I was never more miserable than when I was actively engaged in the pursuit of happiness.
Happiness isn’t all that it is hyped up to be. Many people will disagree with me on this – it is such an American statement – After all, the Declaration of Independence even speaks of the right to pursue happiness. “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.”
In our American culture, I witness the pursuit of happiness frequently. One hears the statements, “I just want to be happy”, or “I just want you to be happy”. I see this pursuit on commercials – that by just buying the right product, or reading the perfect book, or meeting the right person (or getting rid of a person or situation), or getting the right opportunities or experiences, one will be happy.
What has been my personal experience in pursuing happiness? Truthfully, I found myself manipulating and controlling others. For example, I remember saying the following things to my husband, “I just want to be happy.” Or “I just want you (or us) to be happy”. Underneath those statements, though, were my unspoken and unacknowledged statements of “I want you to change because if you do the things I want you to do, or see things from my perspective then I will be happy”. In seeking after the feelings or the state of happiness, I was placing my well being in the control of my external circumstances or in control of other people. If I was always in search of happiness, I had to often deny my reality –for how could I simultaneously experience pain and struggle and dissatisfaction, and conflict, and heartache – all of those feelings that push up against happiness?
So what changed for me? –I wouldn’t even know where to start on that one—An intentional faith walk, recovery, therapy. I would say that I live a more contented life now. Contentment has come from the process of surrendering and letting God change my heart –this letting go has actually been a difficult and painful process.
To the best of my ability, I try to live an intentional, purposed life, rooted in reality and acceptance of others, of my circumstances good and bad, and hopefully in authenticity. Happiness has been a byproduct of that process, that is , slowly coming to acceptance of and living in reality (more on that in another blog). I don’t seek after the feelings or even the experience of happiness anymore….if it happens, I am grateful….Maybe that is what changed—acceptance of reality – of myself, of others, and with that acceptance, I am grateful for any moments of happiness that come my way.
What is your experience in the pursuit of happiness?
How do you define your own happiness?