I tried to give this post with the title “Pursuing Happiness” but that would be too cliché. I was planning a post series about happiness which I started here but my schedule prevented me from doing so. For now, I felt an internal nudge telling me to write about this.
Too often we would hear people say that man’s ultimate goal is to be happy. I have struggled with the idea as long as I can remember. Growing up as a church minister’s son, I have concluded early in my life that happiness is not paramount. Of course for a Christian, it is living according to God’s precepts. But a person’s goal must be something so rewarding and must always start with something unreachable.
I always wanted to be like my dad. His duties as a pastor of our local church were attractive. Even though I grew up as a shy kid, I will always wonder how my dad interacts with people treating even strangers like old-time friends. By the time I graduated in elementary, I told myself that I would be a computer engineer, whatever that profession means. I would never follow any of those two since after graduating from high school, I took up business administration. Now, I am pursuing the life of a medical doctor.
The evolution of my attitudinal change flashed in my mind when I was working with my adopted family for our community work. They were telling me about what they were doing to remedy their sickness including their medical experiences for the last few months. They told me about people who tried to dupe them into buying expensive food supplements and about the drug they are keeping as an emergency pill that was clearly not related to the ailments that they have.
I planned to make my visit short and just record their vital signs and verify some information that I took months before. However, my visit went on for an hour where mostly I debunked their misconceptions and answered their questions to the extent of my knowledge. I admit I was thankful that their questions were not too technical but I loved the feeling of exchanging ideas with them, seeing their interested and satisfied faces, and the total exercise of the event that was happening before my eyes.
It culminated when I notice the firstborn in the family looking eagerly at my nameplate, at my stethoscope, and at my notes. His face was serious and I feel like he was trying to say something. Before I left I asked him if he, too, wants to be a doctor someday. He smiled and answered yes.
His parents were quick to tell him that they may not afford medical education or that now is not the time to decide about it. I dispelled their fears by telling how many doctors are needed by the Philippines and that there is still hope for free medical education someday. They both looked at their son and agreed.
I can’t believe I would be inspired by that scenario. I realized that man functions to follow his need to be happy. He wants to satisfy the longing in his heart that would ultimately make his heart smile.
We are often obsessed with the difference between joy and happiness. Often, joy is something that dwells in our hearts and may persist no matter what the circumstance is. Happiness is the feeling that we feel due to something that happened. I agree that the preceding definitions are correct.
However, the dictionary would tell a different story. For Merriam-Webster, joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires,” and happiness is “a state of well-being and contentment.” By the looks of it, they seem to be similar. We have joy in our hearts but we still try to seek happiness and that is never wrong.
Religions and self-help programs would guide people to achieve happiness. Because of its English etymology (using blood to consecrate something), we associate the word “blessed” with the act of making something holy. We forget that in the religious context, it also means someone who is happy.
The most famous sermon of Jesus Christ is His Beatitudes which are beautiful in meaning and structure. We call it beatitudes because it has sentences that start with the word beati which means “happiness or blessedness.” This sermon sums up some of the values that He taught and it says that the person who follows them will be happy.
To make yourself happy is not even contradicting to a Christian. The mere fact that believers live their lives to give God happiness is reason enough to say that pursuing happiness is a holy act if done the right way. Belivers disregard that God’s happiness would result to their own happiness.
As long as we do not hurt others, we can chase anything that would make us happy. I think I have a newfound outlook on my life and would now try to seek my happiness.
Oh, the things medical school does to you.