A few months ago our church began to look ahead towards Easter and the celebration that was forthcoming. There was a Good Friday service (something I don't remember ever going to!) and the pastor wanted to create a special, meaningful experience. In March we picked up a small burlap bag full of a few Bible verses and a blank card. On the card we were to write a lie we told ourselves, or one we believed that someone else told us.
I thought about this for awhile, because we are surrounded by lies every day - that we are not _______ enough, that we need _______ to look successful, or a myriad of other things that distract us from the truth about who we are and who God is. While I could have written down dozens of things, I simply chose one. The lie I wrote down was: I have to spend more time on myself in order to be happy.
I hear it all the time, every day, and specifically in the industry of creative entrepreneurs. The lie is that I need to focus inward to be happy. I need to protect my time, I need to look at my desires, and I need to put myself first.
Part of this is true. We can't do everything and please everyone, and we certainly do need time to ourselves. I believe in dreaming big dreams and making them happen, or I wouldn't be typing this today. There is so much in that sentiment, though, that quickly becomes twisted. I realized that I was trying to be happier by being more selfish. By focusing on making me happy above anyone else. By living for myself first and foremost.
All of this was doing the opposite of its intended effect. From experience I know that focusing more on myself does not make me happier. Instead, I was motivated to look for opportunities to serve others. This might be Nathan one day, my family the next, and a stranger after that. It might be my church, my small group, or my literal neighbor. It might be a one-time act of a long-term investment, but either way the goal was to look outside myself not so that I could be happy, but so I could love well.
In a million years I am not going to list the opportunities I had to serve others. They are small, humble, and don't deserve to be mentioned in light of all that others have done for me. But I can say in 100% honesty that serving others and loving them well has increased my happiness one hundred fold. I have become more joyful. I care less and less about things that don't matter, like social media followers or the stuff that fills my house. I am learning to love my husband better, in acts big and small, and I have learned how rewarding it is to serve.
Don't believe the lie that focusing on yourself to the exclusion of serving others will make you happy - it will only lead to regret over the time you could have spent loving those around you. Learn from my mistake and start to look outside yourself today. I promise you won't regret it a bit.