Choices That Lead to Happiness
“I WISH I had done things differently!” How many times have you said that to yourself? We all want to make choices that we will not regret, especially when those choices affect the course of our life. How, though, can we make choices that lead to happiness?
To begin with, we need to have standards that are truly reliable. Do such standards exist? Many people do not think so. According to a survey in the United States, 75 percent of college seniors believe that there is no such thing as right and wrong and that concepts of good and evil vary according to “individual values and cultural diversity.”
Is it really reasonable to think that moral standards are simply a matter of personal or popular opinion? No, it is not. If people were free to do whatever they wished, the result would be chaos. Who would want to live in a place where there were no laws, no courts, and no policemen? Besides, personal opinion is not always a reliable guide. We may choose to do something that we believe to be right, only to discover later that we were mistaken. Indeed, the whole of human history testifies to the truth of this Biblical precept: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Where, then, can we turn for guidance when making decisions on the important issues of life?
The young ruler who was mentioned in the preceding article wisely went to Jesus. As we have seen, in answering the young man’s question, Jesus referred to God’s Law. Jesus recognized that Jehovah God is the highest Source of knowledge and wisdom and that He knows what is best for His creatures. Consequently, Jesus said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) Truly, God’s Word is a reliable source of direction that will help us make wise choices in life. Let us consider a few principles found in God’s Word that if applied will contribute to our happiness.
The Golden Rule
In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught a basic principle that can help us make wise decisions in our relationships with others. This is what he said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) This principle of conduct is often called the Golden Rule.
Some have used a similar expression in a negative form: “Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourselves.” To show the difference between the Golden Rule and a negative form of it, consider Jesus’ parable of the neighborly Samaritan. A Jew was beaten and left half-dead along the road. A priest and a Levite saw him but passed him by. Because they did nothing to add to the man’s misery, it might be said that they acted according to a negative version of the Golden Rule. In contrast, a passing Samaritan stopped to help. He dressed the man’s wounds and took him to an inn. He did for the man what he would have wanted done for himself. He applied the Golden Rule—and made the right choice.—Luke 10:30-37.
There are many ways that we can apply this rule of conduct with happy results. Suppose a new family moves into your neighborhood. Why not take the initiative to meet and welcome its members? You might help them get familiar with the area as well as address their questions and needs. By taking the initiative in showing neighborly consideration, you will promote good relations with your new neighbors. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you did what is pleasing to God. Is that not a wise decision?
Choices Based on Love for Others
In addition to the Golden Rule, Jesus gave other direction that will help you make wise choices. When asked what was the greatest commandment in the Mosaic Law, Jesus answered: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”—Matthew 22:36-40.
The night before his death, Jesus gave his disciples “a new commandment,” to love one another. (John 13:34) Why did he describe that command as new? After all, had he not already explained that loving their neighbor was one of the two commandments upon which the whole Law hangs? Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites were commanded: “You must love your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus, however, now commanded his disciples to do more than that. On that same night, Jesus told his disciples that he was about to give his life for them. Then he told them: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) Yes, this commandment was new in that it required putting other people’s interests ahead of one’s own.
There are many ways we can show unselfish love, going beyond just caring for our own interests. Suppose, for example, you lived in an apartment and you wanted to listen to music at a volume that exhilarated you but upset your neighbor. Would you be willing to curtail your enjoyment so that your neighbor could have some peace? In other words, would you put your neighbor’s welfare ahead of your own?
Consider another situation. On a cold and snowy winter day in Canada, an elderly man received a visit by two of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the course of conversation, the man mentioned that a heart condition prevented him from clearing away the snow in front of his home. An hour or so later, he heard loud scraping sounds. The two Witnesses had returned to clear the path and steps leading to his front door. “Today I experienced true Christian love at work,” he wrote in a letter to the Canada branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It really gave me a lift and changed my generally pessimistic outlook on today’s world. It further cemented my already great respect for your worldwide endeavors.” Yes, choosing to render help, however small it may seem, can affect others in a positive way. What happiness there is in making such self-sacrificing choices!
Choices Based on Love for God
Another factor we must consider when we make choices is what Jesus described as the greatest commandment—that we love God. Jesus’ words were addressed to the Jews, who as a nation were already in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah. Still, individual Israelites had to choose whether they would serve their God with whole-souled and wholehearted love.—Deuteronomy 30:15, 16.
Likewise, the choices you make reflect how you feel about God. For instance, as you grow in appreciation for the practical value of the Bible, you too face a choice. Would you be willing to undertake a systematic study of the Bible, with the objective of becoming a follower of Jesus? Choosing to do so is sure to bring you happiness, for Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.
We do not know whether the young ruler regretted his decision. However, we do know how the apostle Peter felt after following Jesus Christ for many years. In about 64 C.E., as the end of his life was approaching, Peter encouraged his fellow believers: “Do your utmost to be found finally by [God] spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Peter 1:14; 3:14) Clearly, Peter did not regret the choice he had made over 30 years earlier, and he encouraged others to stick to the choice they had made.
Following Peter’s advice means making the choice to accept the responsibilities of being one of Jesus’ disciples and to observe God’s commandments. (Luke 9:23; 1 John 5:3) This may seem challenging, yet we have Jesus’ reassuring promise: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30.
Consider Arthur’s experience. At the age of ten, Arthur started to take violin lessons, with a professional career in view. By the time he was 14, he had established himself as a concert violinist. Still, he was not happy. His father always had questions about the meaning of life and invited religion teachers to his home; yet, he was never satisfied with their answers. As a family, they talked about whether God really exists and why he permits evil. Then Arthur’s father started a discussion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The conversation struck a responsive chord with Arthur’s father, leading to a Bible study for the whole family.
In time, Arthur came to understand from the Scriptures why God permits suffering, and he saw clearly the purpose of life. Together with three other members of his family, Arthur made a choice that he has not regretted. He dedicated his life to Jehovah. “I am so happy that Jehovah has blessed me with a knowledge of the truth and that he rescued me from the rivalry typical among professional musicians. To succeed, people will do anything.”
Arthur still enjoys playing the violin to entertain his friends, but his life does not revolve around it. Instead, his life is centered on his service to God. He has been serving at one of the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like Arthur and millions of others, but unlike the rich young ruler, you too can make the choice that will bring you the greatest happiness—that of accepting the invitation from Jesus to be his follower.
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Your decision can make a difference in other people’s life
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Will you study the Bible and become a follower of Jesus?