Happi-Less… May 6, 2012

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  1. Always present your best side. Be positive.
  2. Be strong and don’t let your emotions betray you.
  3. Don’t let people walk on you.
  4. Be satisfied with what you have.
  5. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Stay alert.
  6. Be careful what you share about yourself.
  7. Work for peace; prepare for war.
  8. Be gentle but always be ready to fight for yourself.
  9. Return in kind.
  10. Keep your cool–even out your emotions.

Almost any good author could take the precepts above and write a self-help book, publish it and sell thousands of copies to the American public. Those ten ideas are deeply ingrained into the fabric of our nation’s daily interactions and stitched into our philosophy. They are nearly immutable. You hear them in the movies, they are espoused on television shows–they are basically the gospel of the reality show format. They comprise the credo of the American public perception of self-esteem.

The problem? Every one of them is the opposite of what Jesus taught.

When he presented his top ten notions for life and getting along with others from The Beatitudes in Sermon on the Mount–a list which he contended would produce happiness–the American philosophy ends up being contrary to his thinking. Perhaps it’s no surprise that we are a Christian nation by belief, and a jungle jumble by philosophy. For we all know–there is a difference between believing and following.

As to #1, Jesus told us to be poor in spirit instead of constantly positive, blowing our own horns. He doesn’t share this because it’s noble. It’s just that if two bulls are going to be in a pen, one had better show up willing to stop locking horns–or nothing will be accomplished.

As to #2–about being strong, hiding emotions–Jesus said that it’s blessed to mourn. If we would just realize that if there isn’t a physical manifestation of grief, concern or empathy, no one around us can be sure that we even care.

His response to #3 is that people will walk on you whether you want them to or not. Your only recourse is to be meek–buy time–to give them a more metered and intelligent response instead of saying, “And you, too …” The meek inherit the earth because the earth honors temperance and repels violence.

How about #4–being satisfied? Jesus says we should be hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We’re just not very good people when we become complacent and assume that what we already are and possess is sufficient.

Number 5–the fear of being taken advantage of–prevents us from committing acts of kindness, or at least, delays it. Jesus said that the merciful will receive mercy from God as a gift.

Should we be careful about what we share with others? You can be if you want. But Jesus says the pure in heart–those who are candid about their weakness before others find out and gossip–well, those folks get to see God. It’s just hard to see God if you can’t peer into your own heart.

And even though we might believe in a strong national defense, we have to understand that every time we build a bomb, we’re stealing valuable time that could be utilized for developing better forms of diplomacy. It’s too bad that in our world, the pursuit of peace, or as Jesus called it–peace making–is perceived as weakness rather than a masterful step of “bombing people” with greater intuition.

Jesus makes it clear that all of us will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Good ideas get punished until they’re accepted. It’s just a fact of life. You can feel free to “fight for yourself” and make a case, but until people’s ears are tuned to reasonableness, they will react negatively against anything different, even if it’s for their own good.

Of course, there is the inevitable flow of lies and falsehoods that happen in our society when those who have become our adversaries decide to stop the debate and begin the attacks. You can return in kind. It would make you a wonderful Muslim, an acceptable Jew and maybe even an honorable Chinese. But it just makes you a lousy Christian. Insanity doesn’t stop until someone insists on restoring upright thinking.

And finally, when it’s all said and done, Jesus says the end result should be happiness. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. In our first list of ten, the resolution is to “keep your cool.” But Jesus suggests that we revel in the success of our own endeavors and our own desire to get along. Yet, in our top ten American precepts, we tout that it’s not good to let people see you being too joyful, too sad or too involved.

There’s happiness. Boiling it down to a single sentence: happiness is a decision to be vulnerable before someone comes along and wounds you anyway.

And there is the American culture top ten, which says, “Be defensive and keep from being wounded by staying aggressive.” The end result is that you lose your peace of mind, are constantly paranoid and end up Happi-Less–less happy.

The teachings of Jesus are not an attempt to turn the world population into pacifists, at the mercy of the lions, tigers and bears (oh, my). It is a philosophy that asks each individual to take personal responsibility for their actions, desires, foibles and talents instead of blaming others. The conclusion? If enough people would do this, there wouldn’t be any need to attack another.

So what will it be? Happiness? (Which really is focusing on my own dreams without judging others.) Or Happi-Less? (Building a fort around my life to protect myself from the savages.)

Remember–it is possible to believe without actually following. And it’s possible to defend yourself and end up alone and confused … because you don’t really know the person that remains.

  

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