Feb 5, 2009

watered-down happiness

As much as I enjoy the friendships in my life, I am taking a stand that I want to invite you to take as well.

Stop wishing for your friends to be happy.

I know how that sounds, so hang with me.

There's a huge problem with having a friend whose greatest goal in life is to be happy, but it is an even bigger thing when you and I only propagate it.

Saying "Hey, who am I to judge? Just do whatever makes you happy!" - it's hypocritical... we don't mean it, even when we think we do.

This doesn't mean we don't want our friends to succeed or do well in life. This means that we often confuse what is larger than that. When our friends do something controversial, we often take the position that it's "none of our business" so we settle for clapping at half of the story instead of speaking into all of it.
This is a bit of a rehash of something I shared Sunday, but I think it bears repeating.
  • Imagine that a parent walks in on a child playing with a knife, and they're giggling about it. Does a good parent let a child play with a knife if it makes them happy? Of course not.

  • Or how about a husband/wife who finds out their wife/husband is having sex with someone else? The whole reason that cheating spouse did it is because it made them happy, right? Physically, at least... perhaps emotionally. There was probably a "very good reason why it happened," and it's probably all the other spouse's fault. According to the "whatever makes you happy" mentality, no one should care or say anything - including the non-cheating spouse - because it's all about happiness, and "they deserve it."

  • What about that buddy who likes their favorite vice? And it's draining their time, or money, or body? But it makes them happy. So drink/smoke/eat/purchase/inject on.

  • Or that neighbor who is all about their hobby or their toys at the expense of things that matter more. They keep shining it, and shining it, and shining it, and shining it... and yet the dirt keeps coming back because the dirt has never been permanently addressed.

  • Or that friend who "needs" to be with someone, but they won't do it in a healthy way, so they keep bouncing around from person to person with a wake of brokenness.

    I read today that 40% of the babies being born into this world are from unwed homes. I'm not commenting on how or why that happened, because none of us know every situation out there. Sometimes it's because of rape, but more often it's because of moments of passion that made everyone feel happy. Certainly the solution isn't always for those two people to get married, but the solution is for that statistic to not even be happening.
Right about now is the point when your defenses may have gone up. We often believe such conversation is "judgmental" and reject any constructive words as such. It's the phrase we often hear in our culture because it's easier to dismiss and label such words than it is do a critical inventory. Why is it when someone around us makes a lifestyle choice that is controversial and potentially destructive - be it to them, others, or the concept of something pure - that instead we say, "Hey, whatever makes you happy!"

It's because we don't care about them.

Maybe we think we care, but we don't... we care more about not offending than we do helping our friends see something their blind to. Or we think, "They're already down, and I don't want to appear like I'm pushing them down either."
  • If we did care, we'd tell them that their choice or their lifestyle is more destructive than they realize and will create ripples in their lives and others lives that are tremendously awkward.

  • Or we'd say, "I know you feel like punching so-and-so in the face, and yeah... it will feel good and natural... but that doesn't mean what feels good and natural is right and productive."

  • Or we'd challenge, "Quit being lazy. Your attitude is poisonous. You are tearing down the lives of people around you by simply slacking off."

  • Or we'd draw a line and say, "I love you... we're friends. But I will not allow you to do this any longer because your desire for self-satisfaction keeps having negative fall-out."

Why shouldn't we tell people to do whatever makes them feel happy?

Because they may be wrong.

And you may need a stronger spine if you truly are their friend.

You don't have to be jerk about it, but if you are their friend, you do have to be "about it." I love how Jesus handled this with a woman who was caught in adultery and the accusers around her. He spoke hard words to the accusers, because they were people who knew better... and He spoke restorative words to the woman, because she had been kicked down... but He did add this very important tag - "Go and sin no more."

Why do we skip that part when we talk about grace?

Simply put, if you had a booger on your face, would you want someone to tell you? Think about it - do you want to surround yourself with "yes" people who only tell you what sounds good? Who will hear your sob stories and only pat you on the back? Or do you want people who will hear your sob stories and pat you on the back while at the same time telling you, "You know, this is a pattern. I want to help you see and do something about this."

So... how is your answer any different than the one your friends would give?

Don't wish for your friend's happiness... wish for your friends to experience goodness and wholeness and righteousness. You may have to step on some toes to help your friends do this, but isn't it better to step on their toes and anchor them down than letting them run off the cliff?

The pursuit of happiness is something Americans have built into their DNA. Look around at the economy, state of relationships, counselor/psychologist themes, divorce rate, and so on.

It's not a philosophy that is really working out for us.

Instead, let's try aim for joy and goodness - that comes from pursuing God over self; sacrifice versus selfishness; self-control versus "I just sort of can't help it"; responsibility versus explanation.

It may seem a bit old school, but sometimes that's just what we need to get back to what really matters. And when that happens, the enduring reality of joy outweighs the temporary stroke of happiness.

"What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met" (Jesus, from Matthew 6:31-33, MSG)

One last thought - imagine if Jesus Christ chose personal "happiness" over the joy that comes from following the Father's will... which includes a cross and a lot of beatings. That would have made a big difference for Him, not to mention withdrawing the gift of salvation for us.

Thankfully, even when his friend Peter tried to prevent it He resisted.  I think He might have even called Peter "Satan" for doing so, too.


1 comment:

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

Great post...as usual...

Haven't see you around in a long time...what's up with THAT?