I used to resent my strict upbringing. As a child, my dad had just a few rules for me, but it seemed that each rule was a blanket that cover a multitude of areas. At times, I felt I was shut out to the whole world. “You don’t need friends,” was a common one, as well as “No boys shall call this house phone.” (I thought I was real slick getting a pager, only to find out that you still gotta call that person back…on the house phone. Operation failed.) And just as my father shut out boys, friends, and activities if you got a C on ANY assignment, he tried to shut my feelings out too when I accused him of preventing us (me and my siblings) from being “happy.” Ooohhh I wish I could form the letters to type out what his face looked like, but imagine Charles Barkley with the biggest frown, squinted eyes and high cheekbones. “Happy?”, he started, “Happy? Happiness is just an emotion.” He might as well said “Happiness is for losers.” And maybe that’s what he meant.
But who listens to dads all the time, right? I should be happy just like the next person, right? If I were to list all the things I did to “be happy,” and truthfully shared the consequences…you would think I didn’t know Jesus. And in some ways, I had to purposefully forget my upbringing and my faith to experience the “normalcy” of being “happy.” Not that all of my happy pursuits were awful or even felt awful. But trying to be happy didn’t make me….well, happy. Happiness, I learned, is not a goal, and my father was right: It’s an emotion. And there are some folks who spend all their life maintaining random situations to stay in the world of “happy,” instead of pursuing “greatness.” The major difference is the road to the latter typically consists of a mix of happy and unhappy times, grueling moments, and boring, and at times sacrificial, events.
“I just wanna be happy.”
That is the motto of our generation. It is a phrase we overdose on when we don’t get our way, when we sit and repeat all the bad things in our lives, and often when we want to do something that otherwise would probably be taboo, detrimental to us…or kill us. It is our convenient excuse during shouting matches, breakups, and setbacks. Happiness for so long has taken over as the new “perfection.” And since “nobody’s perfect,” we aim to be happy.
The problem with that mentality is that it frequently serves as mask for our real fears: being great at something, and being disciplined enough to reach that greatness. Every great writer, singer, athlete, or whomever you admire, never settled for being happy to get the job done. From the outside, it looks as if they are not giving themselves enough time, are too ambitious, or are flat out miserable because “it don’t take all that” to be happy. Over time, however, the fruits of labor manifest and we sit here…being happy…watching those…who are being great.
It was George Bernard Shaw that wrote “Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” Depending on where you stand, greatness means different things to different people. As people of faith, we must first recognize that God does want us to be great! God also wants us to recognize that greatness comes from above, and therefore our pursuit of greatness should not be consumed by the acquisition of temporary earthly things. In fact, Jesus’ definition is probably why so many give up on true greatness altogether:
“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” –Matthew 20:26-28.
The road to greatness actually starts from a stance of humility and service. Being the best at your craft or in your area will require times where you are purposely denying yourself praise and accolades, and trading it in for apprenticeship and wisdom from others. Pursuing greatness is far from an emotion, but rather and intentional roadmap with necessary tasks, and the omission of some happy times. It is a non-settling, “come hell or high water” attitude that does not quit at the first meltdown or disaster. And it is not temporary or fleeting. When you reach your version of happiness, you settle for whatever your desire was set on. When one pursues greatness, you actually open yourself up to more possibilities and endless opportunities. You are less narrowly focused on what you think will make you happy, and your eyes and heart widen to a world only possible through sweat, prayer, and sacrifice. And just like a good game of Candy Crush, each great achievement advances you to an ever greater challenge and greater reward.
People who do great things will continue to do greater things because their mindset doesn’t rest on happy. It is programmed on GREAT.
Is your goal to be happy…or great?