During a rare session of holiday housecleaning, our eyes ran across a notebook paper with suggestions on “How to be Perfectly Miserable.” People like me are ever more on the search for material that would make up messages to encourage folks along life’s journey – so let’s try this one.

According to the Baptist Trumpet, the attachment advised that: “If your goal is to be miserable most of the time, the following ten actions can help you reach a state of misery in record time.”

The first suggestion is for us to “Think about yourself most all the time.” That is quite comforting to our human nature, and so it is easy to do. Have we not all caught ourselves trying to turn a conversation around to focus upon our own experience when some poor soul was attempting to tell us about theirs? How often have we dropped the personal pronouns “I,” “me” or “my” into our conversations or writings? We seem to all be born with some sort of invisible filter through which all inputs must pass. If the thoughts or communications of others are not adequately centered around ourselves, we can only tolerate such ramblings until we find an opening to step in and return the focus back to our own concerns.

“Pay close attention to what people think and say about you” is the next piece of miserable advice. Be touchy and thin-skinned, ready in an instant to be offended. Stay ever vigilant for people you can put on your “bad” list, and never let them off – no matter how repentant they may be. Do your duty and carry the grudge to your grave.

“Expect to be appreciated” is the third commandment of misery. Just know that when someone starts a sentence with the words “I would like to thank…” that your name will soon be spoken. Keep in mind that the whole world is grateful for your presence, and it would be to their great loss to not have you. The ensuing disappointment should help heighten the misery. Another year-end tip is for the self-seeker to “cultivate suspicion, jealousy and envy.” Sprinkle these flavorings over top of your thoughts, and they will naturally find their way into your words. You may not even notice, but these barbs and thorns will do their work in distancing friends and relatives from you. It is then that you may suffer new hurts and build upon self-pity.

“Be sensitive to slights and never forgive a criticism.” How unfair for us to not be chosen first or to ever be considered the least desirable. “Everybody is against me – or at least they are not all applauding me as they should” is our thought on this suggestion.

“Trust nobody but yourself.” Nope! Always do your personal research and back it up on your own. Verify, verify, because you have been let down before by these people and you are just too sharp to let it happen again. The “self-made” person has too much investment in life to allow its trust to be handed to others.

The next advice for perfect misery also comes to us easily, as we enjoy “insisting upon special considerations.” Can you not make an allowance “just this once” for me? We think that others don’t realize who we are, or maybe they have not yet heard about us. After all the good we have done and the blessing we have been, you would think they could at least show a little appreciation!

Why is it not my right to “demand that others agree with my views and opinions?” I am right, after all, and deserve to be viewed as such. It would be deplorable for some upstart person to oppose my thoughts and convictions. Why is it that others cannot come to the same conclusions as I? Something must be wrong with everyone, and that is too bad. If only they could be like me!

Our humanity really goes for the advice that we “shirk your duties and responsibilities as often as you can.” Amen! It’s about time! I have always known that, and finally somebody else agrees with me. “Years ago,” says one, “I practiced on my brothers and sisters and nearly became expert in plying this trade. My teachers at school didn’t buy into it so easily, and neither did the court system or law enforcement. Moving from job to job, spouse to spouse and alibi to alibi, it’s not perfect yet, but progress is being made – I think.”

To wrap up our late-December suggestions, “Do as little as possible for other people.” Why do I have to be their slave, anyway? Remember the line from a song back in the ’60s: “Why is everybody always pickin’ on me?” That is exactly right! All these other people are here for me to use, so I’m just being practical. It goes hand-in-glove with dismissing my responsibilities and makes a neat package. They can clean up my mess of life, as I am too busy being important. There is a lot that I must do, and on top of all that, I have to be so miserable! It’s not my choice; I have such a burden as this because of so many people. It’s their fault. Don’t they realize that if I didn’t do all this for them, they would have to suffer like I am suffering? There should be some recognition. Where is the award for me?

Happy New Year! There is a new and better way than “my” way. A baby boy was born miraculously, who grew up and said that He was “The Way.” This man backed up His words with true miracles and a perfectly sinless life. There is a Book written about Him that is authored and authorized by God Himself. We cannot say His name because it would not conform to proper politics, and besides, there are some folks who pay close attention to what others say. Their feelings could get hurt, and they might be offended. We can tell you that if you have exercised the “Ten Commandments for Perfect Misery” so far in life, and although they work very well for you, you might choose to start 2017 with something a whole lot less miserable.

This One who tells us that He is The Way says in the God-authored book in reply to a certain lawyer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27). If you will receive Him and seriously study His Book, you’ll gladly say: “Goodbye misery, and hello 2017.”

God bless you this New Year.

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.