When I ask people the question, “What is the most important thing in life to you?” or “What makes you happy?” most talk about their relationships, family and health.
However, many will at some stage of the conversation tell me that what matters is living a meaningful life. When I ask them what that means, they will talk about how getting involved in the bigger picture by contributing to the common good is crucial for a meaningful or well-lived life.
If we want to live a life that contributes to the greater good in our world, how do we do that? It will look different for everyone as we each participate in and help our society according to our individual strengths and we discover where we can be useful.
I find it helpful to keep these six questions in mind which help me check in every so often with myself. The questions help me to focus on living a meaningful life rather than drifting into a life of self-absorption which if we are honest, is our natural tendency and what our culture encourages us to do.
How am I loving others?
That might seem like a simple and broad question however, if we define love as putting others before ourselves and freely sacrificing our own resources for the sake of others, it is sometimes worth asking so we live a life that is not primarily about our own advantage, progress and self preservation. Have I taken time recently to meet the needs of others even though it comes at a cost to me?
How am I paying attention to “the least of these”?
It’s easy to love those who are like us but harder to take notice of and love those who are different to us. If we are privileged enough to have a life that reflects the results of a good education, health, relationships, shelter and income, then how can we show hospitality to the “least of these”. The expression comes from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25 where the least of these are the hungry, strangers, the naked, those in prison, those thirsty and the sick. How am I paying attention to and loving the weaker members in my neighbourhood and world?
What faith conversations am I having?
Living a meaningful life means connecting with matters of faith. It means thinking about what else might exist beyond us and our world and connecting with our Creator. We can incorporate faith elements into our conversations when there is an opportunity. This brings a bigger picture perspective into our daily conversations, shifting discussions from the mundane which can dominate our lives. Everyday matters are important, but we can so often live superficially, without ever asking the deeper questions of life.
Who am I eating with?
Sharing food around a table with others helps us to prioritise community. As we alternate between playing host and guest, we learn reciprocity and build relationships with people who we might not otherwise engage with. If we are eating with people who are always similar to us, maybe it is time to invite someone different from us to the table so that mutual learning can take place and respect for each other’s differences can grow.
How is God’s rule growing in my neighbourhood and world?
The rule or reign of God is a vision of the world as we long for it to be. A picture of this kind of world would be one that exhibits beauty, perfect love, truth, salvation from our self-absorption, healing of wounds and peace. Is this vision growing in our neighbourhoods and contexts where we work and live? Are we joining with others who have a similar vision to flesh out the essence of this rule in our world?
Am I inviting people to join me?
As we work with others to grow this vision of a new society, are we inviting people to join with us? When we embody this picture of peace, reconciliation, justice and beauty, we will have opportunities to welcome others to cooperate with God’s work as we engage in it. Who am I asking to walk with me on the road towards this presently unfolding reign of God?
What are some questions that you ask yourself, to keep your focus on living a meaningful life?