I know I’m late on this, but I just wanted to review the pope’s recent Decalogue of Happiness, found in his 77-minute filmed interview with the Argentine magazine, Viva, and see if anyone has thoughts on it. As I was reminded this week, effective and intelligent evangelism begins with the things you and your interlocutor agree on. Why stress the small stuff like dogma and morals? It’s exactly these kind of deep thoughts, pitched on the open field of common-sense natural law, which truly “attract” the world to the Church, instead of the persuasive efforts of dread proselytism.
1. Train Your Mind – Happiness is a mental attitude. Education, employment, and knowledge play a crucial part here.
2. Develop Calmness of Mind – A calm mind doesn’t mean to be passive; it is very sensitive and aware and it means to be in control and to respond to situations in the best way possible without the buildup of heavy negative emotions.
3. Build up Positive States – The idea is to free ourselves from negativity. Positive states have a solid basis; they are grounded in reality and are life-supporting.
4. Cultivate Good Habits (and Eliminate Bad Ones) – If we really want to be happy we have to identify the factors that lead to happiness and then cultivate them into habits. Take action. Goals alone have no meaning.
5. Welcome Change – Learning is only the first step. Necessary follow-ups are conviction, determination, action and effort. When we resist this change by clinging to something that is changing, we become attached, stagnant, egotistical.
6. Develop a Long-Term Perspective – To develop good habits and to build up positive states we need a certain inner self-discipline. If we are focused on short-term pleasures this is very difficult. We need a wider perspective, and more opportunities for youth.
7. Know the Meaning of Suffering – Suffering is the opposite of happiness. We have to identify the causes that lead to suffering and then eliminate them. If we suffer it’s not very pleasant of course, but nevertheless it might be a very valuable lesson.
8. Develop Deep Relationships – It’s clear that the quality of our relationships is very connected with our level of happiness. Deep relationships are based on openness, leisure, truth and respect. That allows meaningful communication between two human beings, not of two humans playing roles in a throwaway culture.
9. Develop a Sense of Compassion – In the western world the word compassion comes with a flavor of weakness. But what about a compassion that comes from a very strong and able mind, ah? Genuine compassion is a state of mind which is non-violent, non-harming and non-aggressive. And this is good.
10. Release Your Better Nature – The nature of our mind is very pure. It has the qualities of clarity and knowing. Be like water, my friend. Open your heart. Smile. Go for a walk.
HT to a reader at Fr. Ray’s blog for alerting me to the above translation of the pope’s ten tips for happiness.