December 28 – Other peoples’ happiness as the measure of my success

December 28. “A good criterion for measuring your success in life is the number of people you have made happy.” (Robert L. Lumsden)

I tend to be very hard on myself. I am usually my own worst critic. So, when I read a quote like this, my mind instantly goes to the list of people I have made UNhappy in my life. I can probably write a very long book on all the incidents in my life where I disappointed someone, or made them downright unhappy with me. The list would be long, and to me all of the incidents would be huge.

The truth is that I have made people unhappy in my life. I have made mistakes. In fact, I have had some royal screw ups in my day. I have hurt people around me with both my actions and my inactions at times. I have said stupid things by mistake that have hurt peoples’ feelings. Worse, I have done it on purpose at times.

I have this image, probably drubbed into me by my Catholic upbringing, that I will one day be before God and my life will be replayed for me like some kind of an ultimate Truman Show. Each action in my life will be judged. I imagine there will be some kind of a scoreboard somewhere that totals my sins up. I worry that when my life is played before me I will be asking for the remote so we can skip over the ugly parts. I worry further that the good parts will be too few, and too far in between for my taste or God’s.

Of course, no one knows what their judgment will be like. But when I am being rational with myself I know this. I have made my share of mistakes, but I have also done many good things in life as well.

I have been married for nearly 32 years. My wife is dedicated to me, and I to her. We have both had our shares of pain in this marriage, but overall we make each other happy. I have 4 adult children who could all choose to stay away from me, but they don’t. Instead they frequently choose to have me around, even when their friends are around. I have a circle of friends that are eager to see me when the opportunities arise.

I know, on balance, I have made more people happy in life than not. I know that I am human, and as such I make mistakes, but I also know that when it’s all totaled up, I have come out on the side of happiness more often than not.

That doesn’t mean I am not always striving to be better. I am. Part of my unpublished goals for next year will include self-improvement. Increasing my own personal kindness, getting myself even better every day.

Today my reflection is on my own success in life as it relates to how happy I have made the people around me. I think there is room for improvement, and I think that I have done a reasonably good job so far. J

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