To continue with the series on freedom, this month, I am focusing on the freedom to pursue happiness; some call it the American Dream! The reality of this is certainly not evident on the streets of Washington, DC, with its growing gun violence. So, what is the pursuit of happiness, and how free are we to pursue it?
The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right and is closely tied to freedom. When free, we can pursue our goals and dreams without being hindered by anyone or anything. We can also choose to do things that make us happy rather than being forced to do things that make us unhappy. By embracing our freedom, we can create a life full of joy and satisfaction.
We are all on this quest for happiness, striving to create a life that brings us joy and fulfillment. I want to explore both the pros and cons of pursuing it, how it impacts others, our individual needs, and its interaction with the suffering of others on a global level. So, let’s buckle up and embark on this journey together!
HAPPINESS IS A NATURAL INCLINATION
First and foremost, pursuing happiness is a natural inclination that drives us to fulfill our individual needs and desires. It encourages us to explore our passions, nurture our relationships, and make choices that align with our values. When we prioritize our happiness, we’re more likely to experience a sense of purpose and contentment. So, when we are feeling happy and fulfilled, this will, in turn, positively impact others around us; it becomes contagious. When we are genuinely happy, it tends to rub off on others. Our positive energy and enthusiasm can inspire and uplift those in our social circles. By pursuing our own happiness, we can create a ripple effect that spreads joy and optimism to our family, friends, and even strangers. It’s a beautiful way to contribute to the well-being of others and create a happier and more harmonious world.
HAPPINESS NEEDS BALANCE
However, it’s essential to strike a balance between our pursuit of happiness and its potential impact on others. Sometimes, in our quest for personal happiness, we may inadvertently overlook the needs and feelings of those around us. It can be very easy to become selfish with your time, only looking to your needs and desires and not taking time to listen to others and their journey and struggles. The proliferation of smartphones and earbuds effectively prevents you from interacting with others. You may be feeding your soul, but you are not present to others and their needs. We have to actively look at others to connect and ‘see’ them; being present to others is a gift to them. Cultivating empathy and compassion is crucial, considering how our choices and actions may affect others. Being mindful of our interactions and finding ways to support and uplift others can enhance our happiness while creating a more inclusive and compassionate society.
ALIGNING OUR HAPPINESS WITH GLOBAL NEEDS
Another aspect to consider is how our pursuit of happiness interacts with the suffering of others on a global level. While it’s natural to focus on our own well-being, it’s equally important to acknowledge and address the hardships faced by others. This requires cultivating a sense of social responsibility, promoting sustainable practices, and making charitable initiatives. How can we align our pursuit of happiness with making a positive impact on a broader scale? Are we wasting resources that others less fortunate could put to better use? Do we live with surpluses when others have deficits? How do we balance our happiness with that of others?
HAPPINESS IS ALSO RELATIONSHIPS
The cons of the pursuit of happiness lie in its potential to foster a sense of individualism and self-centeredness. In our quest for personal fulfillment, we may inadvertently neglect the collective well-being of society. This can lead to a culture of materialism, where the pursuit of happiness is equated with the accumulation of wealth and possessions. However, true happiness often lies in experiences, relationships, and a sense of purpose rather than material wealth alone. How can we use our wealth, talents, and position to uplift others and provide resources for them to pursue their happiness? Remember that people don’t just need money to be happy; they need relationships; how much time do you spend nurturing and building relationships? When a sense of community is built with healthy relationships in that community, it thrives. When people’s genuine needs are not seen, it is difficult for them to pursue their happiness, and neighborhoods break down, as we see here in Washington, DC.
WE CAN’T ALWAYS BE HAPPY
It is also crucial to acknowledge that happiness is not a constant state. Life is full of ups and downs, and suffering is an inevitable part of the human experience. Pursuing happiness does not mean avoiding or ignoring the suffering of others but rather finding ways to alleviate it. By cultivating empathy, showing kindness, and supporting those in need, we can create a more compassionate world where everyone has an opportunity to pursue happiness.
Pursuing happiness is a deeply personal and essential aspect of our lives. It brings joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. However, considering their needs and well-being, we must strike a balance between our happiness and its impact on others. By cultivating empathy, compassion, and social responsibility, we can ensure that our pursuit of happiness is not just self-centered but also contributes to the happiness and well-being of others on a local and global scale.
TRUE HAPPINESS IS FOUND IN SERVING OTHERS
Let me conclude with Jesus’ words when he was answering his disciples in one of his parables;
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 37-40
So, let’s continue seeking our own happiness while spreading love, kindness, and support to make the world a better place for everyone, walking in the footsteps of Jesus.