I was reading a biography of George Washington recently and came across a passage that intrigued me. The writer spoke of George Washington’s happy return to Mt. Vernon after completing his second presidential term.

For over twenty years, George’s life had been dominated by upheaval. First, he served as the commander in chief of the revolutionary armies, then after a brief hiatus, he presided over the constitutional convention away from home, followed by stints in the capital cities of New York and Philadelphia as the United States’ first president.

In the ensuing 200-plus years, many males (and perhaps some females, too) have imagined living a meaningful and successful life like George Washington. They likely viewed Washington as awash with happiness while living his life of fame, fortune, and heroism. What a wonderful thing to be so loved that your citizens would call you the father of your country!


Like the examples of so many others, there was a massive disconnect between what one would perceive as Washington’s happiness and the actual feelings he experienced traveling on his life’s journey. In the case of our first president, his biographer did a remarkable job describing:
• the grueling toil of Washington’s day-to-day activity
• the occasional life-and-death situations
• the destruction of long-held friendships
• the absence of the one place that gave George (and Martha) peace, tranquility, and joyful living: Mt. Vernon.

And Washington is not the only one. Put your finger down on any list of historical figures, public servants, athletes, or entertainers, and beneath the glossy surface of that person’s seemingly happy life, you will likely find experiences that you would not want to endure in your own life. They would make you too sad or angry.

Incidentally, this disconnect between your projected happiness onto another’s life and that person’s reality could apply to your neighbor, your fellow church member, that person who seems to be “killing it” at work, or anyone else in your orbit.

All of us would likely do well to take a “chill” pill. Virtually every time we imagine how nice life would be if we had what someone else has, we are cherry-picking. We see what they have or the achievements that they celebrate, and we eliminate the hard work or traumatic experiences that created what they enjoy.

That’s not fair.

I would love to be blessed with the riches of the Bible’s Abraham; I just don’t want to wander around in deserts and pastures, living in tents that don’t have air conditioners.

And you?

The reality is you and I are likely already endowed with sufficient blessings to live lives that other people would envy. Even if there is not a single person in the United States who would like to have what we have, I guarantee there are people in other countries who would. And that brings up another problem. Most of us are willing to acknowledge this. Yet, it is hard to focus on what we need to be doing while simultaneously enjoying the fact that other people are yearning to be in our place.

These truths leave us with these four admonitions:
1. Don’t ascribe happiness to other folks’ lives-they probably were not or are not that happy.
2. Don’t desire the experiences or possessions of other people.
3. Do focus on what you need to do to make your life the best it can be
4. Forget being the object of attention to others who want to obtain the life you already have. They cannot, and it is impossible for you to enjoy their admiration, adoration, or envy.

I guess I am saying to be thankful for what you have and seek to honor God by making the life he has given you the best it can be.