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Monday, June 15, 2015

The Search for Happiness

'What does happiness mean to you?'

Ask this question of a dozen different people & you'll likely get a 'baker's dozen' of different answers! The term can mean so many things to so many people, but the fact of the matter is, it's based on feelings & thus is a choice. Just like the artist formerly known as Cat Stephens once wrote, 'if you wanna be free, be free'. Bobby McFerrin is famous for his lyric, 'don't worry, be happy'. No matter what Life throws at us, we always have the choice of how to respond; we can respond in kind ( as the case may be ) or we can decide that, rather than simply respond to what 'happens' around us, we are going to let Life respond to us, to simply do what we will & leave it up to others to respond to us!

Many times in this glorious adventure we call Life, things just seem to 'happen' ( there ARE things beyond our control )! Whether it's to us personally, or to a friend or relative, certain things sometimes occur that make us question our Heavenly Father's promises! Whatever happens, we always have the choice as to how we're going to face each circumstance; if adverse, we can happily accept it as a chance to grow, to use it as a learning experience. When we are faced with a favorable circumstance, in other words, something we like, it is much easier to exhibit happiness about it!

In today's society, it seems that the way to be happy is to have, whether it's money or things! Most people think that a lover will make them happy ( opposite sex or same sex ). 'If I can just find the right person ( to complete me ), then I'll be happy'! How many times have you heard that or something similar? Often, when one finds that lover that they think is their 'soul-mate', they ARE happy for a time ( 'ecstasy' might be closer to the point ), but when either party's feelings change & one or the other ceases to perform their function, happiness seems to fly out the window; as quickly as it came, it disappears ( usually when this happens, the end is worse than the beginning )!

One of the lines in a movie I watched with friends the other day went something like this, 'it's not about the pursuit of happiness, it's about finding happiness in the pursuit'! To me, it sounded kind of like, 'life is a journey, not a destination'. Happiness is not something to be found, a goal to be pursued; happiness is a choice we make when faced with either adversity or advantage, with evil or good, hardship or ease. It is hard, yes, to be happy when a loved one dies or even when your only vehicle breaks down! It's difficult to enjoy certain things when you're missing a certain someone, or just don't have a certain someone to cling to!

However, as so many people are figuring out, if you can't BE happy on your own, if you can't decide to make lemonade with the metaphorical lemons Life throws at you, then you'll never BE happy, even though you acquire all that your little heart desires! Happiness, like life, is not a destination that we just automatically arrive at; it is the pursuit, or search for that which we desire, that which we long for! Happiness is that feeling of accomplishment or fulfillment that we get in the midst of doing. To most people, we can safely say, I believe, it is in doing for the benefit of other that we find happiness! There are those who seem to base their happiness on what others do for their benefit, but needless to say, if we base our happiness on what others do for us, we're probably facing a long & unhappy existence!

When our happiness depends on what we do, however, if our search leads us to do good to others, then happiness is within our grasp, so to speak! Although it is good to have money ( somebody's gotta pay the bills ), enough to keep a roof over our heads & food on the table or things ( electronics, automobiles or a bigger house ), when there is a lack of any of this, then our happiness tends to evaporate! When we base our happiness on having a lover, whether it's a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, when that is gone ( trust me on this ) so is the 'happiness' Like any other feeling, happiness can change almost instantaneously!

Because our happiness is based on our feelings, only we can  make ourselves happy; like Bobby said, 'don't worry, be happy'! If we worry about how others treat us or about what Life throws our way, then we will find ourselves depending on the feelings of others or on circumstances to make us happy & when their feelings change or the circumstances hit a pothole, there goes our happiness! The only way to BE happy is to choose to be content, whatever your situation!

Charles Haddon Shank

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