Happiness: how to have it

A Christian Science perspective.

Every day the Internet has hundreds, maybe thousands, of notices that read like this: “10 things never to eat” or “8 tips to lose 20 pounds” or “15 things that have changed since the credit crunch.” I loved this one: “Two secrets to live like a movie star.” They go on and on, and upon investigation usually turn out to be obvious life lessons and simple common sense. It turns out there is no magic diet, no perfect food to keep you healthy, no movie star life for the rest of us.

But one day, this one popped up on my computer screen: “10 things happy people do differently.” That reminded me of a talk I attended at the library in a tiny town in France where I once lived. Every Tuesday evening the library hosted a speaker on gardening, travel, French cooking, or some other topic of interest. Usually 10 to 20 people attended. But one Tuesday, 243 of us crowded into the hall to hear “How to be happy.” It seems the world wants to know how to be happy more than it wants to know how to prune rose bushes or what riverboats travel the Rhine. In fact, the world is clamoring to know how to be happy.

Here are a few tips from the online list of 10 things that “happy people do differently”: Don’t hold grudges, treat everyone with kindness, see stumbling blocks as steppingstones, express gratitude, ask for what you want, speak well of others, listen well.

As I read the list, I felt there was a common thread running through it. Then it dawned on me: I’d essentially read all those before. I have a great book that tells me exactly how to do all of those things and more: the book of Exodus in the Bible, particularly, the Ten Commandments.

I saw that each of the 10 things that happy people do differently correlates to the instructions in the Ten Commandments. For example, one of the 10 things happy people do is “speak well of others.” Look at the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” I’ve known many a time when “speaking well of others” would have brought a happier result than gossiping or tattling.

Or here is the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet.” Happy people express gratitude for what they have. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 3). It’s been enlightening to find the link between happiness and being obedient to the laws God gave Moses to share with us.

I use the Bible, with its companion book, Science and Health, to apply the lessons from the Bible in my everyday life – right here, right now. As I learn to pray, those prayers affect my everyday experience. It’s inevitable that my happiness level rises.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to see happiness from a different perspective. I was working in Russia when it was still a communist, nonreligious country. One day my Russian secretary came to my office, and knowing that I was a Christian, began to read to me something she had found and thought I would like. “Our Father which art in heaven,” she began. I joined in, “Hallowed be thy name.” She stopped reading and said incredulously, “You know this?”

That moment it dawned on me that she had spent her entire life not knowing the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible as a whole, not even the concept of God. That moment piqued her interest in the precious things I’d been taught all my life, and had taken for granted. She and I began to share ideas, and there was much mutual blessing in this sharing. For four years we studied together, and she delighted in, and worked diligently on, translating hymns in the “Christian Science Hymnal” into Russian.

As Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health, speaking of God as Soul, “Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul” (p. 60).

At one point in my life, I found that the desire to be and do good was growing. I’d read in the Bible that the Apostle Peter preached, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing” (Acts 10:38). That seemed to me to be the ultimate happiness. Going about doing good. Just imagine if everyone went about doing good. We’d be following in Jesus’ footsteps. We’d be healing. We could change the world’s happiness level. The Ten Commandments give us the guide for keeping thought aligned with good, with God.

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