This past week (October 4-7th) Deacon Dave Lindmeier, Deacon Bill Ritchie, along with myself attended the Annual Clergy Conference in Arrowwood with all the other priests and deacons and Bishop Donald Kettler. This year the Spitzer Center for ethical leadership put on a talk about the “The Four Levels of Happiness.” It was great time to gather as clergy with our bishop and to discuss what happiness and Christian leadership is all about! Here we discussed the 4 levels of happiness: 1) Immediate Gratification. 2) Personal Achievement/Ego. 3) Good Beyond Self. 4) Ultimate Good. Put another way these levels may be called: 1) Candy, 2) Competition, 3) Contribution, 4) Christ!
Level one, “Immediate Gratification” is the level where one’s main goal is to simply maximize pleasure and minimize pain through the five senses. Physical desire, food, sex, and material comforts would fit this category. Children, teenagers and immature adults might fit this description more than most.
Level two, “Personal Achievement/Ego” is the level where short term reward is the ultimate goal. It’s the “all about me” syndrome where competition and one’s personal goals (ego) are the ultimate measure of all things. Often times the “dog eat dog” business world can fit this description where success and power and money are priority one. The Spitzer Center says, studies show 70% of all adult Americans never get beyond this level.
Level three, “Good Beyond Self” is the level where individuals learn more to connect with others, see beyond themselves, and do good for others. People who live in this level of happiness seek to make their decisions on what is best for all. Virtues like Justice, Love, Community, Caring for others enter in. Getting to this level takes a tremendous amount of effort on most people’s part. It does not come naturally and requires a fair amount of reflection and denial of self. Happiness at this level, however, is longer lasting since we are all hard-wired to love in some form this way.
Level four, “Ultimate Good” is the highest and most desired level of happiness and tends to be enduring forever. We would see Jesus Christ living at this level and demonstrating this to us. Here, an individual’s life goal is to seek Truth, Love, Justice, Integrity, Beauty, Wholeness Connectedness with all things natural and super-natural in us! Every human life is ultimately looking for this. It’s a state of being. Here, our faith in God enters deeply in.
Obviously, at certain appropriate times, we all bounce between all four of these levels of happiness, but we also all tend to live mostly in one. Which level of happiness would you say you most live in? Is there room for any growth? As we heard at our clergy conference, levels 3 and 4 are where good leadership begins to unfold. Here, more than all the rest do we take on the image and likeness of God in Jesus Christ. Peace and God bless!