How to Be Happy – By Stephen Fry


“Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have. More than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins – is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred’s a subset of self pity and not the other way around – ‘It destroys everything around it, except itself .’

Self pity will destroy relationships, it’ll destroy anything that’s good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it’s so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky. All those things. And some of them may well even be true. But, to pity oneself as a result of them is to do oneself an enormous disservice.

I think it’s one of things we find unattractive about the american culture, a culture which I find mostly, extremely attractive, and I like americans and I love being in america. But, just occasionally there will be some example of the absolutely ravening self pity that they are capable of, and you see it in their talk shows. It’s an appalling spectacle, and it’s so self destructive. I almost once wanted to publish a self help book saying ‘How To Be Happy by Stephen Fry : Guaranteed success’. And people buy this huge book and it’s all blank pages, and the first page would just say – ‘ Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – And you will be happy ‘. Use the rest of the book to write down your interesting thoughts and drawings, and that’s what the book would be, and it would be true. And it sounds like ‘Oh that’s so simple’, because it’s not simple to stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s bloody hard. Because we do feel sorry for ourselves, it’s what Genesis is all about.”

― Stephen Fry

Love this simple and effective take on the ease of happiness. We often get caught up in thinking that 10 to 2,000 other things, distant objects in the future, are the keys to our happiness, when in fact the simple key is “ease.” When presented with less than ideal circumstances, we can choose to resist or struggle, or opt to accept them without the need to wallow in self-pity. By releasing the need to control the outcome of every situation, we allow ourselves to respond to each moment as it comes. And that’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to master the art of feeling sorry for oneself.

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12 thoughts on “How to Be Happy – By Stephen Fry

  1. I adore Stephen Fry and this is a wonderful reminder – not easily accomplished, and needs to be kept in the forefront, or at least hanging from the cork board over one’s desk! 🙂

  2. Ah, Genesis. Daisetz Suzuki, the Japanese expositor of Zen Buddhism and its culture, in considering the Judeo-Christian tradition at a conference in 1953, said “Let’s see,” rubbing his sides in a peculiar fashion, “Nature against Man, Man against Nature; God against Man, Man against God; God against Nature, Nature against God…very funny religion!”

  3. never heard of stephen fry, but lately i have been reminiscing all the lovely friendships I shared and destroyed – because i couldn’t love myself, I was so critical of every one else

  4. Boy do I love this!! Funny how we have to live a lot of years before the WISDOM gene kicks in. I love the idea of your book! You should seriously print it and I bet it would be a BESTSELLER!! And also would you mind sending one to all the politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle “non gratis” and tell them to STOP TRYING TO FIX everything on OUR DIME!! We can do most of it ourselves if you will stop babying us and enabling us. Whining about everything means enjoying nothing in life! Great blog!

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