How Can We Be Happy with Tragedy & Evil in the World?

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

How can we hope to live happy lives when we hear about shootings in grocery stores and schools? Or read about women and children attacked or killed in their homes? This is a troubling question for me.

How can we be happy in our families and in our relationships when we can’t figure out how to get these terrible events out of our minds? I personally think this issue is a larger concern for women, particularly those who, like me, have a great deal of empathy. We can literally picture ourselves in random situations across the world, and become plagued by the images or thoughts. Our husbands may not even understand why we are so troubled by these happenings.

So, what does Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem, have to say about this conundrum of being happy despite tragedy? He says he believes in evil, that suffering is real, and that everything is not “all for the best.” (Please don’t tell people everything is for the best, especially when they are grieving.) He also says he is constantly amazed by his good fortune, as am I. “Given how much unjust suffering and unhappiness there are, I am deeply grateful for, sometimes even perplexed by, how much misery I have been spared,” says Prager.

Given that tragedy will always be present in life, he says he aims to be happy unless something happens to make him unhappy, rather than vice versa. If you are waiting for something to make you happy—for your husband to send you flowers or for your child to get a perfect score on his or her math test—your happy days may be few and far between. But if you are happy and thankful that you are not directly affected by tragedy today, it leads you to a better place in your mind. It requires you to begin each day with a new mindset.

Constant complaining about how badly your day is going—difficult customers, rowdy children, a less-than-perfect spouse—only exacerbates your negative feelings. Prager has little patience for those who have so much in life but in this modern world find so much about which to complain. Each time you begin to complain or say something negative, consider those who really have a horror in their lives at that very moment.

We can’t avoid pain and sorrow, though, at least not for long. “Life has much pain built into it, even for people who lead inordinately blessed lives. Even in the best instance (i.e., a long and healthy life), we all experience the awful sadness of death—whether ours or that of loved ones,” says Prager. He goes on to express even “necessary losses” such as being joyful to have your children grow up, but experiencing bittersweet loss at realizing those childhood years are gone forever.

I think Prager’s take on this is well considered. However, putting the ideals into practice certainly will take ongoing effort. For starters, we should consider our media consumption. It’s fine to acknowledge the evil and pain in the world without immersing ourselves into the events as on cable TV. We can also admit that while it (the tragedy of the day) could have happened in our neighborhood, it didn’t, and we should be grateful for the day we are given.

We should strive to mentally focus on positive aspects of our lives, and even verbally comment on those things to our spouse and children. This can even apply to minor complaints. “I’m sick and tired of this snow,” can become “I’m sure glad we have a working furnace and the funds to keep our home reasonably warm. Although I am looking forward to spring.”

I know I will get struck by sadness when horrific events occur, and I believe we should assist or pray for victims. But we don’t serve our families well when we begin to believe the world is more awful than it is. The world has a lot of beauty going for it. Even those awful, cold snowflakes that pile onto my driveway incessantly are incredibly unique and lovely on their own. And even when a Congresswoman is shot down by a mentally unstable man, she can inspire hope in a city and in a nation.

Related Link:

Overcoming Negative Thinking—Alisa Bowman shares advice on how to change your negative thoughts for the better. “When you see the world through a positive lens, you smile more. You are warmer. You embrace people. You are more giving. You are more considerate and selfless,” says Alisa. How can that not help your life and your marriage?

Photo credit: ©iMAGINE/

6 responses to “How Can We Be Happy with Tragedy & Evil in the World?

  1. Good strategies and hints of being happy there. Many times, happiness is to learn to cope with tragedies and happiness. Unhappiness is as true as happiness.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post. I have also struggled with these questions, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Tucson. I am not sure why I’ve found it harder to cope with hearing of that event than the myriad others that could be listed as disasters and tragedies even in recent months. Perhaps because I am nearing a point in my life when I am considering marriage and having children, and the thought that a child could be raised to be shiny, healthy and happy, and then be taken without warning or reason because of another human’s cruelty is a terrible consideration for me. I agree with you, however, that it is necessary to simply stay positive and thankful for those blessings that we do have, instead of dreading the loss and grief that will always be an inevitable part of life. Great post.

    • Thanks, Corinne. Having a nine-year-old myself, I understand what you mean. I think it’s worth the struggle to remain positive and grateful as often as we are able.

  4. Pingback: Let Loose, Start Living, and Stop Taking Yourself so Serious | Shake Off the Grind

  5. Pingback: We “Can’t Get No” Satisfaction - SexyTime Blog

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