Dooger rants about Happiness

I recently had a conversation about happiness with my eighteen year old son.  Before we get into the actual conversation, let me give a little background on the circumstances leading up to it.  A month earlier, he had been evicted from the home he was living in.  He returned to life on the streets and the detestable lifestyle choices that brought him to this point.  He ended up in county jail where he had three weeks to contemplate the meaning of life.

When I picked him up after his release, he said, “I just want to be happy”.  Certainly, everybody has the God given right to pursue happiness.  It is even written into our country’s founding document.  There were two assumptions that he made about happiness.  Two lies that he bought into that I pointed out to him during our conversation.

Lie number one is that the meaning of life is to be happy. This lie has permeated American culture.  It is embedded in our music, and children’s movies.  The “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams urges us to clap along if we think that happiness is the truth.  It is a very catchy tune, and hard not to clap along.  At first glance, the song seams harmless, and we turn our brains off and clap along.  However, what if happiness were the truth?  We know that happiness is relative.  What make one person happy, isn’t necessarily what makes another person happy.  In fact, one person’s pursuit of happiness may directly lead to another person’s despair.  If happiness is truth, and happiness is relative, then truth also must be relative.  If we believe truth is relative, then obvious things such as the difference between male and female will confuse us.

The second assumption that my wayward son made was that his friends were correct in what they said would make him happy.  He bought into the lie that  drugs, women, and money would bring bliss.  Even after experiencing the pain, agony, and bondage of that lifestyle, he kept returning to it.  He tested his friend’s theory one last time after leaving jail.  The day after that fling, he shared his ideas and experiences while I sat quietly and listened.  When it was my turn to talk, I offered the same wisdom I had shared many times before.

What Ben was seeking is really not happiness, but joy.  Some may think joy and happiness are one and the same.  They both involve emotions.  Both are feelings of pleasure.  The difference is the source of each.  Happiness depends on our circumstances.  Some circumstances result from our choices.  Some are beyond our control.  Either way, bad situations will bring pain and despair while good situations will bring happiness.  Joy on the other hand does not depend on our surroundings.

Jesus is our source of joy.  The circumstances surrounding the original Christmas were far from happy.  The Roman army occupied Israel.  King Herod ordered the murder of all baby boys.  Despite the pain and misery, the first Christmas was a time of great joy due to the arrival of Jesus.  Before he was even born, John the baptist leaped for joy when his mother heard the news of the coming messiah.  The wise men rejoiced when they saw the Christmas star.  Angels told the shepherds news that would bring great joy to all people.

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