Do We Deserve to Be Happy? Nope.

*Quick note: The purpose of this blog is not only to focus on writing, but to transform lives through writing and sharing. I know this will certainly step on toes and if it does, get some better shoes, but keep your ears open.*

I’m not really sure what other cultures believe about happiness, but American culture certainly believes that it is a right. Because of three little words – pursuit of happiness – we cling to the idea that we have a right to be happy all the time. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Unhappy with your spouse? Divorce. Unhappy with your government? Elect people who promise an easier life. Did someone say something that made you unhappy? Run to social media, and heck, even the news to cry about how hateful and unfair it is that someone should dare have a differing opinion!

Here’s the thing though. We don’t deserve happiness. It is not a right. Being happy in life isn’t a given. We are never told we have the “right to be happy”. In the United States we do have the “right to pursue happiness”, but it never says it’s going to happen. More than that, how can I say that I deserve happiness, even at the cost of what God has called me to? Because I’m a good person? Hardly. Sure, I’m nice. I like helping people. But I’m not good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) [Small digression here: This isn’t Jesus saying that He isn’t good, or isn’t God. This is Him stating something all the hearers knew: only God is good. This is Jesus saying that they are recognizing that He is God with their words.] Does that mean we should only be stern and morose, moping around saying “Woe is me!”? Absolutely not! There is joy in this life! There will be thousands of happy moments. These moments are part of life, however,  undeserved. Sadness, happiness, and rain come to wicked and righteous alike.

As Christians we are called to something much more important than pursuing our own happiness: love. We are called to love others. Not with the superficial “I’ll say hi on Sunday mornings” kind, but with the sacrificial love that Christ showed us. Paul David Tripp highlights in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that “relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment. On the contrary, relationships between sinners are messy, difficult, labor-intensive, and demanding, but in that, they are designed to result in God’s glory and our good as he is worshiped and our hearts are changed.” Loving people is not on a case by case basis, it is a conscious choice to make loving people a lifestyle.

This lifestyle does not lead to the road of “prosperity.” It is the road of obedience and blessing. This road is rocky and narrow, full of hardship and tears. But Psalm 126:5 tells us that those who sow tears will reap songs of joy. A life worth living is hard work. To have a full life, we must fill it with meaningful relationships, not staying focused on ourselves. Pursuing our own happiness means sacrificing others – the exact opposite of what we are called to do! On the last day of your life, what will it matter what job/house/car/clothes you had? It’s all staying here. And once you are gone, will people remember you as a bulldozer, someone willing to do anything to stay happy no matter the cost to others? Or will people remember someone who loved well?

 

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Welcome our new writer: Paul Fair!

I am so excited to introduce you to Paul Fair. He is a brilliant writer and adventurer. There is so much that he has to share, starting tomorrow!

Paul lovPaulFairHeadshot (2)es people. You can find him slopping some coffee at one of his pops’ shops, probably stressing over why nothing’s ever done right, but at the same time trying to help someone at the bar figure out why this guy is such a jerk.

If he’s not at Jives, it’s probably because he’s in Uganda, India, France, learning something about someone he’s never met…He gets around. In a good way.

After attending UCCS, where he was Editor-in- Chief for the student newspaper, he took off to DisneyWorld, where he hugged kids for a living and tried to dance. They paid him for that. Everyone is still wondering about how that worked out exactly.

Now, he’s back in Colorado Springs for the moment. Come by Jives to see him.

The Thing About Humans

Humans are silly, fickle creatures. They are never quite content with what they have. Unlike their jollier cousins, the Hobbits, they are obsessed with being busy. Heaven forbid they actually enjoy free time. And I do mean free time. Time that is unpaid and unscheduled.

Some two hundred years ago, humans worked from sunrise to sunset. They worked hard, and enjoyed the fruit of those labors. But they were tired. And so some humans called “scientists” or “inventors” began thinking of ways to make life easier. Over the years they made machines to help with plowing, printing, cooking, cleaning, traveling, and even communicating. One could look back on these marvelous inventions and assume that humans now had oodles of free time. Well, you know what they say about assuming things…

Sadly, just the opposite was true. They were busier than ever! Now that machines could do much of the work humans used to do, people were now “free” to work more, clean more, organize more…you get the idea.

Even food–a simple, essential pleasure for the Hobbits–became a chore and a curse. Eat too much and be condemned for the weighty aftermath; eat too little and be accused of superiority or mental disease. Then there was even a time when people were culture-pressured to purchase, or grow, only special produce, cook it in a way that still rendered health benefits, and looked like a baby rabbit. Others gave up completely and let other prepare “food” for them because they were too busy to do it themselves.

Surely, you say, they must have been content with finances since they worked so hard for it. Au contraire, my good friend! As each one’s wages grew, the needs also swelled, usually far beyond the wage earned. And so many–too many–became dependent upon their leaders to support their lifestyles. Of course, many of the leaders lined their own pockets as leaders are wont to do.

What became of these sad, sad creatures? The majority continued in this way of self-destruction, while others returned to the ways of their ancestors. They abandoned the cities and once again worked the land. They studied the habits of the Hobbits in an effort to really enjoy life, rather than blazing through it. They are content…at least for now.

Take Back Your Social Life & Community

overloadWhat happened to communities? There is an abundance of online “communities” that are supposed to serve as a way to connect to those around us, but very little of it actually creates and nourishes real-life community. We are inundated with social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, and the list continues. All of these are acting as tools for the embetterment of our social lives. The result, however, is that we are trapped in our computers, smart-phones, and tablets while real life is happening around us.

Social media is not the Big Bad Wolf, nor it is the embodiment of evil. It is simply often misused. Imagine trying to serve soup with a slotted spoon. A trying task, indeed. But that doesn’t make the spoon bad. It just means that the spoon was used for the wrong purpose. Social media is meant to be an accent to our lives rather than the entirety. Complaints abound about people paying more attention to their “friends” on social media instead of the friends who are right next to them. Everyone is too busy with having things to share online to have an actual social life. It’s not healthy and it’s not community.

The Oxford dictionary has two basic definitions of community:  1) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.  2) A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

There are many places that fit the first definition. But what about the second? Where was the last place you felt “a feeling of fellowship with others”? If the answer to that is an online group or an instance from more than a month ago, it’s time to make some changes.

Churches used to be a place that fostered community. People would often have a potluck lunch after the teaching or invite someone to their house to share a meal. Now churchgoers tend to arrive just in time for the service to start and make a run for their cars immediately after with a few nods and waves to acquaintances.

Neighbours, too, were friendlier than now. It used to be that when a new family arrived several neighbours would introduce themselves and even bring food! Today, if a neighbour happens to be spotted in between bouts of busyness they are viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

I won’t pretend to have mastered the now ancient art of community building, but I do have a few suggestions for anyone who is ready to change the way they view and live true community.

  • Get to know your neighbours
  • Make friends with people you can meet with – in person- who will share each other’s burdens
  • That new person at church or work, reach out and make them feel welcome
  • Host a game night
  • If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, shovel their driveway or offer to mow the lawn
  • Find a group a people that share an interest or hobby with you

*If you have more ideas of how to build community, please share in the comments. The more the merrier!  And don’t forget to come back and tell us how implementing these ideas helped.*

Molehills out of Mountains: Overcoming Communication Barriers

Successful relationships are built through effective communication. It is not always easy, but worthwhile things rarely are. The first thought that comes to mind with the mention of communication barriers is one of differing languages and social customs. Though those are certainly causes of consternation in many business situationmolehills, they are not the only culprits. Even for those from the same culture can have a difficult time really listening to one another and sharing thoughts in a professional manner.

As a copy editor, I work with writers from various backgrounds and expectations. One of the biggest barriers to having a successful writer-editor relationship is the inability to meet in person. I believe that face-to-face communication is often the most effective. Often more questions are raised and answered in this setting than are over email. For those who are visual and auditory learners, in-person meetings are a better option for sharing large amounts of information.

Differing literary backgrounds also present a challenge. Writers tend to write for the genre they most appreciate. When this differs from my own reading interests, it requires that I do a lot of reading and research to ensure that I will edit in the way the best fits that particular genre. Writing styles vary widely, as well, based on what authors the writer most reads. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien and James Patterson have extremely different “voices.” As such, it is essential that the writer and I communicate clearly on what the desired style to be.

I do not have team-based communications in the sense of teammates working for the same company because I work as a freelance editor. This, however, means that I am teamed together with the writer. There are two obstacles to working together as a team: clear understanding of goals and a clear understanding of jobs. Together we must establish the audience, desired length of the book, and a deadline. Knowing what is expected of each person needs to be established at the beginning of the project. We have to agree on what will be done with the corrections and comments I make. I have had writers who wanted to be involved in every little change and others who merely surrendered the text, happy to let me make whatever modifications I saw fit. Had we not set that expectation from the start there would have been confusion and frustration for both parties.

Intercultural communications add a whole new layer of barriers. I am fluent in Spanish and am very familiar with South American culture. With this, I have had the opportunity to edit and translate texts in Spanish. These experiences have taught me to be careful with how my critiques are worded. It would be easy to expect the same cultural and linguistic styles as the North American writers, but wholly unfair. Intercultural communications can be problematic, but the present a wonderful opportunity for two people to learn more about a culture that differs from their own.

Barriers are not insurmountable. They are walls with doors, requiring keys. They are mountains with tunnels in need of light. Knowledge and patience are the key and light needed to overcome those barriers, to turn mountains in to molehills. As we make others our priority, make an effort to listen to and learn more about them, our communication and relationships will continue to grow.