Elusive Happiness

I hesitate to say its been a rough month, because of course it is all relative. The office hasn’t been much fun. We’ve experienced a bit of change, some of which resulted in people losing their jobs. Not easy to watch. For the most part, those who were laid off are handling it very well. Most looking forward to their next chapters or not stressing too much about what is coming, I’m very proud and inspired by them. I’m sure there is bitterness or confusion, but they seem to be looking ahead. However, what has caught my attention more so than their responses, has been the responses of those around them. Meaning: the people with jobs. You would have thought by the negativity, grumbling, and anger that we all lost our jobs. Not to mention those who have tried to profit from the changes. Why is it those with something are never satisfied with what they have? It all presents this idea of an elusive happiness. We all seek to be happy and want more in life. We want wealth, acceptance, love, peace, appreciation, etc. Daily I am surrounded by people whose salary is greater than 90% of the U.S. population (if you want to get your own reality check, search for median salary in the United States) and yet they feel underpaid and under appreciated. And don’t even get me started as to what we have versus the rest of the world. The median income worldwide is $7,000. MOST countries it is less than $1,700. I keep threatening my boss to bring a slideshow to my office about how the rest of the world lives. We need a little perspective.

But this isn’t just my office. This is everywhere. We live in a society focused on what we have and what we don’t have. Everyday we are bombarded with ads that tell us what we need. They tell us what will make us happy. And then we get those things, and we still aren’t happy. We continue to go after more and more in search for happiness. But worse than the increasing debt or inhibited generosity, is the entitlement we develop. We believe we are entitled to the newest car, the best phone, the cutest clothes. We work hard, so we deserve these things.

Let me stop a moment and discuss working hard. Now, I feel that I work pretty hard. I’m always busy, finding ways to fill my time if no immediate work is brought to me. And I’m not afraid to work the long hours or do the hard labor when necessary, but after reading a book about the life of women in Congo… I’ve discovered that I’ve never experienced hard work. Hard work is walking miles and miles to carry as much water as humanly possible (and after hearing the actual weight of the water, it is not humanly possible for me, even with all my yoga training 🙂 ) Hard work is spending an entire day (and they don’t think 8 hours is an entire day) working to make one dollar to feed your family. Yet, these women do not feel entitled to objects of entertainment for their hard work. It never crosses their mind, because all they are trying to do is SURVIVE.

Entitlement is an ugly thing. It creates the ugliest of situations. Think about the child that throws the over the top fit in the middle of the grocery store because he wants the lollipop his mother is denying him. Most of us shake our head at that child. Now consider your behavior, how many times have you behaved this way? Come on, you know you have. When life hasn’t worked out as you expected or someone offends you or treats you differently than you believe you deserve. Or worse than that, what about when this child watches another child get that lollipop, now the temper tantrum has been taken to a whole new level. IT’S NOT FAIR!! How do you respond when someone else gets what you want? I embarrassingly admit that I, not too long ago– I wish I could say I was a teenager– cried because someone else had new and attractive clothes to wear and I am still wearing the same things from two years ago. I literally cried. Not a proud moment for me. After about five minutes, I realized… my God… people are literally dying because they have no food and I’m upset because I have nothing to wear. What a fool I am, why do I think I deserve more than them?

As I’ve said many times, we got lucky. We were born into a nation of luxury. I’m not talking about the Mercedes in a driveway or the Gucci in the closet, I’m talking about the opportunities that we are afforded just because of the location of our birth. As an American, I am afforded rights that women across the world are denied. Even the poorest of our nation are considered rich by the world’s standards. We did nothing to deserve this. We are not entitled to this luxuries. We just got lucky.

This luck is a gift. What are we choosing to do with this gift? WIth the gift of a job and an income that provides for you and your family, what are you doing with it? Are you allowing it to turn you into someone who is entitled or are you using it to better the lives of those who didn’t get as lucky as you? Are you focused on what more you can have or are you focused on what more you can give away?

I challenge you to stop the next time that you think you “need” or “deserve” something to stop, put that credit card back in your wallet and find a more worthy way to spend that money. I typically don’t like church signs, Andy and I have a game of finding the most ridiculous ones. But the other day I found one that redeems all the others, it said, “You aren’t living life until you give to someone that can never repay you.” Too often we give in ways that we can get something back, such as recognition, better education for our kids, a better community in which to live, a better museum, etc. When was the last time you gave to someone that could NEVER repay you? Maybe find a way to do that. I bet that is closer to happiness than that iphone you are holding.

“Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.”  ~St. Augustine

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