Wednesday, August 26, 2015


     It seems to me that happiness gets short-shift these days. Pastors tend to downplay it—rightfully so—'cause it often comes and goes depending on circumstances, whereas Godly joy can by present even in the midst of great sorrow, regret, or unhappiness because God's love is constant and infinite so that there's always plenty to be joyful about.
     Whereas when I was a kid, happiness was front and center, the goal and focal point of all major life objectives. It didn't matter what job you ended up with, where you eventually lived, whom you eventually married, how rich you became, or anything else, as long as you were happy (so said parents and adults everywhere).
     The trouble with that was does anyone really know what will make them happy? How often do we hear of someone happy with a job, spouse, house, car, or neighborhood, only to become very upset or disillusioned about it sometime later? Because people change, what makes them happy one moment may not make them happy the next (as in children before and after Christmas when there's almost always a post-holiday let-down).
     Or how often do we hear someone say if only ____, then I'd be happy. Then through hard work, fortuitous circumstances, or howsoever, he or she does obtain ____, only to discover a fleeting happiness if any at all.
     So I've made a conscious effort not to say "as long as it makes you happy" to my kids in regards to their decisions and instead leave it up to them by saying, "It'll be yours to decide", meaning, they get to choose the reasons--whether in pursuit of happiness, admiration, helpfulness, obedience to God (hopefully), or whatever.  In short, it's their lives, so they should be guided by their own goals, desires, and consciences.
     Which reminds me of a conversation regarding happiness that I witnessed decades ago between my college dormmate and his friend. The two were similar in many ways: good-looking, successful with girls, admired by many, excellent at academics and sports, and fairly well-off financially, being sons of successful entrepreneurs. My dormmate's friend concluded a long philosophical conversation (which they often shared) with a prolonged pause and the question, “But would you say you're happy?”
     My roommate smiled, reflected a moment, and said with a mixture of confidence and unease, “Yeah, I'd say I'm happy...” and justified such happiness with forgettable philosophical mumbo jumbo. His friend with jocular laugh and smile said, “F--- y--, brah!” and thudded his back and left.
     Their friendship was based on such raw, rough-stuff exchanges and didn't suffer the least as a result. But it struck me how deeply unhappy my roommate's friend was and how desperately he wished my roommate was equally unhappy, perhaps because misery loves company.
     It was a shared trait with a friend of mine in Seattle who suffered spells of depression, largely due to lack of success with girls. He resented my meager measure of sanguinity and would do what he could to depress me through hurtful or downer statements, or barrages of unproductive garbage or whatever else until I finally confronted him and we talked respectfully and productively henceforth (for the most part).
     Some suggest that proclivities toward happiness, sadness, joy, or depression are largely innate—we're stuck with what we're born with but that anyone dissatisfied can improve through attention to health and soul via social, religious, medical, psychological, and other avenues. It's such a difficult topic 'cause happiness is impossible to define for each individual—it's so subjective, everyone's different, and one man's happiness may be another man's worst nightmare.
     I've found that happiness is often the fortuitous byproduct of living right more so than achievement of a goal, namely the pursuit of happiness.  Can anyone control their emotions or circumstances to ensure happiness?  If so, why aren't there more happy people?  Clearly, the world is full of unhappy people as anyone can observe (at least here in the United States). 
     Despite the difficulties of defining, pursuing, and "achieving" or more accurately obtaining happiness, I find some of the most beautiful phrases ever include: “I've lived a happy life”, “Thanks for giving me a happy childhood”, “You've made me a happy man”, “These past seventeen years have been the happiest of my life”, and “Happy Thanksgiving, let's eat!”
     May we all experience ample measures of happiness and more. 


  1. This is my first time reading your blog.

    I feel you have deeply soulful insights on life and would like to hear more.


  2. I'm sure I have as much to learn from you, but appreciate your kind comment nonetheless. Best wishes and keep in touch!