Matthew Kelly’s book, Resisting Happiness, is not so much an instruction about how to achieve happiness as it is a bold tale of encouragement to receive happiness. Kelly’s writing borrows from several disciplines. His business background is transparent in the purposeful intent he applies to spiritual life. His understanding of human behavior involves basic explorations of sociology and psychology. Maybe these are the common qualities shared by other authors in the genre, such as Steven Covey and Pastor Rick Warrens. But, somehow, for me, the experience of Resisting Happiness rose above the others.
Resisting Happiness feels like a very personal spiritual journey. His mediations are indeed framed in autobiographical disclosure. Among all of the people and stories, two moments stand out. In chapter seven, his friend John poses a life-changing question, “You’re not happy, are you, Matthew?” (pg. 32) Departing from the usual structure of a self-help book, the author calls us to take up arms against something we may not even have known existed within us: resistance to happiness. By chapter 30, Kelly asks a question of the reader, “Are you wondering what happened to John?” I thought, “Yes. Of course I am.” I had become invested in the characters. The answer, which I will not spoil for you here, seems especially poignant. I was struck with how the central statement of Kelly’s book, “When we resist happiness, we resist God and the-very-best-version-of-ourselves” (pg. 17), was played out in his writing on such a personal and powerful plain. On this same plain, as he promises, our “yes” to God can become a “passionate mission-driven yes.” (pg. 46) The gift we receive in return is happiness in God. It is quite a revolutionary journey.
The author and his simple, common sense books from DynamicCatholic have been with our parish for a number of years now. We began with a grant from the diocese, 800 copies of Rediscover Catholicism and a few small groups. A couple of years later, on an annual retreat, we started Rediscover Jesus. This year, the local Knights of Columbus helped us to distribute Resisting Happiness as a Christmas gift, wrapped and personally handed out at all of the Holy Day Masses. The plan seems to be working. The first book was hard to “get rid of.” Years later, we still have two unopened cases, but a hunger has begun. Recently, I was astounded at the recognition given to Resisting Happiness. The bright yellow book with its subversive title is a real eye-catcher. While carrying it through the classrooms of our Catholic school I heard, “I know that book!” One-fifth grader even said, “I’m reading that book.” Turns out, at least two-thirds of the children had seen the book and recognized it. The revolution has begun.
By Father Woodrow Pace
Pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Independence