Recently this mantra, BE HUMBLE and BE KIND, has been playing over and over in my head as I think about the things I want to engrave in the minds and hearts of my children. It seems simple enough, but as an observer in today’s culture I am finding that this message is often cast aside, in the shadow of another very popular school of thought. Just do what makes you happy. As long as you are happy, that’s what matters. BE HAPPY.
Now, I am not suggesting I don’t want my children to be happy, I do. All parents do, at least the majority, I would hope. As parents we want nothing more than to watch their own flesh and blood grow up and blossom into well-adjusted, contributing and happy members of society. The unsettling in these two little words comes from the method. What trains are we hoping a ride on to arrive at the BE HAPPY station. I guess that depends on what bring happiness, right?
But this mentality, suggesting that we should forget all else and do what makes us happy, has become a free ticket on trains of selfishness, betrayal, disrespect, dishonesty and even slander. It has become the excuse for poor behavior, a reason to throw others under the bus, to let our tongue get the better of us and to put ourselves on a pedestal that suggests we can be unkind and boastful because it leads to a road of happiness.
I am not attempting to make generalizations here and of course not all situations fit this scenario, but how many times have you been given the advice to just do something because: life is too short, just put yourself first, do what is best for you, do what makes YOU happy.
Failed marriages of friends have been build on this model. Poor choices leading up to the divorces are flooded with, be happy. Commitments tossed to the way side, no concern for those suffering the consequences, because, hey, we have to do what makes us happy, right? I have heard the advice countless times and I can’t help but think that we are ruining those we offer it to.
Your greatest moments , most pivotal successes, strongest character building adverisities are stunned if we avoid all things that make us unhappy. We lose our sence of authenticity if we take the path of least resisdence, or even better the path void of values because happiness awaits us at the end. Sometimes, actually most times, these choices, affect others. We need them to get us to the place that makes us happy and once we arrive, then what?
If we added the words, be kind and be humble to our be happy tribute, we may be able to heal what we have initially broken. It is never okay to hurt someone else because it results in your happiness. It is never okay to use others as stepping stones to your success, to which you boast about, because recognition makes you happy. It is never okay to use your words to tear others down so that you appear in a heroic light, because the praise makes you happy. You may disagree, and that is okay, but this is what I am tirelessly attempting to instill in my children.
There are so many instances where it is a blessing to pursue things that make you happy. If the drums make you happy, play them. If eating ice cream from the carton makes you happy, eat it. It is also okay to make changes when you are unhappy, in a job, in a relationship, with material things or inner workings. We need to be aware when making these changes. If we are kind,humble and have compassion for those our choices affect, then happiness will be something that finds us, not something we need to constantly seek out.
What I will tell my children is that so many times when we make choices with others in mind, when we put others first and make kindness our first language, happiness fills us like a warm meal. It just happens, like the natural order of things. When the time comes for a tough choice, in my heart I will want them to shine. So, I pray now and everyday, that they will consider all paths and pause before burning bridges to board that Happy Town train. That they might first extend their hands and their hearts, during a stop at Kind and Humble station.