Friday, May 7, 2010

shield your joyous ones

Catherine and I were talking a while back about how, while we pray for people in need or pain, we should also pray for those who are happy and fulfilled, because that is an often precarious thing.

Lo and behold, this insightful article by Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project."

Here's an excerpt.

A prayer attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo includes the line, Shield your joyous ones:

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones.
And all for your love’s sake.

At first, it struck me as odd that among prayers for the “dying” and “suffering” is a prayer for the “joyous.” Why worry about the joyous ones?

Once I started trying to give positive reviews, for the first time, I began to appreciate the people I knew who are joyous. I understood how much effort it takes to be consistently good-tempered and positive.

We’re sometimes provoked to try to shake the joyous ones out of their fog of illusion — to make them see that the play was actually stupid, the money was wasted, the meeting was pointless. Instead of shielding their joy, we blast it.

In his outstanding biography, Samuel Johnson, W. Jackson Bate describes how upset the moody, temperamental Samuel Johnson became when his joyous, enthusiastic supporter, Hester Thrale, turned her attention away from him.

It is a common mistake to assume that those who have a giving and ebullient character are what they are only because they cannot help it — that they are fed from a spring that will never stop rather than a reservoir that can be exhausted. Hence the feeling of stark disbelief or unpleasant shock on the part of others when the reservoir of effort and energy is almost gone….the principal reward for those who give lavishly rather than meagerly is the expectation that they remain true to form and continue to give.

We depend on the joyous ones, and we need to remember that their joy isn’t inexhaustible or unconquerable. Now I’m making a real effort to use my own good cheer to support and protect the enthusiasts I know.

Shield your joyous ones.


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