By Barry Carpenter, Lead Pastor, Destin United Methodist Church
Steven Covey wrote one of the most influential books in modern times that has influenced many, including myself. The book, The Habits of Highly Effective People, outlines seven habits that change people’s lives.
People who practice these habits energize, encourage, and empower others. However, there are those people who seem to want to be miserable, and they succeed by inviting misery into their lives. Misery actually repels lovers and friends; it deters us from getting better jobs and making more money. After studying this behavior for a long time, I’ve concluded that misery takes some doing and creativity.
To make one’s self miserable requires imagination, vision, and ingenuity. When others breed a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving, these ingenious souls find another way to approach every day.
Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. “Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?”
John Henry Jowett said, “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” Gratitude is a vaccine that attacks misery and inoculates us against the disease of bitterness and resentment. Gratitude is an antitoxin that counteracts the poisonous thoughts of the Evil One who says trials are proof that God has abandoned us. And gratitude is an antiseptic that sterilizes our thoughts that would breed the germ of discontent.
The Bible says in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Here are proven techniques for achieving misery I gleaned from Cloe Madanes, a world-renowned innovator:
Sit in a chair and close your eyes and for 15 minutes meditate on all the things you could lose: your job, your house, your savings, and so forth. Then brood about living in a homeless shelter.
Force yourself to watch hours of mindless TV programs every day and read only non-stimulating material that will leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and public worship.
Write down ten situations that make you anxious, depressed, or distracted. Once a week, pick a single anxiety-provoking situation, and use it to work yourself into a panic.
Write down five annoying text messages you could send to a friend or member of your family. Keep a grudge list going and add to it daily.
List the names of five relatives or friends. For each, write down something they did or said in the recent past that proves they want you to be miserable also. Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Think about how everyone around you is trying to take from you.
Make a list of all the things you could be grateful for. Next to each item, write down why you aren’t. Imagine the worst. When you think of the future, imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s important to be prepared for and preemptively miserable about any possible disaster or tragedy. Think of the possibilities: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease, horrible accidents, massive crop failures, your child not getting picked for the varsity softball team.
Make a list of twenty things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day.
Even if you succeed with just a few of the above actions, make sure to scold yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still trying to save you from misery has tricked you into going — make sure your misery seems genuine. You may solicit some sympathy and feel even more comfortable in your misery. Then again, just maybe you will find the joy all around you and celebrate the gifts you have been given.