The concept of happiness is getting a lot of attention in bloggerville right now, in several different contexts relating to politics,marriage, and faith.
First let’s define it, “Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.”
Happiness often gets a bum wrap and tends to carry negative connotations. Aren’t people amazing? We can take a concept like happiness and transform it into something bad and undesirable. People astound me sometimes.
First in the context of relationships, marriage, a frequent lament of women rejecting men or getting divorced is, “I’m not happy.” This can totally baffle a lot of men, she’s unhappy, this vague and nebulous accusation that sounds as if it has no meat to it. How can any one human possibly make another happy all the time? You can’t. Nobody can make someone else “happy.” God can, God can place you in a state of bliss and endless praise, rejoicing and celebrating gratitude. That’s sure to put an extra skip in your step, but other humans, not so much.
When women speak of how they are unhappy, they are speaking to their overall sense of well-being. I call it safety, provision, protection, contentment. Unhappy means, all is not well with my soul…
Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s her. Or maybe it really is you, I don’t know.
I feel for men, for the emotional injustice that stems from the fact that women will often look towards men as the source of their happiness or unhappiness. That’s partially biology at play, our “over all well-being,” our ability to have children and to nurture them, all closely tied to the amount of “well being” men provide. Men, no matter how perfect, no matter how solicitous, can never put you in that place where all is well with my soul.
So when we say we are unhappy that kind of cuts right to the quick of that biological equation, and it says failure at manhood. To this day I have to be careful when speaking of happiness or unhappiness with hubby, because I am simply seeking some assistance in resolving what is making me unhappy, but he has feelings there. As far as he is concerned his job is to create a sense of well-being for his wife and if she isn’t feeling it, either she’s a defective human or he has failed to do his job. That’s what’s happening on a biological level anyway, an instinctual one.
It’s taken a lot of years for us to build that sense of trust, to set aside that instinctual, emotional response. I’ve had to get really clear about who is the actual Source of my happiness, which is always my relationship with God. And hubby has had to learn that if the roof is leaking he is responsible for my well-being, but if my soul is grieving some tragedy in the world, I might just need to take a walk or a nap. I’m not bailing on him because I’m unhappy. It often has nothing to do with him at all.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a culture where we teach people that their sense of well-being and their happiness quotient can be found in a romantic partner or wealth or fame or success or any of the other somewhat idolatrous things we try to pour into the abyss of our souls.
Nobody is ever going to be happy all the time. Our other feelings and states of being serve a vital and useful purpose in the world. Life too can be a bumpy ride, so it is not going to deliver you endless bliss, nor should it. There is value in our suffering.
In a faith-based context however, I am often disappointed with Christians who sometimes present such a negative portrayal of marriage and life in general. Well, “this spouse is my cross to bear, God didn’t design me to happy, it’s okay to rejoice sometimes but happiness is of the devil. Oh woe is me, the more I suffer and sacrifice the better. Love is just about giving and never receiving anything in return and then you die.”
I have to speak up in defense of happiness, contentment, well being, as an ideal, a Christian value. Even Paul says, “rejoice and again I say rejoice.” Paul, singing songs of praise while in prison. Happiness, joy, bliss, our own sense of well being, these are the fruits of our faith. Happiness is not the problem at all, Who we believe to be the Source of our happiness often is.
God makes me happy, my husband is more like the chocolate frosting on this triple layer cake of endless bliss. Those are not feelings, actually “they reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.” In following Jesus Christ, my job is to walk in praise of my over all well-being, bought and paid for on the cross.
“Wedded bliss” is quite possible, doable even, real. It may look a bit messy, it may be a bit twisted, this long and winding road full of sticker bushes, but one can be genuinely happy, content, assured of their well being, happy.