I think one of the biggest causes of unhappiness is not accepting things as they are. It’s a fight against reality, which is kind of crazy really.
… Say your shoo-in candidate for president lost. You’re horrified. You can refuse to recognize the results and move to Canada but the results will remain the results.
… Say you’ve suffered a tragedy. You can wish it never happened forever, but the fact remains – it happened.
… Maybe you did something over which you’re deeply regretful. You can wish you hadn’t done it and wallow in guilt and shame, which will keep you stuck, but the truth is you did what you did.
The problem with wanting things to be different than they are is that it resists what’s real just so you’ll feel better. But it doesn’t work and won’t make you happier. However there is a way: accepting things as they are.
The root of true happiness isn’t about bending things to our liking and getting our way. The pursuit of happiness is not found in being preoccupied with order, control, safety, and certainty. Neither is it achieved by grabbing or securing or playing offense or defense in order to win. It’s being able to accept that reality “is what it is”. It’s cultivating the ability to truly accept whatever comes – the good, bad and ugly of life – and embracing it like Christ did in Gethsemane. Acceptance is really saying yes to what is. It’s recognizing your reality correctly. Being okay with the current situation. It doesn’t mean you have to like it only that you accept it and recognize it as it is. It’s like Arthur Rubinstein once stated, “Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”
I might want things to be different in the future but in the present moment I need to accept things as they are rather than fighting to change things that can’t be changed. It’s aligning my life with truth – God’s truth; the truth that he’s all loving and in total control. Eugene Peterson calls this alignment, “acquired passivity”. It’s acquired because it doesn’t come naturally. We have to develop the habit of giving ourselves up to God’s actions in us and in our circumstances.
We live in a culture that stubbornly and persistently denies the truth that God is in control and focuses instead on muscling our way through life in order to get ahead and find purpose. The problem is that we don’t get to control what God’s will is or what that looks like.
This kind of quiet acceptance is a choice – a hard one, to be sure, but a choice all the same. It’s not just putting up with things. It’s a starting point that opens us up to new possibilities including finding happiness and contentment in the most unlikely places and under the most surprising circumstances. e.e. Cummings wrote:
Yes is a world
& in this world of
I think he’s saying that the secret of true happiness and satisfaction can be found hidden in the quiet acceptance of reality – aligning ourselves with and entrusting ourselves to the truth that God is always present even when I can’t see him or feel him, always in control even when things appear to be a mess, and always has our best interests at heart even when everything around us is screaming the opposite. After all isn’t that the true message of Christmas? The meaning behind Emmanuel?
The other day, I was deep in thought about all this, and a song came on my play list with the refrain, “What shall be shall be enough… What shall be shall be enough…” and I thought, “That’s it! That says it all”. So I’ve decided to make it my prayer and anthem as I prepare to face a new year in a crazy world full of uncertainty, surprises… and God.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…