“Then it is impossible to attain happiness without suffering?”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. — “To attain eternal happiness one must suffer. He who has reached the state of self-sacrifice has true joy. Temporal joy will vanish.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 178)
This week I was reading an article about toxic positivity, which reminded me that Bahá’ís often joke about having a “Feast face” that we wear to community events, masking our real feelings. I wondered when being truly happy, serene and satisfied with all that is in our lives, crosses over the bounds of moderation and becomes toxic. When does being chipper prevent us from being authentic? What prevents us from being authentic in our Bahá’í communities?
When I was going through a really tough time, no one in the Bahá’í community wanted to hear of it, and I felt lonely and abandoned by my community. There are lots of places in the Writings which told me to “be happy”, but I just couldn’t force myself into that emotion, and I learned to stuff it down. I read that teaching and service was the path to happiness, so I made sure that this was the focus of each day, until I burned out from trying too hard. I felt like a mouse in a maze, searching for this chimera called happiness. The more I tried to will it into being, the more elusive it felt.
To me, suffering and joy seemed poles apart until I read this quote and realized I couldn’t have one without the other. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to deny or minimize the suffering arising from my traumatic childhood, and now that I’m starting to face what happened, allow the feelings to surface and recognize how unprocessed trauma effects my behavior, I’m starting to feel lighter and more peaceful. Not happier, exactly, but I’m getting there.
Understanding there’s a link between suffering and happiness, I am grateful!
What jumped out for you when you read this passage? Please share your thoughts below.
If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy