The Blind Spot of Happiness

We live in a world searching for happiness.  How do I know?  Just flip on the TV for a bit and watch a few commercials.  The majority focus on how their product can bring you happiness.  When you scroll through social media, we long for what we think others have.  We see pictures of what might appear to be happy lives.  Recently I saw a few Instagram pictures from someone I follow but don’t know personally.  He and his family were somewhere tropical on vacation.  I quickly found myself longing for a similar vacation.  Why? Probably because I thought that would make me happy.  

However, in my years of leadership, I’ve learned something about happiness.  First, it can deceive you.  It tends to show up like the serpent in Genesis 3 promising a better mousetrap.  Come on Eve, if you eat this fruit you will look great!  You will be amazed at how it will clear up all the brain fuzz!  You will have more knowledge than ever before!  Hey, that’s not a bad commercial! 

But here’s the blind spot I’ve uncovered about happiness.  It’s a temporary emotion.  It doesn’t last.  It comes and goes with the wind.  If you are in a happy place in your life right now, you might be thinking, that’s not true.  I’ve finally found it and you’re telling me it’s temporary!  Now that’s encouraging!  But wait, don’t stop reading yet.  Let me try to explain.  

About twenty years ago when my second daughter Carly was very young, she had a habit of getting out of her bed and climbing into our bed in the middle of the night.  At first my wife Stacy and I thought it was cute, but eventually, it became a problem.  We tried everything!  I think we even locked our bedroom door hoping she would give up and go back to bed, but she just kept knocking and yelling until we opened the door.  Did I mention that she is very persistent! 

 So, one day I came up with a brilliant idea…so I thought.  I decided to create a little competition between Carly and her older sister Ragan.  Each night they stayed in their bed, they could receive a star.  Five stars bought you a trip to the toy store.  Yes, I was stooping to peer pressure and bribery!  I was running out of options. 

At the end of the first week, Ragan had a chart full of stars.  That was not a surprise because Ragan never really got out of her bed at night.  That’s why she loved this new game! 

Carly, on the other hand, had zero stars.  In fact, the very first night when she opened our bedroom door and jumped in our bed, I reminded her that she would not get a toy and she quickly replied, “I don’t care!”

Fast forward to the weekend, and it’s time to take Ragan to choose her toy.  Carly convinced me to allow her to tag along but promised that she would only “look”!  Boy was I a sucker for that one.  Shortly after entering the store Carly convinced me that a specific stuffed animal would be life-changing for her.  In fact, so life-changing that it would make her extremely happy.  So happy that she would never get out of her bed again.  After heavy negotiations…I did what most Dads would do…I gave in.   Stacy gave me that look that said: “Your plan is not working!” 

When we got ready for bed that evening, Carly promised that she would stay in her bed all night.  Her new little fuzzy friend was tucked in beside her, and she had the biggest smile on her face.  I went to bed hopeful that we had discovered the key to her happiness. 

Around 3:00 in the morning I heard a door open.  I think God woke me up, so I was fully awake for what was about to take place.  I listened to the pitter patter of little feet walking down the stairs.  And then it happened!  The bedroom door flew open, and Carly announced: “Dad, I’ve thought about it and I don’t want this stuffed animal anymore.”  She threw it on the ground and jumped into our bed. 

Why?  Because its happiness power had run its course.  Happiness is a temporary emotion. 

So be careful when you search for happiness.  As proof of my point, there are probably a lot of things in your attic or garage that you thought would make you happy.  Yard sales are filled with items that once made people happy…and that’s ok…there’s nothing wrong with being happy.  Just understand that eventually, those items might lose their happiness powers. 

So, what’s the alternative?  Choose joy.  Joy is an emotion that is not influenced by the things we purchase.  Joy is an emotion that is not controlled by the events of our day.  Joy is something that resides deep in our soul and will not disappear when the next best thing comes along.  As a Christ follower, I believe Joy comes from a relationship with a Heavenly Father. If you are not a Christ follower, at least don’t bet all your marbles on happiness.  Find something in your life that brings you joy.  My guess is that you won’t be able to purchase it…and you won’t find yourself storing it in the attic or garage anytime soon!