I believe it is one of the greatest ironies of life:
The happiest people I know are those who spend a great deal of time making others happy. The most miserable people I know are those who spend a great deal of time trying to make themselves happy.
On the surface, the equation doesn't seem to add up. If you spend your life trying to make yourself happy, chasing after your every heart's desire, you should be very happy.
On the surface, chasing after every desire does make a person quite happy -- for a time, anyway. The problem is, the human experience goes further than the surface.
Deep within every one of us, there is an innate need to share, give and contribute. The outer trappings of "things" and "positions" cannot replace or fulfill the inner needs of our soul.
I have watched people live their entire lives "on the surface," always concerned with themselves, never delving deeper to enrich their lives by enriching the lives of others.
Their quest for personal happiness is a sad and pathetic plight; the longer they seek happiness for themselves, the more miserable they become.
Stuck in a cycle
A person who is most concerned with his or her own happiness runs on the continual food chain ring of "Me, Myself and I."
Their problem is, every "Me" needs to be fed.
They are unhappy because they are "hungry" for something they want. (The "hunger" is often dictated by something someone else has.) They "feed" themselves the want and are happy. But it isn't long before they are "hungry" and unhappy again.
A self-server is always looking for that next happy high.
It is the cycle of selfishness. It is impossible to stay satisfied for long. Something new to entice the heart is always around the corner.
But it is impossible to satisfy every whim. When self-servers are unable to please their desires, they only have one place to look -- at themselves.
That is when the misery sets in.
They start to notice all the little things about themselves that they "wish" they could change. The aches and pains begin to enhance. Their feelings are hurt by every cheerful do-gooder trying to bring them out of themselves.
They start to notice the imperfections of their surroundings. The couch is out-dated ... the floor is stained ... the car is old ... the world is a mess ...
They sit in misery, the equivalent of a ball player riding the pine, picking the splinters out of his rear, criticizing the players in the field.
A different way of living
Meanwhile, those who put their own wants behind those of others live a completely different existence.
The aches and pains, stained floor, old car and messed up world are all the same. It is simply filtered through a different perspective -- that of others.
People dedicated to serving others don't notice all the imperfections around them. They are too busy making others' lives better.
They are the mothers who aren't content until their children are content.
They are the fathers who won't rest until the bills are paid.
They are the volunteers feeding the hungry ... the neighbor helping a neighbor ... the friend hugging a friend.
For "Me, Myself and I" such activities seem senseless, too time-consuming with no reward for "Me."
On the surface, they are right. There is often no immediate reward for making others happy. Yet, deep inside, the true reward lies.
The fleeting, surface happiness of serving yourself is brought on by one event and lost in the next.
Serving others brings a happiness that is deep and heart-felt with a sense of well-being that does not wax and wane with every emotional high and low.
The happiness of serving others grows year by year, building upon one service after another, creating a life of fulfillment that reaches far beyond the deeds of the service.
It is an equation that only works when "I" is added to "You."