Hear Our Voice

The Congregation Shma Koleinu Blog.

Midday Message: On Happiness and Gratitude

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We tend to believe that it’s the happy people who are grateful.  

However, its really the other way around: It’s the grateful people who are happy.

All of us know people who have all the things one might imagine would make them happy but they’re miserable.   And if we’re lucky, we’ve come across folks who, despite challenging and even dire circumstances, express happiness.  The trick, according to Teacher and Philosopher, David Steindl-Rast, is gratitude.  Its as simple as that.  But, as they say, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Happiness just isn’t about stuff.  And the more we think it is, the more “elation” we may feel once we get “the more stuff,” the more we are just feeding an addiction to scarcity.  I know that our economy works on the presumption that rarity is value; that the more dollars there are in the market, the less they’re worth; the more students who score a 35 on the ACT, the less its worth; the more friends we have, the more we are worth.  But worth and happiness do not go hand in hand.  

Which is why we need philosophy/religion/spiritual traditions.  The core of every one of them, the starting point for all fruitful thought exercises, is the infinite worth that each of us carries within.  The great irony of our lives, ever more present with every new technology, is that the very things that are meant to improve our lives, imprison us in a never-ending search for, “but when will it be enough?”  

There is no “enough-ness” that will ever be found outside of ourselves.  There is no completion that happens anywhere but within our hearts and minds.  There is no fulfillment out there that we can’t already feel in our hands.  And the gateway to this enoughness begins and ends with active gratitude.  Not just being “open” to it when it strikes us, but engaging in a life committed to finding it, expressing it and feeling it.  If you make it a goal of identifying 5 things a day and feel gratitude for them, you will be a happier person.  It is that simple.  And yes its tough, but you can do it.  There’s no doubt in my mind.

This has been a “Mid-Day-Message” from Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss.

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