Maybe this is mostly because I am enamored with logic, truth and reason. Maybe this is because I have been accused of being emotionless. Maybe it’s the combination but I thoroughly dislike the “you do you” or “do what makes you happy” movement. Movement…is that what you would call it? Lifestyle, maybe? Regardless, I absolutely dislike it, but don’t go yet, give me a chance. I kindly ask that you read this whole post and if you hate it, never look at my blog again, but please give me a chance.
It’s well-meaning but every time I hear it, I experience this full-body cringe and it’s not pleasant. I don’t know if it’s just a me thing, but it genuinely rubs me the wrong way.
My main premise is I truly believe people are born naturally “evil”. Now I put “evil” in quotation marks because though I do not believe most people have this deep-rooted desire to kill their next-door neighbor, I think we naturally find it somewhat easy to lie, become envious, develop way too much arrogance and pride, etc. These are all labeled as sinful acts and we are tempted toward them. We know they are wrong, but we cannot help but be tempted. So with all that being said I think about what I would do if I did what made me happy.
I have a strong moral compass built into me and I thank God, the Intentional Designer, for that. It’s great because things are put into clear categories for me: right & wrong, but what’s not so great is I try to put everything into either bin. Grey does not exist in my world, it’s black and white. Anyway, my point being is though I know what’s right and wrong most of the time, if I did what made me happy, more often than not, I’d willingly choose the wrong actions.
Feeding into my emotional cravings, if I did what made me happy, I’d be completely selfish. I would take advantage of others. I would give into every single temptation because I’d think it would make me happy, and maybe it would for a single moment. I would hoard all my money. I would stop looking at the needs of others. I could never develop the selfless love that’s talked about in the Bible, no way. My hope is you’re a much better person than me so maybe that’s not how you would respond, but honestly if I did what made me happy I would be the most selfish person in the world. Doing everything that makes me happy yet still craving something more…I’ll be honest.
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Galatians 5:16-18
This is one of those Christian things and thoughts that I have. My non-Christian friends, just hear me out and follow the logic, but I would much rather follow the advise of “do what’s wise.” than “do what makes you happy”. I see how that would greatly improve my self-development and self-awareness. Maybe it’s because I’ve been re-reading the book of Proverbs every month since July, which I also think non-Christians would benefit from as it is filled with practical advice and wisdom. Maybe it’s solely my hunger for logic and my tendency to follow reason over my emotions, but I think “do what’s wise” is a better mantra. We should consider wisdom and happiness but maybe sometimes wisdom over happiness.
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” James 3:17
Now maybe you’re thinking, I’m taking this way too seriously. Maybe the last time you told me “do what makes you happy” it was over choosing whether to eat a chicken burger or chicken nuggets. And to my memory, I did not have a problem with that, but it’s when I’ve asked for advice. Should I date him? Should I act this way toward my coworkers? Should I treat my family in this way? Should I be looking more at her needs and less of my own?
“Do what makes you happy” can be great advice for inconsequential things like choosing what color to wear, but I think we need to be more careful with how we say it and when we say it. Maybe doing what makes us happy is not the best advice as perfectly imperfect flawed beings. Maybe I’m just in the percentage of jerks that would be utterly selfish all the time, but I think it’s at least something to consider. Yes there’s a balance and maybe the goal is to do what’s wise AND what makes you happy, but more often than not I see wisdom completely ignored. That genuinely worries me.
As finite people with finite minds, we do what seems right in our own eyes. The book of Judges is a great example of what we do when left to our own devices and desires. “ In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6 followed by chaos, murder, and tragedy to say the least. I don’t know if that ever worries you, but that worries me. We think we’re doing what’s right but how much knowledge can we really gain with a finite mind? How do we know that we should walk around preaching “do what makes you happy”? I am brought to comfort when I read the book of Proverbs:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
And I get it, it’s a “cop-out answer” to point to God to explain the unexplainable. It’s a “cop-out answer” when society says we have these “needs” and the Bible says something else. It’s a “cop-out answer” when there are certain passages and commandments that our society rages against. I get it. But I think there is some truth to all of that, who is to say we have nearly the amount of or even the capacity for knowledge as an infinite God has? I think our minds are like children compared to God’s, at least mine is. It’s like the four-year old that tries to reason with his parents that he should be able to go to the store by himself. I genuinely think we have childlike minds when comparing our minds to God. Regardless of your thoughts on the Christian God, there is validity in not fully understanding something so infinite, indescribable and, intelligent.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Even the parts of the Bible that the secular world likes to tear apart, most of the time it’s because we do not have the full context and this leads to people who claim to hate the God that doesn’t exist. I am speaking from experience. This is not me judging you. Some passages I wanted to avoid because I didn’t like them, but turns out I just didn’t completely understand them. They are great if you accept the context. That’s also not to say that there are still spots that I have a really hard time with, but it brings a lot of perspective. God can be sovereign, unconditionally loving, faithful, gracious, etc. even if I cannot always understand it. I can accept God as eternally loving and infinitely knowledgeable and I can also disagree with God; that doesn’t make Him less loving or less knowledgeable.
But those are the thoughts I have when I see the Bible preach one thing and I see society preach another. Maybe we are not nearly as wise as we think we are. Maybe we’ll change our mind about a lot of things in 20 years. We see that now. We see that all the time. I’d like to hope we are becoming more knowledgeable, but also who is to say we could ever be remotely close to having the same capacity for wisdom as God? Who is to say that doing what makes us happy is necessarily the wisest thing to do? Personally, that’s why I seek wisdom from the Bible and not from the world. I don’t trust my finite and fickle mind enough, but I do trust an unchanging God (Hebrews 13:8).
As much as I am overly concerned with making the wise choice with anything, the beautiful thing is Jesus and how salvation is through faith alone. It’s not our works. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about making the right decision all the time. Jesus is so much greater than this imperfect world. Jesus changes absolutely everything. You are made worthy, loved fully and created intentionally. Just consider it. And while you’re at it, I’d suggest reading the book of Proverbs. Give it a chance. Ponder it as we may not be nearly as wise as I’d like to think we are.
Also, may I suggest that doing what’s wise could potentially be more beneficial than doing what makes you happy? But it’s not all black and white, apparently, but just consider it. Could you do me a favor and read the passage from Ecclesiastes too? Thank you for reading. I appreciate all the support, wholeheartedly.
Wisdom for Life – Ecclesiastes 7:1-14
“A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. 2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart.3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. 4 A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.5 Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool. 6 A fool’s laughter is quickly gone, like thorns crackling in a fire. This also is meaningless. 7 Extortion turns wise people into fools, and bribes corrupt the heart. 8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. 9 Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. 10 Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. 11 Wisdom is even better when you have money. Both are a benefit as you go through life. 12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life. 13 Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.”