The Value of a Merry Heart

It was when I was in graduate school doing research that I think I finally fully realized what it means to say, “All truth is God’s truth.” It clicked when I was reading a particular book that was drawing lessons on leadership from principles of Chaos Theory. As I worked through the book, I began to see – underlying its principles – a clear representation of God’s sovereignty. Then I began to recognize, in many of the books I was reading, that the truths that most resonated with me were truths that I could see were expressions of biblical truths. And as my advisor and my instructors kept pushing me to identify “the theory behind the practice” for much of my research, I realized that the reason why there was truth in these theories, evident in how it worked in practice, was because of the “theory behind the theory”: original truth, found in God’s Word.

 

This became apparent to me again recently when I was reading a book called The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor.   This particular book is in the realm of positive psychology, and is based on research; in it, Achor describes seven principles related to the way that your attitude, choices, and behavior can benefit your personal growth.   More pointedly, the first principle in the book (‘the happiness advantage’ principle), discusses how a positive outlook improves fulfillment and success. Within this principle, he explains:

 

  • How happiness gives your brain – and your organization – the competitive edge
  • That when we are happy, we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful; happiness precedes success, not vice versa
  • That happiness (a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future):
    • Primes and enhances creativity and innovation
    • Is an antidote to physical stress and anxiety
    • With intentional effort, can raise your daily baseline level of happiness
  • That our brains are hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative, or even neutral, but when they are positive.
  • That happiness and optimism fuel performance and achievement

 

The reality is, this is true. A positive attitude helps you do better, an optimistic outlook helps you respond to defeat and difficulty better, and a joyful approach helps to prevent discouragement. You probably don’t need to see research to believe that this is true, because you’ve seen it lived out in practice. And that’s what takes me back to my point. You believe that this is true because you have seen it in practice, but a book like The Happiness Advantage provides “the theory behind the practice,” the research that explains why it is true in practice. But there is theory behind that theory, found in the Bible long before any studies in positive psychology were ever conducted.

 

Specifically, Proverbs 15:13-15 says this:

 

13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. 14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:13-15

 

Verses 13 and 15, in particular, point out two very important truths. Verse 13 points out that your internal emotions and attitude directly impact your external response and reaction: positive on the inside leads to positive expression on the outside, and negative on the inside leads to brokenness on the outside. Then verse 15 points out that your outlook on and experience of life are a direct reflection of how you perceive your life circumstances: a “woe is me” or “I am a victim” mindset sees every day as bad, but a positive outlook finds value in all circumstances.   So it is true that choosing to have a positive mood has great benefit for your life, but the reason why it is true is because it is God’s truth.

 

Now, the practical application is that you can improve your performance (and as a byproduct, your results) by intentionally cultivating a positive outlook and response to life and its circumstances. But I also want you to understand that the real theory behind it, the theory that backs it up, is truth that originates from God’s Word – a merry heart (positive attitude) makes a cheerful countenance (external expressions of happiness) and has a continual feast (positive view of and response to life).

Then, I would encourage you to take two more steps in this line of thought. First, begin to look for other places where you can see that there is biblical truth behind other leadership principles that also appear to be true when put into practice. Second, reverse the process by looking for biblical principles that can be translated into leadership principles, with the confidence that if it is a biblical principle, it will be true, and therefore will have legitimate and credible application to leadership. My hope is that, at the bottom of your own study and research, you too will see that all truth is God’s truth, and will learn to identify principles that work, because they are principles that reflect His truth.

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