Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happiness: Life With A Happy Face or A Life Well Lived

One of the things that separate us humans from animals is the pursuit of a meaningful life. All too often, however, we choose to be like animals in solely pursuing pleasure and happiness, and avoiding pain at all costs, with no thought of adding more meaning to our existence. We have a choice to make and it is an either/or equation: we can choose a life of happiness, as most people define that word, of we can choose to pursue a meaningful life, but we can’t have both. 

By pursuing a meaningful life, I am referring to seeking to become all that God created you to become, to living a life in service to others and contribution to the world around you. I am not suggesting that such people never experience happiness, only that it is less frequent. Or so it seems to me.

People who pursue the Happy Life don’t give a lot of thought to the transcendent and so aren’t all that into sacrifice, service, and contribution. Life is all about me: my needs and my desires. The idea of a Transcendent God with claims upon the people He created is NOT a happy idea. “You want me to what? Uh, I don’t think so.”  

Happy People don’t spend much time thinking of the past or the future: only this moment in time. For people seeking a meaningful life, however, their pasts are always being mined for wisdom, their present is the anvil upon which they are hammering out the self they are to become, and their futures are filled with possibilities for more sacrifice and service. This is fulfilling and meaningful, for sure, but not always all that much fun.

There are days when I wish I could forget about meaningfulness, about quests to becoming all God intended and to giving my life in service to a cause that transcends my existence. Some days a life lived on the surface is appealing: just turn the brain off and hang a sign on the closed door to my soul that says, Gone Fishing. When I try to do this, however, I find that merely existing is far less interesting than truly living. As I have a very low threshold for boredom, and an abiding awareness that I am going to stand before my Creator and have to answer the question, “What did you do with all that I gave you, for my sake and for love’s sake?” before I know it, I am off on a new quest.

Happiness as a Life Well Lived
When our nation’s Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to securing our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, they were not thinking about our right to party-down. For these men, “happiness” referred to the good life, to a life well lived.  Most people today don’t think in such terms, but, rather, only think of “happiness” as surviving and finding as many opportunities as possible to put on a happy face. Of course, they have a “right” to do this. However, when you are at the end of your days, is this the life you want to look back on? Is this a life that when presented to God you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

You are not an accident. You are here on purpose, for a purpose. You have a mission, a divine assignment that you were given to accomplish. In order to pursue this unique mission you will need to become the individual who is fit for this task. This is the focus of the person who is intent upon having a meaningful life. For this person, the greatest happiness he can achieve in life is toward the end of his journey when he will look back and see how all the hard work and sacrifice that went into becoming and doing all God intended was used for his good and the well-being of others.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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