What People Really Want

I was speaking with a friend at work today and we were discussing education and life goals. It brought back to my mind the original reason I started this blog, the reason it’s called the “hero instinct”.

The reality is that people don’t want to be happy. Not really. Happiness is great, obviously, but happiness only a short-term emotion. What we really want is to love and be loved–to know and be known. These two things may seem as though they are the same thing, after all, doesn’t love make you happy? I can tell you from my brief experience, and I have heard from those who have loved harder and longer than I have, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, one might say that being loved and known, loving and knowing, are the root of the deepest forms of pain and sadness. What hurts worse than betrayal? Who could betray you but those you love?

And what is worse than not understanding what we really want, our entire lives seem committed to hiding the truth from us. We surround ourselves with the trappings of happiness to help us believe that there is a happily ever after for us. We partake of TV, food, social media, and a thousand other things that are not bad in themselves but act as an opiate to deaden us enough that we don’t feel the desperate longing in our souls to love and to know.

From an early age we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. Not WHO we want to be, WHAT we want to be. The consequences of the Industrial Revolution which made promises of progress and false hopes of freedom has instead fashioned man after the machines he has invented. Schools and universities strive to turn people into interchangeable parts to fit the societal machine and in return drugs them with entertainment so that they are caught forever in the fate of almost being happy.

Keats was wrong! It is not enough to be almost blissful and it never fade. Tennyson instead has my vote, it is better to have loved and lost. It is better to know pain and know it deeply than to live so long a life trapped in a tomb right next door to happiness. There was a time when the ideal of a university was a place where people became themselves and rather than making them alike they were encouraged to be different. Deep in men and women’s souls there is a unique stamp that God has placed there.

It is only when that God given vocation can be mined and brought forth, when it can be encouraged and challenged, when it can be honed like the skills of a warrior and embraced like ones beloved, then can a person truly know and be known. Only then can a person love and truly accept love. This is what I want to do. I want to help people move from existing to being. I spend a great deal of time talking to people of my own generation who are in college or have graduated and I am often saddened.

I beg of you, if your plan is to get a degree, find a job, and spend the rest of your life working so that you can come home and sit on your butt, and use media as your drug of choice, please don’t go to college. There are far cheaper ways to waste your life. The marketplace if full of people just like you who have a degree and take up valuable jobs without ever even attempting to make a difference.

When Paul wrote in Phillipians 1 that dying would be gain but living means fruitful labor, this is not only meant for those in ministry. For all of us who are still here living should mean fruitful labor in whatever calling we have been called. C.S. Lewis speaks of this brilliantly in his sermon “Learning in Wartime” where he expresses that even in a time of war, whether of this world as World War II was, or of the spiritual realm, which we all live fight daily, we are to be about learning and growing and staking claim on all Truth as God’s. There is no calling that God calls any of us to that cannot be used fully to the glory of God.

So I beg not only those of my generation, but also those of my parents and grandparents generation, even as I strive to teach my own children. I beg you to head Paul’s words in Ephesians 5. “Make the most of your time, because the days are evil.” And again, “Do not be foolish, but understand the will of the Lord.” Do what God has put you here to do and you will know and be known, you will love and be loved, and happiness will be the furthest thing from your mind. It will be replaced with something so much better, it will be replaced with peace.


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