In our society today, there are thousands of expressions we use every day to explain or justify our actions. Unfortunately, many of these are flawed or meaningless. Today, I want to take a look at five such sayings full of real truth. Some of them are common truisms, and some are quotes from distinguished researchers. In each case I want to discuss the great truth behind these sayings.
1. Idealism is the root of all human misery.
This is a quote by Sigmund Freud from seventy-five or more years ago, but it’s taken us until now to prove it scientifically. Dr. Dan Gilbert of Harvard University summed up one incredible study done on his campus by saying, “expectations are a happiness killer.” As soon as you have an expectation of the future, it puts your body into chronic stress, which as I’ve often discussed, is the main source of physical health problems in our lives. The problem here is that virtually every self-help book, program, and guru has been teaching idealism and expectation as the main secrets of happiness and achievement for the past seventy-five years with a 97 percent failure rate. They call them goals. The truth is, idealism and expectation are exactly what you have to give up.
2. Life is not supposed to be easy.
People always look for something that will make their life easier or more pleasurable. Common choices include: money, fame, power, sex, success, drugs, or even just the weekend. Unfortunately, it never works out that way. In his breakaway bestseller, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck’s very first sentence was, “Life is difficult.” This is a common phrase that people most often speak sadly, or to dismiss someone else’s complaints. Of course we all know it’s true, but what we really need is to accept that this is how it’s supposed to be. Life is not supposed to be easy, because we learn our greatest lessons through pain and hardship. My wife Hope recently realized this for herself in prayer. Looking back on her own life the things that were hardest had often also been the best for her. We’ve got to stop looking for the easy path. Instead, we should be focused on learning and growing into a better person.
3. Eventually, love always leads to pain.
I think this sort of belief is why we have a 55 percent divorce rate, and less than 5 percent of long term relationships say they are truly happy when polled. We’ve developed a bad habit of expecting love to always feel good. The irony is that the deepest, most meaningful love is only experienced by going through pain together. If you doubt that, ask around at your local VFW, and see how those brave souls feel about the people who shared a foxhole with them. They tend to talk about them almost the way you’d talk about the love of your life. We’ve got to quit chasing pleasant feelings, and start looking for meaning and intimacy through the hard times.
4. A joyful heart is good medicine.
This one is absolutely true. Joy and peace are internal medicines more powerful than any drug or pharmacological supplement. Years ago, I came to the conclusion that what ancient manuscripts call the heart is what modern psychology calls the unconscious, subconscious, or the conscience. The significance of this is enormous! See, the stress response in the brain is controlled by the unconscious mind. If the car in front of you slams on their breaks, you will slam yours before you have time to think about it. That is the miraculous functioning of your fight-or-flight system. If you had to think about it, you’d crash! So how does the heart make the decision of whether to be in stress or peace? The short answer—that I could easily spend days on—is the current programming and contents of your heart. Is your heart 60 percent love and 40 percent fear, or the other way around? Today, we’re probably more likely to be 80 percent fear and 20 percent love. This is a huge difference! That 80 percent fear mindset has a hair-trigger fight-or-flight reflex. By comparison, a heart in 80 percent love is very slow on the draw, but far better at maintaining things like health and relationships. So pay more attention to your heart than to your circumstances, because when the heart chooses peace, it’s also choosing health.
5. You can’t have life without death.
This truth is exhibited everywhere in nature. A new tree can’t grow until the seed falls and breaks open, experiencing a kind of death. What do you feel and think when you think of the word “death?” Chances are, your immediate reaction is fearful, maybe even terrified. All fear is ultimately a fear of death, because the threat of death is the only way your fight-or-flight system is supposed to be activated. Think about this in relation to love. For love to exist, there has to be a choice. If you have no choice except to love, then that love is meaningless and false. After all, how would you feel if your sweetheart told you that they only loved you because they had no choice? The ultimate choice is between love, or the fear of death. Both have to exist. There has to be death, for it is only this that allows us the opportunity for love. When fear hits, I encourage you to see it as an opportunity to choose love. It is the reason for our very life and existence.
The expressions we use tend to become embedded in our minds, and we come to believe and act on them, even if we never really think them through. I hope that I’ve helped you to separate some of the truth from the falsehood, and that you’ll continue to think carefully about the expressions you allow into your heart and mind.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!