Better > Happy

We have probably all found ourselves chasing happiness. I sure have. It seems that it has become a common practice to build our lives around what and who makes us happy. But the more I think about this idea, the more I don’t like it. Not too long ago, I found myself in the midst of a cognitive war between two equally convincing thoughts; would I rather a situation make me happy or better?

By now we know our emotions swing, sometimes in an instant. Take it from my two-year old daughter Shiloh. From the other room, I could hear a barrage of tears and frustration raining down on my wife. I could tell in Nikki’s voice, she was loosing the battle. Quickly, I walked out into the kitchen to find the culprit of this disagreement — green beans. Green Beans! My sweet little girl had been given the assignment to eat six green beans before she could indulge in a piece of freshly baked, warm pumpkin bread. By her wailing, you would have thought she would have just discovered she was being shipped off to Egypt to serve pompous Pharaoh for the rest of her life! Nope, just green beans.

Nikki’s eyes told me that I needed to intervene.

“Shiloh, do you want Daddy to help you eat the green beans?”

“YEAH!”, she exclaimed with laughter and joy in her voice.

Geez, in an instant she was back to singing and laughing, all while piling green beans into our mouths.

Okay, I get it. She’s two years old and her emotions and self awareness are a little behind ours. But are we really that much different?

baby girl just turned 2

For us married folks, I am sure we have found ourselves at some point mulling over whether or not our spouse makes us happy, or we make them happy? I have seen the words fly out of my mouth before, and as soon as I see them in air, it feels as though I made a mistake. Sometimes my life circumstances don’t make me happy, but they can make me better if I let them. A better husband, dad, friend, man.

Experience tells me that happiness comes and goes, but becoming better is a continual foundation to keep building on. And I don’t know about you, but I find great joy in growing, learning and becoming better. Funny isn’t it?

Those of you who have been around me a little, know I love the mountains. They are bigger than I could ever be. They contain immense beauty, mystery and challenge. Mountains were designed to be enjoyed, feared, and climbed. Ever since moving to Northern California eight years ago, the landscape finally matched my soul.

Mount Shasta 2016

Sometimes the idea of something makes us happy and hopeful, but the process can tell us a much different story. Much like climbing a mountain. Pain, uncertainty, self doubt, frustration. Any of this ring a bell? I have found myself on the side of a mountain ready to give up, curse, and fail dozens of times. Doesn’t really sound like happiness. But interestingly enough, one foot in front of the next — one step at a time, slowly but surely we get there. To say we love the pain and grief would be overcommitting, however I would argue it does make us a little better.

Whatever relational, physical or emotional mountain you are climbing, keep going. You will get there.