Saturday, October 03, 2015

How to be Happy

Yes, the secret of happiness is not complicated. In fact, I can reveal the secret to you in two words. The problem is that, while the secret is not complicated, there are two problems. First, it is very difficult to implement because it conflicts with our feelings and assumptions. Second, most people are unwilling to attempt implementing the secret because it runs counter to their beliefs and habits.

So, yes, I am going to tell you how to be happy, how to have a successful marriage, how to develop and maintain solid friendships, how to succeed in business--whatever  your current status in life. I'll tell you the secret, but you won't like it. In fact, you'll probably reject it out of hand and go on living your life as you have been, with perhaps less  happiness and success you might otherwise have had.

In two words, then, the secret of happiness is: Humble yourself.

You see, pride is the source of most of the misery we cause each other. More than that, it is an inhibitor, a preventer, even destroyer of every kind of human progress.

Perhaps you know someone who has to answer every comment, criticize every action, disagree with every suggested idea, always have the last word, and, of course, always be right. People who do these things, and who take offense easily, who always seem to be angry, are letting pride destroy their own and others' happiness. (And, yes, this sort of proud behavior can be the result of low self esteem as well as genuine belief in superiority.)

But pride goes further than one person acting out a negative life. Pride hurts us all.

Today's illustrative anecdote comes from the life of Ignaz Semmelweis, an obstetrician in 19th Century Vienna. He discovered, well before the germ theory of disease had been accepted, that his medical students were somehow transferring disease from the autopsy room to the women in the hospital. So he began the practice of hand washing before patient examination. The death rate among the women in the hospital dropped 90%, from about one in every five or six women to one or two in a hundred.

Did the medical establishment welcome this news, implement hand washing universally, and praise Semmelweis as a hero? Of course not. Many doctors were  offended that anyone could suggest that persons of their exalted social status would have dirty hands. Hmmph. Pride sinks another good idea.

Oh, and besides, Semmelweis' solution ran counter to the "settled science" of the time. So instead of   taking the humble road to hand washing, the disease problem was turned back on the women, where it was suggested that what the women needed was not a doctor's clean hands but a good laxative.

Arrogance, egotism, pride--these are enormously damaging to all of us and our social world. If you want to stop damaging others and bring yourself peace and joy, humble yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment