The secret to happiness

Last Modified: 5/22/2018

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Are you searching for the key to unlock a lifetime of peace and contentment? We so often think of tangible items, possessions, as the gateway to bliss, but Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services, has a contrasting argument that might just change your thinking.

I know what you were thinking when you woke up this morning. “I sure hope I get to read a blog post on the 10th commandment.” Ok, maybe not. But embedded in the last-but-but-not-least piece of instruction on God’s Top Ten list in the Jewish scriptures is the secret to happiness. No, really. Our destination: increased happiness. Our stops along the way: commercials, Will Ferrell and cleaning up after oxen (You remember those—they were sold in yokes on the Oregon Trail).

I don’t know about you, but the majority of commercials today do nothing for me. I don’t need something to clear up my skin (I gave up on that a long time ago), give my cat a manicure or dehydrate food (I thought staying hydrated was supposed to be a good thing). But, on the other hand, there are certain commercials that awaken cravings in me so much so I contemplate bidding bon voyage to my precious paycheck. I won’t list all my weaknesses in this public forum, but suffice it to say if chocolate or a V8 triton engine are involved, I’m in trouble.

Have you ever watched a commercial or seen an ad for something you wanted, but could not have, and felt good afterwards? Neither have I. I’m left feeling dissatisfied, disappointed and, well—unhappy.

Which brings us, of course, to the 10th commandment. In the Hebrew scripture, it says, “No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.” In short, don’t envy.

Remember Buddy from Elf, the modern classic starring Will Ferrell? Among many descriptions we could make about Buddy, one of the truest would be “happy”. But why, particularly after encountering a terrible cup of coffee, angry dad and spaghetti covered with syrup, was he so content? It’s because Buddy’s chronic happiness was fueled by an enjoyment of what he already had.

God tells the Hebrews to avoid crushing on their neighbors’ oxen. Don’t set your heart on anything that isn’t already yours. Because – and hear this – there is always a bigger ox. There is always a bigger house. A better job. A more sensitive partner. A nicer car. But the secret to happiness is enjoying what you already have instead of wishing and praying for a bigger ox. There is a famous saying (that I just made up) that goes like this: The bigger the ox, the bigger the piles to clean up.


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