The Prescription for Happiness
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The Prescription for Happiness

Humans are strange creatures. We are thrilled when we get a raise until we find out a colleague received a larger raise. There is an old Yiddish saying, “When does a hunchback rejoice? When he sees one with a larger hump.” Ambrose Bierce put it this way, “Happiness is an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of others.” And Gore Vidal wrote, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Our happiness is so often a reaction based on our relationship with other’s situations.

It is interesting to compare the above quotes with Jesus’ prescriptions for happiness found in Matthew 5. The word “blessed” in the Beatitudes can be translated “happy.” “Happy are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Note there is a relationship factor involved and it is opposite to our normal reactions.

The normal reaction to happiness is all about me. Jesus’ formula is all about others. If I am meek I am content with other’s success. If I am meek I am happy when you get a raise. Now I must confess I need to work at this and will most likely fail if I do not have divine help. Surely it is the “old man” Paul refers to in Romans. I must put it to death that a “new man” can live within me.

“You were taught, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness.” Ephesians 4:22-25

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 18, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453