Let me first say that I realize there are a ton of articles, opinions and psychological explanations out there about this topic. Feel free to peruse those at your leisure. What I am going to share in this post is simply how it was explained to me many years ago and how it has impacted my life.
As my friend Hollis, may he rest in peace, used to say, “Take what you like, toss the rest!”
Think about the “happiest” people you know… what do you think makes them happy?
Think about your own happiness… if you are happy, GREAT! If you are not, what is missing in your life compared to those “happy” people you thought about a moment ago?
The paradox is this:
In the pursuit of happiness, am I focused on ME or am I focused on OTHERS?
The happiest people I know are those who are OTHERS focused. Looking for ways to serve, add value and give back to those who may be in need.
Some of the most unhappy people I know, including myself at times, have been ME focused. Selfishly seeking “happiness” in what the world has to offer and the accumulation of “stuff.”
What this is saying, is that should you find yourself in a funk, a little depressed or feeling stuck in a rut… go find someone to do something for. Serve them in some capacity, with no expectations for repayment or recognition. Simply serve them.
What happens? 2 people become happy! They do, because you fulfilled a need in their life at that moment and YOU do because you helped someone.
CAUTION: I am not promoting people pleasing and codependency! Just like with anything, too much can create unhealthy habits and turn something GOOD into something BAD.
This also does not mean that you should ignore or neglect yourself in this. In fact, it’s the exact opposite! How much more motivated are you going to be to show some self love, when you feel happy about who you are, where you are and what you are up to?
I came across this as I was preparing to write this blog, it is kind of lengthy, but I think it spells out what I am trying to say much more eloquently that I have above:
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Who wrote this? Paul the Apostle around AD 49. The above excerpt comes from The Message translation.
It always affirms me when I realize just how much of “how to do life” has been written and available to all of us for millenia.