Happiness is…

…not a goal.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Dave said he was leaving his family because he wanted to be “happy” and I could spend plenty of time talking about why I don’t care for that concept. My aunt caught it too when she read my blog and we talked about how happiness is not a goal. Happiness is fleeting, and a moving target. What makes me happy today (dessert) won’t make me happy later (when my pants don’t fit).

What is lasting is contentment and peace, and often we have to be unhappy for a bit to get those. We have to obey and do the right thing. This is why Dave and Alison have taught their children, and continue that work, to share, to play nice, not to call each other names or hit. But it’s like Dave has forgotten those rules from kindergarten and he’s throwing away so much that is precious just so he can be happy. But whoever or whatever is making him happy right now will not last.

Happiness doesn’t last. Contentment isn’t easy, it requires hard work at times. It involves disciplining the mind and emotions so the shiny new things don’t distract us from the path. And it takes courage. It is often easier to avoid the truth, or try to evade the consequences, or justify ourselves in some way. But that doesn’t work for the athlete, it doesn’t work for the scholar, and it doesn’t work for a person looking to live with integrity.

Definition of INTEGRITY

: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
: an unimpaired condition : soundness

: the quality or state of being complete or undivided :

We all struggle with integrity. It is so easy to say one thing and do another without even stopping to realize we obviously don’t believe what we say because our actions show the lie. Sometimes it’s small things, like saying we really want to lose weight and then eating the dessert because we actually prefer the happiness right now over the future goal of weight loss. This is just one example of where it takes effort to find the motivation to live as we really want instead of giving in to our impulses.

But when we live with people, love them, trust them, we come to expect a certain level of integrity. When a man tells his wife that he will never leave her and that he doesn’t want his family to ever be torn apart by divorce like his parents did, that means you trust that he will work hard even during the bad times to keep that from happening. You don’t think he’ll just give up one day because he wants to go do something else and “be happy”. How can he really be happy when his actions cause so much hurt to his wife and children?

And the evidence from countless other similar experiences is that he probably will find that happiness is fleeting and then he’ll know regret because when trust is lost it is very hard to regain. When scars are inflicted, they can’t be erased. Anything built after this will be a little off, less than completely right. Sure, all our efforts are imperfect, but this experience will add another layer of damage.

Or perhaps he will never see that what he has done is so wrong. He seems to feel that he is perfectly in the right and any efforts we make to understand what he has done or to express to him our hurt and fear and disappointment is met with anger and draws comments from him about our hostility and interference with his life. I don’t understand how he can completely ignore the pain of his family, the hard steps he is making his wife take (the kind of hard steps you should have a loving partner to share the burden with), or the accusations and attacks against his own brother.

He has avoided any discussions as if he is too afraid of the conflict that might come up as he has to defend his actions against people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with him. He is distorting reality and using it to excuse his inexcusable behavior. And he’s breaking our hearts.

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