“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Elan wrote a piece on happiness. http://elantz.blogspot.com/2007/10/happiness.html Rather than put my thoughts in her comments box I decided to respond here.
It irks me when I hear people talk about "the wealthy" when they mention their luxurious houses and lifestyle and then end with the phrase, "But they aren't really happy." I believe this comment is often based on envy. People who are not happy either would like to trade places with the wealthy with the belief that, given the chance, they could have all those things and be happier than the average "miserable wealthy person". Or their envy causes them to wish their unhappiness with life on anyone more fortunate than them.
In my experience, I don't see that "the wealthy" are any more or less happy than anyone else. I think our society places such a strong link between material possessions and happiness that our understanding of happiness is skewed. A songwriter put it this way: "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you have." The poor and wealthy alike can be miserable from buying the lie that things bring happiness. The poor and wealthy alike can be happy by understanding that happiness is more a decision than a circumstance. As the Apostle Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
Wanting what you have sounds simple, but I've come to see that it is actually quite a complex process. We realized some years ago that we had many things we really didn't want. Our lives had filled with clutter and things that we got because it was "too good a deal to pass up" . We saw that the homes we worked in had a lot less stuff, but stuff in them fit with the homeowners' lifestyle and needs. We began the process of getting rid of a lot of our stuff. We try to make this a regular process now. One of our criteria for purchasing anything new is "do we really want it" followed by "do we have a place for it". We've not yet perfected this process, but we are working on it. And we are much happier now than we were 5 years ago.


Florence and Gary Deeter said...

Eric, an interesting perspective on happiness. Do you think I could convince Mom to apply that philosophy to our house? Dad

Elan said...

We are trying to do the same thing with the stuff in our house. We have a lot of useless clutter. Why do we hold on to such useless stuff? Because we might need it someday? Because it provides a sense of (false) security? I still struggle with throwing things out, but I'm getting better.