Do you want to be happier? Do you feel that something is missing in your life, but you can’t put your finger on what it might be? Do you know you should focus on what really matters in life but aren’t sure where to begin? In Resisting Happiness, best-selling Catholic writer Matthew Kelly invites us to take a hard look at our lives and our habits so that we can achieve those elusive goals of happiness and a sense of purpose.
Given the title of the book, one might think that the primary focus is on happiness, but “resistance” is actually the main topic. Kelly defines resistance as “the desire and tendency to delay something you should be doing right now.” It is something that we all struggle with every day of our lives, often from the time we get up to the time to go to bed. It “stands between you and the person God created you to be. Resistance stands between you and happiness.” The purpose of this book is to help you overcome resistance so that you can be the best version of yourself, Kelly’s term for the universal call to holiness. We are made to be saints, but resistance often keeps us from getting there.
Kelly emphasizes that nothing on earth can satisfy your desire for happiness other than God. “Only God can fill that hole that represents our deepest longings.” Yet most of us spend our time trying to fill that hole with something else, whether it be other people or food or entertainment or any number of things. If we want to keep everything else, even good things (such as other people), in its proper place in our lives, we need to place God at the center.
Nothing Kelly states is new. Saints have been pointing the way to holiness since the Church began. Kelly discusses the importance of daily prayer, the value of Mass and Confession, the importance of sacrifice and self-denial, the need to love and serve others, discerning and then doing the will of God. These are the ways that we focus on God and gain true peace and happiness. Nevertheless, the struggle of life is real. Resistance is real. What Kelly excels at is making the path to holiness seem within reach for the average person. He offers concrete, simple steps that anyone can take to move closer to God and to being the best version of ourselves.
Understandably, Kelly writes from a male perspective. As moms, we have some unique challenges that men don’t necessarily face (and I would imagine, vice versa). This is especially true in the sections on using our talents for God’s kingdom. I know that there have been times in my mothering journey when it seemed that my talents were exactly what God was asking me to sacrifice. While I’ve always tried to contribute to the world using my gifts in some small way, this often has had to take a back seat to the vocational call to motherhood. My family has needed me more. The daily chores have required my attention. Things I wanted to do, or even felt called to do, had to come second, or third, or even last in the list.
That being said, Resisting Happiness is a valuable book to spend some time with. I plan to have my teenage sons read it as part of their homeschool religion class this year. Even if you know what you should be doing to get closer to God (our ticket to lasting happiness), this book serves as a helpful reminder. You are sure to find one or two spiritual practices you could incorporate into your life.
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Copyright 2018 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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