Can People with Disabilities be Happy?

We will all be happy in God - in other words, the way that a fish is happy in water. A fish with a disability still needs water in the same way as a fish without disabilities, and humans with disabilities need to commune with God through sacraments, prayer, and imitation in virtues the same as humans without disabilities. Summer Kinard, Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability #AncientFaithPublishing people silhouetted against backdrop of large aquarium

Why should we seek happiness, the cynics wonder, when life is hard and people are stupid and cruel or at best miserable? Or for the comfortable magical thinkers, why should we seek happiness when just reveling in the present will show us that the universe is sweet and rewards those who think positively? Some people try to sidestep happiness by attaching the idea of it to a political point or an evolutionary goal. None of these reduced visions of human goodness holds out any hope for happiness if you live with a disability. Rather, you’ll be blamed or shamed for disability and defined outside their notions of happiness altogether. For the magical thinkers, disability means you haven’t sorted yourself in a cosmic way. For the cynics, your presumed misery puts you in their company, but that’s a shallow cup to drink from. For the sophists, disability is not so much about persons as talking points.

There’s a toxic reductionism in our culture that overshadows even the question of happiness. Usually when happiness comes up, it’s to denigrate it as a useful goal. The irony is that happiness as it was classically and theologically understood is just that: a goal. In fact, “happiness” or “blessedness” is shorthand for The Goal.

Happiness is not about fleeting comforts or moods or whether you have met your life #goals or look pretty on Instagram #blessed. Happiness is far more basic, far more universal, far more bodily and real. It’s the assumption that we are made for somewhere, that we can get there, and that even heading in that direction gives us a taste of the joy of being there.

Open doors with the text, God is a place for us, and in the Incarnation, Christ became the Way for us to be in God. That's happiness, and we are all of us invited into it, whether we have disabilities or not. Summer Kinard

God is a place for us, and in the Incarnation, Christ became the Way for us to be in God. That’s happiness, and we are all of us invited into it, whether we have disabilities or not.

Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability will be available wherever books are sold on October 22. Sign up for my newsletter to be entered into a drawing each month. October’s drawing is on October 25th, for a Sensory Friendly Book Club Kit: 4 copies of Of Such is the Kingdom, 4 matching notebooks, 4 containers of Aroma Putty, and 8 feather bookmarks. Sign up today!

3 thoughts on “Can People with Disabilities be Happy?”

  1. I appreciate the help your book offers church leaders and members in preparing hearts and minds to greet individuals with disabilities with an unambivalent welcome consistent with their Orthodox faith. Otherwise, the person with a disability can become a sort of Rorschach inkblot who gets a wide range of responses. The practical application of theology makes all the difference. And I think your book will make a lot of folks very happy! : )

    1. Thank you, Jeannie! That’s a good insight about how a lack of preparation might lead people to react according to their mood or biases or preconceptions rather than in love. That probably applies in a lot of places! The book is trying to encourage everyone in the grace of God, son I hope it bears good fruit.

  2. Edited to add: This was in reply to an inflammatory comment that was later deleted by its author.

    If you had finished reading the first sentence, perhaps you would have noticed that the article is not promoting the clause that you blew up at. I disagree with it.

    I have edited out the profanity in your comment, as this is a family site.

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