“Was it a bad day? Or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day?” – Toby Mac
I’m guilty of this. We have all been guilty of this at one time or another. Emotions are much easier to control in theory than in practice, and the level of difficulty simply depends on a person’s personality or past experiences.
You are allowed to have bad moments, but losing full control is not an accident. At some point there is a conscious thought, a decision being made. It isn’t at all easy, it takes practice, but yes it is a choice.
I used to hate when people would tell me that happiness (or any emotion at that) is a choice, because I have dealt with mental health issues since childhood and it never felt like a choice, which was incredibly frustrating. Some people make it look so easy. But one day I spiraled down much too far and nearly too late realized I could have stopped myself at some point. I could have said, “no I will not let this continue,” because I recognized what was happening, but I did nothing about it. I made a choice to give in; I took the easy route because it was familiar…and easy, obviously.
Sure it felt like I had no control, but that’s not the truth. Feelings are deceptive.
We are faced with two choices in every situation: choose joy or choose death. I know. Seems extreme. Hear me out.
Think of joy as coming from God and the opposite of joy coming from Satan. Things that come from Satan look desirable, even beautiful in a lot of cases. If they didn’t, there would be no temptation to choose the harmful thing over the good thing (or “right”, which I guess I’m using interchangeably with “good”). The good thing, i.e. something that comes from God, would be a no-brainer choice every time.
So why do we choose negativity?
Because it’s easy. Because it’s addictive. Because it makes small talk simpler. Because something genuinely bothered us and letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Of course negativity is easy. But what is easy and what is right rarely coincide. What the easiest option is in the present moment can often have the most difficult consequences later on, and that’s what we tend to forget. Or avoid.
Trust me, there is no escaping what tears you up from the inside out.
The opposite of choosing joy is death because of the havoc it wreaks on you, your family, your faith, your physical/emotional health, everything you’ve got. It’s parasitic. It’s selfish. It’s unforgiving.
However, that means that the other choice (joy) is equivalent to life. Yay, a silver lining.
Choosing to be positive about every moment, every situation, every thought in our heads probably isn’t realistic. However, I’ve learned that the more right decisions you make on your own, the easier it becomes to make them in the future because you are essentially working toward reprogramming your mind until eventually the negative choices don’t look as desirable as they used to.
Choosing joy does not mean choosing to turn a blind eye to negative things. It doesn’t mean ignoring reality. It’s simply saying, “I recognize this, I will choose whether or not I need to act upon it, I will address it with a good attitude.” Bad things will happen, however you define “bad things.” There is no stopping them sometimes. Sometimes there is a way we can stop them and we don’t make a right decision and end up in a mess. Either way, you will face hardship and adversity many times in your life. Many times in a day, even. Why make the journey through it more difficult than it needs to be?
This all may seem a bit extreme to you as you say, “but it’s not that big of a deal,” but enough small things turn into one collective massive evil thing in our heads. It builds up quickly. Don’t let it fester, because it will spiral out of control if it is not addressed immediately and properly. Eventually you’ll just be known as a grumpy complainer. Do you want that? Really, do you want to be that person? We all complain, but no one wants to be a known complainer. And no one likes to be around a complainer because everything is so dramatic and everything sucks and they tend to bring everyone’s moods down.
So, form good habits. Be happy because it’ll benefit you and those around you so much more in the long run. Consciously choose joy through prayer, mental strength, and a lot of practice. Life is hard and we get thrown quite a few curveballs, but it can be genuinely enjoyable if we learn how to make it so.
I will leave you with two more quotes to consider: In reference to God’s unwavering love and commitment to us, “Let’s not live by how we feel. Let’s live by what we know.” “He who lives by emotions lives without principle.” (Joyce Meyer). Right as I was proofreading this, her sermon about this same subject came on tv so I figured it would be a good bit to include. As I re-read the line, “Emotions are much easier to control in theory than in practice,” she opened with a question her daughter asked, “What do you do to control your emotions?” Coincidence? Hmmm. Seems unlikely. Anyway, it’s titled “Understanding Your Emotions” if you want to watch that as well.