What is the key to happiness? Every generation has been answering this is in many ways since the beginning of time. I have no doubt there are thousands of books out there guiding us in this pursuit. As another year passes in life, I realize I have wisdom still to gain, but in this one thing, I have learned all I need to know.
I understand this world has skewed the idea of love. It is a small word that pacts a whole lot of meaning. Unfortunately, the times we live in push an agenda of self, making it difficult to focus on loving others. We are busy reflecting on loving our self, honing our image, or leaving a legacy.
Don’t get me wrong, we should love ourselves. Actually, it is difficult to love others if we cannot love our self, first. Many things present challenges to loving our self. People take years to accept who they are and to be confidant and comfortable in loving whom they see in the mirror. I remind those I love how valuable they are, how worthy, and how loved, but I cannot force anyone to love themselves.
I was one of those people at one time, a very long time. I didn’t hate myself, but I had no feelings either way. I simply was. I was a daughter, a mother, a wife, but it ended there. I had no identity, no concept of me as a living soul, only a breathing one. It took some time alone with God to open the doors and gain the freedom to walk through. God led me to see who I am as He saw me, and I understood who I was with clarity and love. Once established, love became a word that I took serious in every part of my life.
Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:21)
This world has undeniably shrouded our vision of humanity. We no longer see people; instead, we see caution tape. We hold back far more often than we give. We fear in place of trust. We walk proud rather than kneel in humility. We see the broken and we assign blame from our personal judgement seat. We have this feeling of giving from Thanksgiving through Christmas, that is the ‘season’ of giving. Yet, we turn out backs the rest of the year. We accuse, we slander, we gossip, we ignore, we argue, we even hate. What is the key to happiness?
You cannot love when you refuse to approach the yellow tape that some invisible evil army hangs up.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
I do not want to drown in the sadness, disappointment, depression, darkness, or hate of this world. I refuse to live in my glass dome, with a few of my closest friends, and call it safety. If I look up and see caution tape, I pray I rip it off and proceed to love. If I have money to help, I do. If I have time to give, I show up. If I have a voice to encourage, I speak. If my greatest gift is prayer, then I pray. Every day of my life, I look ahead to those around me, near me, away from me, wherever they may be, and I love. Working in whatever capacity God calls me.
It sounds simple, right? If it were that simple, this world would look very different. Love is hard friend. It may not be easy to love what others deem ‘unlovable’ and difficult to love. Still, we must love people who are bitter and out on the margins of society, and those who have hurt you. Love is hard when people abandon you, assault you, or hate you. We struggle to love those who murder others or commit the most heinous crimes. We cringe to love those who are arrogant, hateful, and appear self-absorbed. Families have become unforgiving and distant. Friends are too busy and forgetful. Church family is too big and difficult to encounter. Love anyway!
When our focus remains on loving others, right where they are, we are fulfilled, content, and happy. There is peace in love, even when others have abused our love. When we share genuine love, there is no expectation of anything in return- nothing- not even a thank you. If you hold back your love because it seems unappreciated, then you have missed the point. We live in a world where whatever we do should garner a reaction of some sort. Loving to love cannot be one of them.
The key to happiness is loving others. We have overused the word and watered down its meaning for far too long. We have suggested happiness is something with a smile and excitement. Often happiness is to know you did the right thing, and it does not always come with a smile or excitement. Happiness is far greater when concentrated at others. It leaves me searching when concentrated on myself.
It is not for a season, it is a concept for life.