#17 How to Live Longer in Happiness – Part 1: Defining Unhappiness
Survive in the natural or live in happiness is a decision we make multiple times per day. I’m not talking about using natural or organic products. I am talking about existing the way we are born – when our instincts preside over our intellect allowing us to just survive and not live life to the full. To fulfill God’s intent, we must go from just surviving to living longer in happiness. Part 1 of How to Live Longer in Happiness explains what it’s like to continue to live the way we are born – in the natural. Part 2 will explain what it’s like to live in happiness (the spiritual) and Part 3 will discuss how and why we move back and forth between the natural and the spiritual, and how to live longer in happiness.
A Story: From the Natural to the Spiritual
The best way for me to explain living in the natural and living happy (in the spiritual) is with a story based on Scripture:
In Genesis, we read how God created the heavens and the earth. He went on to create plants and animals, reaching the apex of His masterpiece with the creation of man.
While the animals were magnificent creatures, God made man even more extraordinary. He made man a cut above the animals; a part of, but not equal to Himself. He gave humans complete authority over the animals by giving them a more sophisticated brain. It is a feature that gives man the ability to think, create, gather and remember information, problem solve, make choices, gain wisdom, and make and follow rules. It gives us the ability to be mindful so we can survive in nature and live in happiness.
In the very beginning, the only rules man had were the rules of nature. These are the codes for survival. They are, might makes right and survival of the fittest. In other words, the unprincipled laws that those who dominate rule over others and those who have more will be fitter. Thus, nature is competitive.
Men continued to gain skills and knowledge. Knowing they didn’t create themselves, they knew there was something greater. Realizing the power of this super being, they relied on not one, but many gods for their basic needs, or, their survival. They believed they had to please the gods so the gods would take care of them.
As humans evolved, they made their own laws to maintain order, safety, and good health in their groups and to ensure everyone did his/her part to please the gods. As the population grew, so did the laws. These laws focused on survival and gave little consideration to things like joy, peace, love, satisfaction, freedom, and contentment – the elements of happiness.
Eventually, after the people developed more effective ways to communicate, God spoke to them through prophets who shared the information with the people. God told them how much He loved them and that there was more to life than surviving. He wanted them to live life to the full and have abundant joy; to live in happiness.
But, the people were stuck. Staying in the natural was, and still is, easier since we’re always there. The people had rules, but the rule-makers hadn’t moved very far out of the natural either. God spoke to them again, but this time he spoke directly to one man, Moses. God gave Moses ten directives that He wrote onto tablets. These commandments were instructions and goals to teach people how to love, to be honest, to have empathy, to be accountable, to treat each other with honor and respect, and to trust so they could have better relationships with God, themselves, and each other. It was a means for people to be mindful and live in happiness.
Our human frailties continued. So, God stepped up His plan. Showing unconditional love for us, He gave us His son, Jesus, as a gift for eternal happiness. Jesus was born like a regular human being so we could relate to Him. He came to teach the people by example and to give them a new instruction – to love one another as He has loved them. But, the story doesn’t end here. Jesus was persecuted, betrayed, and beaten, tortured, and killed because He didn’t live in the natural and challenged man’s and nature’s laws. He died so we can also be free from the natural. He died to free us from the sins of just surviving so we can live life to the full.
The story doesn’t end here either. Remembering Jesus is supernatural, He isn’t from this world. His world is beyond the natural. It is a spiritual realm of eternal glory. It is where God wants all of us to be. God wanted the people to follow His son so they would not only be happy here on earth but continue to live in complete happiness with Him forever.
How it Looks to Live in the Natural
Now, let’s look at what it’s like to continue to survive in the natural and uphold its laws, might makes right and survival of the fittest.
While nature is beautiful, the actions within it are brutal. A lion has no remorse after eating a baby antelope and squirrels don’t share their cache of acorns with rodents that have less. When we live in the natural, we can also look beautiful, but practice brutal behaviors. We can dominate others and need to be right. This makes us control freaks. We’re always looking (hunting) for more, making us greedy and selfish. We are competitive. This can make us impatient, intolerant, envious, arrogant, angry, and contemptible.
How many of us like to dominate – to win? By nature, we are competitors. You can see this in young children, especially when they play sports. I’ve been to several youth soccer games where the children are just learning. There were no field judges, no penalties, and no scorekeeping. But, after the game, the kids often talked as though they had won or lost, even mentioning the number of goals each team made.
To dominate, you must have power. This power can come from one’s role, physical or emotional strength, money, status, or fame. How often are we intimidated by someone in a more superior role? When we look at people who have more, how often do we view them as better, richer, more important – as more dominate? Truth be told, most of us don’t agitate someone who is twice our size.
Greedy and Selfish
The power tools we use for dominance correlate with the second law, survival of the fittest. To be fitter, one must have more; more food, more strength, more power, and more shelter. Therefore, we frequently want more and are always on the hunt. How often have you given your child something and she asks for more? We also want more when we compare what we have with what other people have.
We are also selfish. Not only do we want more, but we don’t want to give up what we have.
Natural Instincts and Emotions
While living in the natural gives us unkind characteristics, we survive through our natural instincts. These instincts connect to our emotions of fear, anger, and contempt. Since our instincts originated when we originated, they have status. Plus, they need to be powerful so they can be effective in maintaining our existence. Also, there are more of them than the one feeling we identify as being happy.
These necessary natural emotions are fear, anger, and contempt. Shame and guilt are also important for survival but come later. They arrive after we develop a conscience. For now, I’ll focus on the top three.
We are alerted to danger through our senses. We see, hear, taste, smell, or feel things that could be harmful. When we are alerted to danger, stress hormones are produced that prepare our bodies to fight or run for safety. If we have an overwhelming fear, we freeze, meaning we “play dead” or do nothing.
Fight, flight, and freeze translate into human behaviors of aggression, avoidance, and denial. If someone lives in constant fear (like people who have anxiety), he could constantly cycle through aggression, avoidance, and denial. He might be described as temperamental. It’s difficult to have a satisfying relationship with a fear cycler.
Anger allows you to dominate others by instilling fear in them. This can be physical or emotional. Physical dominance is obvious. Since men are naturally stronger than women, this natural sense of dominance is most likely the reason women and children were not treated with the same importance as men. However, we cannot deny our emotions. Men and women can emotionally dominate other people by making them feel afraid through shame and guilt.
Having no regard for someone is the epitome of disrespect. Overt contempt can come from mean spirited people or people who are stuck in fight mode of fear. A more subtle form of contempt comes from a lack of compassion and empathy. Notably, our society has less empathy. Young people today are less empathic than they were thirty years ago. Social media and parents who raise their children in the natural are two culprits for this insolence. Continuing this trend will not lead to happier living.
We Live Through Constant Want
Life is all about wanting. We constantly want something and God constantly wants us. The choice we must make is where we want to be. Then, we must decide how willing we are to get there.
This illustration shows where we are naturally and where God wants us to be. Part 2 of How to Live Longer in Happiness discusses what it’s like to be where God wants us – living in happiness, and Part 3 shows you how to get there.
Go From Just Surviving to Living Longer in Happiness: