Tag Archives: happiness

Genuine Happiness Is Never Found By Focusing on Self

 

One In C. S. Lewis’ account of his early life, Surprised by Joy, Lewis begins by writing about the two family strains that had come together to give him life. On his father’s side . . .

By the way, Dr. J. D. Grey, for many years pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Church, used to tell the story of a little lad who lived a long way from his paternal grandmother. When the boy went with his father to the railway station to pick her up, she hugged him and said, “Young man, I’m your grandmother on your father’s side.” To which the lad replied, “That may be, but you won’t be in the house ten minutes before you figure out that you’re on the wrong side!”

On his father’s side, Lewis descended from Welshmen: “sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and to tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal and who had not much of the talent for happiness.”

Lewis’ mother, however, like her family, was a woman of “cheerful and tranquil affection.” Her people “had the talent for happiness in a high degree” and “went straight for it as experienced travelers go for the best seat in a train.”

You’ve probably noticed long ago that not only is not everyone happy, a good many folks seem to possess little or no “talent” for happiness at all.

I don’t mean to be cynical, and I don’t think I’m telling you something you don’t already know, but you probably can’t make unhappy folks happy no matter what you do, and I suspect it’s unwise to waste too much time trying.

Some folks are unhappy at work. They’re unhappy at school. They’re unhappy at the Little League park. They’re unhappy at the grocery store, at the church, at the bank, and at the barber shop. See a pattern?

The sad fact is that unhappy people tend to spread their unhappiness like chicken pox in a kindergarten class; it seems to be a sad law that unhappy people never seem closer to a twisted sort of happiness than when they’re busy making other people unhappy. Misery does indeed love company.

Until unhappy folks make a decision to be happy, they won’t be. Not only can you not make them happy, if you spend a good bit of your time trying, you will only succeed in becoming the unhappiest of all. Even if you get a little fleeting smile out of them if you stand on your head and stack a dozen or so BBs on your nose, they’ll suddenly remember that they knew somebody back in Kansas who was able to do the same thing except he stacked two dozen BBs in the air sideways while singing “Climb Every Mountain.”

People who want to be unhappy almost certainly will be. So what to do?

Be sure you’re not one of them. (Focusing on Christ and on others and on your blessings and not on your own navel will go a long way toward producing happiness under your own hat.) Love them by behaving in Christlike ways toward them. Pray for them. Model thankful and joyful living as you thank God with every breath that he has taught you how to find happiness by focusing outside yourself.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


An Entitlement Mentality Is Deadly to Souls

 

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“This entitlement mentality is going to kill our nation.”

Repeatedly, we hear modern-day “prophets” mouthing that combination complaint-diagnosis-warning. I take no pleasure in believing that those “prophets” are very likely right.

Paul Harvey used to warn, “Self-government without self-discipline will not work.”

The entitlement mentality of those who make heavy demands while failing to shoulder any responsibilities is poison. And I hate what happens to the souls of those who adopt “victim-hood” as their identity.

I hate it even worse when I see that entitlement mentality creeping into my own soul. Like a bum hitching a ride on a freight train, that sick way of thinking steals its way onto my heart. I may not see it jump on, but I can know it’s there when I catch myself grinching and grousing because of something I don’t have but wish I did, something I used to have but don’t have now, something I have but feel I should have much more of. My joy is being derailed.

I can know for sure that the greedy and grinchy intruder, a poisonous parasite, has attached itself to my soul when I find myself often asking with deep poignancy, “Am I happy?” thereby ensuring that I won’t be, can’t be.

Real happiness is a by-product of living a life not centered on self, a life genuinely focused on others and the Giver of life.

A self-centered, inward turned, navel-gazing, “poor pitiful me” sort of life makes its own life a hell and issues in a hellish existence for those around it. With eyes locked in a selfish death-gaze, it can’t know happiness. In truth, real happiness is the last thing it wants. It opts instead, in a thousand twisted, sick ways, to slavishly suck all the bitter poison out of living life focused inward.

To look outward and center on the well-being of others would be to find health and healing, but the price for happiness—to turn its back on self—is a price it is absolutely unwilling to pay. Literally, here and hereafter, it would rather focus on self in hell than on God in heaven.

Before he healed a sufferer, Jesus once asked, “Do you want to be healed?” It was a real question. And this real question comes to each of us. Do we want to be happy?

Take some time. Think about it. Answer truthfully. Saying “yes” will mean giving up perpetually playing the victim. It will mean focusing on what we have, not on what we don’t. It will mean genuinely, in practical ways, caring more about others than ourselves. It will mean giving up claims to what we love to think we’re entitled to, realizing that even the things we are sure we’ve earned by our hard work or pedigree or excellent character are, in fact, not our “due” but are God’s gifts.

In his fine book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg writes simply but truly, “You can’t be grateful for something you believe you are entitled to. And without a grateful heart, the soul suffers because the soul needs gratitude.”

An entitlement mentality doesn’t just kill nations. It kills souls. To choose to be grateful is to choose life and happiness.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Chasing Happiness Is the Recipe for Unhappiness

 

happiness

Are you happy?

If that question catches you off guard and you’ve really not thought of asking it in a long time, chances are good that you really are. Happy, that is.

The best way to be unhappy is to spend a lot of time asking yourself often, with deep feeling, and poignancy, “Am I happy?”

Another sure-fire path to unhappiness is to spend a lot of time around: 1) navel-gazers always asking themselves if they are happy, and, 2) folks who feel guilty when they are happy (as in “content”) too long.

Chase happiness as a goal and you’ll always chase it away. It won’t and can’t be produced that way because by its very nature, real happiness is the sweet fruit of living a life not centered on self.

Happy people are so unfocused on themselves that they are almost always surprised when a bothersome busybody like me asks, “Hey, are you happy?” Their reaction? “Well, I’ve not thought about it much . . .” That’s a key, you see. “But, yeah, now that you mention it, I really am.”

I’ve tried to think of some common qualities the happiest people I know seem to share.

The happiest people I know come from families who are good at being happy. If you don’t, don’t despair. Somebody has to choose to get the happiness trend started. Might as well be you. If you don’t know how to, get help. It’s available. By the way, happy people know that making excuses for being unhappy means planning to stay unhappy, so they are brutally honest with themselves and utterly refuse the sick “pleasure” of playing the victim.

The happiest people I know understand something about balance. They work and play equally well, in ways that build up and don’t tear down.

The happiest people I know like their work but love their lives and know that work is just part of their lives, not the whole show. I’ve known over-achievers I’d say seem happy but their “Type A-ness” is more a challenge to their happiness than conducive to it. And it can be challenging indeed to the happiness of those near them.

The happiest people I know take pleasure in recognizing small things as great blessings. Sunrises, sunsets, naps, flowers, grandkids, puppies, good books, good food, sweet songs, hugs.

The happiest people I know realize that “bigger and more” only rarely add up to “better.”

The happiest people I know laugh often and know that life is far too serious business to always take seriously or to always be business.

The happiest people I know invest time in friends they not only can trust but whom they can trust themselves to. Real friends around whom they are always lifted up, not convenient counterfeit friends who bring needless pain and shame.

The happiest people I know are deeply content and not ashamed of it. It’s a balance thing. Not stagnant at all, neither are they “driven.” They enjoy their own company, but also have deep friendships. They have goals but keep their eyes open to the joys along the road. They know instinctively that it is on the journey, and not in reaching the goal, that life happens.

The happiest people I know not only love life, they love the God who gives them life. They know he loves them and that when he looks at them, which is always, he looks at them with eyes filled with a Father’s joy.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Genuine Happiness Is Worth Some Genuine Sacrifices

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“Happiness is worth a lot to me,” a good friend, colleague, and mentor of mine once told his boss as he made a decision that would lead to his leaving the company.

“Well, so what? Isn’t happiness worth a lot to everybody?” his boss replied.

“No,” my friend replied truthfully and I think with unusual wisdom, “it is not—not to everybody.”

I’ve thought of that exchange often. My friend’s words may mean more when I tell you that he is very motivated and one of the best businessmen I know.

I haven’t conducted any polls, scientific or otherwise, to shed light on the percentages involved, but I’d speculate that more people than not so “naturally” equate “bigger and more” with better and happier—a bigger title, a bigger salary, more responsibility, more prestige, more power, increased “upward mobility,” etc.—that they hardly even consider that “bigger and more” might not mean “happier.”

Oh, it might. Aside from the fact that none of us can actually “make” anybody happy and that people who really want to be unhappy are almost always very good at getting their wish, sometimes, though not nearly as often as we think, bigger and more actually is better.

I have known some remarkably unselfish and praiseworthy folks who seem absolutely gifted by God in leadership, business skill, organization-building, etc., who have honored God in everything they’ve done. And they seem happy to me.

But every bit as impressive to me are folks I know who have realized that, in this decision or that goal, if they didn’t believe God was calling them in one direction or the other, if it was more a career choice than a moral choice, more a geographical choice than a spiritual choice, they recognized that real happiness often lies in living “peaceful and quiet lives” and “being content with what you have.” I can hardly imagine two biblical admonitions that would more squarely slap our sick society full across the face!

But what good, after all, is a bigger house if the job you’ve taken to pay for it means you are never home?

A very common and oft-repeated error some people make, author Philip Gulley writes, is to “mistake contentment for stagnation.” In truth, the most genuinely productive, creative, and joyful people I know are those who are among the most deeply contented.

Trust the Lord for your true contentment. Do your job “as honoring the Lord.” And I suspect that more than a few opportunities will come your way for advancement.

But be sure to look them over carefully and prayerfully. Not every opportunity for advancement is an opportunity for increased happiness or real contentment or genuine service. Even if this world can’t begin to understand Christ’s words, God’s people can believe them: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Happy indeed is the person who knows that more money, more power, more prestige does not necessarily mean more genuine happiness.

 

 

Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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