Ever wonder why some people are quite happy while others are miserable? The world or culture as opposed to God would tell us that our misery has external causes such as poor relationships and catastrophic events; or that we have inherited our level of happiness by our genetic material or a combination of both. No one doubts that these events and heredity have an influence on us, but they are not the only influence.
The good news is that we have some control of our level of happiness in that we can choose to do the right thing or not. No one who choses to do the wrong thing should expect to be happy for long. Temporary joy often happens when we follow our selfish desires, but long-term happiness only happens when we obey our conscience.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines conscience in the following way, “the interior voice of a human being, within whose heart the inner law of God is inscribed. Moral conscience is a judgement of practical reason about the moral quality of a human action. It moves a person at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil.” In my practice, I find that when people’s conscience is congruent with their behavior that they are more likely to find and greater level of joy and satisfaction in life.
Many people went to St. Ignatius because they were miserable. One of his first actions was to inquire if they were living their lives the way they knew they should, according to their conscience. He never judged a person, he didn’t have to. What he discovered was that most of the emotional and social problems were greatly improved when people began living according to their conscience.
We live in a culture that is asking the wrong question when it come to deciding a course of action. The culture asks, “what would you like to do?” This question is rarely easily answered and often leads to unintended miserable consequences. A more appropriate question is, “what is the right thing to do?” I’ve noticed that people often have a difficult time deciding what they would like to do and often cannot readily answer that question. Yet, when I ask what the right thing to do in a situation, they readily answer. It always amazes me that people know the right thing to do.
If you are miserable, take some time to ask yourself. “Am I living my life the way I should be, according to my conscience?” Maybe you need to make some changes. What have you got to lose? Maybe you will be happier.
“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”