What is Happiness Anyway?


Part 4 in the Quest for Happiness Series

Speaking of what makes a wife or husband happy (see SmartLoving The Equality Myth, What Women Really Want & What do Men Want?) perhaps we should look at what happiness is and more importantly, whether it really is the ultimate goal.

‘Happiness’ should be distinguished from ‘joy’.

Happiness can be defined as the feeling of pleasure when a need or desire is met. Unhappiness results when we expect that need or desire to be met, and it isn’t. Happiness is a superficial, fleeting emotion. It fades quickly unless the need or desire is met again and again.

Joy on the other hand, is a deep seated attitudinal emotion. It is associated with spiritual values and is more lasting than happiness. The joyful person knows their value and goodness and remains positive about their life even in the face of great suffering. It is possible to be unhappy and joyful at the same time.

Too many people, including married couples and parents, focus on happiness rather than joy.

We focus on satisfying the superficial desires and overlook the deeper longings of the heart. An obvious example is the parent who caves in and buys their child a new toy, when really what the child desires is more attention and time.

Attention and time (in other words, love) gives a child (or a spouse) a sense of their value, of their inestimable worth. It develops within them an attitude, a certain perspective that sees and experiences life as a privilege.

We say, ‘we just want our children/spouse to be happy’, but happiness really is a very low goal. Rather, aim for joy: a lasting and empowering perspective that gives us meaning and fulfillment that endures.

Francine & Byron Pirola

Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links. For Media Enquiries Please Contact us here

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