Words mean things. Sometimes lots of things! This is to say that practically every given word in the English language has a meaning that may be different from, sometimes very different from, the meaning you may have attached to it. And when I say meaning, I am not just talking about a word’s definition. Meaning includes a given word’s origin.
In analyzing the word Happy, we find that a careful look at its origins – both in English and its other ancient origins – will reveal some insight into how you and I can be happy virtually all the time.
As one might expect, Happy has the same origin as happen and happening, but there is one very important distinction and we’ll get to that in a moment. Happy first appeared in the English language in the late 1300’s and it comes from the Latin word hap.
At first, happy described circumstances, or a person, who is thought of as “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous,” but before long it described events, “turning out well” as in ‘a happy turn of events’. Later, it was more closely associated with a sense of being “very glad”. By the mid-1500’s, happy was used to express an outlook of being “greatly pleased and content”.
Finally, the last clue as to how you and I can be happy virtually all the time comes from the way hap was first used by the Welsh (the happy people from Wales, the western-most part of England). In Welsh, the word happy first meant “wise.”
If you didn’t catch that fascinating evolution, read the above two paragraphs again and you’ll see how happy is different from happen and happening. In short, happen and happening refer only to an event; something that occurs. Happy, on the other hand, refers to a state of mind – the outlook of a wise person.
The wise person will choose to find a way to be greatly pleased and content (happy) no matter the circumstances. Even in the midst of what seems to be the most desperate state of affairs, the wise person will choose a mindset that seeks out some reason to be very glad (happy).
Are we talking about some kind of mind trick, or willing yourself to feel better, or just thinking positive? Well, no. Not really. We’re talking about reality. All of reality, not just some of it.
When you’re in the midst of a trial of some kind, the biggest temptation is to only see the negative; the dark parts of your predominantly dark circumstances. However, is that real? Is it true that the only facts of the situation are negative? No! The reality of the situation is that there’s a mixture of good and… less than good in the circumstances.
So, is it wise to give in to the temptation to focus on the worst aspects of the situation (to the total exclusion of all the other possible more positive aspects of it)? No. It’s not wise at all. The wise person chooses to tap into reality in such times. To see the good in every circumstance is not merely tricking your mind or willing yourself to feel better. To seek and find the good – choosing to be happy – is a choice to accept all of reality in every given situation, not just the most negative aspects of it.
It is especially important that, when a difficulty comes knocking, we be mindful that reality is composed of a mixture of bad and good, of dark and light, of negative elements and positive & redeeming elements.