Many people believe that possessing wealth or material goods makes for a happier life. And maybe for some people that’s true, but generally it isn’t. The true capacity to enjoy life more fully is found in our hearts, in our passion and love of life, in our quality as people and, of course, in our culture and attitude.
It seems much more important to find a way to diminish the frustrations and failures we have during our many activities, than to pursue monetary or social success. It’s not enough to have a comfortable home or a beautiful family and many friends; we need to face and overcome difficult challenges without succumbing to them.
We show our true mettle in the face of problems, in the face of enemies. When things don’t go our way, when we’re lied to, deceived, or insulted — that’s when we see what we’re made of.
We can show the best of ourselves when facing those who hate us, those who make fun of us, those who humiliate us, those who owe us, and all those we may be tempted to treat with anger or disdain. With them, our real capacity to love is put to the test, because treating people who love us well doesn’t require any special effort. Loving our enemies, on the other hand, does.
Enjoying life fully isn’t as easy as it seems, because it requires striving to be kind and respectful to those who do not think as we do, or to those who have offended and insulted us.
I’ve known many people who hold on to enormous and inexhaustible resentment, because in the past they were mistreated and made to feel terribly bad, perhaps even betrayed. Instead of forgiving, they’ve weighted themselves down with a miserable burden, filled with resentment and hatred.
People who harbor grudges and resentment over every perceived slight or disappointment make themselves unable to enjoy life. It’s not a matter of lacking money or material goods, but of being unable to go beyond these inevitable experiences.
There are different levels of goods in life. Some people live stressed, running after money, material goods and many banal pleasures that don’t contribute anything truly special to their lives. They are seeking things that are good, but not the higher goods.
Others, on the other hand, focus on elevating their quality of life, striving to achieve greater culture and genuine spirituality and to exercise emotional intelligence by forming magnificent human relationships. Seeking higher goods in this way leads to greater happiness.
A. Maslow (1908-1970), in his proposal on the theory of human motivation, points out that a self-actualized person can serenely face death, without asking for anything more.
It’s a matter of progressively perfecting ourselves, putting an end to useless and perverse suffering, especially that which we cause ourselves when we cease to strive to live more fully. We must avoid being trapped in the fulfillment of the most elementary needs of gratification and pleasure, without yet enjoying the transcendence of generosity, creativity and self-realization. We must not miss the opportunity to realize a life project that explicitly contemplates the well-being of others, be they family, friends, colleagues, or the community.
We need to view reality without the interference of polarized, conflicting, black-and-white and often antagonistic positions (such as reason vs. heart, duty vs. pleasure, selfish vs. altruistic, or passive vs. active). Rather, we must harmonize these opposites in our judgments and activities. In short, we must follow the famous saying of St. Augustine who said, “Love and do what you will.”
Yes, we should enjoy what we choose in life, enjoying whatever good things we find on our path, but always keeping in mind not to do harm or offend God or others, doing good. When we are wrong, we must make reparation and correct our actions properly and opportunely.
It’s important not to be a cause of the suffering for others, but rather provide support and accompaniment. We should live more focused on proposing solutions to the difficulties of life, than self-absorbed in our problems, overcome by angst and negativity.
In this way, we will discover how we can get more enjoyment out of life.