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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
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Why Aren’t Americans Happy?

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But let’s be more specific. There are times when are ashamed of our own behavior, we’re embarrassed by our own pettiness, by our own nastiness. That’s not the same as guilt. It’s not even the same as regret. It’s called shame.

Regret is primarily in the brain: “I’m wiser now and had I known then what I know now I would have done better. So I regret the decisions, the actions that I took when I took them.”

Shame is more of a gut feeling: “I’m embarrassed. I’m uncomfortable with myself because of my failings or my weaknesses.”

And then there’s guilt. Guilt means: “I have damaged myself in the eyes of others, I’ve made myself less acceptable or less desirable to someone.”

These are the three things that drain us and we need to find ways to remove them from our lives so that we can be happy again.

Humbly Joyful.

May I suggest the following solution to dealing with shame: Instead of being humiliated we can be humbled. Shame can mean: “I have been humbled“ or it can mean: “I have been embarrassed or humiliated.”

The healthy response is: everything that causes us shame simply reminds us that we are fallible, but that is the normal for human beings. So to be reminded that we are vulnerable is not a humiliation; it is humbling to remember that we are merely human, that we are capable of being hurt and doing some hurt, we are fallible not infallible. So if we switch the feeling of humiliation to that of humility, not only do we get rid of the negative and regain our joy, but in the process we are also humbly joyful.

God’s Vast Eternal Plan.

What is the cure for the unhappiness that comes from “I need it to be my way”, “Why can’t I get what I want?”, “Why am I not getting what I deserve?” This notion that I deserve and that things should be my way, is a misconception, it’s a wrong approach and attitude towards reality.

The commercials that tell you: “Are you 100% satisfied with your job? You deserve better!” “You deserve to have more” are sending a terrible message and one that makes us crazy.

The alternative is to reflect on how the world was at the beginning. In the beginning there was nothing and God created something, the world, out of that nothing. Which means, this is His entire plan, we are guests on His show, we have a role to play in His vast eternal plan.

So if I’m welcome, if I’m included and if I’m given a role, I have a lot to be grateful for. And if I’m upset when things don’t go the way I think they should – that’s understandable. However, it’s not my plan, so why should it go my way? So as long as I have a role to play and as long as I’m needed in Gods vast eternal plan, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Regret Who You Hurt.

Now, there’s the guilt – two kinds. There’s guilt where you feel regret or shame for what you did. “I can’t believe I did that.”

Then there’s the guilt for who you did it to. “I can’t believe I would hurt this person.”

The regret for what one does isn’t always healthy, it could be depressing, it could be confusing: “I regret that I did it and I did it again. I regret again,” cycling into misery.

But when you regret who you did it to then you are getting closer to that person, the relationship is getting healthier and that is more productive.

So feeling guilty about who we did it to will not drain our joy, it won’t ruin our happiness. On the contrary, it makes us a better person and gives us more reasons to be happy.

To meet Rabbi Friedman and to inquire about training visit Rabbimanisfriedman.org

About the Author: To meet Rabbi Friedman and to inquire about training visit Rabbimanisfriedman.org


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If you ask someone coming out of church on a Sunday, “Do you believe in G-d?” the worshipper will be shocked.

“What type of question is that? Of course I do!”

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The real question is “What is happiness?” We seem to be a very unhappy generation. Even when we say “This makes me happy”, “I am happy”, “I would be happy if you would do this”, “I will be happy to do that”, do we really mean happiness? Do we even know what happiness feels like?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/why-arent-americans-happy/2012/03/09/

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