Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States, and the phrase is right there in the Declaration of Independence: “pursuit of happiness.”
But what does that mean?
And what does it mean when we’re not happy?
Does it mean we’re doing something wrong? That there’s something broken inside us that needs to be fixed?
It can sure seem that way.
A friend of mine grew up in a church that believed that happiness was a sign of god’s love. And that if you weren’t happy, it was because things weren’t right between you and god. I’d bet a lot of people made sure to be seen smiling on Sundays, no matter how they actually felt.
Most people wouldn’t agree with that belief now, but our society does seem fixated on curing you of unhappiness, and as quickly as possible.
Take deep breaths. Take yoga. Take a pill.
I believe happiness is important. Really, really important.
But happiness doesn’t have to be full-on, full-time ecstasy, with beams of joy radiating from your eyeballs. We can find happiness in little things.
I don’t believe everyone has to be happy. I don’t believe everyone has to WANT to be happy.
People have a right to their emotions. I don’t think we allow ourselves or others that right often enough.
Chin up. Stiff upper lip. Smile for the photo.
It’s a right to the pursuit of happiness. Not a mandatory condition.
And if we could accept the whole range of emotions, instead of trying to force ourselves to only feel the positive ones, that would be a kindness. A kindness to ourselves, and to those around us.
And if we can’t have happiness, perhaps kindness will do.