“Do whatever makes you happy.” “The goal of life is happiness.” Or “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Use any phrase you want that communicates the premise that every decision in ones life should be based on some sort of happiness-ometer. I feel it’s one of the most harmful things we tell our kids. Modeling it for them is even worse.
Making life decisions based on a certain level of happiness is a sure way to wreak havoc on everything you hold dear. Donuts, brownies and cake make me ever so happy. I should just eat them. What? That’s ridiculous, you say. Show a little restraint. Use your noggin! 1+2= Donuts are bad for you! Well, I never. THAT doesn’t make ME happy.
The pastor of our church does a little (okay, a LOT of) marriage counseling on the side. He says you cannot imagine how many people say they want a divorce because they just “are not happy” with the other person. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’m not happy with my dog. Most times, I’m not happy with my house. A lot of the time I am not happy about a lot of things. Not only should I avoid making decisions at those times, I should probably tie myself to a chair for an hour or two. Ask anyone you know who left a marriage due to a lack of happiness why they didn’t show the same restraint that I am REQUIRED to show when it comes to my donut. ( Cue crickets chirping in distance.) We always stick by our children no matter what. Always. They are our flesh and blood. So what does it say to them when we toss aside the one we made them with? No matter how we try to gloss it over, no matter how many times we convince ourselves that it was for our good and theirs, it rarely turns out that way.
Children are led astray by so many outside influences. Let’s minimize the pressure they feel to be super awesome by not filling them full of feel good nonsense. Let’s not tell them that the big things in life can be reduced to snap decisions. Mommy and Daddy splitting up because they were not “happy” will set a precedent in their lives that they may never overcome. (Hear me out. I’m not talking about marriages where beatings, mental abuse, affairs, or inappropriate behavior toward children is going on. I’m talking about those that break up over trivial reasons. Like, a better option came along. Get my drift?) Teaching them to seek their “happy” will do nothing but make them a quitter. If the job doesn’t make them happy-quit, and so on You’re super smart, I know you follow. Doing everything that makes one happy will also lead to a life based in utter selfishness. In this day and age a little more selflessness is what’s needed.
Once upon a time, I was married to Jacob’s dad. The marriage is a bad example to use, because it was doomed from the start. But it is a perfect way to illustrate the “happiness” fallacy. I was very unhappy. VERY. The list I could go into would be a mile long. I didn’t just GET unhappy, I was miserable. We separated, and I followed my happy into the arms of another man. The excitement, wonder, and magic lasted all of about 6 months, then I was unhappy again. I was free of one mess, and tangled up in another. The guy was not interested in any future with me, he just wanted to play house for awhile with a pretend wife and child. I praise God every day that Jacob doesn’t remember anything about him. Unfortunately, Jacob suffered lasting effects because of my stupid decisions. He has felt out of place and rejected by his dad for most of his life. For years when I was asked why my first husband and I split up, I would answer, “I just wasn’t happy.” Would things have been different if I had been following God with all my heart at that time in my life? Yes. No doubt. If Jacob’s dad had been on that same path, it would have made a huge difference. It is what it is. Now I know better, so I am doing better in my marriage to Jon. I think the attitude of a lot a people in second marriages that they will fail at another marriage over their dead body. They know what following their fairy tale gets them. It’s a shell game, the hands whip around and you choose the one with the “magic” underneath. Too bad the magic is always some sort of shriveled up nut.
If you know our situation, you know that I have had plenty of reasons to be unhappy enough to leave my marriage. What stops me is love. Love for my Creator, my husband and my family. Not my happy. No way. I lived the first 26 years of my life chasing that dragon. You may say, “Well love is the same as happy. Love is a feeling!”. Maybe for you. For me, love is not a feeling. Love is a devotion. I devote myself to it completely. Love is an act of my will. Love is a decision I make every day. I protect it. If anyone or anything threatens it, I fight. My fight, my perseverance and my hope are the best gifts I can give to my children.
That makes me happy.