I was once on my way to my classmate’s wedding. It was down in the country. Everyone seemed to know each other on the local bus, and I overheard two women talking with one another. One woman was telling her friend about her son, who “graduated from the university, got married, bought an apartment, a car, and goes on a vacation”; in general, everything was fine with him. That was the first time I probably thought about the following question: why didn’t she mention that her child was happy? Irrespective of what kind of work, income, etc., he had. People are often ashamed to be happy: there are so many troubles, problems, and misfortunes around; a happy person seems selfish to say the least. In fact, if a person forbids him or herself to be happy, the pain in the world is not going to disappear.
Each person has his or her own definition of happiness. Yet, this is what all people probably want. There is a film by Alexei Balabanov, a Russian filmmaker, “I Want It, Too”. It talks about this very desire to be happy that all people have in common.
There is an ethical movement called eudemonism, in which the basis of behavior and the criterion of morals is a person’s desire to achieve happiness. I don’t think you can be happy if your happiness is built on the misfortune of others, though.
Happiness is when you are happy to exist. If a person feels happy, it may be completely unrelated to his or her financial situation or the weather out there.
When it comes to the commandments of Christ, the Beatitudes immediately come to mind. The Greek word “blessed” means happy. Christ calls people happy, that is, the Beatitudes are the commandments of happiness. Nevertheless, the happiness that Jesus refers to is not delight or ecstasy, but a state of being with God and partaking of His gifts. The Lord gives us joy and peace, as well as an amazing opportunity to be and feel infinitely loved by Him. I believe that being happy is justified from the Christian point of view. Being happy with one’s life gives one the inner resources and power to serve others and to cope with difficulties. Choosing to suffer and lead an ascetic life should be conscious and embraced voluntarily. Regrettably, however, it tends to be the opposite.
I read an article lately, according to which, if we ignore the level of economic development, the countries that are the happiest are not the richest ones, but the ones where people have the support of their loved ones, faith, and the capacity to be thankful. Yes, every person is lonely, infinitely lonely, and it is in his loneliness that he is called to meet himself and God; but what a joy it is to communicate with others. It is very rewarding to have someone who can understand and support you.
Faith is associated with believing in eternal life, and it helps to overcome the fear of death. If the fear of death is not eliminated, it is hard for a person to be happy. However, it can only be defeated by a strong conviction that there is no death, that we are all destined for eternal life and that it is there for everyone.
I have my own formula of happiness. It is all about gratitude. I used to think that happiness always gives rise to gratitude: you feel the joy of living, and your heart is filled with gratitude for it. What I did discover later, however, was that gratitude brings about happiness. Thankfulness is a way of looking for the bright side of things, accepting everything that happens as an experience, being aware of things that are temporary and appreciating what you have even on your darkest and gloomiest days.
Happiness is a choice and it requires conscious effort: you have to be openhearted and friendly. You have to rejoice (“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice”), give thanks, admire the beauty of the world – even in the toughest times. In fact, this is especially true for the toughest times.