By Derek Maul

This week I asked my men’s group to rate how “positive” they feel, along with a brief explanation. It’s interesting to see how different individuals arrive at their answers, and the wide variety of criterion employed.

My response was tied to this explanation: “Today was one more in a series of spectacularly beautiful spring days. Sunshine and highs in the mid-60’s, new life bursting out everywhere.”
In other words, “I can’t help myself!”

I’m not sure “I can’t help myself” is a good answer. Paul wrote that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:10-12).

Paul suggests we actually can help ourselves; he’s saying contentment is something we can learn.

That same evening I listened to a TED-Radio segment. The speaker was talking about research that has demonstrated, trial after trial, how to effect positive change when it comes to personal contentment and happiness.

If you hear what I’m saying with an open spirit, this has the potential to radically change your life. Here it is: People experience contentment and measurable happiness when they set their own desires aside, and focus their attention and their resources on improving the wellbeing of others. Generosity leads directly to a more positive life.

No surprise, my writing mentor Paul had something to say about that, too:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).

Don’t be selfish. Value others above yourselves. Focus on the needs, concerns, and happiness of your spouse, your community, coworkers, your friends, strangers. Follow Jesus.
Be that guy; be that woman; practice the Gospel of Love. Then answer the question about how positive you feel.

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Derek Maul
Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at