People complain. They’re complaining all the time about everything. As a child, I was innocent enough to believe what people were saying. I really thought there were plenty of valid reasons to complain: the weather (most often), lack of money (runner-up), the neighbors, husband or wife, the children (me, in this case), civilization (or the lack of it), bad health, etc. I assumed the world just turned out to be like this and there was nothing much we could do. It was called “fate” or something.
The thing to do was to pray. Not to ask for a better life. No! I learned to pray to ask God to forgive me for my sins. I was a nice little girl, doing very well at school, polite with the neighbors, helpful at home, so it was rather difficult to keep finding sins for our weekly confession. But because human beings are profoundly sinful by birth, they told me, I had to go confess anyway. The nuns at school came up with a solution to help us out: they “prepared” our sins for us. Every Wednesday, on confession day, they gave us a pink paper with our “confessions of the day.” I remember feeling sorry for the poor priest, hidden in his little black cabin, spending the entire day listening to the confessions of 600 little girls, endlessly repeating the same sins over and over…
Growing up, I figured something was missing. Pretending to be sinful by repeating sins someone else had cooked up for me, that could not be what life is about. I refused to further confess sins that I had not committed. I refused to believe that I was the cause of my misery, and that I had to pray every day without things getting better!
When I was 26, I went to Africa. There I met my husband (he’s from Belgium) and together we had a wonderful time, with plenty of sunshine and plenty of money; circumstances people usually don’t complain about, right? According to my childhood logic, people only complain for a reason: lousy weather (too cold, too much rain), lack of money, etc. But what I discovered over there seriously opened my eyes! My “white” friends just went on complaining: about the weather (too hot), about the service (5 servants and still they were complaining) or about how things were too expensive – while they were earning 5 times as much as before!
I discovered there and then that the complaining was not based on any objective reasons. I also noticed that the black people, who were living in their villages with close to nothing, were not complaining. I got interested in this phenomenon: they had nothing except a big smile on their face, while we had everything and were still complaining! How could this be?
It became crystal clear to me that the complaints had nothing to do with the outer circumstances. It was an attitude, a habit. Next, I wanted to find out where this habit came from. So I examined the way of life of the local people and compared it with our way of life. When I finally came up with the explanation, it changed my life forever!
There are two important differences between them and us. The first difference is that they have a social network to help everyone in the village. They stick together. They don’t push out people who don’t fit the norm. In our society, everybody who is a bit different is sent to an “institution.” An institution is a place to collect those individuals who cannot follow the fast pace of society and thus fall out of the boat. Most institutions have great walls to prevent us from “seeing” that these people really exist. They look more like a prison than a shelter.
Who are these people that don’t fit in our society, put away behind walls so we don’t have to confront them? They are the disabled, the diseased, the dangerous ones, the mentally retarded or disturbed, those who are too slow (they go to special schools), too difficult to handle (they go to educational institutions) and those who are too tired and too old (we put them in expensive homes).
There in Africa, everybody stays in his own village and is accepted and taken care of (except the really dangerous ones, they go to prison). Everybody has a natural social network and access to help. You are not isolated from society merely because you cannot walk or because you are mentally slow. They stick together. I figured out that inner loneliness and isolation is one of the main reasons why we are complaining so much.
The second difference is that all of these people are connected to something “greater” than themselves. They have a strong faith in a god who takes care of them. They spend a lot of time performing rituals to please their god(s) and get good health and harvest in return.
I gave these two differences a lot of thought and concluded that creating social networks of people and a solid relationship with something bigger than ourselves, are vitally important fundaments of human happiness.
It’s all about “connection.” Connection to each other. Connection to the Universe. In the meantime I found out that good things can happen only when we stay connected to each other and to the Universe. I started studying the Laws of the Universe and spent a lot of energy helping people establish a connection to each other and to the Universe. In fact, this became the very purpose of my life.
Many people think they are alone, without help, and have to do everything by themselves. This is not the case. You are guided, you are loved by Something Greater than your little personality. Try to feel this connection. Take time everyday to connect to the Source. Do like the African people I was lucky to meet so many years ago: create a real connection between yourself, the Universe and people around you, without being overly dependent on others. You will never feel alone again and you will be able to spread a lot more love around.
Living this kind of “connected life” will make you forget about your former complaints. What’s there to complain about? Your complaints will be replaced by gratitude! Say “thank you” to the Universe for all the things you already have, and for all the wonders that may still cross your path. Express your sincere gratitude for all the love you have received and will keep receiving throughout your life. Be grateful for the clean water coming out of the tap by a simple gesture of your hand, while many people spend six hours every day to get a little bit of water, and others die of thirst. Be grateful for the light you switch on with a simple flick. Large parts of the world have to do without electric power! Say “thank you” for the variety of food that is available to you every day – a lot of people have to get by on one scarce meal a day, or are simply starving.
There is so much to be grateful for. I felt so ashamed there in Africa, at 26 years old, hearing my white friends, bathing in luxury but still complaining, while my black friends, who had close to nothing, were laughing, friendly, grateful and most of the time quite happy with the little things in life.
It’s all in the mind. Gratitude and happiness are an attitude, a state of being. It has nothing to do with circumstances. The attitude is gratitude.
Gratitude the Secret to Happiness
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