“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”– Chinese proverb
Recently I assisted a young woman with an exit plan to escape from an abusive relationship. She is safe now. She called to thank me for being there for her in her darkest hour. Her words still echo in my ears. She said, "When he came into my life my heart was full of joy. I thought I had finally found true happiness. When the abuse started and got worse as the years went by, my happiness turned to despair and fear."
There was a time when my view of happiness was skewed. One night someone broke into my house and stole my jewellery, including heirlooms from my deceased mother. I realise that material things do not necessarily bring us happiness.
“Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude,” (Denis Waitley).
Constance Hull says, "We are made for happiness... God has made us to be happy. This happiness...comes from God alone...The mistake we can make is in thinking that happiness is something material, that it is something we can grasp. Rather, it is a letting go and a relinquishment of self to God’s Divine plan. It is to conform our will to God’s will and to love God completely and love our neighbour as God loves.
"We are the unification of body and soul... purely material things cannot bring us ultimate happiness. In order to find happiness our souls and our bodies must be rightly ordered to God... On the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord lays out the path to happiness in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Blessedness, or beatitudo, is an ancient term for happiness...
"This is not to say the material is evil...Instead, Christ reminds us to focus on God first so that we can be filled with joy. Since we are made by God and for God, He is the only one who can fulfill our heart’s desires...It is in relinquishing ourselves over to His care that the emptiness, brokenness, and sins within us are healed and we are made new...In focusing on His will, we stop seeking the riches of this world and begin to live lives of holiness. In growing in holiness, we are able to transform the world...
"The Beatitudes are demanding...They teach us that happiness comes from doing the work of the Father...As Christ tells the Samaritan woman at the well, it is only Living Water that can quench our thirst. In order to be satiated, we must be willing to give our lives completely over to God. We must ponder and pray to live the Beatitudes."
See Pope Francis' guidelines to happiness:
• Live and let live.
• Be giving of yourself to others.
• Proceed calmly in life.
• A healthy sense of leisure...Consumerism has brought us anxiety (the Pope also urges families to turn off the TV when they're eating together).
• Sunday is for family.
• Be creative with young people – Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.
• Respect and take care of nature.
• Stop being negative. Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem.
• Don't proselytise; respect others' beliefs. We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating.
• We are living in a time of many wars, and the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive.
To be happy, discern and be the person God wants you to be.
Chair, CCSJ & director, CREDI