Volunteers in Need of Help: OreGairu and Godly Contentment

In the modern world, the term “contentment” feels so old-fashioned and out of place.  Why strive for contentment when we can have more?  And indeed, that’s what it seems our lives are often about – becoming better, richer, stronger.  But in attaining the things that make us happy, we often don’t feel the satisfaction we think we might – there’s no contentment when we seek things that won’t fulfill us.

In OreGairu, the service club has a near-perfect track record.  They help all their clients, but they can’t seem to help themselves.  All three, but especially the original two members – Hachiman and Yukino – are sure of their ways, and find success in them (as they each define success), but have no peace.  Perhaps it’s because each is seeking something that can never be fulfilling:

Yui and Approval

oregairu 2bThe first client of the club, and the third member to join, Yui has trouble establishing effective relationships because she’s afraid of showing her true self.  Yui has lived a life that basically says that she’d rather have shallow friendships than dig into something deeper that might damage them.  Yui wants the approval of others and is afraid of rejection at the start of the series; even now, she continues to battle this struggle, though Hachiman and Yukino helped her move past a significant hurdle in not worrying so much about what others think.

It’s easy to get bogged down in what others think of us.  Our relationships often drive our actions – for some more than others.  When we live that way, though, we try to take our lives into our own hands by presenting an image of ourselves in others’ eyes that isn’t real.  Living life in this manner can’t bring contentment because it will collapse – others will let go of their superficial relationships with us and we’ll fail to keep up perfect appearances.  Dwelling instead in the perfect, unchanging nature of God is what brings contentment, for He alone never fails us.

Hachiman and Pride

oregairu 2cYui is far less complex than either Yukinon or Hachiman, whose brain is too active for his own good.  Hachiman has wrapped himself into a shell of utter arrogance – he knows how the world works and his approach to it is correct, while others are simply beneath him in how they live.  We as the viewers can determine that Hachiman is really just trying to cover up disappointment and hurt, as demonstrated by flashbacks of a youth that still haunt him, but regardless of the reason, the pride remains there: he has determined the best way to live.

One of the hardest things for a believer to do is to nail his or her pride to the cross, to destroy self and surrender to Christ.  But that’s what faith is – the ability to trust that God’s ways are better than are own, and to show that trust by living out the life He would have us live than the choices we want to make.  Hachiman’s “coming to church” moment won’t occur, I anticipate, until he’s finally broken down those walls and accepted that he doesn’t know all; it’s when we admit defeat and weakness that we can become so much stronger.

Yukino and Security

oregairu 2aYukino’s case is most complex of all.  In a sense, it’s a mixture of both Yui’s and Hachiman’s.  Like the earlier, she seeks approval.  She wants her sister and family to be proud of her and to rise to the level that others have placed upon her.  But deeper than that, and though she wouldn’t admit it, the hurt she’s experienced, the rejection she’s felt, and the hypocrisy she’s seen has led Yukino to live a life remarkably similar to Hachiman’s, where her worldview rules all.  She knows the truth about the world, and she’ll live life accordingly.

And much like Hachiman, this has led Yukino to develop a sense of security in how she approaches the world.  They both want to avoid hurting anymore, so they latch their security onto something temporary and changing – themselves.  But unlike our grumpy hero, our heroine has the ability to succeed in most everything she does, putting her further and further into the secure shell of her own making.  I’m reminded of the overachievers among us, and particularly of the Asian American community, filled with troves of folks who see a goal and achieve it, creating a like security of their own making.

We can live a “successful” life in such a way, but will contentment follow?  If we’re honest with ourselves – and in certain moments we find that Yukino and Hachiman are able to be – we see our faults, our sins, our insecurities.  We realize that we are imperfect and prone to mistakes and malintent, and can see the fragility of the security we’ve created for ourselves.  If we don’t submit to security the Christ, the only One who is perfect, unchanging, and true, then any peace we have can be snatched away.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

– 1 Timothy 6:6

When we seek anything else in life, we’re building up a treasure that can at most last a lifetime, but more likely, will decompose far more quickly.  But when we let go of that treasure – whether it’s physical like money, or less tangible, like the things that the Service Club holds onto, we discover this – we’ll have gained a treasure that lasts forever, and a contentment that invades our lives even now and will make us wonder – why did we ever hold onto the weights that chained us down?

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