Happiness has been defined as a sense of well-being, joy and contentment. Many also label it as an allusive state – living life with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction. According to Psychology Today, happiness can improve a persons physical health and a longer lifespan. They further point to research that indicates that happiness is under our personal control.
Sadly many of us are not aware of this truth. we attach our happiness to specific persons or things around us, “I’m happy if you’re happy” or “I’ll be happy when I get this”. Does this sound familiar? Some also wait on a major achievement to be happy, but happiness is a habit, a lifestyle. We must not expect someone to give us the key to happiness, we already have it, we have just misplaced it. We have to find the things that bring us joy and do them regularly; we need to pursue challenges that we thrive on, setting goals at regular intervals and make sure we meet them and finding purpose beyond our limited world; all can bring much satisfaction. But, it seems that we are always pursuing happiness.
Happiness and Being Content
Contentment has been defined as the state of being happy and satisfied. This does not mean that at a certain point in life we stop striving to improve, but it’s more about being happy with where you are at a given point in your life- whether that place is good or bad to you. In other words consider the words of Paul in Philippians 4: 11-12 :
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
While we should all, like Paul, get our source of contentment from God, we can consider the level of happiness we want to attain.
According The World Counts, there are four levels of happiness:
- Level 1: Laetus: Happiness based on material objects
- Level 2: Felix: Happiness from comparison
- Level 3: Beatitudo: Happiness from doing good
- Level 4: Sublime Beatitudo. Ultimate, perfect happiness
Many today are fixated on Laetus, and come to realize that this is just a temporary fix – money can’t buy happiness, even if it gets us everything else. Then there are those who work hard to catch up and pass the person just ahead and flex their success in the faces of others. But once ahead they don’t know where to go and end up on a slippery slop downhill. Also, those who feed the poor and take care of the sick but still feel empty because their intentions are questionable. The fourth level seems almost impossible. If the last is based on pursuing your potential, then many are screwed. Many do not know how to fulfill their potential – many don’t know what that is . The first three are also measurable and immediate but the last is not. True lasting happiness I have come to realize is not based on how much you have but how content you are. It’s about seeing someone else succeed and not feeling pressured to measure up. Also, it’s about knowing who you are -good and bad – and accepting all of it as being a part of you. It’s about losing everything you thought you would die without and still being able to smile, laugh out loud and even see a spark of new life just ahead. Happiness, true happiness is not devoid of pain and disappointments. It is when you are able to see beyond the negative and embrace the positive. It is when you go through both water and fire, transformed for the better.
The poem below, by Derek Walcott reflects the idea that our happiness rest on acknowledging that events can impact us but not decide our sense of well being. That even after the baptism of fire, we can see the green breath among the rubble.
A City’s Death by Fire
After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,Derek Walcott
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city’s death by fire;
Under a candle’s eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.