Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happiness: Imposed or Created?

I recently received an e-mail from a new friend, a gay man who is trying to make his mixed-orientation marriage work while still being true to himself.  His relationship to the Church is also very much a work in progress, as it is for many of us. 

He wrote of reading an article in the current issue of the Ensign entitled "Finding Answers."  “The quote at the beginning,” he wrote, “says ‘it is not the design of heaven that we be rescued from all difficult situations.  Rather, it is the Lord's will that we learn to handle them.’  Reading this created one of my “ah ha!” moments.  So often in the past I wanted the church to take me by the hand, and show me, step by step, what needed to be done to make me happy.  I reasoned that if the church was true, then it had all the answers, and all I needed to do was go through the process and bingo! I'd be happy.  (I'm using the word happy to mean all sorts of things, like fulfilled, complete, satisfied, content...) 

The church as an organization may have let me and those like me down, but they in no way defined my ability to be happy.  Yes I did let them (or it) cloud my thinking, and influence my thoughts, but in retrospect I let that happen because I wanted the church to do the work for me and make me who I thought I should become.  Sounds a bit like the plan of Lucifer in the council of heaven, where free agency is taken away in exchange for sure salvation.  I should have voted for the other side damn it!”

His words made me reflect on how it seems to be human nature for us – particularly those of us who have become accustomed to rejecting and loathing who we are – to look outside ourselves for happiness, for it to be created by others and “imposed” upon us.  It has never occurred to us that we could generate our own happiness because pure water cannot, so to speak, come from a polluted well. 

 Additionally, for those of us who were born into and/or spent most of our lives within Mormonism, we have been indoctrinated to believe that happiness comes from adherence to an external code of conduct, rather than being true to what lies within us.  Self, as well as divinity, lies “out there,” not “in here.”  Furthermore, we are taught that to take charge of creating our own happiness is spiritual arrogance, that we must follow the rules and wait for the happiness to come.

One of the great things about coming out is that one begins the process of accepting and affirming oneself, of learning to love oneself, of acknowledging the beauty within.  This, in turn, helps us to begin the process of creating our own happiness, rather than waiting for it to be imposed from without. 

We learn that happiness is not something we “seek,”
but rather something we consciously choose.

And these choices are what define our lives. 

WE define our lives, rather than letting our lives define us.


  1. First off, let me just say how much I enjoy the male images on your, ok--got that out of the way--- Some of us human beings are better off being told what to do, how to do it, getting our clothes laid out for us every morning, what to eat, when etc. Add the fact that an organization who as we understand has the keys to our eternal salvation--or damnation --and knows how to use that influence and our human disposition to not disappoint the people we love and you have the perfect formula for self-imposed conflict. I think the vicious cycle goes both ways and it can also be perpetuated by the other party (the church, parents, a boss, a spouse...) This is also why people who don't conform to the norm get so much attention from those of us who wish we had the guts to do/say what they do so naturally.

    I think one of the best things I realized one day was that I was a human being perfectly capable of self-thought and expression, who could very well decide what was good and moral and what I stood for and it may not have had anything to do with what was in a manual or scripture or came from general conference. It took me a few more years to apply that into other areas of my life and well, I'm still learning, don't get me wrong, sometimes self-imposed things are comfortable even if they're really more damning to us, but having been through that process then I can perhaps figure out what causes them and how to deal with them more consciously. Great topics...I smell a best seller when/if you ever publish all of these experiences, just sayin'

  2. Miguel, I totally agree with you regarding the potential role of parents, spouse, etc., and your observation about "rebels." (There's a lot of rebelphobia in the church, have you noticed?)

    I also totally agree with you about looking inside for guidance as to personal decisions. I'm also working at applying that in my life.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Hugs back.

  3. As one reads scripture, the prophets were clear in what Heavenly Father's mission for us is: Men are that they might have joy.

    From my perspective, that's our purpose--to find joy in ourselves and in the world around us.

    What that ultimately means is that I have to blaze my own trail. It's good to get input from others, but in the end, I've got to do it myself.

    And that's what will inevitable bring is job, the striving, the failing, the overcoming, and in the end, the achieving.

  4. Thanks for this. I'm glad to know that there are other "pleasers" out there. I love what Miguel had to say too, and it reminded me of a song. There is a wonderful Christian artist, Sara Groves. On her album, "Conversations" she sings these lyrics:

    The past is so tangible
    I know it by heart
    Familiar things are never easy to discard
    I was dying for some freedom
    But now I hesitate to go
    Caught between the promise
    And the things I know

    I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
    But leaving out what it lacked.
    The future seems so hard and I want to go back.
    But the places that used to fit me
    Cannot hold the things I've learned
    And those roads were closed off to me
    While my back was turned.

    I know in my own life, too often I am like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Longing for the Promised Land, but whining about the road getting there. Thanks again! Kj.

  5. @Kevin - What beautiful lyrics! I particularly like: "The places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned, and those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned." There is so much rich imagery in the Exodus story. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Here is a link to the song. It's definitely worth the listen.

  7. Thanks Kevin. The link didn't seem to be working, so I looked up the song, "Painting Pictures of Egypt," and found the following link (which appears to be the same video you had in mind). It's a great song! Thanks again for telling me about it.