Sunday, June 24, 2012

Means and Ends

It’s interesting to me that once you start to focus on a topic, God seems to speak about it from a variety of sources. The current message series “The Good Life” is a case in point and lines up directly with the work we are doing in the workshop. This weekend Chuck was talking about some practical ways to get the good life in the here and now and it made me think again about the purpose of the workshop and the importance of keeping that in mind.

Positive psychologists are now talking about the concept of “Well Being” and how the profession of psychology should shift from strictly treating disease. Historically this profession, in the treatment of disorders, strived to bring people away from a less than desirable way of life. This tended to move people from bad or sad to more normal or neutral. It didn’t necessarily make someone happier, just less sad or sick. Well Being by contrast is designed to move from normal or neutral to better/happier/more fulfilled/etc. This is a huge shift in thinking that has the potential to move humanity to new levels of human growth.

Friedrich Nietzsche analyzed human growth and development in three stages. The first four millennia he calls the “Camel”. The camel just carries the heavy load, moans and takes whatever the world puts out. The second stage “The Lion” reacts to this difficulty and says no to poverty, tyranny, plague, ignorance and seeks to do something about it. This is evident in the politics of human rights for example that have emerged only recently in the past few hundred years. In the third stage of “The Child”, humanity is reborn and takes a fresh look at what is possible. What does it means to be fully alive and functioning? How can we move forward and grow to new levels? This Well Being movement has the potential for a big impact in this area.

One exciting aspect of the well being movement is the level of interest it has attracted worldwide in every sector of society. Schools are now beginning to teach this as a means to reduce depression and enhance learning. The military is applying this to having soldiers mentally fit to minimize the effects of combat. Businesses are using the concepts to motivate and retain employees and enhance productivity by having happier, healthier employees. The connection of well being to less disease is also very strong as shown in numerous studies. And what if the measure of a successful policy in government was not just more wealth (GNP) but the increase in levels of well being?

So, why are we doing these “tests” and having conversations about who we are and how God designed us? They are all simply means to an end and that end could be described as: “A better life”. But what does it mean to have a better life? How do we know if life is getting better?

Well, no surprise but the answer, of course, is in the original well being manual - the Bible. God promises to take care of us because He loves us so much and to that end makes promises about our well being. I looked at the number of promises in the Bible and there are thousands! It’s hard to count them all. Included in the list are the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) that we can receive in a relationship with the Father. So, one way to measure well being could be some scale of how much of each you have of these in each area of your life. If we recognize that God truly wants us to have these things AND have them now as Chuck said, we can use the information that we learn in the workshop and our small groups to move to higher levels of well being for ourselves and others (even our children).

I’m excited about what’s to come. Keep working in your small groups and start to think and journal about how life is better or can be better soon. We’ll be discussing this toward the end of the sessions.

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