Happiness isn’t enough

Declaration of IndependenceI read a comment from a newly married celebrity this weekend about how he and his spouse didn’t argue because they have the same goal–making each other happy. And I thought to myself, well, that doesn’t bode well.

It sounds nice, right? Two people who only want to make each other happy? But what if going out and drinking too much every night makes you happy? What if quitting your job and watching TV all day makes you happy? Shoot, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. What if quitting your lucrative day job to focus on writing full-time makes you happy? (While also, say, putting your mortgage in jeopardy?)

Just about anything taken to extremes can be bad. So if your focus is on making your spouse happy without encouraging him or her to be better, I think you’re headed down the road to destruction.

My husband likes to see my happy. But when I start talking about registering for the third expensive and time-consuming writers’ conference of the year, he’s going to challenge me to prove its value. When I see him thinking about skipping exercise to sleep in, I’m going to challenge him to keep up his healthy lifestyle.

I’m afraid, as a country, we’ve made happiness a sort of God. At the very least, we think being happy is our right. So on this Fourth of July week, I think it’s worth revisiting the Declaration of Independence which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That’s pursuit of–not the actual happiness itself. We have no right to happiness. And when we focus on being happy or making someone we love happy, I think we do a them and ourselves a disservice. Let’s stop trying to be happy and start trying to be better.

15 thoughts on “Happiness isn’t enough

  1. Excellent thoughts, Sarah. I love how the celebrities come off sounding like experts, but 9 1/2 times out of 10, they don’t wind up staying together, b/c they aren’t cemented in God FIRST. Happiness comes and goes. Only God and things He values, like staying together despite occasional (or often prolonged) unhappiness, are the things that last.

  2. Melissa Tagg

    This is so, SO good, Sarah…not only in reference to marriage, but really, anything. Because if my goal in life is to make me or anybody else happy, well, I’m pretty much guaranteed to at some point fail myself or that someone else. 🙂 I read once that happiness is based on circumstances and joy is based on knowing God and his love. So while happiness is nice, I think I’ll opt for pursuing joy… 🙂

    1. Yes, joy, which Jesus assures us we can find even in the midst of trials and suffering. I Thessalonians 1:6 – “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the JOY given by the Holy Spirit.”

  3. Girl, you are spot on!!

    Living to make someone happy leaves almost all the control in their hands.It is entirely subjective. There is no limit or border to striving to meet the insatiable needs of another person. Selfishness replaces happiness and the marriage falls apart.
    One thing my husband said to me before we got married was “don’t depend on me for your happiness”.
    So true!!

    Great post, as usual.

  4. Awesome thoughts, Sarah! I’ve also heard the thought that marriage isn’t meant to make you happy so much as it’s meant to make you holy. Sacrificial. Like Jesus.

    And yes, happiness is not a bad thing. But if we are not content right here, right now, there will always be another thing on the horizon we want and won’t be happy until we get…

  5. Well, I’ll start with Jesus saying, “I’ve come so that you’ll have joy, and that your joy will be full.”

    It’s a matter of accepting that, and that acceptance is a choice – for joy or happiness (differentiating may be splitting hairs).

    We can’t make others’ choices for them, but we do owe our spouses – and friends – our best effort to ‘facilitate’ their happiness, to choose to do that. Emotions are fragile, and the only way we can really keep them from cracking is to help one another, where and when we can. God is the doctor, but we’re here to apply the Band-Aids.

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