The pursuit of happiness and the betterment of society. These are both admirable and desirable ambitions for life, yet can appear to be daunting and even impossible at times. How could someone in a suppressing circumstance ever reach a place of happiness in their life? How can one better their society when they themselves are trapped by its prejudices and inequality? The answer is obvious; they can’t.
How one views their life will determine what they will make of it. When an individual sees themselves as a victim of their circumstances, they will be unable to find joy or the ability to impact the lives of others. The only way that one can go about obtaining such a fulfilled life is through that of gratefulness. Yes, gratefulness. This one trait is the most powerful weapon one can wield in changing the world.
Where ingratitude brings about the feeling of victimization, unhappiness, and anger; gratitude brings about joy and the desire to help others. This is the truth revealed in Charles Dicken’s classic, Great Expectations. The life struggles between that of self-pity and gratitude are clearly addressed in this tale of a young man caught between the world he desires and believes he is owed, and that of the life he finds himself trapped within. Through these pages, we as the reader may be wise to take heed the lesson of a young man and his pursuit for great expectations.
The main character in our tale is a young man by the name of Pip. Throughout his life, he is continually faced with two character traits; Self-pity vs. Gratefulness, which present themselves in many obstacles and choices.
Being raised as an orphan by his cruel sister, and being of an exceedingly low income, Pip finds himself longing for a better way of life. At this young age, the wich like Miss Hamshire, intangles the poor boy in her snare. Consumed by her own self-pity, this woman conveniences Pip that it is the fault of his upbringing, his position in society, and his robbed opportunities, that he is unable to find happiness.
With this new outlook, Pip transforms himself into a victim of his own life. The circumstances he finds himself in are now beyond his power to rise above; after all, they are the fault of his surroundings and therefore exceeds his own power to change. Every opportunity to enjoy life’s little moments now became nothing more than a reminder of the life he seemingly deserved yet didn’t have. The few people in his life who truly loved and cared for him were now vexing obstacles in his way that only dragged him down to their level of living; a level far below what he rightfully deserved.
It is in this state that our star fixed himself within and so remained, ever awaiting the day when his great expectations would be fulfilled.
Hidden deep beneath this gloom and despair though, burned the slightest glims of a flame, fueled by a single man’s optimism. While Pip swallowed himself in his bleak outlook on life, his guardian, Joe the blacksmith, seemed to always see his life as half full. Though he found himself confined within the same lifestyle as Pip, this jolly old chap never allowed his circumstances to determine his attitude. Valuing everything in his life, be as little as it may, Joe saw every day as a gift and every person as a treasure to value; even his downhearted adopted son. Above all else in his life, Joe loved Pip, who to him was more than a son but a friend. Yet this friendship eventually brought bitter pain.
The day of Pip’s liberation from the life he so despised came with a coast, which to one person was very dear. Being adopted by an unknown rich ire, Pip had to choose whether he would follow his desires or hold to those who truly cared for him. The choice was an easy one for Pip, who left his home without looking back. To Joe though, this choice tore at his very heart; yet he never let it show. Without a moment hesitation, the loving guardian gave up his son and dearest friend, rejoicing in the lad’s great fortune.
The funny thing about ingratitude is that it doesn’t matter what you have in life; it will never be enough. This is exactly the scenario Pip found himself in. Though he had all the riches he could dream of and the opportunities that had been withheld from him for so many years; the empty feeling of being used and neglected could never be filled. That is until our star discovered a truth that had been freely given to him all along. In the act of selflessly risking his all for the life of another, Pip discovered that the only things in his life that truly mattered were those that he had earned himself through hard work and character.
In the end, it wasn’t life that had robbed him of his joy, it was himself. With this new found truth, our now hero found his way back to the love of those who had always cared for him and discovered the power he had within himself to break the chains of self-pity that he himself had forged.
Victim. This is a term that is all to often heard today, especially in our media reports. Don’t get me wrong, I completely believe that there are people who are being taken advantage of. But my question that I present to you is, what are we the victims of? Are we truly trapped within in an inescapable cell, or are we holding ourselves down? This is not to say that we should not try to improve our society. Not at all. Bettering our society is one of the two goals that I heald as admirable from the very beginning of this post. The key though to being able to truly change our circumstances is not in changing our society but in changing ourselves. If we blame our life problems and injustices on the world then we will never find a solution, for a world is an object and numbers measuring the billions; only people can make a change. The way we change our circumstances is by first starting with ourselves. It is an undeniable truth that grateful people are happy people and that happy people are the ones who help others. This is just how the world works. Unhappy people make life miserable and happy people make a difference.
So, maybe it’s time we stopped waiting for the world to change our lives for the better, and we decided to change ourselves for the betterment of this world.
Along with the inspiration from Charles Dicken’s book Great Expectationsions, I’d like to give a shout out to Prager U and their video on The Key to Unhappiness which you can find here.