Happiness is a State of Heart

Hollywood’s obvious antagonism toward biblical morality notwithstanding, the Oscars demonstrate that people still have the ability to act. By this I do not mean to comment on any given film performance but rather on the ability shown by actors when they lose in their category yet still smile and clap for the winner as if that was how they voted. Yes, it is expected. Yes, it is all part of the process. And yes, it is acting—some better than others. In fact, it recalls the origin of the word “hypocrisy,” which referred to people acting in a role which did not resemble themselves in reality. However, lest we suppose that such behavior occurs only amongst those with a screen actors guild card, let us consider how difficult it can be to be genuinely happy for someone who receives something we wished to have. This kind of situation tests how well we have jealousy and envy under control without a doubt; however, because it happens sporadically, we do not realize our own problem.

When the king, after having found that Mordecai had yet to be honored for his role in saving the king from a  conspiracy (Est. 6:1-3), called Haman in to ask his advice on how best to honor someone who pleased the king (Est. 6:4-6a), “Haman thought in his heart, ‘Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?’” (Est. 6:6b). Haman’s pride caused him to assume the king’s nameless description could only be speaking of him; therefore, he recommended precisely what he himself wished—a procession bearing all the marks of royalty save the kingship itself (Est. 6:7-9)—a plan which the king readily accepted. However, rather than being honored himself, it fell on Haman to honor Mordecai, an action that humiliated Haman because of his arrogant assumption (Est. 6:10-14).

Haman’s problem provides great insight for all of us—perhaps more than we would like to admit. He thought so much of himself because he thought so much about himself, and this left him little time or inclination to think of what others had done and what others deserved. This, I submit, lies at the root of the problem and offers the beginning of a solution. If we would spend our time considering what others have contributed at work, at school, in the work of the Lord, or anywhere else instead of concentrating on what we have done, we can appreciate their efforts and feel sincere happiness for them. Thus, instead of placing ourselves in constant competition with others for adulation and praise, we set our own performance aside and look only at what others have done, making it much easier to appreciate their work without trying to find flaws that might make us look better by comparison.

When someone receives recognition of any kind for a job well done, whether through a promotion at work, an award of some kind, or simply words of appreciation, let us “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15) from a sincere heart. It saddens me to see bitterness arise among Christians who feel slighted because they did not get something they wanted, leading them to feel envy rather than joy for those who received it instead. We are hurting ourselves when we allow this to happen. Instead, let us appreciate what we have and live to hear the words that truly matter, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21). More than that, let us grow to rejoice in all who share this hope—and do so without hypocrisy (1 Th. 2:19-20).

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