Thoughts on Value

A Prayer for Happiness

Being happy seems to be the ultimate thing people want these days. I hear it all the time, from parents to friends, we like to express our good intentions by  saying, “I only want you to be happy.” In our culture, to be happy, to constantly find that state of happiness, is an obsession. Yet happiness, like success, like wealth, like beauty, is an outcome, and the important thing to remember about these outcomes is that when you chase the outcome and forget the essential ingredients you’ll lose it. Let me explain. Take a beautiful girl. When a girl chases beauty, she becomes conceited and vain, and I don’t care what marketing says, a conceited and vain girl is ugly. Her’s is a manufactured beauty with a single shallow purpose: attract. Someone trying too hard to be beautiful becomes ugly. Be someone who is not so desperate to attract. Be someone who is generous, kind, affectionate, caring, and become more and more attractive without the ugly “trying hard”. Beauty is most beautiful when it is the outcome of a beautiful soul lived out in a beautiful life NOT when it is the concern. The world doesn’t become more beautiful through individuals seeking their own beauty. The world becomes more beautiful through all of us seeking to make others beautiful. Take a man who chases wealth. In his desire to make money, he impoverishes himself of everything else, his health, his relationships, his dignity, his principles. He made wealth his goal yet in his chase he became poor. Businesses are not sustainably profitable when all they chase is profit. Yet businesses that provide value over and over find sustained profit. Be the man who chased value, to create, deliver, and capture value for others, and find yourself becoming richer and richer in every way. The simple points: Chase your own beauty, and you’ll find yourself becoming ugly. Chase your own success, and you’ll impoverish yourself  of true success. Chase yourself, like a dog chasing its own tale, a man who chases his own ends, ends up running in a sad circle. Happiness is the same thing. Chase your own happiness and you’ll never be happy. The common mistake is thinking this: More of the things I want will make me happy. If I want recognition, and I get more recognition, I’ll be happy. If I want more money, and I get more money, I’ll be happy. If I want validation, and I get more validation, I’ll be happy. If I want comfort, and I get more comfort, I’ll be happy. If I want security, and I get more security, I’ll be happy. If I want success, and I get more success, I’ll be happy. If I want love, and I get more love, I’ll be happy. The more “I” have of the things “I” want, “I” will be happy. We try to make this sound more reasonable, and even noble by adding: And if “I” am happy, “I” can make others happy. This is why we subscribe to the very popular saying: “Love yourself first.” I disagree. Why? Because happiness, true happiness, comes from experiencing beauty that is beyond you, it is the beauty of being loved and loving others. Can’t we give love to ourselves and receive love from ourselves? Yes, we can. We do it all the time. That’s called selfishness. Selfishness is simply loving ourselves more than others. Please take note, I didn’t say “most” but “more”. You don’t have to be the proudest person to be selfish. We’re all guilty of being selfish when we put ourselves as more important than others, by others, I mean anyone. We are selfish when we make ourselves more important than anyone. And selfish love does not compare to generous love. It does not come close. Here is a sure disaster: live for self-gratification and call it “loving myself”. Can one gratify himself and die to himself at once? One cannot love himself and die to himself at the same time. How can that be possible? Loving myself says, “I make “me” priority. I make “me” most important.” That is not the thinking nor the language of someone about to lay himself down. Why will anyone who is “most important” lay his life for someone who is “less important”? No. He is fooling himself. He thinks he is wise for loving himself. Yet like the man chasing wealth, and the woman chasing beauty, the man chasing his own happiness, impoverishes himself of that which he seeks. If one lives for himself than he cannot die to himself. If he cannot die to himself he will not lay his life for others. If one does not lay his life down than he does not have love. How can anyone be happy without love? We were designed to love someone else more deeply than we love ourselves, and in the process preview God’s great love for us. Most of all, we were designed to immerse in God’s love continuously. Letting Him fill us and wash away our pride, fear, and shame over and over, making us humbler, purer, and free – and there is no partly free. Can a person be half a prisoner and half a free man? One is either freed by love or still a prisoner of pride and fear.  If happiness has been elusive, it’s time to try something new. It’s time to stop seeking your own happiness. It’s time to look for another source other than yourself AND another destination other than yourself. If you fear a lot, try something new: serve others more. It will embolden you. It will show you hope in practice. If you are willing to admit you are proud, try something new: truly lay your life daily for others. It will humble you and show you that we are mere participants in things more beautiful than us. We are honored to simply be a part. If you are full of shame and guilt, try something new: serve those, especially those without merit. It will remind you that mercy exists. And if mercy exists for them, mercy exists for you. Finally, if you are full of yourself, that means you are empty of love, and you’re most probably a liability to others, draining them dry because of your never-ending “I” “I” “I”, “me” “me” “me”.  Try something new. Get down on your knees and empty yourself in humility. Pray this simple prayer: Father, I am sorry for making myself most important.  I admit that I have been proud and selfish. Please forgive me.  I make you MOST important. I will make most important the people you’ve placed for me to love.  Please fill me with Your love that I may love rightly and abundantly,  without pride, without fear, without expiration.  Please remind me over and over and over because I am forgetful and desperate for love.  Please keep me close to You that I will continuously experience the vastness and indescribable beauty of your radical love. Amen.