3 Ways to Make Joy Your Realistic Attitude

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle With Mental Illness  (c)2016 Nancy Virden

Collage with hands and blue cloudy sky

Two of Kimberly’s children died – one due to murder – and her mother also died within a period of 15 months.

Only a few weeks after she’d lost her second daughter, she was excitedly pregnant.  As her mentor at the time, I walked her through months of fresh hope and dreams, aware there was no change in her demeanor.

“Are you sad?” I asked.

“I was, but now I have this baby to care for,” she said with a smile. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Kimberly’s reality included trauma, tragedy, and coping challenges. Nothing, certainly not grief and violence, resolves easily, and she had healing work to do. Still, she turned her focus to her son, and he was a bright spot in her darkened world.

To Kimberly, hope is also reality.

We all have sad stories and memories we would rather forget. No one goes untouched by suffering. This is news only to those who prefer to live steeped in denial. We’ve been hurt, we’ve hurt other people, and this is what we call life.

One often-repeated phrase these days is, “The world has gone crazy.” That is how many perceive reality. Without hope, all the violence and bad news causes fear to rise up in people, and that displays itself in anger. Are you finding more anger in homes, workplaces, and the world now?

Three years ago I read on Facebook, “Talking about our pain is our greatest addiction – let’s talk about our joy.”* I don’t know if I agree with that summarily, however talking about our joy is usually a good idea. Let’s start where Kimberly did.

Refocus. Try to not think of the color red. Careful now, do not think about red! Can you do it? Trying to stop a thought is counterproductive. What actually helps is if we replace that unwanted thought by refocusing on something we want to think about.

Accept reality as multi-faceted.  Kimberly has plenty to grieve and process, and for which to rejoice. At the time of her son’s birth, she looked at both the harsh and beautiful facts, and acknowledged them as equally real.

Compare evidence. We have witnessed resurrections of the human spirit. We have seen ourselves and our loved ones spared. We have known the miraculous, and hope has filtered through the fog of our sufferings. We have each received second, and third chances.

Which list is reality – troubles or blessings? People who want to defend their negativity will say, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” But if joy is real, then why don’t we say, “I’m a realist, and I believe tomorrow could be better than today”?

Some of us struggle with emotional challenges that help to make coping hard. Scars of inner or outer trauma may meet us every day in the mirror.  When the ache of daily sorrow reminds us of our losses, and hope seems impossible to obtain or not worth chasing, paying close attention to whatever beauty is around us this Christmas will help to refocus our thoughts, however intermittently, on the possibility there is hope.

I’m a realist. Perhaps because of my closeness to the world of emotionally harmed people, I see pain everywhere I look. I also hear stories of recovery, treatment plans that work, and lives that change from the inside out through surrender to the perfect will and love of Jesus. These experiences are every bit as realistic as bad news.

Today’s Helpful Word

John 16:33 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus  


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.



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