Vocabulary lesson

Posted By on November 20, 2010

I think one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in the world is that we don’t know what happiness is. I think that, in order to be happy, we must know what happiness isn’t.

Pleasure isn’t happiness. Pleasure may be fun, may be enjoyable, and may even at times come with fulfilling results. But it also may not. Pleasure is the nice — pleasant — feeling we get from things we enjoy, like backrubs, compliments, or ice cream. There is nothing inherently wrong with pleasure, but there is also nothing inherently right about it. Some forms of pleasure may be harmful, and some forms of pleasure may be immoral.  Just because something feels good does not mean it is a form of happiness. A person who takes a pleasure-inducing drug, or receives a really great Christmas present may well experience pleasure while receiving no happiness at all; because happiness comes from within. If pleasure were the same as happiness, there would be no suicide as long as ice cream is around.

Gratification isn’t happiness. Gratification is getting what we want. Sometimes what we get is pleasure. Sometimes it is the fulfillment of a goal or other more esoteric desire. It can be power, or hedonism, or a lack of want. But it does not lead to growth. When we do not grow we stagnate, and too much gratification without effort or self-discipline can lead to stagnation. Getting what you want isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t happiness. Even if we get that nice, warm feeling of pleasure with it.

Success isn’t happiness.  Convenience isn’t happiness. Luck isn’t happiness. All sorts of people who have all of these things still go to bed sad, depressed, or even suicidal.  Because not only are they not happiness, but they are also not things that can cause happiness.

The reason is that happiness is internal, and all of these other things are external. Happiness — true happiness — is joy. It is something much deeper than a feeling of knowing you can get what you want. The old saying says “Happiness isn’t getting what you like, but liking what you get.” Attitude is where happiness is born, not circumstance.


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