Tag Archives: unselfishness

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.

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The Guiding Principle of Heaven Is . . .

 

 

brokenheart

In telling the story of his own conversion to Christianity, C. S. Lewis recalls George MacDonald’s striking words: “The one principle of hell is—‘I am my own.’”

But what if I’m not?

In our society, our culture, our world, our country, our very souls, we’re obsessed with the idea that we can almost have heaven right here if we just “get our own rights.” But what if that’s exactly backwards? What if the truly happiest person is the one who claims no rights?

Be careful with that thought. It might explode our heads.

What if I have a horrible progressive disease, and, with all my heart, I’d like to spare myself and my family the horrors ahead? What if “assisted suicide” is incredibly tempting? What if I find myself wondering if it would be the most selfish act in the world—or the least? But then I realize, “I’m not my own.”

What if I’m a woman considering abortion, but I find not only that the little one I carry inside me is not really “mine” but is God’s? And even I myself am “not my own”? What then?

Or much less agonizing . . .

I really don’t feel like going to church on this particular Sunday. I’m not so much sick as just a little “sick and tired.” Sure would like to sleep in! It’s my own little decision, right? No big deal. But what if I’m really not my own? What if what I feel like doing matters much less than what my Lord deserves and what others need me to do to be encouraging?

If “I am my own” is the guiding principle of hell, what if “I am not my own” truly is the guiding principle of heaven?

What if, not only what I do, who I marry, where I live, how I treat my kids, and literally everything else is completely colored by this startling truth? What if, because “I am not my own,” I can’t say anything I like or indulge myself in any bad attitude I care to adopt?

What if, if I’m His, I find myself acting not only as if “I’m mine” but as if my money is mine? What if I find myself living exactly at the same standard as others at my income level who claim no commitment to my Lord?

What if I allow myself to be as gossipy at work, as mean at the restaurant, as critical at church, as self-centered at home as . . . anyone else?

What if I find myself acting as if “I am my own” when the Apostle Paul’s words are quite literally true? “You are not your own. You were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6)?

What if my thought life, my work life, my home life, my sex life, my financial life, my play life, my life—is not mine? What if I’m not my own?

If that is true, it makes all the difference in this world. And in the next.

If it’s not true, then we should just roll over, go back to sleep, wake up, and get on with the business of demanding our own way all the time.

But I warn you, once we start thinking, “I might not be mine. In fact, if I have a real commitment to Christ, I’m certainly not,” then . . .

Then everything is changed and all tables are turned.

It’ll spin your head around.

 

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

      

  

Copyright 2016 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

 

entitlement

“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.

 


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