According to science, the key to happiness is "Successful Relationships"
The key to successful relationships is a bit more complicated.
I geeked out this weekend and watched another brain special called "The Emotional Life" from PBS. I am completely fascinated by the brain and sort of wish I had another lifetime to become a neuropsychiatrist. However, something tells me people don’t want their neuropsychiatrists to be experts in reality TV.
It does count as research though, my brain love. First off, I’m the eternal, annoying child always asking why. Secondly, it’s not enough as a novelist to understand why someone behaves a certain way. As authors, we must offer the reader a reason WHY someone acts in a particular way: MOTIVE!
When I finished watching the series (on Netflix streaming video -- LOVE THIS!), I was struck by the universal desire for happiness, and then recalled a saying I've heard many Christians say, "God doesn't care about your happiness, He cares about your holiness."
Here’s my problem with that statement, and it gets into good fiction writing as well. Everyone desires happiness, but not everyone desires holiness and when you sell that statement, you not only sound unloving, you sound proud. It seems to me that God knows Universal Truths, as least as well as Jane Austen, no?
As an author, even a Christian author, we must give our readers something that resonates with truth. I think that’s why the sappy heroines of old were so hard to take. They wanted to be “good” more than they wanted to be loved, and I think there’s a fundamental flaw in that characterization. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just saying it doesn’t happen to most of us. Do I want to be “good” more than I want to walk off with Colin Firth in the sunset? Not likely, but if it's my pastor asking, well sure! Actually, maybe a better way to put it, is can't I have my hero AND be holy too?
Sacrificial love is a universal truth. Life is Beautiful, The Titanic, Babbette’s Feast, Sophie’s Choice – and yes, even Darcy giving up his pride to save the silly Lydia from her own demise, to demonstrate his love for Elizabeth. Rick giving up Ilsa for the greater good in Casablanca...Can you imagine if these characters stopped in their choice to preach about their godliness? Godliness is shown in love. No explanation necessary.
Back to the brain: We are created to love. I a horrifying study of old, scientists gave Rhesus monkeys a choice between a wire surrogate mother who fed them, or a comforting, terry cloth monkey who didn't. Time and time again, the monkey chose comfort over food.
Sadly, the monkeys later showed bad behavior from being deprived of nurturing, even though all their physical needs were met. I'm sure this is why so many people choose food as a comfort.
What I found most interesting is that a lack of relationship, chronic loneliness can literally kill by leading to many diseases -- and it's why people will so desperately reach out to others when they feel drained, why they feel utterly without hope when there is no connection. People who don't reach out in those times are in serious trouble.
I know many who think life is all about self-control and rules, but then why do people who know better, sin? Self-control isn’t enough.
The answer, I believe is here, where science proves Jesus’ sacrifice – there is no more powerful motivator than love. We experience love, apparently, when we are connected to others.
Connection makes us better. We push and pull our friends to find a middle place we can both live with – since we are also created to have conflict.
In a happy marriage, studies say that couples are excited about their partner’s successes. Arguing can actually bring you closer, as long as they aren’t fraught with criticisms and affection can still be expressed even when angry. In short, you accept your partner and his/her flaws and work for harmony.
I’m simply fascinated how a lack of love, a lack of connection can break down the body’s physical health. It’s just one reason successful relationships are worth working toward, I suppose. Clearly, God cares about your happiness too. What sacrificial love story best speaks to you?