“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
My daughter was feeling miserable about having to do homework on the weekend. Normally she’s all done with her homework before the weekend starts (yes, she is the greatest, smartest, most talented, prettiest, etc., etc. daughter in the world :)), but she had had a busy week and was struggling with having to work when she wanted to play.
Now, being the loving, understanding father that I am, I listened to her complain for a minute or so and I empathized (a little). When the whining and misery continued, I started to lose my normally infinite patience (wink, wink). So, I interrupted her pity party and let her know that she was choosing to be miserable. “You can choose to be miserable if you want to, but I’ve got about five minutes of empathy for that. And then, I’m done.”
Now, compassion is a critical element of good character. We are called to “weep with those who weep”, but emotional maturity is also an element of good character. In our family, we will always show compassion to those in need. We will empathize with those who are struggling. But, empathy does not mean joining the pity party. If you’re just fussing over a little homework or having to clean your room, I’ll empathize for a few minutes, but after that, get over it. Some people don’t, though. I mean, have you ever noticed how some people just seem determined to be miserable? I know. I used to be one of them.
When I was in high school, I was miserable for over a year. Basically, depressed. I’m still surprised my parents didn’t take me to see a therapist. One day, an adult volunteer from my church youth group called me on it. I’ll never forget her words: “What is so wrong with your life, Scott?” I was stunned. I opened my mouth to reply and nothing came out – because nothing was so wrong with my life. From that moment, I determined to be positive, optimistic, and happy. And I’ve learned that being happy isn’t masking pain or being fake. It is choosing to master your attitude and emotions, which is very hard work some days.
A year or so later, a friend from youth group said to me, “Scott, you’re so positive all the time. How do you do it?”
So, are you choosing to be happy? Do you find it to be hard work, too?