Thinking Aloud: Happiness is Not A Given

I’ve been seeing a lot about happiness on the Interwebz lately. Who’s happy, who’s not happy, does so-and-so deserve to be happy, being happy, why you aren’t happy. (NPR has a summary of TED talks on happiness that was very enjoyable, too.)

It got me to thinking, though. Here’s the thing: I don’t believe we’re here to make ourselves happy. We aren’t really here to make anyone else happy, either, to be clear.

Happiness qua happiness is not the goal of our lives.

Now before I expand on this, let me be clear: You also don’t need to go through life being miserable, or sacrificing happiness for others. A right in the United States Constitution is the PURSUIT of happiness. So you can do things to make you feel happy (as long as your happiness doesn’t impinge on another’s life, liberty, and/or pursuit of happiness).

But happiness per se isn’t a right. Happiness isn’t a given.

Happiness is ephemeral. Fleeting. It’s not a state of permanent being.

There is nothing WRONG with happiness, or being happy, or the pursuit of happiness (again, within reason). I think it’s something that we all want, to be happy. I think if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing with your life, happiness (or peace, or contentment) is a natural result of that.

I’m just saying I feel there are more important things than one’s personal happiness.

The enduring lesson of my life is something my father taught me when I was a child.

We are here to love one another.

That’s it. That’s the upshot of life.

Love one another.

Really and truly, I think that’ll make you happiest. To love, and act with love, in all its variations.

Agape: Have compassion. Be nice. To everyone.
Phileos: Love of your friends.
Storge: Love of your family.
Eros: Love of your spouse or partner.

I think that the idea that we are supposed to be happy can be very dangerous. It can leave people wondering what’s wrong with them. It can lead us to try to make other people happy (by giving them stuff, or trying to protect them from being UNhappy). It can make people suffering from grief struggle to repress the process of grieving.

I think happiness as an end is the wrong path to travel. Rather, travel the path where happiness is a side effect.

I believe that would be a path with a lot of love.

What do you think? What comes first, happiness or love? Or are they so intertwined, it doesn’t matter? Where one is the other will follow?

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8 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud: Happiness is Not A Given

  1. I think that happiness is most likely to happen when one realizes s/he is capable of love and of being loved. (Source: The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell)

  2. Love this. I think if you measure your life by your amount of happiness, you’re going to end up being disappointed. It’s pleasure-seeking for the sake of pleasure alone. Seeking fulfillment, joy, contentment, achievement in whatever it is you want to achieve: those are more attainable goals, and often happiness accompanies them.

    “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Thoreau

  3. Loving one another (or, as I often say, just not being mean to people or treating them unkindly) is probably the best, most important thing one can do. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place. (And hopefully my saying this does not contradict a post I just wrote.)

    I think you can be unhappy and love someone and/or find love. And I also think you can love someone and be quite unhappy. But thinking you have to be happy or that some thing will ultimately make you happy? Not a good way to live. I agree!

  4. Going deep today. Happiness is such a nothing word. Is it contentment? Giddiness? Joy?

    I think it is a state of being. You can choose to be happy or miserable in almost any situation. I’ve met some miserable people in mansions and I’ve met some insanely happy people in the slums of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. You can choose to be happy and still strive for more. But if the desire for more consumes you, then you become miserable now.

    Enjoy where you are… strive for more… but, as you said, happiness is found in the journey, not the destination. I need to lie down now.

    • Didn’t mean to tax you. 🙂 I’m just struggling with the idea that seems so prevelant right now, that happiness is this *thing* that everyone deserves. Such a weird concept to me.

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