. In turn, that made me more helpful.
Happiness Makes Us More Helpful
Happiness makes us more likely to give to others. It gives us more energy and incentive to be available for others.
Simon Sinek, optimist and motivational speaker, makes the point that people will not (perhaps cannot) help each other until they feel confident in their own ability … in other words, until they feel sufficient self-worth.
It’s only when we develop some self-confidence that we can put ourselves out there for someone else.
In other words, the happier we are, the more useful we are to others.
Happiness Makes Us More Generous
This old Eastern European Jewish story tells us why it’s important for us to take good care of ourselves.
Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezeritch (1704-1772) … went with several disciples to solicit a charitable donation from a wealthy man. At the man’s house, Dov Baer learned that the rich man lived in penurious circumstances. He ate old dry bread, and seldom had meat and fruit at his meals. Instead of focusing on the donation he had intended to solicit, Dov Baer argued with the man on the need for him to live better, to have fresh bread at his table, and to augment his vegetable dinners with meat, fruit and desserts.
Upon leaving, Dov Baer’s disciples expressed amazement at his behavior. “What do you care what that man chooses to eat? What business is it of ours?”
“You don’t understand,” Dov Baer answered. “If that man eats fresh bread, then at the very least he’ll give poor people stale bread. But if he himself lives on stale bread, he’ll assume that the poor can get by on stones.”
(Here is the book I found the story in…)
The Obligation to Happiness
Remember what John F. Kennedy said?
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
The same applies to your community. Stop asking if you deserve to be happy or for someone else to somehow give you permission to be happy.
Pursue happiness because we need you, because it’s your responsibility.
You have something unique to contribute and letting unhappiness waste your energy deprives us all.