The Pursuit of Happiness

Dear Readers:

No one can keep another person happy. Those who make such promises to their partners are intentionally or unintentionally deceiving themselves and their partners. When one partner realizes that they are no longer happy in a marriage relationship, then this excuse is typically used to justify any destructive behaviour that they may choose to pursue. Today, we shall place the concept of happiness in the balance.

Some people believe that they can be happy once they obtain: financial security, a large house, a large car, a prominent job, fame, power, a spouse, or children. Among those who have obtained such things or relationships, there are people who are both happy and unhappy. Also, among those who do not have these things, even though they desire them, there are people who are also both happy and unhappy. Also, among those who are contented with what they have, there are people who are both happy and unhappy.

Therefore happiness is not by attained by obtaining wealth, fame, power, or relationships, or being contented with what one has. What then triggers the feelings of happiness and why do they subside? Is it possible to retain such feelings for a lifetime? We can find answers to these and ancillary questions by examining what happens when we are happy.

People are generally happy with new responsibilities, including new jobs, new cars, new houses or apartments, new relationships, babies, new vacations, and new wealth. New responsibilities are generally perceived of as blessings or gifts to which people feel grateful or thankful. The expressed attitude of thankfulness automatically generates feelings of happiness. Happiness then is a natural emotional response to being thankful.

The loss of happiness occurs when events associated with the new responsibilities result in unpleasant experiences. People are not generally thankful for unpleasant experiences, and with the absence of thankfulness, there is nothing to stimulate feelings of happiness.

There are pleasant and unpleasant experiences associated with all responsibilities. A project at work may require some time sacrifices away from one’s family, the car may break down and require repairs, the house will require maintenance, the child may misbehave and need correction, and it may rain during your vacation. In the mist of the unpleasant experiences, it is very easy to transfer feelings of disappointment from the temporary event causing the unpleasant experience to the responsibility or the gift. Some even declare that the responsibility is a curse and not a blessing.

We are not thankful for the child’s disobedience, but for the gift of the child, through whom we have the responsibility of influencing the next generation to do good by teaching our children to be responsible. We are not thankful for the deteriorating paint and cracked floor tiles, but for the gift of a house that offers us shelter and a place to entertain others. We are not thankful for the flat tyre but for the gift of a car through which we can transport others in relative comfort. We are not thankful for the failed expectations in a marriage relationship, but for the gift of a spouse and the opportunity to develop together to influence future generations.

It is important to refocus on our gifts or blessings, and not on the unpleasant experiences that may occur during the day-to-day operation and maintenance activities associated with our responsibilities. When the absence of feelings of happiness negatively affects our behaviour, then it is time for us to refocus on our gifts and express our gratitude to God and others responsible for these gifts.

Happiness is not something that we simply wait for. It depends on our own attitude towards things and people in our life. If we do not recognise our many blessings, then we will not feel the need to express our gratitude to God or someone else, and therefore happiness may rarely come our way. However, if we recognise that a car, apartment, house, family, friend, job, church, and responsibilities are blessings, and we continuously express our gratitude for them, then we can always be happy regardless of the quality of our experiences.

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