Archbishop Fulton Sheen posed this question in a book I am currently reading. In this essay on happiness, Bishop Sheen points out that most people, when asked if they are happy, express the fact that while they are relatively happy, they could be and want to be happier. He says in this book that this means that we are not really happy, that we have settled for a mediocre acceptance of things the way they are. There is a vast difference between what truly makes for genuine happiness and the way we live our lives. The good Bishop says that we have been fooled into seeking happiness itself instead of LIVING the way that leads to the desired result of happiness. He uses the example of people who travel extensively in search of excitement and variety. If these good folks would be honest, they would admit that the happiest two days of their latest trip were the day they left and the day they returned home. So, did the traveling produce a happy result?
A profound truth: this world and nothing in it can make us happy. Happiness is an “inside job”, meaning that if we are not happy that there is something lacking inside of us, not outside of us. People who love filet mignon will derive pleasure from their good fortune of dining on this revered dish, but very few will profess to have found joy in their meal. Pleasure is of the body, joy is of the mind and heart.
Another profound truth: we are seeking God, not his creation. His creation is dropped along the road of life as His way of prompting us to think of how awesome and beautiful the Creator of these “things” must be. But we poor sinners latch onto these things and place our desire and hope for happiness in them. When we realize that this world cannot fulfill our infused desire for happiness, then the things of this world will no longer disappoint us – we won’t expect happiness from them.
Union with God through doing His will is the sure path to happiness. The saints realized this in the depths of their hearts and they were willing to suffer the circumstances that resulted from their decision to seek the pearl of great price. What are we seeking? How are we spending our time? What is really important to us?
Finally – Bishop Sheen eloquently puts forth the following gem of truth: the sun is only happy when shining and providing warmth and light, a pencil is only happy when it is writing – WE are only happy when living in accord with our purpose in life. That requires knowledge, humility, courage and great faith. If you are a Mom or a Dad, it is very simple – our purpose revolves around those little balls of energy and bundles of joy that we have been so blessed to have been placed in charge of. The by-product of doing so with diligence and love is happiness. Happy New Year and God Bless.