I’m not sure who made us believe we deserve to be happy. Maybe it was the fairy godmothers and princesses of our youth. Maybe it was Thomas Jefferson and his “pursuit of happiness”. Maybe it was the American dream. Somewhere along the way a whole lot of us decided happiness was a birthright. Something that would come to us naturally.
I’m certainly not an innocent bystander. I spent most of my twenties believing happiness was just going to arrive someday. Believing it would arrive in a certain package: a girl, a job, a house, and kids.
Boy, was I way off.
My point today is two-fold. First, happiness is a mythical concept. Nobody is happy all the time. No matter how good their lives.
Second, happiness isn’t something that just shows up one day—it’s something we work toward. It’s something we go out into the world in pursuit of. It’s something we fight like hell to gain.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my moments of happiness look a lot like peace of mind. They look like the cutest little puppy you’ve ever seen. They look like friends and family and deep conversations. They look like decision-making that is true to what is deepest in my soul.
It also looks a lot like hard work—5 years of therapy, 3 years of counseling school, hundreds of books read, and thousands of pages written.
And still happiness often eludes me.
I guess my point is, if you aren’t happy and you know it, quit waiting. Go find it. Find a mentor or a therapist to talk to. Read books. Ask hard questions of yourself. Quit ignoring the yearning in your gut.
Because happiness isn’t going to drop into your lap someday. It’s out there waiting on you to come find it.
Oh, and if you can, take the ones you love with you on the journey. It'll mean WAY more that way, I promise.
At the age of 28 I (Charlie) was in the midst of a major life redirection. I’d been home from business school (which I’d bombed out of) for a few months, had been working with a therapist, and found myself in search of mentorship. I needed new voices in my life to talk with me about the paths I was considering.
One of the voices I’d chosen was a preacher. A guy I respected. A guy I hoped to learn from.
One afternoon he walked into a meeting with me incredibly agitated. Rather than deal with how his frustration was impacting him, he just dumped it all onto me. He exploded into asking me pressing questions about what I was going to do with my life and when I was going to get myself together and make a decision. He advised me to stop whatever growth process I was going through and just do something.
It was a painful, completely unhelpful conversation. Why? Because he’d confused guidance with advice.
Advice looks like telling others what they “should” do, "Go to grad school", "Break up with him", "Stick it out even though you hate your job". These things are advice and, honestly, are generally pretty unhelpful. Why? Because they are all about the advice-giver's beliefs or opinions, rather than the desires and hopes of the person who is asking for help.
Guidance, in contrast, is all about the other person. It’s about asking questions like, “what do you want?”, “what would make you happy?”, “what makes your heart come alive?”. A guide puts their opinions and desires on the backburner and lets the other person own their lives and their choices.
I honestly believe honest guidance and mentorship is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Great stories aren’t lived by those who are being told what to do. Great stories are lived by those who have searched the depths of their soul for what makes them come alive and gone out in search of it.
Great mentors help you find you.
I never met with the preacher again. Instead, I eventually I found what I was looking for and ran off to Seattle to get a Masters degree.
In the years leading up to that choice the best advice I ever received was from an old family friend, who said, “you have greatness within you, what do you want to do with it?”
And so I say to all those reading, you have greatness within you, what do you want to do with it? Because that is a story worth telling.
"I believe, if god is who god claims to be, there isn’t going to be a judgement day--just a day of welcoming. A day where god holds each of us in god’s arms and cries with us--tears of joy, tears of sadness, and tears for the coming love story."
In the month or two since I posted about my (lack of) Christian faith I’ve received a lot of responses.
I’ve done ALL of this among people who love me, and that makes me smile. Because from the first day I posted on this subject until now, it’s all been about love. Isn’t that what faith is supposed to be all about?
These conversations have also led me to want to clarify some parts of my belief system that I sense weren't clear in Part 1:
The last thing I’ll mention is I’ve had a lot of friends say they acknowledge what is wrong with the Christian church, but still feel it’s important to be a part of it.
I think that’s fine. I don’t expect everyone to walk away from their faith. It was a painful, complex decision for me, and one I believe has to be extremely personal.
What I will say is this: if you can acknowledge what is wrong with the church, what will you do to change it? Those within the church know better than anyone what isn’t right, so do something about it. Have a big impact.
Because that’s what this world and the kingdom of god (may it exist) need most: people who are trying to having an impact. One day, one heart, one person at a time.