Friday, February 18, 2011

The Mask of Happiness

We’re focusing this month on the second step – deciding if you want to be right or happy. We have talked about situations in which asserting our rightness is really about ego, or anger, or fear. In those situations, choosing to step back awakens compassion, and brings inner peace and a sense of well-being. It keeps us connected to the other person in a genuine, loving way.

For example, suppose that your spouse is telling a story and gets some of the peripheral details wrong. Is it better for to correct these mistakes so that the story is accurate, or is it better to let the story continue, to let your spouse enjoy telling it, to let the listeners enjoy hearing it?

That’s an easy one. Choosing to be right in that situation might cause embarrassment or irritation for your spouse, and perhaps discomfort for the listeners. Choosing to be happy allows everyone to enjoy the moment, including you.

But what if you are reluctant to disagree with your spouse because if you do, your spouse is likely to criticize you or to get angry? What if you tell yourself you are choosing to be happy, but you are really making the choice out of resentment or fear or even your own anger? That is not choosing happiness. That is a mask of happiness. It separates us from others and hurts our spirit because it is not true.

When I was a girl, I remember playing a game with a boy at my house. I was winning because I was more skilled at the game. My mother called me aside and told me to let him win because he was a boy. She said he would feel bad if he lost to a girl. I remember thinking that that was a bunch of you know what, and yet I hesitated, unsure how to proceed.

So what does it really mean when we say we want to choose happiness instead of rightness? Maybe it means that we want to be present and mindful of our circumstances, we want to examine our own motives, and we want to choose to act in a way that honors our highest self.


  1. Funny you should choose to write about masks tonight, I shot a photo of a mask and posted on that tonight.

    I personally think that my need to be right in the past was an insecurity, the ego didn't want to admit that I could possibly be wrong... even when I was wrong. Right or wrong, does it really matter in the big picture? Yes in life or death situations or life altering events but for the smaller things in life, I say why bother wasting positive energies being right all the time? My ego needs a break! ;-)

    I hope you have a fantastic weekend!

  2. Galen - I like the examples you've used to make your point which is once again so full of wisdom. This is very pertinent for the average woman in India has been trained to put her happiness on hold while she first makes her parents happy and then her husband and in-laws happy and then of course her children happy.....Not too many choices available. I'm so blessed to live here and yet have choices. I'm also happy to report that things are changing for the better. But on the whole most Indians are trained to try to make others happy at the cost of self....

  3. LMAO! My son and I do this all the time to my husband. Poor guy! But it's all done in gest. Sometimes he'll stop in mid sentence trying to remember a certain word and my son and I are throwing words at hims faster than he can process it. He gets so frustrated with us. But we all laugh.
    I pick and chose which conversations I want to correct so to say. I think it's human nature to correct. But at times it needs to be suppressed and you need to move on. Then there are the people that HAVE to assert themselves and their righteousness!

  4. It is an interesting notion: being right or being happy? Your examples explain the idea so clearly. Sometimes we need to let the little things go and just enjoy the situation. Sometimes we need to assert ourselves and not lose who we are in order to make others happy. It is getting that balance right. We need to go back to the Permission stage at times to do this: if we can allow ourselves to be happy, we can look at our choice with a more open mind. Happiness is is being right....and having the choice is best of all. I see not everyone can do this so easily due to cultural teachings or upbringing. Where do we go with that? How can we be happy or make these choices if our culture, or our upbringing does not 'allow' us that choice? Just a thought for us all to ponder.

  5. Hi Galen,
    You would think that being happy over being right would be a no-brainer, but it isn't for alot of people. When I was growing up I was surrounded by people who had to strongly assert themselves and their "right" opinions. I'm glad I grew to think for myself. I've seen that being right doesn't go hand in hand with happiness. I would so rather be happy than right:) Thanks for the great post Galen!

  6. Thanks to all for your thought provoking comments.

    darlin--Your mask and quote are a perfect match to this post! Great minds do think alike!

    Corinne--Thank you for your observations from India. I would love to hear more.

    ryoko861--I had to ask my daughter what LMAO means. Now I know and will surely use it! I like to correct people, too. My tongue is sore from biting it!

    JackSamMum--I appreciate the insightful connection you made to the permission stage in the context of cultures. You gave me a lot to think about.

    Dandy--Sounds like you have found the true happiness that comes when you have a meaningful choice.

  7. I had the same experience (kind of)with my mother, except she got upset with me because I was letting some one else win more or less, just a bit of small help, but to me it was more important for this person to enjoy playing....that we should all have a good time with games, but my mother was all out for winning and being right! Needless to say the game ended much sooner then it needed to.

  8. Galen: What an interesting post and topic. I really like this one. I agree with a lot of the other commenters that we can fall into the trap of being right and often times it can be more about our ego. I think the key is to be true to who you are and always make certain that you are being thoughtful. Great post.

  9. Karen--Your story is a great contrast to mine. Letting someone win out of compassion can be a generous and loving thing to do, definitely a choice to be happy. That is very different from letting someone win under pressure from culture, insecurity, fear, some other pretense. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Sibyl--True to yourself and thoughtful. I agree--that's the key. Thank you.

  10. Your points are so clear here :0 I wish I'd had someone who would introduce this kind of thinking to me about 10 years ago. Great post!

  11. I didn't learn this until I was with my husband for a few years. The look on his face when I tried to correct something, killed me. He looked bewildered and hurt. I learned that if its not hurting anyone, and its a small misremembering thing, its not worth correcting.


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