A Terrible Idea
Most people in this world just seek to be happy. They seek it so very dearly that they will go to incredibly great lengths to obtain it. In its name alone countless decisions, often painful, have been and continually are made. Traditional wisdom would have taught that this is the only way; that to achieve happiness often requires certain personal sacrifices. Yet in more recent years people seem to be questioning this was ever true.
Now people think that maybe it isn't necessary to give to then receive or that to ever improve requires ever the change. They say that maybe there's another way, a better way. Their way. And quite conveniently the new solution requires little effort. What is it then that you must do you might ask? Well, it's simple: 'just be yourself.' This sort of wisdom leads to a certain pride, where the individual refuses to recognize the shortcomings of their own self. It certainly is the easier path, but one that will only lead to destruction.
The problem is not that we can't reach any sort of happiness in such a way. Rather, it's that we fool ourselves into believing that what feeling we might receive from just accepting ourselves 'just the way we are' is the best we can do. Because to put it quite bluntly it's not.
For truly people are often just terrible. We are often selfish, and each decision is a means to an end. This isn't a casual observance, but rather quite simply an innate truth of the human condition. And why should we be any different? Some innate part of us is aware when we do the wrong thing, is it not? It is a simple truth that when one does some bad thing it is more than often in one's own interest, rather than another.
And if we find ourselves so held back by any number of insufficiency, to the degree we know we are, why is it that we should simply accept ourselves? We so often find the idea in our culture that these very things that we find insufficient in our selves are the very things we are told to simply accept.This acceptance, of course, being simmered down to the buzzwords of 'just being yourself.'
Let us Heed Reason
But the fact is in listening to this logic, we fail to heed reason. As culture we need to stop seeking the easy way out. For in taking this shallow, selfish route to happiness, we lose so much more than we gain.
As it is put in the Bible, it is said:
"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down,shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
The implications of this are truly astounding. That, in holding ourselves to a higher standard, a good standard, a moral standard, we might find deeper happiness is truly wise. But this passage says as much about giving as it does about receiving.
Raise the Standard
As established, our self-centeredness is an insufficiency of the human condition, this much is true. But it doesn't mean we need to have so low a standard for ourselves. A person who is just themselves is not only a person who gives in to their insufficiency but rather accepts them. Such a passage as the one previously mentioned calls us to be more than that. Such a passage calls us to sacrifice.
The reason it may be so tempting so as to accept the current narrative is because change is hard. Improvement is hard. For truly such things take time.For truly, such things are a sacrifice. And not only do they take time, not only are they a sacrifice, but they don't make us feel good.
And maybe that's another problem with the current narrative. We have an obsession with feeling good. That the right thing has to feel good- before and after. But that's not what constitutes a sacrifice. At least not a real one.That's why self-centeredness can never bring true fulfillment; true happiness.
Give that you may Receive
As the simple idea of give and take would imply, the level of happiness you can receive might directly correlate to the amount you sacrifice. And that's exactly what the bible passage is getting at. Anything that is not sacrificial is not truly giving, at least not in the sense this passage is getting at.
The context of this passage is a substantial one. In this passage Jesus is proclaiming to the people the beatitudes, which run thus:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you an utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
These would later become the tenets of what Christianity stands for. The virtues of mercy, spirituality, and compassion. These are meant to show the people the way to heaven. Or, in other words, the path to true happiness.
And Jesus continues, in doing so he says:
"For if you love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them."
The idea is clear. True happiness is not found within oneself; in being self-serving. Rather it is found in sacrifice. The sacrifice that comes with helping others with their woes, with as much conviction as we might outgrown.
The beatitudes explain the struggles one will face, ones that come in every sort of sacrifice. But they also affirm something; they affirm that in the end,the struggle is worth it.
That in sacrificing what we think is happiness, we can find so much more.