‘The first step to happiness is the point at which authentic
human connection meets genuine love.’
Recently, I watched a film by Nic Askew, film maker and creator of Soul Biographies, on How to Give a Fishing Lesson. A short film about a woman with a desire to fight poverty and change the world.
As I pondered the profound subtleties in the film, I sort of had an epiphany that led to the quote above. About how we connect with one another. The barriers that we erect over time in order to protect ourselves. All of those layers of protection that prevent us from connecting in an authentic way. And only serve to keep us apart from the gift of love itself.
Further still, I realized that true happiness does not exist in isolation, but in meaningful connection with others. It’s one of our most basic human needs.
‘True happiness exists in
meaningful connection with others.’
I want to take a moment to explore something that I feel is very important.
I’d like us to consider some popular beliefs, and objectively ask if they are serving us in a helpful way.
Over the years I have read books and encountered many sources over the internet that subscribe to the ‘just do it’ philosophy. ‘Just be happy.’ ‘You attract everything that happens to you in your life.’ And the list goes on.
Is it really true?
While I believe that being happy and content is something most of us want to feel and experience on a regular basis, it seems there is also far more to it then just parroting the words ‘Be happy. Just do it’ to someone. It’s almost as if we’ve come up with these ideas as a way to excuse ourselves from needing to provide help to anyone in need. A belief that, while on the surface, may seem to be all about taking responsibility for ourselves; may only be serving to disconnect us from genuine empathy and compassion.
Empty words do not tap into or meet the real needs people may be experiencing and struggling with in their life.
I was watching Freedom Writers: The Story Behind the Story recently, which illustrates my point very well. Each of these children in Erin Gruwell’s classroom were facing horrendous challenges both at home and with their peers that eclipsed their ability to learn and grow in healthy ways. It took a teacher who was willing to care enough to listen to their challenges in order to figure out how best to teach them.
‘Do we care enough to really listen?’
Quoting facts and talking at people do not touch the basic legitimate needs of humans:
- The need to love and be loved.
- The need to be accepted and belong.
- To know our own worth and value.
- To know what it means to have purpose and meaning in life.
It takes far more then words. It takes sincere, loving action to activate positive beliefs, faith, and potential in the people we encounter. And in our own homes. If loving actions do not exist, ‘just do it‘ words fall flat. They have no meaning or value in a persons life.
I’m suggesting that the first step to happiness is not what many people are being taught today; which is to simply will yourself to be happy.
Is this possible for everyone without a foundation of modeling and mirroring from others
who have provided them with genuine love first?
- an abused child?
- a homeless person?
- people who are starving to death?
- the person who has just experienced profound loss and in intense pain?
How do you imagine those kids in Erin Gruwell’s class would feel if that is what she told them. ‘Be happy. Just do it.‘ Or if this were said to those listed in the above examples?
The ability to experience true happiness also requires that the person believes they have enough value to deserve to be happy. Many people have not had their own worth and value modeled to them. In many cases, it is quite the opposite. About 3/4 way through the Freedom Writers video mentioned earlier, there is a scene where Erin asks one of her students why he gave himself an ‘F’ on an assignment. He told her that is what he felt that he deserved…
‘Be happy….Just do it….’
Let’s go back to the basics for a moment. To the beginning.
I am reminded of the time I spent working with mothers and their newborns in Germany. I can also recall my experiences when both of my daughters were born. When a baby first enters the world and takes in that first breath of life, happiness is born the moment that baby physically connects with someone who really loves and cares for them.
You may have experienced this yourself when holding your own babies for the first time. Or you’ve witnessed a content baby in the arms of their own loving mother or father. They are content because they know they are loved. Their needs are being taken care of.
Babies whose needs are neglected and go unloved, eventually suffer from failure to thrive. In fact, babies can die from it.
Regardless of what may be passed around in some popular teachings today, we do not lose this need to connect. To love and be loved. To belong….after infancy. We have the same needs in childhood. We also have them as adults. These are essential keys to happiness regardless of our age. While it is important that we teach personal accountability and responsibility, this is not effective or really possible unless it is being modeled along side authentic connection and genuine love. Legitimate human needs cannot be ignored or neglected for effective learning to take place.
Now if you’ve managed to read this far, you might be thinking; ‘Great. Just what I need. Another helping of guilt heaped onto an already too heavy plate!’ No worries. This isn’t a call to action in the personal flogging department. None of us needs another judgment stick to remind us of yet another ‘failure’ in life. It’s simply a way to raise conscious awareness and explore ways we can see things in a different light.
‘Life is about learning and growth, not perfection.’
An important caveat to this: it’s impossible to be all things to all people. There is simply not enough time in the day nor is it realistic to give to every cause and person under the sun. And we don’t need to. So please let that go. It can also be helpful to understand and accept that we only need to give what we have and are willing to give. Self-care is important too.
The best place to start is right where we are and with those we already love and care about. This provides the best place to practice and the ultimate training ground. When we feel led or inspired, we can reach beyond to connect with others in many meaningful ways.
As your learn to connect with your own internal guidance system, it will become easier to hear what your heart is trying to tell you. If you are listening, your own heart will lead the way. When it does, you may feel drawn to a particular cause or situation. And naturally feel inspired to give and help out.
And what a wonderful world it would be if people helping people grew to be as natural as breathing.
- What practical ideas can you imagine that would help you to connect with others in a more authentic and meaningful way?
- What needs do you personally have that you do not honestly share and express to others? What would it take for you to honestly admit your legitimate needs to someone who loves and cares for you?
- What would life be like if we were to drop our masks? Watch Behind the Mask. A short film by Nic Askew of Soul Biographies.