I recently traveled to Thailand. I spent sixteen days there and I had a really great time trying to pick out all the similarities between there and America. To name a few: there are happy people there, some kids can still be seen running to class trying not to be late, there is traffic and the baby (my brother's son) is a total babe magnet. Really, the food may be different and the markets sell obscure wild animals and geckos may replace cockroaches in the way of pests but really, people are people and we all live life. Different lives, yes, but life nonetheless. And everyone there is the only one of them in the whole world. No duplicates.
You are you and I am me. And how magical is life because of it!
For instance, I talked to a guy named Best while I was there. He is one of my brother's friends, a fitness expert and brave enough to drive us around Bangkok. He is also a Buddhist. It was really fun to get to know more about Buddhism as we toured a few temples and tried to spot all the offering shrines around the city. There are a lot of similarities between what I believe, being a Mormon, and what he believes. He talked about how he tries to live his life trying not to harm others. I feel the exact same way. Why inflict pain on others when you know first hand how badly it hurts? Sometimes people think that living that way is limiting and nonsensical but really, it isn't. But there is a difference between striving to live a harmless life and living in fear of hurting others.
*The following few paragraphs are a slight digression. But I feel they are relevant*
Striving to live a harmless life is all about true intentions and making decisions in the best way you know how without the intent to hurt anyone. There are people in life who will choose to be offended etc. by the choices you make but that is something they have to overcome. For example: My senior year of high school we all started choosing where we would be going in the Fall. I chose UCSB and my best friend Jess chose UCSD and still more of my really good friends chose UCLA, BYU, Cal State Chico and some chose to stay here. Those were choices that were hard to make but our intention was not to hurt anyone by choosing to go to various colleges and university far away from those people we love the most. Yes, everyone was sad and hurt because we all had to move so far away and our daily hang outs would have to turn in to Christmas parties and Facebook stalking. But we are all still friends. And good friends at that. My friends could have gotten angry with me and pushed me away but they didn't. Maintaining close relationships while living far away takes time and effort but it is so worth it. Instead my friends congratulated me and let me go on an adventure. I still hang out with, and love my friends right here in my home town. They are one of the best things in my life. No matter how far away we are or where life takes us we will always be friends. Because we love each other and want the best for each other. That is living life.
Living in fear of hurting others is being so overwhelmed and anxious about the outcome of a choice you make and how it can be misconstrued that you just stop living your life and hole up or spend your life stuck doing things you don't want to just because you think they are the safest things to do. That would be like me, wanting to go to UCSB or BYU but not going because I think my friends would be angry with me. Firstly, I would be limiting myself and I'd feel like I'd be missing out. Secondly, my friends and family wouldn't be angry with me for wanting to go to a good university and taking classes they know I'd love and improving myself if I have the opportunity. Because they love me. And I trust that.
Good friends let you do things like go off to college and they get excited for you (and cry a bit) when you leave but then welcome you back when you come home just like you never left. They don't want to hold you back. They just want to see you, happy. Surrounding yourself with people like that makes living a full and happy life so much easier (Even though life is still full of complexity and uncertainty and certainly not the easiest thing to do) because they know you love them as much as they love you and they trust that. They chose not to be offended and instead chose to be happy for you. And you chose to be happy for them. Just because.
I have lived both ways. I'm not perfect. I used to do more of the latter. I'd even sit out from a pick up game of soccer because I was afraid I might hurt someone. Eventually I discovered, that if I could be happy for a friend just because they were happy, maybe they could be happy for me too. If I could trust their intentions were good than maybe they could see that mine were/are too. I finally made some tough decisions, like moving off to college, and I realized that even though all of us feel pain at seeing a friend leave, the fact they they are going off to try to better themselves and the world makes all that time apart more bearable. Knowing that the choice they made makes them happy is enough. Good friends will try to keep you from making harmful mistakes but other than that they'll say, "You are you, now isn't that pleasant?" And they will mean it.
*End of Digression*
While there are a lot of differences between us, the same goal of living a benevolent and charitable life is a similarity seen throughout many, many religions. Even many people who are not religious try to live their life in this manner. Goodness is not confined to one religion nor is it reserved only for the religious. Truth, and light and goodness can be found for those who truly seek it. Who genuinely want to live in a way that brings real and lasting happiness. No matter who you are, if you help someone replace a blown out tire, or just wave to someone you don't know and smile, if you laugh with your old and best friends or invite a new friend along, if you love without expectation, if you do something for someone just because you want them to be happy and expect nothing in return, then life gets better. No matter where you are. You can be good ole' imperfect you and do good too. Getting to know people, striving to learn their likes and dislikes, trying to speak their love language all with the end goal of doing good for goodness' sake and out of love for them is really fun. I don't think I've ever written someone a card, or baked someone cookies or just sent someone a funny text for no reason and not had fun doing so. I mean, who hasn't typed in, "really funny faces" in to the google search engine and not chuckled, even a little bit? Send that picture that made you smile too a friend and it gets twice as funny.
So you try to live life as harmlessly as you can but still make mistakes? That is okay. So you are the Grinch but want to change? You can. So you're not perfect? Join the club! Life is crazy, hectic and full of surprises. But it is also full of people who understand a bit of what that is like. So make a friend, be a friend and love just because you can. Don't be afraid to go your way and do something to help the world.
I mean, what if Tolkien or C.S. Lewis or Dr. Suess just gave up on writing just because they thought they weren't good enough? What if Mother Teresa or Ghandi said, "There is too much poverty and pain in the world so what I do won't make a difference, so I'll just do nothing." What if Bilbo never left the Shire? What if Frodo gave in and gave up the Ring? What if Samwise Gamgee never climbed back up those crazy steep stairs to save Frodo? (What if I didn't make a Lord of the Rings reference almost everyday of my life?) What if all those people in your life stopped believing in themselves or in something? Where would our world be?
So the tough times in life help our heart grow and the good times in life make our heart glow. (I am fully aware of the cheesiness of this line. but come on, who doesn't like cheese?)
So when you are experiencing moments or days in life that make you feel like this
Just think of a friend or family member you love and do something you know would make them smile! Pretty soon you'll feel like the Grinch when his heart grew so large it broke the heart-o-meter
Life will happen whether you chose to be happy or not. So just be you in the best way you know how. Live life, love people, laugh really, really hard, strike out on a new adventure, learn a new skill, live YOUR life surrounded by people who love you. Love them back. Don't live life like one large transaction. Don't live life repaying debts. Just give to give and don't be afraid to receive a little love. My friends, this IS life, and you ARE you, and that IS pleasant!