I happened onto what I think is a great piece of work in dealing with the pursuit of happiness. Below is an excerpt from a book I’m reading, “Kingdom Triangle”, by J.P. Mooreland. He describes in sobering fashion what happens when we set our minds on just ‘happiness’.
When people live for pleasurable satisfaction, they become empty selves and, because God did not make us to live for ‘happiness,’ their lives fall apart. Professor Martin Seligman is the nation’s leading researcher on happiness. He has devoted much of the last thirty years of his life studying the topic. Seligman has noted repeatedly that when people live for ‘happiness’, they turn their attention inward and become shriveled selves who are anything but happy. In 1988, Seligman found that in the span of one single generation – the Baby Boom generation – Americans experienced a tenfold increase in depression compared to earlier generations. this is a stunning cultural shift, and it will be useful to us to find out what caused it.
According to Seligman, this massive shift resulted from the fact that Baby Boomers stopped imitating their ancestors, who tried to live for a cause bigger than themselves. The shift from seeking character and living for a cause – God, family, one’s country – bigger than they were. Instead, Boomers began to spend all their energy on living for themselves and their own pleasurable satisfaction. The result? They lost any sense of giving themselves daily to the art of becoming a wise, virtuous person of character and living for a cause bigger than themselves. The shift from seeking character and living for a cause to being preoccupied with daily consumption of pleasurable satisfaction (I.e., the contemporary notion of happiness) brought with it a loss of both character and pleasurable satisfaction. Since 1988, study shows that things have grown steadily worse.
There are some sobering consequences to living within the framework of this pursuit. Parents view children as a means to their own happiness; couples see each other as a way to enhance their own pleasurable experiences; work is satisfying only if it makes me happy; even God himself exists merely as a means to make me happy. In short, the entire universe will revolve around my internal pleasure and me!
The lesson is this: Far from delivering pleasure and happiness, this strategy of living for self has brought about discontent and depression.
In other words, the naturalist and postmodern perspectives have undermined the objectivity of meaning to life and, ironically, have brought spoilage to happiness.
The best way to be happy in the contemporary sense is to forget about it, to try to live a good life for a bigger purpose, especially for the cause of Christ. If you do that, you will not be so worried about periods of unhappiness, and you will end up being happier than you would if you were preoccupied with happiness!
J.P. Mooreland – Kingdom Triangle
Let’s start now to live for a higher cause! There’s no better cause to live for than the cause of Christ!