This one’s been bouncing around back there since the first year I had a blog – 2003. Oh, yeah, it’s a post eight years in the making. Glad I waited until I have pregnancy mush brain to finish it.
When I was PG with Wally, I started posting on a Delphi forum called, I don’t know, something about Christian Parenting. I think I actually started posting there before becoming PG. After a while, it was MOSTLY me and this other woman, who was about 10 years older than me. Ultimately, I stopped posting there over some mean-ness releated to breastfeeding. But one conversation we had has stuck with me.
“I don’t think that having happy children is my goal as a parent.”
But don’t you want happy children? Well, I don’t want miserable children. But happiness is not a goal, nor an acceptable “end.”
Let’s see if I can organize 8 years’ worth of thoughts.
Happiness as most of us modern humans understand it is an emotion. It’s a feeling. As such, it is transient. Pursuing happiness (of course guaranteed to us by our country’s organizing documents) can and often does mean merely pursuing a series of transient things in an effort to keep that feeling of happiness. Jobs, possessions, friends, activities.
Taken to an extreme, if “being happy” is your number one goal, your number one “end,” other things can end up getting pushed aside because they interfere (even temporarily) with that over-reaching goal of happiness. Things like spouses. Children. Hard work.
Before you say that that doesn’t happen, I know at least two people who live their lives like this. They are ultimately very unhappy people, but in conversation will tell you that they are just trying to do what makes them happy, and they don’t understand why you can’t be happy for them.
No, this is not what I want for my children.
Even avoiding the extreme, having “happiness” be your goal can lead to a number of decisions that are contrary to morality, to the way God wants us to live our lives.* Sex makes many people happy (at least temporarily). If it makes me happy, why not sleep with random cute men I meet? Owning things makes some people happy. If it makes me happy, why not spend all of my money (and then some) at Best Buy? Getting wasted with the besties makes some people happy – and why not? If it makes me happy, shouldn’t it be OK?
Except that’s not how God wants us to live our lives.
The focus on what makes ME happy means I’m not focused on what makes OTHERS happy, or how I can best serve God and love others.
Then there’s the Happiness that is a decision. I can decide to be happy, even in the midst of terrible circumstances. Paul tells the Philippeans, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” And he was writing this letter from a Roman prison.
This is the type of happiness I desire for my children. Heck – for myself.
Just a few paragraphs earlier in his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells them ” 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” That’s the secret to being happy.
He doesn’t exhort his fellow believers to pursue whatever makes them feel happy. He tells them to think about happy things.
So, no, I won’t list “happiness” as a goal for my children. Happiness is the result of decisions you make, and I would list those decisions, those life choices, as goals for my children. Believe in God and the saving power of the blood of His Son. Trust in God. Live the life God wants of you. And those things will intrinsically MAKE you happy. You’ll find happiness without even looking for it.
* As always, if you don’t believe in God, then I don’t expect you to feel as though you need to live your life in any particular way.