I used the word “managing” in the title because honestly, I feel like it’s the best way to describe happiness.
Happiness is an odd word if you think about it. There are so many connotations and synonyms that can used in it’s place. Happiness can mean a plethora of different things and is different for every single person on this planet. Throughout our days, months, and years we are managing our lives. Making decisions, being forced through unexpected challenges, letting go of the past, and looking forward to the future.
We are all longing to reach some pinnacle of ourselves and longing for the dream we thought our life would be. When I was younger, high school age and into college, I had an ideal picture of what I thought my adult life would be like. How my husband and I would live, and the aspirations we would meet and draw out of each other. This idealistic lifestyle perfectly balanced in culture, creativity, and missional outreach that would push us and develop a legacy. I had thoughts of what successes we will have reached before children, and what type of woman I would be when I became a mother, what our family would look like, what type of careers we would have, the type of house we’d live in… the list could go on and on.
You wake up, you’re graduating college, stressed about finding a career….not a job. A job is to pay the bills and make ends meet, but a career is a what you believe in, what you’re passionate about. And from there ensues endless decisions, all while trying to mitigate happiness. Happiness in life. Happiness in what you’ve done, with the path that you’re heading down, and your hopeful future. And no matter your course after high school, whether or not you go to college, finish college, land a career… it’s all your individual journey. And most of your decisions starting out as an adult are based on what makes you happy in that moment or what you think will make you happy for a while. And it all culminates at a time when you haven’t truly come into your own. It’s hard to pinpoint how you want to spend your life at such a young age, and because of that there can be a lot of growing pains, even in the midst of big adult situations (engagements, weddings, settling down in a place of your own, children, finances, etc.).
Here’s the thing I’ve discovered about happiness. It’s fleeting. And as adults…happiness is found in small time bites and it takes many forms and fashions. When we were little those times were frequent and could last hours (waking up on Christmas morning, going on vacation, the last day of school before summer, your birthday, hearing the ice-cream truck, playing outside in the neighborhood). From a child’s perspective, happiness had an element of magic. As we get older and wiser (some may say jaded), we require A LOT to give us that same jolt. And many times, we let the lack of it or searching for it wreak havoc on our lives.
We become materialistic and self-righteous. Trying to fill that void with anything that seems necessary at that moment. With so much at out fingertips (thank you, Amazon!!), we can search and find pretty much anything we think up. There isn’t a huge barrier to getting what we want, and it can be in our hands rather quickly. There isn’t a concept of having to strive and work and toil for everything we own. This can be applied to relationships too.
Tying our happiness to someone based on what we get out of it, the timing, how they meet our expectations, and whether or not they keep our interest. It’s all about ourselves and based on what we receive. So naturally, these relationships are tumultuous because they are tied to someone performing for us, and the ability to meet someone else seems easy. There are so many ways to meet new people, it doesn’t even matter where they live. We virtually have access to millions of others, and the ease of ending something is acceptable. These social capabilities and norms make it difficult to fight, self-reflect, and mature in our ability to challenge ourselves for the better. I’ll let you in on a secret, you can’t control people. And because of this one truth, individuals will ALWAYS let you down. Therefore, attaching your happiness to a person is an impossible effort to obtain it. Understanding people for who they are innately and whether they impact you positively or negatively will give you much more insight into the longevity of them being in your life. Rather than correlating how they make you feel happy to conditional acts (romantic getaways, gifts, opening doors, love letters), think about how they inspire you, make you try harder, never let you down when you are in a crisis, or can help you reason through a challenge. It’s the bigger picture.
True happiness is JOY.
Joy comes from one source, Christ. And through knowing Him, all the things of this earth become trivial and the real attributes to our everyday lives become apparent. What brings joy is the love we carry for others, giving to those less fortunate, sharing wisdom and love that we’ve been given, and having those people in our lives that are there out of love and no obligation.
Joy comes from understanding what matters most, what won’t (or shouldn’t) impact your life forever, and how to cultivate what will last generations.
What brings you joy? What lessons have you learned about chasing happiness, please share!
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