Up on the Rooftop—Finding Happiness that Lasts

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 27, 2011

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This past winter, I noticed a leak from the ceiling of one of our outbuildings, and inspection of the roof revealed that the wood shakes (thick wood shingles) were in terrible condition. The roof was beyond simple repair, so I began the process of replacement, assisted by my son. Tearing off the old shakes proved to be a much more difficult process than I would have supposed. Each individual shingle was attached to the roof with several nails, and there were thousands of them. I'm not as young as I once was, so by the time we had removed the old roof, every muscle and tendon in my body ached. My bones hurt. My hair hurt.

The next day we rolled on the felt underlayer, and then we nailed the shingles, about a thousand square feet of them. I'm sure a professional roofing crew—with greater experience and better equipment—could have done this job in much less time. But we were just a couple of guys figuring this out as we worked, up on the rooftop in the hot sun. By the end I was so sore that I could hardly stand.

As we worked, it occurred to me that there were many similarities between the leak I was repairing in the roof and the leaks I had seen develop in many people's lives, including my own. Rain of some kind falls on us nearly every day: unkind comments, injustices, inconveniences, fears, and so on. If we lack sufficient Real Love—and the ultimate power and protection that accompany that love—the rain pours in through the leaks in our roofs to the point that we have no chance at happiness whatever. We strain to plug the leaks with our fingers, chasing one crisis after another, but our efforts are hopeless. When the roof is rotten, it must be replaced.

The emotional roof repair begins with removal of the old material, which means removing the old patterns of behavior. It means telling the whole truth about our anger and other protective lies. It means giving up the treasured position of acting like a victim that has long given us so much reward. It means recognizing that being right has never made us happy. It means beginning the process of being truthful about our selfishness, as opposed to continually identifying the selfishness of others. It means admitting to ourselves that the old way of living has simply not worked, and making a commitment that we will not continue living that way.

Emotional roof replacement is bone-crunching work. Eliminating old patterns of behavior is painful and often not immediately rewarding. Rarely does anybody stop by and say, "Wow, nice work. You're doing such a nice job of tearing off that old roof." It's just messy and dirty and exhausting. But it simply has to be done before we can get to the business of putting on a new roof, where we can be dry and warm.

Then begins the building process of putting on a new roof. This means more truth telling. This means telling people that when we're angry, we're wrong. It means that instead of feeling victimized by someone, we recognize their needs and reach out to do something to help them. It means recognizing the contributions that others are making, instead of calling attention to our own. It means doing far more than just getting loved. It means looking for whatever opportunities we can find to be loving, to be compassionate to others. It means being a source of kindness, healing, and strength to everyone around us. It means realizing that there are no shortcuts in building, and committing to do what it takes in the long haul to build the roof—to achieve genuine happiness, whatever the personal cost.

As we build this roof, it will shelter us and bring us great comfort. It will also provide a place where we can invite others to come and enjoy our shelter while they work on their own roofs. Sure, this roofing can sometimes seems like a lot of work, but when we understand what we're doing, it can always be a source of joy—even while we're hammering in the hot sun, callouses and all—to us and to those around us.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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