A higher foundation for happiness

Today’s column takes a closer look at what constitutes true happiness.

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The celebration each year of International Day of Happiness suggests happiness is something all of humanity is entitled to. In my nation, the United States, I love how in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are listed as “unalienable rights” that have been given to everyone by God.

But while happiness is something we can all pursue, too few seem to feel they consistently possess it, or know exactly where to look for it. Materialism would argue that it comes through indulgence, acquiring possessions, etc. And though a temporary sense of pleasure might seem to partner with these various forms of materialism, I’ve learned that happiness is planted on a much sounder foundation when it is seen not just as a right granted by God but also as an inexhaustible, God-given element of our spiritual nature as children of God.

This is true happiness. It is inexhaustible because its source, God, is infinite. He doesn’t put limits on our joy. But this true happiness is something that needs to be learned in our human experience. Through the expression of unselfishness, goodness, and gratitude – qualities that have their source in the Divine – we learn that we experience true joy in proportion to the godliness that we express.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote that we cannot live without godliness, that we have “no intelligence, health, hope, nor happiness without godliness” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1901,” p. 34). A statement in the Bible by the Apostle Paul essentially makes the same point. He says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Joy is the “fruit of the Spirit” – of God.

One might ask, “If happiness is so natural to us, why do we sometimes lose sight of it?” If we understand that happiness and godliness go hand in hand, it follows that if we’re losing sight of genuine happiness, chances are we’re losing sight of God, divine Love. The Bible says that “to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” but it also points out that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:6, 7). When we allow carnal, or materialistic, thoughts opposed to God’s loving nature into our thinking, such as hatred, impulsiveness, pride, dishonesty, etc. – to worry over material circumstances – we end up shutting ourselves out from the joy that is freely bestowed on all by our creator.

But what God gives isn’t something we can actually lose, even for a moment. We might mistakenly move it out of view, but renewing our commitment to expressing the qualities of goodness that are inherent in our true nature as God’s children restores a sense of peace and harmony to our lives even during challenging times, which can, in turn, bring healing to the discordant human conditions we face.

The bottom line is this: Joy is inevitable to those who live in line with the demands of Love. Christ Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves; those who are genuinely devoted to expressing such love are so often examples of contentment, peace, and joy. As Love itself, God knows only how to love. It is as natural for God to remain constant in His love for each of us as it is for us to breathe. And as God’s children, we reflect the light of God’s love, bringing joy to others – and consequently ourselves! And healing, too.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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