Generosity – the surest pathway to happiness

Living life generously is one of the surest pathways to happiness. I realize today that there is a tendency in these uncertain economic times to be cautious with our money. We all want financial security in uncertain times, and it is a good and wise thing to plan and take mature steps to save for the future. In the past few decades in the USA, people lived on the edge with a sort of naive and reckless financial abandon. The market and housing prices just kept going up! How quickly things can change. The housing, job and stock markets dramatic declines are a sober reminder to us that a financial house built with straw can easily fall. (I still remember that big bad wolf huffing puffing and blowing down the house of one of the three little pigs – I guess one way for a child to learn that the world can be a scary place with not such nice people in it)

But there is another side of us that experiences enduring happiness when we live generously for others, not opulently for ourselves. We are created to be happiest when we find “balance” in life. We are created to share and live in community. Our true fulfillment in life comes when we find worthy people to share our lives with and meaningful and worthy activities to fulfill us. So many people today feel alienated and disconnected from meaningful relationships. Having the internet become the one place where we are connected is not good for experiencing a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose. I feel sorry for some kids today. When my generation came home from school we dropped our books inside the house and ran outside to play and interact. King of the castle, kick the can, street hockey, pick up baseball; we were a neighborhood! We played until our moms called us in for supper. Everyone knew each other. Today many people are isolated, alienated, disconnected and feeling a sense of detachment from meaningful human relationships. One of the key words theologians use today for how we feel in today’s culture is “estrangement”. I think many of us know what they are talking about.

So I want to advocate that while we need to take steps for our financial future there is a danger that the goal and desire to accumulate wealth can become an insatiable pursuit that will never truly fulfill us. True happiness comes from living generously no matter how much or little we have. Living generously involves seeing people as worthy of our giving of ourselves and our resources to make life a little fuller, a little easier, a little lovelier. We are most happy when we place the needs of others before ourselves. Mothers do this all the time for their children and are blessed in so doing.

The people in Haiti and Ghana and the other developing countries of the world are very poor but they are also very generous. It is ironic that people who are the poorest often model living generously more than do those with great wealth. Perhaps if you are hungry, and see others in the same condition, you know what you must do.

So no matter where you live, live generously and you will be filled with a wealth that brings lasting joy. When generosity is a way of life, relationships blossom. Generosity makes “the world” and “your world” a better place to live.

Jim Byrum

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