It Doesn’t Come From You
It sounds pretty harsh at first. When we think about all the positive responses we get when we do nice things for other people, we feel great. We feel that we really made a difference, we’re good people, and we have a mission.
But frankly, anything you do for someone doesn’t define their happiness from that moment on. Certainly, you or your action can be a facet of their overall mood and lifestyle, especially if you’ve made a connection or relationship with them. They will associate you with positive feelings and you will be seen as a positive spark in their circle of support. At the end of the day, though, their feelings are their own. It’s nice to cheer friends up when they’re down, like taking them out to eat or buying them a gift they like. But it’s not up to you to be the healer of their own pain and struggles. Ultimately, you can’t feel offended or that you didn’t try hard enough if they still end up sad even after you tried to help.
Not allowing others their own space for their own feelings becomes selfish when you start believing that it’s up to you to make others happy.
It’s Not Your Place
“But what about people who volunteer and stuff?” The difference is that doing acts of service for other people as your mission is a way to show equal love and compassion for humankind. It doesn’t mean that you are trying to make people happy, but perhaps sharing technology or providing them an easier life. You are helping them make space for themselves in a position where they didn’t have that space to begin with.
But you mustn’t assume that people will be really happy now that they’re in a good position now. It’s the same excuse people make when they find out someone who’s rich or famous is depressed or committed suicide. “How could he be so selfish, he has a perfect life, what’s there to be sad about?” We may tend to associate our own ideas of a perfect lifestyle and project them onto others as if our opinion matters in the scope of their troubles.
It’s nice to say things like “I will always make you happy” to a loved one. However, it’s an empty promise because you are really not the guarantor of their happiness. That’s not to say that you aren’t a positive influence in their life.
To love someone, we must be able to understand that they have a life separate from us. That they also have means to make themselves happy. And that you are by no obligation their sole source of happiness.
When we finally let go of these unnecessary phantom ties and obligations to others, we can truly appreciate and love them.