I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
One of my resolutions is to “Give positive reviews.” I want to show enthusiasm, delight, and a readiness to be pleased – to lay aside my desire to criticize and to indulge in puncturing humor, sarcasm, ironic asides, cynical comments, or cutting remarks.
It’s harder than it sounds.
A prayer attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo includes the line, Shield your joyous ones:
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love’s sake.
At first, it struck me as odd that among prayers for the “dying” and “suffering” is a prayer for the “joyous.” Why worry about the joyous ones?
Once I started trying to give positive reviews, for the first time, I began to appreciate the people I knew who are joyous. I understood how much effort it takes to be consistently good-tempered and positive.
For example, I remember that one day when we were visiting Kansas City, my father came home from work and my mother told him, “We’re having pizza for dinner.” As she knew he would, my father answered, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Do you want me to go pick it up?”
We all knew that my father would have answered that way even if he didn’t want pizza for dinner, and even if the last thing he felt like doing was heading back out the door. And that kind of consistent enthusiasm contributes a lot to everyone’s happiness.
We non-joyous types suck energy and cheer from the joyous ones. We rely on them to buoy us with their good spirit and to cushion our agitation and anxiety.
At the same time, because of a dark element in human nature, we’re sometimes provoked to try to shake the joyous ones out of their fog of illusion—to make them see that the play was actually stupid, the money was wasted, the meeting was pointless. Instead of shielding their joy, we blast it. Why is this? I have no idea. But that impulse is there.
In his outstanding biography, Samuel Johnson, W. Jackson Bate describes how upset the moody, temperamental Samuel Johnson became when his joyous, enthusiastic supporter, Hester Thrale, turned her attention away from him.
It is a common mistake on the part of cooler, self-contained natures to assume that those who have a giving and ebullient character are what they are only because they cannot help it—that they are fed from a spring that will never stop rather than a reservoir that can be exhausted. Hence the feeling of stark disbelief or unpleasant shock on the part of others when the reservoir of effort and energy—for it turns out to be a reservoir—is almost gone….the principal reward for those who give lavishly rather than meagerly is the expectation that they remain true to form and continue to give.
We depend on the joyous ones, and we need to remember that their joy isn’t inexhaustible or unconquerable. Now I’m making a real effort to use my own good cheer to support and protect the enthusiasts I know.
Shield your joyous ones.
I’m a big advocate of organ donation, so I was very interested to read this story in Gimundo, about a woman, a Starbucks barista, who is giving her kidney to a regular customer. Amazing.
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