Wish them well

Comfort, Healing, and Joy is all about cultivating happiness. For some people, happiness is a natural ability – a talent, if you will, not unlike talent in any other area such as math, art, writing or sports. For others, happiness is a skill that can be learned and expanded, not something handed to them on a silver platter from the time of birth.

A big part of having more happiness, and less unhappiness, is identifying those habits that make the difference between the two. Fortunately, merely recognizing the choice of habits is enough to make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself, and about others. A decision point is like a fork in the road. Once you see the fork ahead of you, you get to decide which road to pick.

Today I am going to talk about two types of forks in the road. Both pertain to other people. Both choices underscore how you view life, in general, and knowledge of this viewpoint might very well reveal “trouble spots” where you have limiting beliefs about yourself that prevent you from getting want you want, and feeling how you would like to feel, in your own life.

How do you feel when another person suffers disappointment or misfortune?

Are you sad for them? Do you shed a tear inside, and maybe outside too? Or, do you take a strange sense of satisfaction that they, too, share your sense of life’s struggles? Maybe you feel some combination, or “mixed” emotions. It could be that this other person “deserved” what she or he got, in your estimation, and this misfortune is life’s way of balancing the scales toward fairness. In some ways, that may be true.

Switching gears now… How do you feel when someone else experiences success, or some good fortune seemingly falls into their lap?

Do you vicariously taste the fruits of their success, in that you are truly happy for them? Or do you begrudge it, thinking “Some people have all the luck,” followed by “but not me.” Perhaps you feel they didn’t deserve it… they’re not good enough, or likeable enough – certainly not as much as you! In some ways, that may also be true. Who ever said life was fair?

I have a good friend who sits high atop the mountain of natural-born happiness. She has had events and conditions occur in her personal life that would make the strongest among us succumb to despair. She would tell you that she feels sad for these times and events, and that she suffered from them, and that she is not immune to the struggles that these situations have imposed. But depressed? Never. I doubt she has ever consciously worked on becoming happier or more fulfilled. In fact, she probably wouldn’t recognize a self-help book if it landed on her head. She would probably use it as a coaster!

As her friend, I could choose to begrudge the ease with which she enjoys life, even if on some level it seems “life’s not fair.” I could even decide not to be her friend, and instead surround myself with less happy people. Alternatively, I could choose to be grateful that my friend has had such an easy time of it emotionally, and perhaps use her as a model of supreme mental health to enhance my own well-being. After all, we all learn things from watching each other.

The operative word here is choose. When someone else suffers or soars, we get to choose which path to travel down:

Schadenfreude, a German word, means “to delight in the misfortune of others.”

Compassion means “unhappiness at another’s misfortune.”

Mudita is a Buddhist term that means “vicarious joy over another’s good fortune.”

Envy means “unhappiness at another’s good fortune.”

Whether we witness others fail or succeed, find joy or endure suffering, we must decide whether to take the path of compassion over schadenfreude and of mudita over envy. Be easy on yourself. It’s not always natural to move in one direction over the other, and sometimes it can be downright difficult to stay on a single path without crossing over. But here’s the thing…

Favoring one over the other isn’t just “right” thing to do; it’s the “smart” thing to do.

In addition to communicating to others what is truly good in your heart, which makes you more loveable to them (and who wouldn’t desire more love from others!), imagine how much it comes back to you in the form of enhancing your own life by telling the universe, and yourself, that success is desirable and suffering is not.

Conversely, if you “delight in the misfortune of others” (schadenfreude) or feel “unhappiness at another’s good fortune” (envy), what do you think you are announcing to the world, and to yourself, about your views of having versus not having?

Compassion or schadenfreude

Mudita or envy

The point is this: When we wish others well, we are setting ourselves up for the fulfillment of our own desires. On the other hand, by relishing in the misfortune of others, we are unwittingly hurting our cause, by sending out signals to the world and to ourselves that success and happiness are “not O.K.”

At every opportunity you find, choose the paths of joy and compassion when it comes to others. It’s good for them. It’s good for you. It’s good for the world.

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