Most of us have heard the adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.” While the origin of the saying is unknown, I think it’s quite true. It suggests happiness comes not from acquisition of things or status, but from another source. The most consistent way I find happiness is by doing something for others without expectation of reward. Basically: Being selfless.
Why is selflessness key to happiness? The great master and teacher, Jesus Christ, taught us to be selfless. His two greatest commandments have the underlying premise of selflessness: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God” is first, and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is second (Matthew 22:35-40).
Taking his instruction to heart, I have found the reward of doing something for someone else — whether a job or task, an act of care and protection for someone who needs it or even a gesture of acknowledgment and appreciation for a loved one — brings satisfaction that can’t be replicated through any selfish act or achievement. The latter can appear like “keeping up with the Joneses,” or intentionally putting down another for gain or elevation of self. Though such things might feel good in the moment, they always leave me lacking. A selfless act, on the other hand, creates satisfaction and sufficiency of true achievement because I don’t feel I need more.
In many languages, “good” is the term for God, which shows that going back millennia, doing good has been associated with having God in your life. Certainly, Christianity contains that moral precept. And so I have chosen a deeply religious life, because it helps in many ways. Primary among them is the sufficiency and happiness it generates through the obligation it creates of doing good for others. My self-confidence and satisfaction are better, my ability to work with others — particularly those that might not agree with me on religious, political or social issues — is also improved because interacting selflessly, I strive not to condemn or harm others.
Today, our world seems rife with selfishness, and many “role models” in the world exemplify selfishness as the basis of their success. But don’t we also hear how those role models are often unhappy, unfulfilled and/or failing, when selfish acts get exposed?
The most consistent role models are those who base their lives in selflessness. They may be humble or meek, rarely if ever getting publicity through the media. But all of them do good for the world in one way or another. We can all agree our world needs help. So you can do your part by doing more for others, selflessly. It really is the answer.
To learn more, First Church of Christ, Scientist, is hosting an event, co-sponsored by Interfaith Initiative Centre County, from 7-8:30 p.m. on April 27. Three speakers will share ideas from their faith background: Rabbi David Ostrich, of Congregation Brit Shalom; Rev. Dean Lindsey, of State College Presbyterian Church; and Fujiko Signs, Christian Science practitioner and lecturer. Come hear these dynamic speakers and gain understanding of the transforming power of selflessness.
Nathan Bowen, member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, in State College, is a first-time author for Interfaith Initiative Centre County (InterfaithInitiativeCC @hotmail.com).