Three words for a happier life

In what has become a long hot humid dry summer in the neighborhood, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some tempers are a bit frayed. Or VERY frayed.


Some folks are determined that a politician isn’t going to push them around into wearing a mask for safety from the virus situation. Emotions on that one are a little testy.


Stuck at home, stuck at home, stuck at home – we’re still told that the only way to really stay safe is to stay stuck at home. Forget virus fever - what about cabin fever?


What about those tens of thousands of Penn State students returning to State College next month for the start of the fall semester? What exactly might they be bringing WITH them? And we don’t mean their money (yes, bring that) or other sundries (concentrate on studies, not parties.)


Will the local school district year really get started in-person? Some parents are concerned. Some teachers are even more concerned.


What about sports? Penn State football, high school football, ANY sport and especially the ones that usually draw a crowd? Is playing without a gathering all that much fun? And those missing ticket sales – how do schools pay the bills?


And then there are church services – when can we FINALLY get together again to worship safely? Online is OK but it will never ever replace the real thing. We’re discovering that virtual church means no church for a growing number of people – will congregations be able to get back to pre-virus levels?


Toss in the presidential campaign about to ignite, add the racism protests that are calm for now but poised to erupt again – mix it all together and you have an explosive stew that could level Mount Nittany.


We all just want to be HAPPY again – no health worries at every corner, no arguing, no incendiary remarks from so-called leaders, a chance to go to a sports game and enjoy the action.


How to be happy? Let‘s simplify this to just three words – have a guess what they might be?


To make you think more we’ll go backwards and start with some three word options that are NOT correct…


“Make more money.”


Sure, there are people who have been furloughed or laid off that really want to get back to work again so they can get back to their prior salary. But money just for itself – or the desire to make MORE money – isn’t the answer to happiness. Remember this verse?


“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV


And this next one is similar…


“Get more stuff.”


Will acquiring more stuff really bring happiness? The UHaul really can follow the hearse?


There are actually a number of TV shows that tell the stories of hoarders whose houses look like waste dumps. Piles and piles of stuff – and the people inside don’t seem very happy.


“Kick his/her butt.”


Our society is one dominated too much by winning, by clobbering, by crushing. Even a lot of girls get macho when it comes to beating another girl for the best prom dress, or a boy, or any list of items. And that is followed closely by…


“Dominate the conversation.”


Politics and the media are the kings of this three word phrase. Shouting, arguing, finger pointing, name calling, do ANYTHING to win the debate. Ever notice that a lot of those people don’t seem very happy?


“Just hang on.”


What we’ve been doing for the last four months now. You feel happy about that? Yeah, me neither.


So what’s the simple three word phrase to bring you happiness? And every time it’s tried?


“Love your neighbor.”


Of course those words were uttered by Jesus, in both Matthew and Mark and they are roughly the same…


“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40 NIV


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 NIV


If you know your Bible well you know the idea actually comes from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus…


“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:18 NIV


But in this case we’re limiting this to just three words. Why not include “as yourself?”


Sadly, perhaps tragically, there seems to be many people these days who don’t love themselves very much. Statistics for mental health related problems continue to rise – anxiety, depression, suicide, drug use or alcoholism. And this virus situation over the last four months has made things even worse.


But the simple solution can be summed up in those first three words – love your neighbor. There are a host of studies and evidence that plainly show the benefit of helping others – and not just for the others.


Do some web searching and you immediately see the headlines…


“7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others”

“In Helping Others You Help Yourself”

“Helping Others Benefits You”


And help begins with love. Let’s hope that one of the outcomes of the new attention on racism around America and the world is that people begin to look at others differently. See that others are just like you in so many ways so do something to help them. Don’t expect anything in return but sometime later they may return the favor and help you.


There are countless verses in the Bible about helping others but we’ll concentrate on this one…


“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:22-25 ESV


A doer who acts. And blessings follow, not only for your “neighbor” but for you as well. And boy, do we need a lot of that right now. Everyone wins, the perfect situation.


And somewhere Jesus smiles…


From George Churchgoer