So I had a talk with one of my boys this afternoon.
I have multiple children who have two mottos:
- Do whatever makes you happy
- As long as I don’t get caught, it’s ok
But…one of them cherishes those mottos more than the others. I get it – part of it is a child’s mentality, part of it is our society’s mentality, and part of it is the way these three boys process things in their mind given their history. The thing is…these are horrible life mottos. As his parent, I need to try my best to guide him away from them.
The irony is not lost on me that I am currently reading “Lord of the Flies” with my two oldest boys right now. (What will happen in a utopian society where everyone gets to make their own rules.) It fits right in with my talk with them today. Maybe these things jump out more when you’re dealing with them along side of reading a book or maybe God provides opportunities (as Bishop Anthony Bloom states in his book, Beginning to Pray)…whatever it is, let’s deal with it!
Sitting in the living room, I asked my son, “What would happen if I declared new house rules tonight and told everyone, ‘From now on – do whatever makes you happy!’ ” On the surface, this seems like a great idea! Doesn’t it?
Let’s think about this for a minute though. Doing whatever makes me happy has consequences on others though.
I would very much like to spend the entire day, every day, reading or writing in my room while sipping on coffee without having to take a thousand breaks. I’d be super happy. My children would not. Les would miss me. My house would look like a bomb hit it.
We talked about things he would do to make himself happy – their would be a ban on all school work forever, chores would never have to be done, he could stay up as late as he wanted, he could eat whatever he wanted…you see where this went. So then I made him think about how those decisions could potentially affect the rest of our family, since he doesn’t live isolated by himself in the middle of nowhere.
To drive home the point, I asked him how he’d feel on the receiving end of this new rule. “Gabriel is now allowed to do whatever he wants to make himself happy too. So, guess what? He can go into your room whenever he wants to play with your Legos and he’s allowed to take them apart because he thinks it’s funny to see them break into a million pieces.” The examples continued.
Not everything we want and not everything that makes us happy is going to have a negative affect on someone else – but our actions always have an affect on someone else – good or bad – since we live within a community.
Our society, as a whole, has the motto, “Do what makes you happy.” Most people take this in the context of more a middle of the road approach regarding their job or the food they eat. For the most part. But…the problem here is that if you’re going to truly believe this, and be fair about it, then you have to let this rule stand even for the extremists. A murderer murders because it makes him happy. You and I don’t find this acceptable – but he’s living by the motto just like everyone else. We scream about how we have to be fair. We have to be open to individuality. We have to be open minded. There’s a problem with this!
First, life is not fair. It just isn’t.
Second, we all govern ourselves within some sort of a moral code. Whether we believe in God or not. Whether we agree with our neighbor’s moral code or not. We don’t have to agree with their morality. Yes, we are still called to love the person, but we don’t have to agree with their actions. It’s a distinction many people have a hard time making.
I love my children immensely. Always will. I do not love their action of lying to me, nor will I ever find it acceptable. Love the person, not the poor choice. Love the person, don’t necessarily agree with their moral code.
I continued my conversation with my son.
What is our ultimate goal in life? Is it about getting the best job? Saving up as much money as possible? Getting the best house possible? Buying whatever makes us happy? The best vacations?
No. None of that is our goal! It’s not. All of that is superficial.
Every single one of us will die. As Christians, we whole-heartedly believe there is life after death. Eternal life with God. Does everyone believe this? Nope…but our family does.
Our goal is theosis. (In simplistic terms – union with God) God gave us a gift – free choice. Free choice to love Him or not love Him. Free choice to follow Him or not follow Him. Free choice to have a relationship with Him or not to. If we don’t want to have a relationship with God, He’s not going to make us. But what is eternal life? It’s life in the presence of God. If we don’t want to be around Him for eternity, then what’s left after we die?
I wrapped up our conversation, which was slightly more age appropriate in verbiage, by explaining to him that I was striving to spend eternity with God but I also wanted eternity with God with him there with me. I hoped that he would chose to want to be with God too but that means that he has to treat others with kindness and love. A Christian is someone who acts like Christ. Would Christ do whatever made Him happy? Do you think He wanted to die a painful death on a cross? Absolutely not. He sacrificed Himself for all of us. He served others, instead of letting people spoil Him with riches and flamboyancy. Would Christ lie to others, sneak around hoping not to get caught, do things only for Himself? Then how are we supposed to act if Christ is our model? This is what saints do – they strive every day of their lives to imitate Christ. Sometimes they fall but they never give up and keep striving towards their goal of eternity with God. We are all called to be saints. Even you and me.