DON’T Pursue Happiness.

DON’T Pursue Happiness. December 7, 2011

I have been thinking a lot lately about the whole idea of ‘doing what makes you feel happy.’ There’s a lot of pinning going around about being happy.  There’s a lot of people advocating (and abdicating) for a whole lotta non-sense in the pursuit of happiness.  It seems, everything from offering-the-morning-after-pill to 13-year-old girls to having your ideal butt is fair game.  There’s SUCH a high value in our society about being happy.  Frankly, it’s annoying.

It’s shallow.

It’s eck.

It’s only-in-America’ish.

The basic idea of ‘pursuing happiness’ is crap.  Certainly, there’s something to bettering oneself, to growth,  and to self-improvement and the like.  But the basic pursuit of happiness is futile, at least as an ENTIRE worldview which seems to be the message everybody and their grandaddy is feeding us lately.  i.e. “Does being fat leave you unhappy?”  Followed by an accompanying message about how to be un-fat and therefore, happy.

“Does your wife make you happy any more?  No?  Than ditch her ass and get a new one!”  I apologize for the use of *some* hyperbole.

The all out pursuit of happiness breaks down so easily.  For example, what if it makes you happy to be an alcoholic? What if it makes you happy to look at pictures of naked children online?  I talk a lot about sex trafficking, an issue very dear to my heart as a childhood survivor of that particular form of evil, but we mostly focus on the victims.  I mostly think about these poor kids.  But, have we considered that there are more sex slaves today than any other point in human history?  That fact means there are A LOT OF MEN very happy to rape children.  Sorry to be a Debbie-Downer here but that is the reality.

Happiness drives our behavior even when that behavior is particularly despicable.

Those are extreme examples, okay fine.  How about these?

What if it makes you happy to have sex with someone else’s husband? (Which, as we know also happens quite a bit) What if it makes you happy to shop all the time with no regard to the amount of debt you are racking up? I personally, can vouch for this one because shopping literally does make me feel the emotion of happiness at near giddy levels.

I can hear your thoughts.

Your thinking that I have it all misunderstood, that finding happiness isn’t at all about the pursuit of reckless behaviors, but about finding peace in life.  Well.  If that’s the case, we don’t we talk more often about ‘finding peace in life’?  Why is everyone so doggone hung up on finding on a job, finding a spouse, having (or obtaining a child) that will ‘bring happiness?’

Y’all know I ain’t lying, in the game of life, happiness is prime real-estate.  If happiness weren’t than ‘finding inner peace,’ or ‘finding meaningful work without regard to happiness’ would be a heck of a lot more popular.

I’ll be honest with you, b/c ya know, I love me an honest conversation: all the things that I currently want to do to procure a hasty happiness fix are somewhat reckless and somewhat detrimental to others.  Not all of them, for example, I was considering buying R1 –and frankly, myself– a Wii for Christmas.  Why?  Because I AM SO DOGGONE SICK OF PLAYING TRAINS & PIRATES!  I think, playing some Wii games with my son will bring me some happiness, and hopefully him, but it’s definitely more about me.

I am probably right about the Wii making me –at least temporarily– happy.  I will be happy.  But for how long? (Longer if I was able to get Wii Fit).  And to what end?  And shouldn’t that decision be weighed alongside other decisions about whether said Wii will be good for R1’s development, etc.?

I have also noticed a very *curious* trend in my life whereby the things I am most proud of in this world did not make me happy, they made my proud.

Case in point:

I ran a marathon.  At the end, for 3 minutes I felt happy.  But for the 4 months of training in which I was subjected to 5:45am sprints & 3 hr. runs on Saturdays I WAS NOT HAPPY.  I finished and I am proud of that.  I raised $4k for an excellent cause and about that, I’m happy.

~ I gave birth to 2 children.  Vaginal births.  ‘Nuff said.  My children don’t always make me happy, and in fact some times make me insane!  But I didn’t choose to have children for them to make me happy, nor to bring me life-long fulfillment.  That to me, seems like a recipe for disaster.

~ I have been married to the same man for 11.5 yrs. I HAVE NOT *ALWAYS* BEEN HAPPY, nor have we always been ‘happily married,’ but I am very proud that we are still together and still love one another.  I don’t need to be happy everyday in marriage.  It’s unrealistic.  I’d like to get to the place where we are happier more often, but that won’t effect my decision to make good on the promise I made to him 11.5 years ago.  Happy or not, a promise is a promise.  If you don’t like it, don’t make that particular promise.

~ I have a Bachelor’s degree that I got during a time when my Ma was very, very sick, a fiance’ left my sad sorry self and due to poverty, I were just barely eeking by.  Those were NOT happy times.  Not at all.  But, after 7 long years, I finished!

…and then I had the nerve to go on for a Master’s degree…

Really, I could go on.  And on.  But you get the point, I WOULDN’T TRADE any of those things but the truth is, none of those things have required happiness in order to succeed! 

I know it’s hard to admit, but we must: happiness is optional for living a fulfilling life.

Think about it: is there anyone you respect and admire solely because they are ‘ a happy person?’  Probably not.

My greatest heroes, the people I try hardest to emulate: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Sir Thomas Moore, etc. are people who were known for their sacrifices, their integrity, their commitment to justice & love, etc.  Is Malcolm X well-known & respected for ‘finding his true happiness?’  No.  He was mad as hell.  Martin Luther King, Jr. righteously indignant.  Jesus, frustrated & died a torturous, pauper’s death.  Sir Thomas Moore, stood his ground, lost everything, hated & murdered.

All 4 of my favorite male heroes were murdered.  NOT happy.

On a mainstream level, I like Jennifer Lopez. I  admire her as a strong, business savvy woman with a winning fashion sense and an incredible work ethic, but I’m not likely to follow someone who makes major decisions based on whether or not she’s happy.  When celebs have multiple marriages / divorces they usually cite ‘just wanting to be happy.’  I feel badly for people who are being consistently told that they can have or purchase their happiness at all costs.

Although not all celebs think this way.  Remember this little snippet from my post on Advent? 

{If you don’t believe moi, ask Brad Pitt.  Even one of richest, most beautiful men in the world, enjoying artistically satisfying and meaningful work, incredible opportunities for charity and service including the ability to adopt several international children and on top of all that is gettin’ bizzay with Angelina Jolie-itself, doesn’t want to put all his stock in happiness.  He finds happiness “over-rated.”  Well here here, Bradley.  Finally, someone famous said it}.

Us little people (+ Brad Pitt), know that the reality is happiness is elusive, it does not last long, it holds little long-term value, usually only serves ourselves and isn’t worth risking our families, marriages, children & dreams for.

If your like me, you’ve likely been tempted to chase something in the pursuit of happiness.  You have probably been tempted to leave something meaningful like marriage, in the pursuit of happiness. Ahem, ahem.

Don’t.  Just don’t.  Don’t believe that lie.  Think & rethink it.  Journal & rejournal it.  Pray & repray it.  Call 5 people.  Rinse & repeat.

Remember this little nugget of wisdom I just made up, happiness is optional for living a fulfilling life.

My best advice for ya, the advice I try to live by is this: Don’t pursue temporal happiness, pursue a life in which maturity, self-sacrifice and love for others are a higher priority.  That’s what I believe leads to a more meaningful experience of the fleeting emotion of happiness, but also to a deeply fulfilling life in which you will be proud of on your death-bed.

Now.  Here’s a pinterest pin I can get behind…


So.  What are your thoughts on happiness? Agree?  Disagree?

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