It’s Wrong to Want to Be Happy? Right?

I purchased my first smart phone about 10 years ago and I quickly learned how to upload music, one of the features I was most excited about. One of the first songs on my playlist was the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” by Bobby McFerrin.

I’m not sure why…maybe because I had just heard it recently and thought it was a fun song with great background harmonies. You probably know it…

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

(Ooh, ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh) don’t worry

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy

(Look at me, I’m happy, don’t worry, be happy)
Oh, ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh don’t worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number, when you worry, call me, I make you happy, don’t worry, be happy)
Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got no gal to make you smile
Don’t worry, be happy
‘Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy

I bet you couldn’t help but sing along. I know, right?

Who doesn’t want to be happy?

I want to be happy. You want to be happy. Most people do, don’t they? It seems like a reasonable expectation.

But is happiness a worthwhile pursuit?

I grew up in a faith tradition that downplayed happiness and instead argued for joy.

A dichotomy was taught that went something like this…

Happiness is based on feelings while joy is rooted in truth.

Happiness is fleeting while joy is eternal.

Happiness depends on circumstances or other people while joy is a gift from God.

Happiness is worldly while joy is godly.

But I was confused because while I was hearing happiness and joy expressed in these opposing views, I was also singing songs in Sunday School like,

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap clap)
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap clap)
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” (clap clap)

The song continued with “stomping your feet” and “shouting amen” as appropriate expressions of happiness as well. If nothing else we got a good cardio workout in Sunday School.

How about this one?

“Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start;
I’ve found the secret, it’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the living,
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord. “

You can see where a kid could get confused can’t you?

Joy is often presented as “true” contentment based on faith. Happiness, is often thought of as “false” or “superficial” emotion based on circumstances. But this is a false dichotomy. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests we have to choose between joy happiness.

In fact I suggest that the Scriptures use multiple words interchangeably. Words like blessed, gladness, delight as well as joy and happiness.

For example,

“I will turn their mourning into joy . . . and bring happiness out of grief.” Jeremiah 31:13

“You, O Lord, have made me happy by your work. I will sing for joy because of what you have done” Psalm 92:4

So maybe it’s okay to be happy and even pursue it. How you do that, will determine whether or not you succeed.

Where to Start

Here are some suggestions:

Love God

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.” Luke 10:27

Obey God

“If you obey my commands you remain in my love.” John 15:10

Be Kind

“Be kind and compassionate, forgive others as you have been forgiven.” Ephesians 4:32

Put Others First

“Submit to one another.” Ephesians 5:21

Be Generous

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

The common theme here is that happiness comes from good relationships; with God and other people.

You’ll notice that things like a lot of money, a palatial home or a Ferrari didn’t make the list. Okay, I wouldn’t mind at least test driving the Ferrari, but deep down I know at the end of the day, it’s just a car…an awesome car…but just a car.

If you think having a lot of money or a nice car or huge home brings happiness…you’ll be disappointed.

My wife Kathy and I own a cafe in the town of Coldwater ON. In fact we just celebrated our second birthday this week. Every day, our business gives us hundreds of opportunities to love people…our team, our customers, our neighbors and other business owners in the community…hopefully making them happy. In fact we want their experience at the cafe to be the best part of their day.

If you want to be happy, make someone else happy

In a recent post, Darren Hardy suggests that the way to be happy, is to make other people happy. Sounds easy enough. He suggests we can make other people happy by engaging in simple acts like

  • smiling
  • expressing gratitude
  • giving a compliment
  • sharing a joke
  • listening
  • offering encouragement

Maybe being happy is okay after all? And maybe our happiness increases when we make others happy?

It’s worth a shot isn’t it?

How about you? Do you want to be happy? What is one thing you can do today to make someone else happy?

Feeling stuck? Not sure what to do next? Your life not where you want it to be?

Life coaching can help. Contact me to arrange a free 45-minute discovery call. Lets talk.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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