“Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Although it can’t be proven, that quote is usually ascribed to Abraham Lincoln. Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t. But no matter who said it, it speaks of a very real truth: happiness is an inside job.
Circumstances are outside pressures. They come and go. Finances, relationships, health, politics, injustices…yeah. There are enough hornets in that nest to make anyone dance the Watusi now and then. But we get some say-so as to whether those stresses permanently control our attitudes and heart positions.
The pastors at my church say it well: what you focus on, you make room for.
Think about that for a moment.
What you focus on, you make room for.
If you focus on what’s wrong with the world, you make room to see more of it.
If you focus on pain, you make room for more pain.
If you focus the things you’re afraid of, you make room for more fear.
If you focus on what makes you angry, you make room for more anger and bitterness.
If you focus on hopelessness, you make room for more hopelessness.
In short, if you focus on your bad feelings, you make room for more bad feelings.
Now…let’s flip it.
If you focus on joy, you make room for more joy.
If you focus on love, you make room for more love.
If you focus on peace, you make room for more peace.
If you focus on compassion, you make room for compassion.
If you focus on Jesus, you make room for more Jesus.
If you focus on God’s goodness, you make room for God’s goodness.
That thing you give your thoughts to will eventually try to take over your life. That thing that you let control your thinking will then control your behavior and make you a magnet for something.
You get to choose what it is. A magnet for life? Death? Joy? Pain?
Anne Frank, had she lived, would have been 85 years old two days ago on June 12th. She, along with her family and some family friends, went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, her older sister having been ordered to report to a labor camp. Anne was 13 at the time, a lively and active girl. The Franks and their friends spent two years cooped up inside a tiny space in the back of a business, dependent upon loyal outsiders for food and news from the outside. They never set foot outdoors during those two years. But eventually they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. At the age of 15, Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, only a few weeks before the war ended. Her sister died within a day of her. Neither of them knew that their mother had died in Auschwitz two months prior, and it would be four more months, after the war, when their father would learn that he was the lone survivor of his family.
Why am I telling you this? Because Anne left behind treasure. She left behind proof that even in the worse stress, under the worse circumstances, a person is about as happy as they choose to be. She left behind a diary the diary of a teenaged girl held captive during a time of horrific war.
The following quotes are credited to Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published posthumously by her father Otto Frank in 1947.
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”
“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
“There’s only one rule you need to remember: laugh at everything and forget everybody else! It sound egotistical, but it’s actually the only cure for those suffering from self-pity.”
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
These are not the words of a Pollyanna who has never experienced pain. These are the words of a young girl who in spite of fear, hunger, and grief, chose with maturity beyond her years what she would focus on. And lest you think she died too young to experience the lasting fruit, keep in mind that her choice still inspires people to this day.
You are valuable. Your heart and your mind are worth protecting. Don’t feed them anything that diminishes your light.
Because truly…you were made to shine.