The Cheerful Nun

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

Lately I’ve been working on being more cheerful. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m getting much better so far, but it has been good to be aware of it. I’ve had this story on my mind that I heard once. This is the essence of it:

Two nuns live together in a convent. One is young and always cheerful and pleasant, with a sweet voice and a smile on her face. When things go wrong or get difficult, she seems unphased by them and maybe even a bit oblivious. Let’s call this nun Cara.

The other nun, Ann, is a bit older and has a harder time acting happy, especially when there is so much surrounding her to be distressed and sad about. She remarks to another nun how it is almost unfair that Cara is so naive to the world around her, how unfair it is that she was born with such a happy inward disposition.

Then the story moves along to reading in Cara’s journal. Cara makes note of Ann’s beliefs about herself, and Cara writes that it is in fact not easy at all for her to be cheerful all the time. She consciously chooses happiness and puts on a smile because it is her way of serving those around her. It is her way she chooses to serve God also, by choosing to have a thankful, cheerful heart. Cara states that she is in fact not oblivious to the discouraging events around her, but she chooses to have joy despite them.

– – – – – –

This story impacted me a lot. I thought about the people I see as naturally cheery and considered that it is a choice they make to be that way.  I also reflected on my native disposition. I tend to hold back outward emotion as a way of guarding myself. I also have a fear of being seen as naive, and I need to let go of that fear. But how much more could I be of service to others around me if I were willing to be cheerful, speak positive words, laugh heartily, and smile easily?

So, I have been trying to “be of good cheer,” as Christ says, despite tribulation. It is can be really hard! Especially when I want to go into victim mode and think everyone else is making it harder. It is hard to be cheerful when I think my kids are being difficult, my husband isn’t meeting my expectations, or I am expecting too much of myself.

My husband is a basketball coach and has been out of town a lot and gone at practice every day after normal work hours. He does this every year, but life seems particularly busy this year with four little kids and just having moved to a new house. This last weekend I had a particularly hard time when I felt everything converging-messy house, need to feed kids, unpacking to do, and ornery kids.

There was a moment I was feeling really hurt by my son’s words and the way he was choosing to act. And then I remembered my goal and decided to choose cheerfulness and not play the victim. I decided I knew I was doing my best to be a good mom, and I didn’t need to take responsibility for the way my son was choosing to act. I chose to smile and thank my kids for any good thing they were doing and to empathize with my son that life was hard for him in that moment.

It was so hard for me, but it also felt really good to be in control of myself instead of wallowing in the victim position. It felt good to have empathy and say, “Sorry that things are hard,” instead of dishing out punishments, threats, or guilt. It felt good to decide that I was fine instead of letting my son’s words affect my feelings of worth.

I have been telling myself some affirmations I have been hearing about on the Bold New Mom podcast:

-I have the perfect amount of time to do what is really important to me.

-Everything that happens is exactly what is supposed to happen.

-I get to choose my thinking and the way I respond to what happens around me.

-It’s not about me.

All of these thoughts help me to be more cheerful in difficult moments.