This week I asked the Wednesday evening men’s group to rate how “positive” they feel, along with a brief explanation. It’s interesting to see how different individuals arrive at their answers, and the wide variety of criterion employed.
My response – on that particular day – was tied to the following explanation: “I’ve enjoyed one more in a series of spectacularly beautiful spring days. Sunshine and highs in the mid-60’s, new life bursting out everywhere. I took the dog out for three extra walks just so I could breathe in the beautiful air.”
Essentially, I was saying “I can’t help myself! How can I not be positive?”
That was poor theology, Derek!
But I’m not sure “I can’t help myself” is a good enough answer. Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi, wrote that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:10-13).
Paul is suggesting that we actually can help ourselves; he’s saying contentment is something we can learn.
That same evening, while walking Scout Labradoodle before bedtime, I listened to a TED-Radio segment. The speaker was talking about research that has demonstrated, consistently, in trial after trial, an effective way to effect positive change when it comes to personal contentment and happiness.
Now this is important, because if you hear what I’m saying with an open spirit, this has the potential to radically change you entire life. It also confirms – from a secular, researched based point of view – the most essential elements of the core message I’ve been iterating ever since I first felt called to write.
Here it is: People experience contentment and measurable happiness when they set their own desires aside, and focus their attention and their resources on improving the wellbeing of others. Yes, that’s right, generosity of heart, and spirit, and resources leads directly to a more positive outlook in life!
And, no surprise, my writing mentor Paul had something to say about that, too:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus- Philippians 2:3-5
Don’t be selfish. Value others above yourselves. Focus your interest and your intention on the needs, concerns, and happiness of your spouse… your church community… your neighbor… coworkers… your friends… strangers… the homeless…. Follow Jesus.
Be that guy; be that woman; practice the Gospel of Love. Then answer the question about how positive you feel.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” – Matthew 19:26