the search for happiness
The search for happiness is as old as mankind. Hedonism, an ancient Greek philosophy, stated that the chief end of man was happiness. Democritus, who lived in 460 BC, said, “Happiness is the object of our conduct.” And Aristipus, a pupil of Socrates, put it this way. “The most intense pleasure is the highest good and is the aim of life.”
While I don’t agree with the above philosophies, people today still long for happiness, but in spite of our greatly increased knowledge and achievements we still haven’t learned its secret.
On the University campus the highest death rate is caused by suicide. Hospital beds are filled with unhappy and lonely people. Some doctors estimate that over 80 percent of patients are suffering as a result of emotional distress. A world-famous psychiatrist claims that “the central neurosis of our time is emptiness.” And according to the United Nations World Health Organization, depression is the world’s number one health problem.
Marilyn Monroe had everything that many seem to think brings happiness—beauty, wealth, fame, sex appeal, and popularity—but she ended her life in suicide. It is claimed that Voltaire who was famous for his infidelity said on his death bed, “I am lost! Oh, that I had never been born.” And millionaire Jay Gould said when dying, “I suppose I am the most miserable devil on earth.”
Actually, wealth, fame, power, beauty … neither make one happy or unhappy. They are externals. Happiness comes from within. It is a by-product of an inner condition. If one lives only for personal happiness, he will probably never find it. As one person said, “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”
Happiness is many things to many people. It depends on one’s particular needs, abilities, interests, and maturity
The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.
Happiness for one man is to be an accountant, for another a farmer. Happiness for one woman is not to have any more children, for another to have several more.
For me, happiness begins with being honest with myself and learning to understand and accept myself for who and what I really am. This way I can utilize my strengths and work towards overcoming my weaknesses.
Happiness also means learning to accept my personal circumstances—the negative as well as the positive. Some of them can be changed. Others can’t. And unless I accept the one’s that can’t be changed, I’ll never be happy.
As blind Helen Keller said, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God.”
Happiness is also having a worthwhile goal—a noble purpose for which to live—something of value to strive for.
I was once talking to a union representative on a construction job. At the time he was also demonstrating for a cause that was popular back then. He told me he joined this group because it gave him something to live for. I don’t know if this man is still demonstrating for a cause, but certainly everybody needs something to live for other than himself and his own happiness.
Happiness in itself is not a worthwhile goal to live for. To be happy all of the time is unreal, as happiness is only one of life’s great emotions. To be in touch with all of one’s feelings is more important than being happy all of the time. To feel sad, hurt, angry, afraid, and unhappy at the appropriate times is both normal and healthy. However, if one is unhappy most of the time, this is nature’s way of telling him that something is missing in his life or some conflict needs resolving.
To be happy, one also needs to have worthwhile work into which one can put one’s best efforts.
Everybody has some talents, and to find personal fulfillment and happiness, it is important that he discover his gifts, receive adequate training to sharpen them, and find a place to use them. This is equally true for both men and women.
It is a wise man who helps his wife find, develop, and use her special gifts. He will reap just rewards through his wife’s increased fulfillment and happiness.
However, at times of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, finding fulfilling work through employment may not always be possible for everybody. However, there are many avenues to find work fulfillment other than through paid work. If one is creative, one can get involved in arts and crafts and perhaps sell some of the items made. One can help many others by becoming involved in church work or with other service agencies.
“If you find a really happy man,” states one author, “you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, or growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a button that has rolled under the wardrobe, he will not be striving for it as a goal in itself, he will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life to the full twenty-four hours of the day.
To love and be loved is without
question our greatest need for
happiness, without which is our
greatest source of unhappiness.
The happy person also has healthy relationships with other people.
The person who lives only for himself is immature and usually very miserable. Even the ancient Greeks had a word for the self-centered person. It was “idios” from which we get our word, “idiot.” It means belonging to one’s self.
To love and be loved is without question our greatest need for happiness, without which is our greatest source of unhappiness.
Without love all else in life is meaningless. Once again, however, love comes from within. If we give love we will receive love. That is a law of life. Unfortunately, many people, especially in childhood, were hurt because of a lack of love and as adults are afraid to love for fear of being hurt again. Through careful counseling this fear can usually be overcome.
Character and a well-integrated self are also essential for personal happiness. If the self is whole or mature, happiness will follow.
The greatest man this world, Prophet Muhammad PBUH is our great example. That is, he matured mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We need to do the same.
Finally, a clear conscience is needed for personal wholeness and happiness. To feel forgiven for all the wrongs one has done gives one a deep sense of freedom. Any wrongs, therefore, that we have done need to be put right and any impaired relationships resolved. Not only do we need our brother’s forgiveness, but also God’s. When we confess our sins and faults to Him, He always forgives us. We then need to forgive ourselves.

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