Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make Someone Happy...Yeah, Good Luck With That

Make someone happy
Make just one someone happy
And you’ll be happy too

Despite Jimmy Durante’s classic words, we can’t really “make someone happy.” That’s too much pressure to put on anyone. We might do or say things that result in someone else’s passing moments of happiness, and vice versa. But for many, this is much bigger. We fall into the romantic notion that if we “make just one someone happy,” then we’ll “be happy too.” It makes for a nice song about investing ourselves in a significant other. But the reality is a trap we too easily fall into.

I can’t be responsible for the happiness of my wife or child, my neighbors or friends or coworkers, and certainly not (as a pastor) an entire congregation. Their happiness is up to them. And I mustn't depend on them for my happiness. Selfish as it seems, I need to be concerned with my own happiness and let them be concerned with theirs. The lyrics might more truly say, “Make yourself happy, and others might be happy too…maybe.” Not such a good song I guess, but more accurate.

Now this is a slippery slope. The truth is, until my happiness includes loving others redemptively, putting their good first even at my own personal cost, then much of it is a wash. Selfish happiness is no real or lasting happiness. But putting others first and making them happy are two very different propositions.

It comes down to obedience, faithfulness. If our decisions and motives and actions are held up as responsible for other people’s happiness, as is so often the case, then it’s all a fickle mess, because we are all just people subject to moods and mixed motives. And the corollary is true as well – moods and whims are also responsible for unhappiness. If others’ happiness depends on me, and mine on them, then we’re all in trouble. People are flaky.

Come to think of it, so am I. So even if I live just to make myself happy, I’m still after a wildly moving target. Happiness has to be realigned with faithfulness. We have to learn the subtle but abiding joy of living faithfully, following Jesus and participating in the life of the Triune God. Then my happiness is God’s happiness – a fixed, eternal target. This is the still center of eternal life and true happiness…and you’ll be happy too.

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