Can I Be Happy If Others Are Sad?

The world is so big. Our problems are all tangled together. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Where do we start? What should we do? I’ve always come back to the idea that I need to help myself first before I can help others, but where is the limit? How much do I need to have before I can look outside myself. If the answer to the title question is “no,” and I refuse to help others until I find happiness myself, it’s impossible to reach the goal of happiness.

So what is the answer to the title question? If the answer is no it would seem we’re all doomed for eternal misery. I’ve always been intrigued by how wealthy communities tend to have more space between their houses and bigger fences dividing them. It seems that one of the perks of wealth is the ability to cut yourself off from the world. There’s no doubt that people are able to buffer themselves from the outside world, but is a physical barrier enough? Maybe consciously we can trick ourselves, but subconsciously we know. The bigger the fence we build, the bigger the suffering is we’re trying to hide from.

I don’t have a revolutionary solution to our problems. I’m not even sure of the next few steps. But I like the mental activity of considering that my happiness is dependent upon the people around me. This thought makes me stop, look around me, and see how I can support the people around me. It also forces me to find the humility to allow other people to help me. It makes me realize that I might need to grow and change with the people around me to find happiness. It helps me to live with more love and compassion for people and situations that I’m tempted to judge but actually know very little about. Time to meditate.

4 thoughts on “Can I Be Happy If Others Are Sad?

  1. Poornashree

    I feel, happiness comes with equanimity.
    When equanimous ,we experienced a neutral attitude to happiness and misery.

    When you say,your mind is dependent on seeing people around you happy, it is not coming from equanimity.I feel it is craving.I have been through this I would try my level best to help people come out of their miseries,but it would never work-it works temporarily but not in the long run.Then when i did my first course in Vipassana i understood, I was not being detached when seeing them in misery.I would get carried away and become sad myself.I realised it is never possible to ‘make others happy’ because it is a resource originating in the mind of that person- which is not in our control 🙂

    It is possible to be happy even if people around you are sad.
    This requires detachment.Only an equanimous mind can help others deal with happiness or misery.

  2. Ryan Shelton

    Hi Poornashree, thanks for the comment. On one hand, I totally agree with you, but I can’t seem to get away from the fact that we do impact each others lives. Yes, you can’t make someone else happy, but you can make it easier for someone to become happy. There’s some wisdom here that I’m missing, and if definitely depends on equanimity. Hopefully with time and more meditating it will become more clear. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The reality of serving others to their happiest is a daily manifestation here in Korea. Looking out for each other is embedded within so many people I come in contact with, as if it’s a genetic expression, the action of serving others. Constantly being on the receiving of someone’s generosity makes it easy to give. Keep interacting with everything in a natural way. I’m finding the less I talk about Vipassana the greater the gains are personally and inter-personally. best wishes Ryan.

  4. Ryan Shelton

    Hi Branden, It’s great to hear that your adventure in Korea is resulting in positve experiences. Thanks for your comment!

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