Monday, January 23, 2012

Happiness... The Place In Between

   Ask anyone in America today what the single most important personal goal or accomplishment a person could strive to obtain is, and you will likely get a one word answer; happiness. It is the grand be all, end all of aspirations. It is even in The Declaration of Independence "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" right? What could be more desirable? More noble? More understandable?

   Well I am here to say that I am sick of it! Not happiness itself, necessarily, though I do believe it's definition has been cheapened and therefore the word itself does tend to upset me. But, what I am referring to is this overarching notion in our country today, that happiness reigns supreme above all things that someone could be. Or, better yet, want out of life. Particularly when we're referring to how the ideology is thrown around in parenting debates over which method is right. How the phrase "as long as my child is happy" is often times seen as an unopposable, conversation-ending defense for just about any theory espoused before it.

   The meaning of the word itself has become too muddled... so much so that in most people's minds it is synonymous with pleasure, or the experiencing of pleasure, contentment, ease, peace, etc. But happiness is not those things. Other things happiness is not include: joy, fulfillment and satisfaction.

   I don't want happiness if it doesn't come as a byproduct of fulfillment. Of living on purpose for my purpose and becoming a better person each and every day. I would rather be discontent but feel the pure exhilarating joy of knowing that I gave something my all, even if I failed. I would rather feel the discomfort of biting my own tongue when everything in my wanted the fleeting pleasure brought on by lashing out with hurtful words. Speaking my mind. Sure I may feel unheard, even unloved in those moments. But that is all they are, single moments, and the "happiness" that comes from serving my own desires only breeds more selfishness in my soul. Less sensitivity to others. More apathy towards my purpose as a human being. I notice that when I seek happiness for the sake of happiness I become numb. It is no different than the effects of a drug. And that is why this weird thing called happiness that floats around somewhere between pleasure and joy can be so dangerous if allowed to be our guiding force. It is a byproduct only, and when you take away the cause of it, the thing it was a side effect of, and try to get an isolated dose of it as it's own medicine it has new side-effects of it's own that weren't present before. Not to mention that it will be a knock off of the original and will never satiate the desire.

   But the happiness that comes from putting both purpose and people ahead of my own pleasure. That then is closer to joy and it, while elusive, is worth chasing. The only way to catch it is to not seek it. To seek instead ways in which we can serve others. Improve ourselves. Challenge preconceived notions. Fail. Get back up. And always, keep moving forward.

   That is the happiness I want. For myself. For my family and friends. For my readers. and most of all for my kids.

   Let us be more concerned in this kind of "happiness" for our children, before worrying about their moods, or selfish desires, or comfort. Let us teach them the lost meaning of happiness instead of this world's definition. Let us allow our children to dislike us for a time when it means that they will eventually know the joy of having parents that cared more about who they turned out to be in the long run, than they did about their feelings in a single moment.

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