Opinion Columns & Blogs

Choose to be happier as alternative to abuse

In school, children learn the simple connection between cause and effect: Do this and that happens. Get a better education, get a better job; use the right lure, catch the right fish; and so forth.

As National Child Abuse Prevention Month winds down, consider one grim chain of cause and effect that plagues our community: Child abuse, as a cause, affects its victims and our community in the worst ways.

So much of what we do in the field of community service is responding to the effects of child abuse. It's what we do at CASA of Sedgwick County, the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program — we respond to a child's darkest moment and provide hope to children in order to reverse the course, the effects. But perhaps rather than just responding to the effects of child abuse, the Wichita community needs to look at the causes. What causes child abuse?

Research shows that abusive behavior stems from many causes, two of which are a lack of self-esteem and extreme frustration that often results in violence.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a concept called happiness. As one writer on the subject puts it: "A growing body of research is demonstrating that as we become happier, we become better people: more emotionally healthy, physically healthy, creative, energetic, compassionate and successful. As we start taking better care of ourselves, we start to naturally care more about others, and treat them better."

At CASA, we choose to focus on the best interests of children who have experienced abuse. Consistency, stability and happiness are often unfamiliar words or concepts to the children we serve. CASA strives to model these concepts to children and families in hopes that their lives will improve.

Happiness is not the be-all and end-all to abuse, and we must continue to address the causes. Our world (and theirs and yours) will benefit from changed lives where children can thrive and grow.

But we should adopt behaviors and activities that increase happiness and provide a different approach to dealing with stress and anger that may lead to abuse. Our website has several helpful tools for inspiring happiness, including a short video with CASA's top 10 activities for immediate happiness. Visit www.casaofsedgwickcounty.org.

Reducing abuse is a chain of causes and effects that can start with each person finding a deeper sense of happiness, contentment and improved self-esteem. We tend to connect it to other complex goals, such as achievement and wealth, houses and health, good looks and long life.

Perhaps we need to keep it simple. Make it a matter of choice. Perhaps we could be happier, pure and simple, by choosing to be so, regardless of circumstance and with a bit more discipline and determination.

Try it. In the chain of cause and effect, happiness causes more happiness, which is an effect we can all live with.

Remember — our children are counting on us.