I came across a chat forum which asked the question, “What one thing are you willing to change this year to make your life better?” One person replied, “My weight. If I don’t [make a change]; I’ll lose my marriage.” Another said, “My perspective.” Still another responded, “To rise above and make the dreams and desires I want truly happen.”
There were others who expressed being perfectly content with their lives. One writer said, “My life is good. I don’t need to change a thing. I’m hoping I can do something to help other people I love realize that also.” In fact, “nothing to change” was voted as the Best Reply.
We’ve all had this question posed at us haven’t we? “What do you want to change?” 90% of the time our answer is the same one we give to telemarketers, sales-clerks, or champions for social and religious causes, “My life is good. I don’t need to change.” Put another way, we’re saying, “I am happy enough with my life.”
But are we?
“Happiness” has a different meaning these days than its original use. Some ancient words for happiness like “eudamonia” (Greek) or “beatitudo” (Latin) meant “real and true blessedness”*. Our modern definition of happiness though means little more than contentment. Webster’s Dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well being and contentment.” According to our modern definition, to say you are “happy” means you are satisfied or content with your current state of affairs. But if our definition of happiness has been moved from a truly blessed life to a mere contented life, perhaps we are not as happy as we want to imagine.
Our culture is programmed for viewing happiness as being content, but we often find ourselves surprisingly discontent. There’s something about “being content” which leaves us peculiarly unfulfilled. It is as though we feel there is more to life than contentment with toys, a career, the perfect body, or a sexual relationship; that we were made for more. It’s as though we crave the Ultimate—a taste of immortality, which nothing else delivers.
Which definition of happiness do you use: being content or having a blessed and fulfilled life? Why do you think you long for cravings this world doesn’t seem to satisfy?
*Peter Kreeft, Happiness