Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Significance of Happiness

I've been thinking about happiness lately.

(photo by Hadrien*)

Last night we even watched a movie that centered around the theme of happiness. The message from the father to his children was that he was proud of them no matter what - as long as they were happy.

i'm not sure how to write about this, because I'm not sure that i'm right.

I just get a little frustrated with this pursuit of happiness. When happiness is the barometer by which we measure the value in our lives, I sort of think we are missing the mark.

Don't get me wrong, I want my friends and family to be happy. I really really want my husband to be happy, and would question myself as a wife if he wasn't. I want myself to be happy, of course. But why is happiness soooo important?

After a lonely and difficult time in my life, someone asked me, "are you happy?" Which was such a loaded question in my mind. I told her that i wasn't happy, but probably could be. But her question bothered me. "Why does my happiness matter?" I asked her. I wasn't responding with low self-esteem or self-martyrdom. Honestly, there are things in my life of far more importance than my own personal happiness. After a few minutes of really thinking about it, I told her that it wasn't happiness that I was hoping to achieve, but significance.

If you are hoping for happiness, I hope you find it. But I have realized that happiness is largely determined by the people and the circumstances of your life. And those things are always changing. I'm not saying that we shouldn't care about happiness. I seriously want you and me to be happy. But if happiness is the end-all, the goal in sight, then i think we are selling ourselves and those in our lives extremely short.

Living a life of significance.... that is much more meaningful. If we are striving to live lives of significance, then we will gage our success more by the impact we make in the lives of others than on our own personal state of happiness. But this is difficult to gauge, I know. I just wish we were striving for significance instead of happiness - I think we would all be happier, actually. I'm not saying i'm doing this in my life. I live a pretty hermit-ish life out here and spend my days in front of my computer and in the mountains. I am very happy, but perhaps not living an impacting life.

And think about people that have made an impact on your life, or who have changed the course of history. If their personal happiness was their pursuit, would the impact of their lives have reached to you and me?

But like i said before, maybe I'm wrong. I just have been bothered by the the weight and value our society puts on personal happiness. I just think we could live for greater things.


Milovy said...

I agree with you 100%

Sara said...

In college we did a Bible Study on the fruit of the spirit and compared each fruit to a more secular characteristic, and for joy we used the secular comparison of happy, as joy does not have to be dependent on the people and situations we are in. I think you are totally right that there is more than just pursuing happiness, but I almost think there is more, at least for Christians, than just significance also, as it is still a self-focused pursuit - meaning that the focus is on wanting TO BE significant, or of personally wanting something for yourself, rather than focus outward (though I agree that being significant does impact others and the world positively (or negatively) as well). Perhaps the pursuit of glory to God is what we should all strive for (and in that likely we will lead significant lives and for the most part be happy). Just some more thoughts. Love your posts Hannah!

Brooke Hereth said...


Erin S> said...

Love the post and the comments. Happiness is a choice.

We should never depend on someone else to make us happy or let anyone else depend on us to make them happy.

The joy of the LORD is our strength. We do find joy in each day, being with our loved ones and walking with God.

Thanks for a great topic!

Anonymous said...

st. augustine wrote that happiness is the only thing people want in itself. all other things are a means to achieve the end of happiness: we want money, relationships, and stuff because it will lead to happiness.

this reflects truth about the human heart -- we must be happy.

Temporal things will help make us happy, but will not suffice without the ultimate joy we were made for:
"In Your presence is fulness of joy."
Aleksandra from Florida

Hannah said...

Thanks for your thoughful and thought-provoking comments, Ladies. You are inspiring.

aaron said...

That is funny that Aleksandra from Florida mentioned Augustine... after reading your post, Hannah, I was thinking about Augustine's oft quoted line: "You have made me for yourself and my heart is restless until it finds rest in you."