My Happiness, and Your's

If you ask most people, they would likely say that the happiness of others is important to them. Speaking personally, it is important to me that others are happy, and it is important to me that I am happy. Sometimes these desires come into conflict though. For example, sometimes I just want to sit down when I get on the subway car. Maybe I’m tired because I had a long day, or my laptop has just gotten too darn heavy. Whatever the reason, I just really want to sit. But, since I care about other people, I let the old man or the pregnant lady have the seat I would have taken.

The real conflict comes, though, when the seat I want is taken by a young girl who sits down for two stops just to chat with her friends. Does her happiness at being able to talk to her friends outweigh the happiness I would feel being able to sit down and rest my tired feet. The pragmatic among you would want to know why I am even thinking about these other people at all–it is simply because only by caring about other people can we make the world a tolerable place to live.

To expand on the previous example, I was once on a very crowded bus and was lucky enough to have gotten a seat next to a girl slightly younger then me. A few seconds later, a young guy asks me if I would give up my seat so he can sit next to his girlfriend. In my shock, I actually gave up the seat and ended up standing nearly the entire way home. Obviously it was their happiness that was fulfilled in this situation. But, could we not have all been happy had the young man stood near this girl friend, allowing me to remain sitting? (This, also, would have been the more chivalrous solution.)

I’m really not sure how to go about balancing my happiness with the happiness of others. If I become too concerned with my own happiness, then I become selfish and conceited. If I become too concerned with the happiness of others, then I forget myself and become open to harm. Is it possible, in all situations, to make yourself and others happy?

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One Response

  1. Kathleen says:

    That truly is a difficult balance to achieve. If you figure it out, let me know.