Book Review: Resisting Happiness: Another great book by Matthew Kelly

By J.E. Helm
The Sooner Catholic

In Ch. 26 of his latest book, “Resisting Happiness,” Matthew Kelly writes that one of the things he loves about the Catholic Church is that it “truly does bridge heaven and earth – not just in a theological way, but in a real and practical way.” His book does exactly the same things: he connects Catholic teaching with a very down-to-earth way to live a good life and achieve happiness.

He starts by explaining this notion of “resistance.” He says that it is “that sluggish feeling of not wanting to do something that you know is good for you; it’s the inclination to do something that you unabashedly know is not good for you, and it’s everything in between.”

This resistance manifests itself in “laziness, procrastination, fear, doubt, instant gratification, self-loathing, indecision, escapism, pride self-deception, friction, tension and self-sabotage …”

On a practical level, he says what makes us happy consists of the same things that make us successful, things like working hard and doing a good job.

He goes beyond the practical to explain that “nothing on earth can satisfy your desire for happiness.” He quotes “The Catechism” and says that only in God will we find the truth and happiness we are searching for.

“When we resist happiness we are really resisting God. God is happiness,” he writes.

He goes on to look specifically at things that get in our way of finding God, finding happiness; things that set up this resistance. Bad habits, for example, or the lack of good habits can stop us from being what he calls “the best version of ourselves.” He says that habits “have a massive impact on our lives.”

As he did in “Discover Jesus,” Kelly has practical tips at the end of each chapter to help readers work on the ideas he has presented. First, he makes a “Key Point,” a one sentence summary of the chapter, all of which are short. Most chapters are only four or five pages. Then, he offers an “Action Step.” At the end of the chapter on habits, for example, he tells the reader to “write down your three best habits. Now, write down three habits that you need to change.”

He has very good advice for other things that get in our way of finding happiness. For those who are “bored” at Mass, he suggests keeping a “Mass Journal” and writing down, each week, just one thought or idea, one challenge or invitation that “will jump out at you” from the readings or the music or the preaching.

This journal ties to another idea that can help us overcome resistance. We need to learn to listen: to our loved ones, to our bodies, our conscience and, of course, God. The Mass Journal helps us to listen to God, to participate more fully in something that will make us truly happy.

In other chapters, Kelly writes about breaking the cycle of “self-sabotage and self-destructive behavior.” We can be addicted to food, but also to “talking too much, work, sex, pornography, alcohol, drugs, always being right, noise, negative thinking, negative humor, skepticism, cynicism, minimalism.” Some of these behaviors “can only be broken by prayer and fasting,” he says, and explains that “fasting goes way beyond food; we can fast from anything.”

“Resisting Happiness” has so many fine ideas, so many good points to ponder. He tells us to “get busy living” and not to be dismayed by criticism.

“Happiness is a choice” he reminds us, and “resistance almost always stands between you and happiness.” Kelly’s last chapter is “Never Get Discouraged” and his very last line here is “Remember this: Every moment is a chance to start anew, a chance to turn it all around.”

Matthew Kelly is a writer, speaker, successful business man and the founder of Dynamic Catholic.com where readers are invited to find “free books, CDs, apps and programs.”

J.E. Helm is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.