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I mentioned the second one on Sunday, so I thought I’d list them here. All the recent studies of how people become “happy” points to the same basic set of ideas: that things like money are important if you’re in a financial crisis, but money doesn’t actually add to happiness otherwise. Instead a happy life comes from having three basic things:
1. Fellowship or Community
This is something that’s easy to have while you’re in school, but takes work to develop afterwards… People who are “around” with whom you can meet spontaneously, talk about common troubles, share a meal, encourage and be encouraged by… Most people my age have “close” friends who live far away who we see a few times a year, but we really need something more than that: Friends (plural) with whom there is enough access (geographic proximity, and similar schedules) that we can meet “anytime.” I think this is why college grads in their late twenties often long for their college days. But the good news is that we can have “fellowship” without paying the tuition. It’s actually part of what God wants of us: to live in our communities, serving and being served.
2. Personal Growth
We talked about this on Sunday: people who grow are people who feel fulfilled. Greater personal growth = greater happiness and optimism, less personal growth = less happiness and optimism. Children are the most powerless people in society, and yet they are often the happiest. How so? We know. For some reason people sometimes think that that they’re too old to grow. God disagrees. A large part of our purpose here is to grow into the God-like person we were made to be. That means we all have a long way to go.
The key expression these days is “making a difference.” Everyone wants to “make a difference” but I think the biblical idea of “service” is closer to the mark. Jesus said that in His Kingdom, the greatest people are the ones who serve the most, who give the most. The problem is that we live in a society that says “you’ll be happiest serving yourself” but this self-service doesn’t actually fulfill. Paradoxically selflessly making a difference in other people’s lives is the most gratifying thing we can do.
Have any thoughts on this? Leave a comment.