We live in the post-modern world, a materialistic society. Words, like anything else, lose their real meaning when there are too many of them. The Hebrews had 10,000 words, the Greeks, 200,000 and we American have about 450,000 words in our vocabulary. Take a closer look at the two words, SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS. We have equated these words as equal or at least a part of a common goal. To the contrary, SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS at times can be mortal enemies.
The initial problem with success is that we place an intolerable burden on the winner. His/her responsibility is to do more and more for his family and others, from whom he receives less and less gratitude. The ignorant, the slothful, call him lucky.
There is nothing wrong with trying to be successful. Having lunch with an African ruler I asked, “Here in Africa, big animal eat little animal. He grunted “uurrp” which meant yes. “You call this the ‘survival of the fittest I asked?” His answer was sharp and to the point, “No, we call that FREE INTERPRISE”. In many countries, this principle of free enterprise is based on an inalienable right that rewards those who drive with cleverness and originality and work long hours.
Nothing stands still for long and the company that does not change ends up as part of a conglomerate or in receivership. We need ‘successful people’ but it is rather ludicrous to have the entire population rushing about seeking a goal that is unattainable. Contrary to what Zig Ziglar says, “There is not enough room at the top for everybody!”
The most important word in our vocabulary is not HAPPINESS! That too, is an impossible dream – an unreachable star. We are happy at times, but at other times we may feel depressed and out of it. These are natural ocean waves of human life. Th rise and fall of our human spirits. The drug scene often becomes the stage on which the drama is played, “HAPPINESS NOW OR NEVER”. This more often is a tragedy rather than a dream or drama.
Our real aspiration should be CONTENTMENT. We could make a career out of it. It is beautiful – never out of date – has no up’s or down’s and is designed for any generation. Contentment can be most anything; a walk in the park, the touch of a beautiful flower, the sparkle of baby’s eyes, or just sitting in your favorite rocker, after fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob. You may find it occasionally around a T.V. screen, following a favorite team or sport. It may find sweet expression walking barefoot on the sands of the sea shore, or pulling the mainsail when a fresh breeze breaks out. It could be a devotional with your wife and children around a family Bible or even a time when you bury a most precious loved one.
Contentment is not continual happiness, but it is realistic, attainable, and achievable. You don’t have to dethrone the greatest to get it nor fear for your life to maintain it. It can be found in the heart of the richest man in town, or in the spirit of the poorest on earth. It knows no color, no ethnic background, no age or sexual identity or human relationship. It is available to any and all who seek that simple word ‘CONTENTMENT’ as a life-long companion.
A friend of mine wrote a letter many years ago and one of the words he used repeatedly was that of contentment. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can take nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content . . . not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. . . Don’t worry about anything whatever, but in everything with prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 6:8; Philippians 4:6-7, 11-12).
That good friend who wrote to me and to you was Paul. He was condemned on death row in Caesar’s prison, soon to be martyred for the cause of the Master. With his death in mind he wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day: and not to me only but to all those who love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:6-8).
The cry of the Christian is very simple. Be content with what you have and get more – never get more to be content. This column is just a simple prayer that all may in time learn one great truth –SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS DO NOT ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. CONTENTMENT MAY GO WITH EITHER ONE OR BOTH.