Monday, 10 March 2014

Happiness is (only) for the undeserving

Whenever someone returns from a lengthy journey, recovers from an illness or survives a life-threatening situation, it is customary for the individual to make the following blessing:
הגומל לחייבים טובות שגמלני כל טוב
“Who causes good things to happen to those liable and causes only good to happen for me”
The blessing is often recited together when receiving an Aliya and always in front of a minyan. The crux of the blessing is that “I realise that I am undeserving of the kindness that I have been the recipient of.”
The blessing is a replacement of the original Thanksgiving offering that features in this week’s Parsha, where an individual, feeling a great sense of appreciation to Hashem, would offer a sacrifice as a token of that appreciation.
In the world of positive psychology, the correlation between appreciation and happiness is almost the main thrust in the study of the science of happiness.
The concept of appreciation is NOT saying thank you! It is a sense of being an undeserving recipient of kindness. The need for the term ‘undeserving’ is crucial, because as long as we believe that we deserve or are entitled to something, we will struggle to show any real sense of appreciation − because we believe we have earned it.
In truth, there is very little that we deserve in life. We didn’t do anything to ‘deserve’ to be born. We didn’t do more than others to ‘deserve’ our good fortune of health, love, family or prosperity. They are gifts.
We live in an age of entitlement. People talk of rights, not privileges; expectations, not responsibilities; demands, not allowances. Misery, in contrast, is the sense of not getting what we believe we deserve, of life not living up to our expectations.

The Thanksgiving offering, or blessing, is coming to the realisation that we are undeserving of the kindness we’ve received − and that should make us truly happy.

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