I make the mistake sometimes of thinking everyone else is like me and experiences the same ups and downs that I do. I know we all have peaks and valleys in our lives, but I am certain that your experience is very different than mine – or maybe not. Solomon did say, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9)
Last night I had the opportunity to meet my son’s future in-laws. They seem to be really good, decent people. As I sat at dinner and saw just how happy my son is, and the joy this young women brings to his life, I found myself sharing in that moment of happiness. To put it more succinctly, “I found happiness in seeing someone else happy.” That may not sound very profound, or enlightened, but it was vivid reminder that we get lost when we pursue happiness and find it in surprising places when we seek the happiness of others.
I can be extremely selfish at times. I want my space! I want to be left alone! I want those things I think will make me happy. In those moments when I am caught up in my own wants and desires, I tend to be the most unhappy. I create a state of discontentment that wars against the very thing I desire.
The happiest people I know are the most selfless. Yes, they get taken advantage of at times. Yes, they may even seem a little naive when it comes to the motives and actions of others, but as a trusted mentor told me once, “It’s always better to err on the side of benevolence.”
Last week I was on vacation in Florida and saw this older gentleman on the of the road with a sign that read, “homeless veteran” or something like that. I quickly pulled out a dollar and gave it to the man. Those of you who know me best, also know that I believe in helping people, but not enabling them. My wife, who also understands this about me looked at me with that “are you alright” kind of look. My response was, “He may be a bum, panhandler, or scam artist, but today I choose to err on the side of benevolence.”
I am 54 years old and somehow I still haven’t learned the lesson, “life is not about me.” Jesus put us on this planet to serve others. I am happiest in those moments I am trying to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. I can’t understand why it is so hard for me to embrace that concept and hide it in my heart.