Happiness

Sunday usually gets me thinking about abstract things, such as what I have been thinking about today, happiness. John Steward Mill in arguing for a Utilitarian ethic said that the highest normative principal was

Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

Most people these days espouse similar views, though they are not expressed with such clarity. However, much of the happiness we see in this context is externally dependant. By that I mean it depends on good things happening around me and to me, rather than some internal state of joy.

There is a serious problem with that. Externally induced happiness is like deodorant, it only covers over what is really underneath, which is why people seeking happiness through external means have historically been doomed to eventual failure. Just as deodorant always wears off, so does external happiness. As they say, “feces happens” [Sunday version ;-)]. The key instead is to do the things that build joy and and a positive outlook on the inside, in the center of your soul. That can not be done hedonistically which is completely focused on the external objects of your pleasure, even while experiencing them internally.

No, what we seek can only be found in an ongoing and maturing relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, in one of the more intersting passages in the New Testament, was able to say that he counted all of his past pleasures and accomplishments as basically fecal matter [also Sunday version] because they paled in comparison with having a relationship with Christ, who was the true source of his joy (see Philippians 3:8-11). Paul had reached a point where the vagaries of external things no longer defined him or controlled his reality. Instead he was defined by an internal spiritual joy.

So, if you have tried to find your happiness in the externals, in hedonistic pleasure or the pursuit of external power and have found, like the sated Marie Antoinette that “nothing tastes”, don’t give up. Instead ground your search for happiness in something eternal and reliable. Ground it in the reality of Jesus Christ, in the internal joy that will fill your soul when he gives you peace and rest for your soul. Then your life will find true happiness.

  4 comments for “Happiness

  1. August 10, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    I think the mistake is to think that emotions are more important than they are, either the good ones or the bad ones. As C.S. Lewis said: “Feelings come and go, and when they come a good use can be made of them: they cannot be our regular spiritual diet.” I also have my own saying: “Emotions are like the weather: they are the sky above my head, not the earth beneath my feet.”

    So, if I get depressed, to me its not a big deal, and if I’m happy, I enjoy it, because I know it will end soon enough. But I try not to let emotions distract me from what I know to be true in my “mind”.

  2. August 10, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    >Emotions are like the weather…

    That is a cool aphorism. So it is yours and if I what to quote it I need to credit Neil Uchitel?

  3. August 11, 2004 at 4:10 am

    Yep, it’s all mine. 🙂 It’s licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License.

    Just a joke. Sure, use it as you will.

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