“Where there is no harmony, there is no happiness.” ~Samuel Stone
I had a dream one day, in which I was in a town surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains. The sky was blue, and the weather was pleasant. People were playing by the emerald green lake adorned by colorful flowers around it.
I was there with my entire family, including my kids, my parents, my sisters, and their children. It was like paradise. Maybe it was the Shangri-La that people talked about. I did not want to leave that place and wished it were not a dream. When I woke up, I tried to reenter the dream, but I was no longer able to. I wished I never woke up, but a dream is just a dream—it never lasts.
Life is like a dream. A hundred years on earth seems very long when we were young, but as we approached the second half of life, we begin to feel time flies too fast. We know we will soon wake up into the eternity where we belong. The Bible says,
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Pet 1:24–25)
Every year, Sophie, my wife, likes me to take her to visit the Presby Iris Garden in Upper Montclair in New Jersey, but sometimes I procrastinated and promised her to take her there the next week. However, the next week those flowers were gone. As beautiful as the irises are, they last for but a few days.
There are many flower gardens to visit in your neighborhood wherever you live, but if you want to see certain flowers, you must go there at a specific window of time.
Flowers have taught me to appreciate life. They represent happiness. I have discovered that when you see a flower and feel happy, you have entered a higher level of consciousness.
I cannot imagine a world without flowers. Their lives may be short, but they make it count by making the world a happier place to live.
The pursuit of happiness is not only for you own fulfillment but also for a better world. If you find happiness, you can also set others free from the bondage of unhappiness. You can heal the wounds and enlighten the world.
I have discovered that the first element of happiness is harmony. I have my share of unhappy days, but when I reflect on those days, most of them were caused by broken relationships or disharmony.
I have concluded that where there is no harmony, there is no happiness.
A flower is beautiful because of the harmony of its color, shape, texture, and every part of it. A piece of music is beautiful because of the harmony of its parts. Harmony brings happiness.
Life is too short to live in disharmony. The question is how to attain or maintain harmony. I have discovered that the secret to harmony is love.
Mark Twain said,
“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.” ― Mark Twain
There is only time for loving. The Bible teaches us that God tries to restore harmony in this disharmonious world through a type of love called “agape.” The Greeks have four different words for love: Eros, Philia, Storge (pronounced Store-Gay), and Agape.
Eros is sexual or sensual love shared between husband and wife, from which the word erotic came. Philia is friendly or brotherly love, from which words like Philadelphia or philosophy came. Storge is natural, familial love, between parents and children.
Agape turns out to be quite difficult to translate. Some scholars translated it as “unconditional love” like the one shown to us by God. Others said it is “sacrificial love” because Jesus has shown us this kind of love through his sacrifice on the cross.
Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.” [The love racket: Defining love and agape for the love-and-science research program,” Zygon, vol. 40, no. 4 (December 2005), pp. 919-938]
After much research, I define “Agape” as “Harmonious Love” because God uses this type of love to restore harmony in this world. God wants us to practice agape to maintain or restore harmony among family, friends, society, and nations.
The Bible defined love (agape) this way,
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Co 13:4–8a NRSV)
Based on this definition, I formulated a mnemonic acrostic using the word HARMONY. If you want to attain and maintain harmony, you need to weave together a beautiful life using the following seven strings of love.
1 – Be Humble
“Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant.” (1 Cor 13:4)
If you want to live in harmony with others, you must be humble. Humility makes relationships manageable. Envious, boastful, arrogant behaviors are like rough edges in relationships. It creates friction and contention. A little humility will go a long way.
Humility is not weakness or becoming a doormat for others to step on you. In fact, humility requires a lot of strength and confidence. Whenever you see an envious, boastful, and arrogant person, you know that person is insecure.
Love overcomes insecurity and keeps you confidently humble and helps you maintain harmony.
2 – Be Acceptant
“Love is patient; it bears all things.” (1 Cor 13:4, 7)
There is a difference between approval and acceptance. We all have people with behaviors or lifestyles that we disapprove of. In such cases, you do not have to approve their behavior or lifestyle, but you must accept them as people.
I know it is very uncomfortable to accept what you disapprove of, but your love will give you the patience and the ability to bear all things. The Bible says that God is patient with us, and Jesus has borne all things, including our sins, by love.
There was a story about a man who came to a sage complaining about his brother. He said, “My brother has been bothering me. I want to beat him up seriously.” The sage looked at him and said, “Are you the man who was chased by a wolf the other day, and you climbed up a tree and stayed up there all night?”
“Yes,” the man replied. “Why did you not react the same way to the wolf?” the sage simply asked. The man got enlightened and went home.
We live in a world where we are more patient with animals than people. Acceptance means you value the person despite the sin. Your acceptance maintains harmony.
3 – Be Respectful
“Love is not rude.” (1 Cor 13:5).
Sometimes, we think we have the license to be rude when we are right and they are wrong. If you want to keep harmony, be respectful even when you are absolutely right, and others are absolutely wrong.
The truth must be told, but not like shooting a machine gun at them. The Bible says that we must speak the truth in love. It is a sign of maturity to be respectful. It says,
“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Eph 4:15).
Christ is “the head” means we are parts of the body. Let say if I am an arm and I am right, and the leg is wrong, what do I get by destroying the leg? I only cripple myself.
Understanding the oneness of humanity will help you realize that being disrespectful to someone else is being disrespectful to yourself. “No man is an island.” Speak the truth in love to maintain harmony.
4 – Be Merciful
“Love is kind; it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Cor 13:4, 5)
A wise man said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and expect the other person to die.” If you want to maintain harmony, you must learn to be merciful, which means being kind and forgiving.
Holding grudges destroys harmony, and at least it destroys the harmony within yourself. The Bible says God is merciful to those who show mercy to others because mercy is part of God’s image, and when we live out the image of God, we make God smile.
One of the weaknesses that I have struggled for a long time is that I tend to get easily irritated by other’s stupidity. It has been my Achilles’ heel. Unfortunately, this world has no shortage of people with irritating behaviors.
When I found out that “love is not irritable,” I learned to stop and reassess my ability to love every time I am irritated and reorient myself into a loving mode. I still have some way to go.
What irritates you or trigger your resentment? Remember mercy maintains harmony.
5 – Be Optimistic
“Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:7).
Life is full of disappointments and you need hope to cope! Optimism allows you to see the better tomorrow so that you can maintain harmony today.
Sometimes you do not get the return for what you invest in people. Even though you are humble, acceptant, respectful, and merciful, you still do not get fair response from certain people. But love is optimistic.
Your optimistic view of the fruitful future allows you to endure all things. You can maintain harmony in the present if you trust that ultimately the loving God is writing the last chapter. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, what you believe or hope always comes true, so better believe and hope for the best.
God is an optimist, or He would have abandoned us long ago if He does not believe and hope that one day his love will bear fruit in us. God thinks we are redeemable and even worth dying for. That is why He gave us his only Son.
Even if you are going through the darkest hours of life, your optimistic outlook allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel and give you the strength to maintain harmony.
6 – Be Noble
“Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Cor 13:6).
The definition of a “nobleman” is “someone who knows the Heaven’s will.” Heaven’s will is the truth. A noble person rejoices in the truth, but gangsters rejoice in the wrongdoing.
Sometimes you do not have to be a gangster to rejoice in the wrongdoing. Even small dirty jokes at the workplace can pollute people’s minds and become seeds for disharmony.
Truth is like beauty, the more you appreciate it, the more it brings you joy. Not only does it bring you joy, but it also sets you free. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”—free from the enslavement of discords and free to maintain harmony.
7 – Be Yielding
“Love does not insist on its own way.” (1 Cor 13:5).
When you see a “Yield” sign at the traffic intersections, it is not because your journey is less important than the others. It is because the traffic engineers want to keep harmony on the roads so that we can avoid accidents and the traffic can flow smoothly.
Most relationships are destroyed because someone insists on his or her own way. Yielding may appear sacrificial, but it harvests the fruit of harmony.
Now, your life can be harmonious like a beautiful flower or a great piece of music if you weave these seven strings of love together. Life may be short, but you can exude happiness not only for your own fulfillment but also for a better world.
Unfortunately, in this fallen world, not everyone can appreciate beauty and value harmony. Some wounded people might not find happiness in harmony. They might crush a beautiful flower when they see it.
Remember, hurt people hurt people. You have to forgive them. Mercy is part of love mentioned above. Let me quote another powerful wisdom of Mark Twain,
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” – Mark Twain.
Even when a violet blossom is crushed, it still sends out the fragrance of happiness.
Since the Bible compares life with a flower that lives only for a brief moment, why don’t we learn from it? If we can make the world happy, the brevity of life becomes irrelevant.
Even if nobody sees us—let’s say we are just wildflowers in the wilderness where no one is around to appreciate, but God does. We bloom for God. In fact, we should bloom only for God and please the audience of one. When we make God happy, we have fulfilled our purpose in life. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states,
“The chief end of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1).
Let us learn from the flowers to achieve that end of life. With these seven strings of love, let us weave a life of harmony to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! Amen!