America's Happy Obsession

Holidays are special times for family gathering together to celebrate, yet somehow the message and the reason for the season seems to get lost in the mayhem every year. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah and New Year too. While we are at it, Happy Easter, Happy 4th of July, Happy Halloween and Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday too! What is it with Americans and our obsession with being happy? Why does the focus of every holiday have to be happiness? It’s not just the purpose of our holidays, but the foundation of our national identity as well - every person should be guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There is nothing wrong about being happy, but wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we focused more on life, liberty and the pursuit of our potential rather than our pleasure? I for one have discovered that I have grown more as a person during times of difficulty than seasons of delight. Suffering and sadness have created more character in my soul, whereas success has often given birth to pride and arrogance.

As we look out into our world, we see that there are 1.3 billion children at risk in our community of humanity, but we’d like our Christmas merry, if you please. While 28 million fellow human beings are stuck in slavery, we use our freedom to strive for more personal satisfaction. While more than 51 million refugees on our planet and 200 million street children struggle for survival, we’d like a Happy New Year, if that’s not too much to expect.

Maybe the issue that’s bigger than the motive of our happiness is the means or methods by which we attempt to obtain this object of our obsession. Many believe that if they just made more money, they would be happier. Others think that more things will bring more joy, and most of us at some point in life mistakenly believe that it’s a certain person who makes us happy and we could never be happy without them. In reality, happiness is shallow and fleeting, whereas contentment is deep and more dependable. Most people seek for happiness in something outside themselves, but contentment is an internal choice and it is a state of mind and soul that we maintain moment by moment. If we seek for happiness in a person, place or thing, it will always fade away and lead us on another futile search for some other person, place or thing that will also not be able to give us what we think we need to make us happy. It often takes years to understand that the emotions of joy and contentment are spiritual in nature and must be cultivated in our souls on a daily basis. As they grow and fill up our being, they begin to flow out from us into the world to bring joy to the lives of others.

The more we strive to make ourselves happy, the more narcissistic we become, but the more we live to bring joy to the lives of others, the more content we are. In the end, this is the real heart of the holiday – to accept the wonderful gift that’s been given to us and to then live to give joy to the world, peace on earth and kindness to all people.