The happiest people in the world may not be who you think
Recently I saw an issue of Forbes magazine that listed the 400 Richest People in the World. As I skimmed through that roster of tycoons and entrepreneurs, I wondered how many were happy--I mean really happy.
Then I wondered why no magazine ever runs an article on the happiest people in the world. I don't think the two lists, the richest and the happiest, would be the same.
You may think money would solve all your problems and make you deliriously satisfied, but we have all seen evidence that it doesn't. Why not?
Rich but miserable?
Something weird happens when you get rich. People start to like you not for yourself, but for your money. I first experienced this on a business trip to Chicago. I had not traveled much for business, but when we pulled up to the posh hotel, I noticed that people were much nicer to me than in the small town where I lived.
I'm naturally skeptical. Maybe they were just nice staff members, but I think much of it had to do with expecting a bigger tip. After all, much of those folks' income came from tips.
Rich people have to be careful about their friends. They have to learn through painful experience that many people only like them for what they can get out of them. That's why so many rappers take their friends from the old neighborhood with them. Those people were loyal when the star was nobody and had nothing, so they figure they are true friends.
Wouldn't it be sad to have to suspect that everybody who is nice to you is doing it for an ulterior motive? I would think that would put a major dent in your happiness.
You also lose a lot of privacy when you become rich because frankly, lots of people are pestering you for jobs and money. They think you have so much you can just give it away and you won't miss it. Lottery winners often face that problem. Spongers come out of the woodwork.
But over time, rich people, if they have any depth of character at all, learn another bitter lesson: Stuff can't make you happy. The happiest people have a firm understanding of that truth.
Can you buy happiness?
The companies that sell luxury items, from cars to wristwatches to jewelry, want people to believe that owning expensive stuff makes you better than everyone else. Oh, they're not that blunt about it in their advertising, but the pitch is that you can display your success by the things you own. They used to call that high-priced junk "status symbols."
The only people who believe that lie are shallow people who are impressed by other people's stuff. The thinking people understand that it's who you are that counts, not what you own.
You may interpret it as sour grapes, but I find it kind of pathetic when people overspend on cars and clothes and watches to impress others. Being a natural tightwad, I consider it a worthwhile achievement to pay as little as I can, not pay as much as I can.
Here's my point. If people are so worried about what others think of them that they have to parade a bunch of high-priced junk to dazzle others, are they really happy? No, and they're not too confident about themselves, either.
Money can't buy happiness because true happiness doesn't come from having. It comes from doing.
By doing, I don't mean going on exotic vacations, living in a mansion, or rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.
Happiest people make the right choices
The happiest people in the world make the right choices. They do things that help people who are in need. And let's face it, everyone is in need in some way.
Jesus summed it up before he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
As long as we are self-centered, we can't be happy. The right choices, which bring happiness, are to be God-centered and others-centered.
Most of the time, others' needs are simple: somebody to listen to them, somebody to be a friend, somebody to help with an occasional chore, somebody to encourage them and let them know they're not alone. Doing these things brings happiness.
Without God, you have a hole in your heart that nothing else can fill.
And I don't care how many people it offends, I don't believe there is true happiness without God in your life. When you know who God is--the true God of the Bible, revealed in Jesus Christ--you can't help but love him. Loving God and knowing his love for you brings happiness as well.
Without God, you have a hole in your heart that no possession, no accomplishment, and no amount of money or friends can fill. You can spend your lifetime avoiding God, but you'll always know a restlessness and inner gnawing because you can't fill that hole with anything you try. Only God can fill it.
The happiest people in the world aren't necessarily the richest or the most "successful" or the most talented or the most famous. You may not believe that now, but if you pay attention, you'll eventually see through those illusions. God is the source of wisdom, love, and real happiness.