Being Honest, Doing Right, Being Right, Being Happy – What’ll it be?
Everyone on earth wants to be happy. That’s right, I said everyone. Those who think they don’t want to be happy are in some cases clinically depressed, mildly depressed, or suffer from some other kind of affliction(s) creating a physical, mental, spiritual, and/or emotional ill situation. It would be absurd to assume people in good spiritual, mental and emotional states DON’T want to be happy. As I said, if someone actually doesn’t want to be happy, I would propose that one of the mentioned attributes is not in tune: physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I for one, want to be happy, and I want to create happiness for others – as many other people as I possibly can. In that pursuit, I present topics for discussion that, while they seem to have two sides to them, actually have one side to the argument. I do this to deliberately draw out the truth about how people in my charge think and feel about themselves and others.
On the topic of happiness in general, there is something we must establish. That is that different people have different things (people, situations, ideas) that contribute to the manifestation of happiness within them. Some find happiness in squalor, some in controversy, some in fostering peace, some in war, some in riches, some in giving, some in taking. I strive to get the idea across to people that to achieve personal happiness should be of the highest aim, so long as to achieve that goal one doesn’t create unhappiness in others. Truth be told, some find happiness in unhealthy ways, self-centered ways, self-seeking ways, hurtful ways; ways that are hurtful to themselves others. It has been argued that murderers, yes even murderers, want to be happy and are, in what they do, seeking that. If only they could find a way to get it without having to kill people. Everyone is in pursuit of it in one form or another. Please remember that I present topics for discussion that, while they seem to have two sides to them, actually have one side.
Recently in class I presented two notions seemingly opposed to each other: Being Right and Being Happy.
I set up the situation something like this: You are in an argument or discussion with someone, and you come to the point where you can make this important decision:
- Do you want to continue the discussion or argument because it is more important to you to prove that you are right whether you actually are or not, AND as a result end up personally unhappy and have those on the other side of the discussion potentially also be unhappy.
- Do you want to accept an end to the discussion not having proven how right you may be AND as a result come out of it reasonably happy and have those on the other side of the discussion also be reasonably happy.
A few students, about 18 out of 90, said it was more important to be right in this scenario. Some of them presented other specific examples that I will not go into here, but I will say a few things in response to them all. To want to be right with the prospect of creating unhappiness in others is selfish, self-centered, self-seeking and simply cruel. It is, to be certain, spiritually, emotionally and mentally unfit to behave this way – unhealthy. You need to be corrected, guided and loved back to right thinking and acting. To that end, I request – and in hopes of creating truly healthy happiness for you and those aroundyou – that you read on.
Allow me to add an aside here, that teaching middle school can be so much fun. I am an authority figure, people look up to me. I am careful not to lead those in my charge to think as I do politically, religiously. I do however want them to get closer to the open-minded, tolerant, peaceful side of themselves. I, in fact and practice, deliberately foster these types of traits in the minds of students in my charge. Unfortunately, though, old ideas recur. And when I say this, I mean old ideas, attitudes and behaviors that I had when I was a child. I see them in my students. Makes sense, eh? For instance, I remember when I was a child, a child with a messy room, sharp mind, witty sense of humor, cutting sarcasm. I took great joy in getting under the skin of my brothers, my parents, my teachers. I was good at it too. Very witty was I. Oh, but I digress . . .
But back to my messy room. I remember that I wanted it that way and it was fun to keep it that way even though it infuriated my mother and father – I even found it amusing on occasion because it made them angry. Oh, the loads of discontent and fury I brought into that house. So much it could likely fill this quaint southern state to its deepest depths and highest elevations. I was in the midst of self-centered happiness – unconcerned with the repercussions of my actions on others. Had I accepted – been willing to accept it, ready – the value of what they were trying to instill in me, it is likely that I would have changed my ways, but I didn’t accept their wisdom. Because of that spiteful behavior, I made a lot of people unhappy, angry, sad, contentious, opposed. Of course, I didn’t care about how my actions were affecting others. It was all about me.
And these are the recurrent traits I find in the greater majority of the middle schoolers I come across these days. They are so many who are so much like I was. I found over time that I wasn’t unique then, and I am certainly not unique now. Although I always thought I was, and I still do at times.
In every block, I confronted closed-mindedness, and self-centeredness. “I want to be right! And by that rightness I will be happy” is essentially what these folks said. You might not remember this, but one of your classmates said in the first quarter, “If you can think right, then you can do right.” Universal truths. Universal themes. Across cultures, faiths, ethnicities. I have said it before, and I will continue to say it. Grow up. Stop thinking of yourselves. Think of others. You have not been given your brain for yourself, but for others. You are here to benefit the world. If it’s all about money, cars, soccer trophies, titles, medals, sneakers, endorsements, shoes, diamonds, whatever it tis for you, then go for it, but don’t live a self-centered life. Have it and give it.
It all came down to when I was told, “I will hold this against you for the rest of my life.” At that I had to pause and reflect for a moment. Exactly what would be held on to here? The idea that I was telling a child that to perpetuate an issue that creates dissent in his or her home is the wrong thing to do, creates unhappiness for others, and is not a healthy behavior? Will it be held on to that I quashed the idea that this way of thinking is not acceptable? Was it that a seemingly original idea presented by a student wasn’t original at all, and I said that flat out? Or was it that feelings were hurt when I had to tell someone in 1st block, 3rd block, and 4th block that they should get their thoughts together before they speak out loud? If this must be held on to, then so be it. Hopefully the lesson will come through some day.
Feelings aren’t facts, they pass. The time for the willful child is in your past as well, students of 2011-2012. It is time for you all to realize that you are here to serve your fellow human being. There is no room for yo to argue a point because it amuses you. Some of you took the question as a debate topic – it wasn’t one. The debate has to go on within you, until you get to the point that you concede to your innermost self that it is more importnant to be happy when what you are doing to be right is creating unhappiness for those around you. When it comes to the situation laid out above, for those who chose to be right . . . self-centeredness is at the root of your argument, and it will never be about you anymore. A self-centered standpoint will never suffice from here on out. From this time on, it is about how you can forget yourself and do something(s) for others who need your help, guidance, kindness, love, caring, and honest gentle hand. Sarcasm is the lie of the humorist. If it made you uncomfortable to be told, “you’re wrong,” then I have something else to tell you. Remember that feeling. It may come up again. When it does identify it as rooted in self-centered thought, feelings, and actions.
Respond to the contrary if you like, but know that if you do I will fervently oppose you in the interest of creating a vastly powerful selfless population to surround you and love you back to a healthy mental spiritual and emotional state.