When life is this happy, I start to feel guilty.

When life is this happy, I start to feel guilty.

Life is really good right now. And so I feel guilty.

When I scan the faces in the Relief Society room or the neighborhood playgroup or the overcrowded grocery store, I see a lot of suffering. Too much heartache. An abundance of stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction.

One friend struggles with both infertility and an abusive marriage. Another is unemployed and down to her last pennies as she cares for family members with extreme health problems. Some wonder if they’ll ever get past the loneliness that can come with being unmarried. One mother lives with grief every day after the recent loss of her sweet baby.

Then there’s my too-good life: Almost five years in, my marriage is ideal. My toddler is wonderfully content and easy going — tantrums, somehow, are nonexistent in our house. The part-time hours I spend working are fulfilling and enjoyable. And my main gig, as a mostly stay-at-home mom, is full of fun — library outings and strawberry picking and even Costco trips are a blast with my kid. We live in an amazing city and are financially stable enough to live comfortably. My church calling stretches me immensely, and my faith is currently quite solid.

Sure, I have moments where I’m not smiling. I complain about my fair share of #firstworldproblems. I’ve experienced a miscarriage, the loss of a loved job, spoiled relationships. But, for the most part, I’m relishing this good life. It does manage to bring up a whole host of questions and concerns and guilt, though. For example:

– When we read that men are that they might have joy, what does the word “might” mean? Is it possible that joy will remain just just out of reach for some faithful saints?

– Why have I been dealt such an easy hand?

– Is it OK to feel this content when so many in my circles are lacking all the wonderful things I enjoy?

– Are my trials less severe than others’ because God knows I’m not strong enough to handle the hard stuff?

– Is it enough to spend a few hours a week serving the less fortunate, so I can then come home and get back to my perfect life?

– Since things are so good now, is some awful misfortune in my future?

So now, I’ll put it to you: Are these questions simply unanswerable? Have you ever felt the guilt of happiness? Or, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum and in the midst of suffering, how do you view those who are living so happily?

Ashley Dickson

(Copy Editor) is a Virginia native now living in Boston. She graduated from BYU with degrees in broadcast journalism and home and family living, then spent three years writing and editing for magazines. After earning a master's degree in library science, Ashley now splits her time between motherhood, freelance writing and editing, and consuming dark chocolate.

21 Comments

  1. C

    June 19, 2015

    “Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.” -CS Lewis-

  2. Rachel

    June 19, 2015

    Just enjoy it! Life is long and I know you will have a few miserable chapters. If you’re lucky, on balance you will have more chapters that are happy than sad (or crushing or unbearable or suffocating). I’ve come to conclude that enjoying happiness during the “good times” is a form of gratitude that God accepts and appreciates.

  3. Lillie

    June 19, 2015

    My thought is enjoy this time of peace and joy, tomorrow may be harder. Perhaps this is your special opportunity to be the one to ease a sister’s burden. Focus on serving those you mentioned, and bringing sunshine and smiles into their life.

  4. Chris

    June 19, 2015

    How blessed you are to have a season when the trials are few and the joys are many. As we savor each blessing that we enjoy–whether we are experiencing good times or bad–it allows us to be enfolded in the redeeming, strengthening, eternal love that our Savior has for us. It allows us to become whole, to become more like Him.

  5. M2theH

    June 19, 2015

    Right now my family is in a pretty good place, but I know from life experience it will not last and more trials are on the horizon.

    I am very thankful and grateful that my family is in the position we are, and I am enjoying the fact that for now life is good. And I know a lot of people have it a lot worse then I do at the moment.

    I would try not to worry about the future and what is might hold and just enjoy the now.

  6. Emily B

    June 19, 2015

    I believe the counsel to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God” is for times when things in our lives are going relatively well, when we have capacity to give and serve freely. Good times are an opportunity to learn through service without the overwhelming feeling of going through a difficult trial in your own life.

    expressing gratitude (during and not during trials) is key to happiness. So if you’re happy and you know it ‘shout hurray!’ There shoukd be no shame in expressing gratitude to Heavenly Father for blessings.
    I like reading about your happiness, it makes mine that much more attainable.

  7. Julie

    June 19, 2015

    Infertility and an abusive marriage were my lot ten years ago. I’m not an expert on trials, but that was a very difficult time for me. One thought I had while reading this is that if you have both infertility and an abusive marriage, that is a great combination! The man to whom I was briefly married had children from a previous marriage and although she escaped and eventually recovered, his first wife was and will be forever linked to him through their children. My link to him consists of a handful of friends I made while living in his city (many of whom have no contact with him anymore), and rapidly fading memories. Secondly, I was so grateful for friends I had at that time who were happy. Never did I envy them. They sustained me, listened to me, cried with me, and generally blessed me with their presence and advice when it was needed. They were the angels I needed to endure that time, and made it bearable during the most painful parts.

  8. JP

    June 19, 2015

    I agree with many above writers. Enjoy happy times and thank God from whom these blessing flow to you. Reality tells us that life will never be 100% perfect, but hopefully these happy times will strengthen you for times that are not quite so pleasant that will come in the future. Above all, don’t feel guilty. After all, you can be of service to others much more easily when you are content and satisfied with your own life.

  9. Meg

    June 19, 2015

    I had a very happy life–an easy life–for forty years. My parents are strong and loving, my husband is sweet and responsible, my children are smart and healthy. Three years ago, as my daughter moved from junior high to high school, she began to experience mental and physical challenges. After six hospitalizations, she is more stable, but another hospitalization is on the horizon. Someone once said “you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.”
    When things were good, I was happy, but sometimes felt guilty and weak. People would say everyone has trials, and I would think ” but not me”. Now, I feel different. I feel like I have been refined by fire. I feel like my faith is deep and strong. But I am so tired, and I often I feel trapped. I look backwards with longing to my old life, with its freedom and carelessness.
    But I look back also with gratitude. I feel like my “seven years of fatness” enabled me to build a foundation of gratitude, and that my current years of leanness will pass, although right now, I see no way out. I agree with Rachel that “enjoying happiness during the “good times” is a form of gratitude that God accepts and appreciates.” I am far more appreciative now of things I used to take for granted: when my children are all home around the dinner table together. When we can be in Sacrament Meeting together. When everyone is safely in their own beds. I think gratitude for our blessings, whether great or small, in whatever context of security or chaos we find them, is the source of happiness.

  10. A

    June 19, 2015

    I am in a similar state as you. So, so, happy with life. But I know this will not always be, and it has not always been so. I will one day have teenagers. Health problems will arise. Losses, financial and or human, can happen. Trials will happen. For now, I will soak up this happiness, do all I can to strengthen myself spiritually, and learn from others who endure trials well.

  11. Anne Marie

    June 19, 2015

    I really appreciate the thoughts here. Thank you. My mom, in a moment of real wisdom, said to my older sister who at the time was actively seeking out hardships, “Pain will find you. Don’t go looking for it.” How true. In the 25 years since my mom has said that, my sister has absolutely had her fair share of joy coupled with extreme stresses and sorrows.

    Life has seasons. In the seasons of fairer, warmer weather, fill your bucket, share your bounty, and seek the sunshine. President Hinckley said in an Ensign message about optimism, “I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.” He had so many other lovely words in that July 2001 message. The barren, chilling winters come, because that is how life is. Our bodies are fragile and vulnerable. People we love may struggle. Change is inevitable as years pass, and change is hard, even if it is positive, like having a child leave the nest. And those times spent in greener pastures can give us the fortitude to endure the unexpected twists and turns of life.

    I really appreciate the questions you are asking here. You are clearly a very thoughtful person. Wishing you joy and peace in this season of beauty for you.

  12. Tiffany W.

    June 19, 2015

    Enjoy your happy time. What a wonderful gift. I have had some terrific years myself where I keep pinching myself with all the amazing things that have happened to me. But there have also been some dark times that weren’t visible to others. They’ve made me more aware that God does care for me, even when things are going badly. Be grateful for your blessings and times of peace. I know your friends won’t begrudge you your happiness–most don’t.

  13. MB

    June 20, 2015

    In my times of everything coming up roses the key to not feeling guilty was making sure that I was actively and consciously and compassionately listening to others. I could not solve problems; I had neither the expertise nor the resources nor the right to do so. But I could listen with compassion, squeeze a hand, consciously make time to help and pray. I could avoid being gushy, happy-go-lucky and funny when a listening ear or a compassionate heart was what was needed. I could be more conscientious about the wisest and best uses of the physical resources I’d been blessed with. The more I listened and then acted on what I learned the less I focused on the differences between us. And the more deeply we connected and supported each other.

  14. Chris

    June 20, 2015

    I have found that the Buddhist teachings have helped me enormously in good times–and in bad. Buddhism has taught me to be present in the moment, appreciate the small stuff, seeking find ways to show loving kindness to all people, and let go of expectations and worries. Although I am still learning how to do those things, the idea that we can be truly present in times of happiness and in times if suffering allows us to experience either circumstance without fear, shame, blame, or judgment.

  15. Megan

    June 20, 2015

    I felt like you do when I was five years into marriage, with a baby and a basically perfect life. But things changed, as I believe they do for everyone. Elder Maxwell said that if your life is going really well, just wait. We are here to grow and stretch and God can’t help us with that until life gets hard—hard enough to compel us to turn to Him. My challenges are intense, but I’ve become a completely different person because of them. I’m grateful that God made my life hard so I could learn to be better.

  16. Emily

    June 20, 2015

    Oh, I felt the same way earlier this year, and about a month later my husband lost his job.

  17. Kellie aka Selwyn

    June 21, 2015

    It takes a huge amount of effort for me NOT to look for the falling piano when things are going well in my life. By the same token, I’m training myself to sink into the moments that are good, fantastic, and even plain ordinary – because they all make up my life, and if I’m busy catastrophising I’m missing the here and now.

    It’s weird though – the first thing I ever had published (and it was by Segullah!) was my piece on my catastrophising. “Imagination Catastrophe” in many terrible ways is true to life, but has also lead to brilliant things and opportunities.

    I say for today, enjoy what it brings. And breathe deep through the frustrations.

  18. Elizabeth

    June 21, 2015

    Please, do not feel guilty for your happy state right now. Be grateful for it. I was raised in a not so happy family, divorced parents, alcoholic parents, but fortunately very little abuse.

    When I was married, 31 years ago, I decided that I could raise a happy family, the family I always dreamed of being a part of. In the middle of those happy years with my 6 wonderful children and fantastic husband, I would feel guilty because I had so much that I didn’t really deserve. I would also worry that it would all suddenly come crashing down because of some crisis. In short, I wasted too much energy in guilt and worry. It wasn’t always easy being a mom to 6 kids in 12 years, but I loved it and I loved the teenage years, I had great teenagers. I did try and spend a lot time strengthening my faith through scripture study and other things. As other commenters have stated things change, trials come. Now, with my grown children, I am experiencing trials and heart aches that I could have never imagined. And I am grateful my faith is strong. I am grateful I watched and learned from others about leaning on Heavenly Father and Savior in times of trial. All that I read and learned about using the Atonement in our daily lives for more than forgiveness, I am getting to apply in my life now.

    Always, give your children and husband the gift of a happy mom and wife. You will bless their lives immensely!

  19. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    June 21, 2015

    I have not read the other comments so maybe I will be redudant. First–you are still young. LOTS of awful stuff can still happen to you. Haha. That is sort of a joke, but it is also true. One thing I have learned is not to be afraid of the future. I used to fear the future–when things were good I was afraid of what was lurking just around the corner. And when I felt happy, it was sort of tinged with guilt like you describe–how could I be this happy when there was so much sorrow in the world? Here is what I have come up with–yes, life is like a ferris wheel and as it goes around we will experience the highs AND the lows, but if we are living the gospel, those lows will be tempered so they will be for our good. There is/has been/will always be something to be grateful for–even in the hard times so there is no need to borrow trouble and be afraid. I think Nephi had it right as he kept pursuing his relationship with Christ. It makes everything possible, even the dark times. No matter whether it is an up or down time, there is always a way to give service to others if we look for it, which helps to take some of the guilt away. Sometimes I can help someone a lot, sometimes not, but I can always pray for them and try to see them in a charitable light. And finally, even though the path to Eternal Life is all uphill, that does not mean it is not filled with satisfaction and joy and that’s okay, I believe Christ wants us to feel happy.

  20. joy

    June 24, 2015

    Other comments mostly said, “enjoy it; it won’t last.”

    But you know, it might! Trials are NOT evenly distributed; they’re just not. You really might have great health, a lasting happy marriage, faithful kids, etc. for your whole life, with only minor setbacks like the ones you’ve already described. These things really happen for people sometimes. It’s not fair, but it’s true. So don’t resignedly assume you’re automatically in for a big earth shaker in the near future. Maybe, maybe not.

    Even if you have not done much to “deserve” your good fortune you shouldn’t feel guilty if you are the recipient of the gift from those who have. Some of your ancestors probably paid the prices for your freedom, your educational opportunities, your gospel exposure. They’re eager to see you enjoy the gifts they earned for you through their trials.

  21. Sandra

    June 26, 2015

    Thoughtful piece thanks for sharing. Maybe it is more than just experiencing joy around you, maybe you have also become good at seeing it, even if you situation is lush with it right now, maybe you have a gift to be at peace and that sort of karma invites more? And maybe it is just a run of luck right now, enjoy it.

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