Years ago, before I was in ministry, I worked for my dad in the appliance business. My job for years was delivering appliances—refrigerators, washers, dryers, and more—all over the Texas Panhandle. There was a large house in the wealthier part of Amarillo and I didn’t like making deliveries there. The father of the family was mean and verbally abusive to his wife and children. I felt so sorry for them. The kids would try to come around us just to be around friendly people. Then the father would tell them, “Get away from them!” and they’d scurry off. There was a lot of spiritual darkness there.
A few days after making a delivery there, we delivered a refrigerator to a very small, wood-frame house in one of the poorest areas of town. A little 70-year-old man opened the door, and as we took out the old refrigerator, he and his wife said, “Thank you, old refrigerator for being such a wonderful part of our family for all these years!” When we brought the new refrigerator in, they were dancing cheek-to-cheek, celebrating their new appliance.
I sat in the truck in front of their house and thought, I want to be like those people. The rich family in the other part of town was miserable, but there in that small house, the people were as happy as they could be over a new refrigerator. And it wasn’t even a very good model! What I learned that day is how critically important it is to choose the right attitude each day. In fact, I believe it’s our attitudes—not our circumstances—that determine our happiness.
So what does it look like to be a happy person? To get a better understanding, let’s look at some truths about attitudes.
- We choose our attitudes.
Viktor Frankl was a Jew in the Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II. His wife, mother, and brother were all killed by Nazis, but in the middle of that concentration camp he decided, I will be happy. I will not hate the Nazis. Similarly, Hebrews 12:2 says it was a “joy that was set before Him” to endure the cross. If Jesus could face the cross and Viktor Frankl could be in Auschwitz with joy and love, we can always choose to walk in joy and love.
- Attitudes are not caused by people or circumstances.
Have you ever thought to yourself, If my circumstances were different, I would have a better attitude? Of course, that statement is false. Take Adam and Eve. They were two perfect people in paradise and they had bad attitudes. However, in Acts 16, Paul was in prison having just been beaten with rods, but he was singing hymns to God. The truth is, we can overcome any circumstance by choosing the right attitude.
- Happiness is a chosen attitude, not a state of being.
There are people who are always happy regardless of what’s happening in their lives. And then there are people who are always unhappy regardless of what’s going on. One of my favorite sayings outside the Bible comes from Dennis Waitley, and I think he demonstrates this idea perfectly: “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
- God rewards good attitudes and disciplines bad attitudes.
James 4:6 says, “‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”Do you think pride and humility are attitudes? In the Greek, the word translated to “resists” means to set yourself in battle formation against. In other words, you’re not going to get anywhere with a prideful attitude. However, James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
- God’s Word is a great attitude indicator.
One of the most critical instruments in an airplane is the attitude indicator, which tells the pilot if the plane’s nose is up, down, or level. Without it, it’s easy for a pilot to become disoriented in bad weather, and if they barely dip a wing, they’ll fly in a circle to the ground. In many ways, the Bible is the attitude indicator of our life. When we’re going through a tough time, we can’t rely on our emotions to help determine our attitudes—we have to rely on the truth of God’s Word.
Long ago, I realized if I’m going to make it, I’m going to have to make it through my attitude. I’m not the most gifted, talented, or most athletic, but I have the best attitude. One of my favorite sayings is, “A calm sea never produced a good sailor.” In other words, an easy life never produced a good human. We have to regularly remind ourselves that everything we go through prepares us to be stronger for the next thing we go through. I want to encourage you to choose a right attitude every day, you’ll be much happier in the long run.