What’s wrong with being happy?
I am learning that there is nothing wrong with it. Admitting this though makes me feel very, very selfish. And why is that I wonder? Lately I have been giving this much thought and I have an idea.
Growing up in the evangelical faith I was primarily taught that as Christians we aren’t guaranteed happiness. As a matter of fact, by and large, I felt that I was discouraged to seek my own happiness, but instead lose myself in loving and serving others (God, my family, the church, the “lost”, etc.). In service to others I would find something more lasting than happiness. In doing so I was almost guaranteed joy.
I was taught (and in turn taught others) this rule: “Happiness is a product of our circumstances and joy is the product of surrender (i.e. sacrifice).”
Listen, maybe I don’t understand how all of this works, but over the last part of 2006 and into 2007, I am revisiting this concept of “being happy”. I know, many of you think all I can do is bash the church and because I am “so mean” it is no wonder I am not happy. But just like you, I have a fairly normal life. I go to work, take care of my kids, enjoy reading and watching movies, go out with friends… all pretty normal things. But in the end, I would say that I try to live my life to make others happy and not myself… and I wonder why that is??
It’s no secret that these past two years I have been going through a separation. Obviously, not a very happy time for anyone. (Ok, you Jr. Psychologists… no psychoanalyzing please). However, when things first hit the fan, one of the very first things I was told was to A) take care of myself and B) pursue what makes me happy.
Well, quite honestly, that runs counter to what I always felt about things. My number one priority in life was to A) take care of my family and B) make sure the members of my family were happy. It was my understanding that this is how God would want it. So now, everything I am hearing is the direct opposite of what I believed for all those years.
But as I reconsider things, and I truly listen to people that want the best for me… I must give serious thoughts to the two ideas above.
Take care of myself.
I think both of these ideas will benefit my kids. I also think when I set at the forefront of my life the pursuit of happiness, the by-product of that will be me taking care of myself. The opposite could also very well be true: Take care of myself will result in happiness.
Now, when I think of happiness I am not talking about the pursuit of just pleasure. No one should confuse happiness with pleasure. It’s not about money, sex, houses, or cars. It is not about my desires or wants necessarily. Self-satisfaction alone isn’t the answer. While there is nothing wrong with any of these things and there is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying those things… these are not congruent with being happy.