Letting mere “happiness” be your guide in life can be a recipe for disaster.
One of the dumbest ideas held by way too many people today is this: ‘As long as it makes you happy, go for it.’ This has become the default moral position of most folks, including, sadly, far too many Christians. ‘If it makes you feel good, if you are happy with it, if you enjoy it, then it must be right.’
Um, no. This is one of the most idiotic pieces of advice you will ever hear. And it can be the most dangerous as well. First of all, happiness is far too subjective a concept. Anything can qualify here. Just think of all the things that can make a person happy – we have the good, the bad and the ugly.
As to the good: some people are happy when sacrificially helping others. This may not happen all that often, but that is a sort of happiness that we can all live with. Some people are happy when they find a second-hand bookstore and come away with a box full of great buys. Well, OK, at least I am happy when that happens – really happy!
As to the bad: Some people are happy when they are sexually abusing children. Some people are happy when they randomly attack and assault others on the street. Some people are happy when they vandalise property or destroy things. Some people are happy when they lop off the heads of infidels.
As to the ugly: Some people are happy when they are constantly stoned out of their minds. Some people are happy when they make the rounds of sex shops and strip clubs. Some people are happy when they walk around nude in public places. Some people are happy when they assault politicians in public and seek to prevent them from speaking.
The truth is, a lot of stuff that makes you happy is just not worth pursuing. Some of it is simply morally wrong, full stop. Most of it will NOT help you in the long run, nor give you real happiness. But I have recently written on how poor mere happiness is as a moral guideline or a compass for life – especially for Christians: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/06/21/as-long-as-it-makes-you-happy/
Much can be mentioned about the Christian and happiness, but as is so often the case, C. S. Lewis probably said it the best. In a 1944 essay entitled “Answers to Questions on Christianity” found in the 1970 collection of his essays, God in the Dock, he is asked this (Question 11): “Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness?” To this he gave this now famous reply:
While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give any advice on it.
You can read much more on what Lewis thought about happiness in this 2014 article of mine: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/01/30/c-s-lewis-on-real-happiness-and-real-christianity/
Yes, a Christian will get happiness, but always as a by-product. Seeking happiness in and for itself is always bound to fail. The Christian knows that putting God first in all things is the way to go – and that will result in genuine peace and joy. Such a life of obedience and submission to the Lord may well involve hardships, self-denial, and outward opposition, but it will yield the inner fruit of real and lasting joy – not just fleeting happiness.
Let me finish with a practical discussion about all this. I have written a number of articles warning about the very real dangers and pitfalls of the radical transgender agenda – especially when it comes to our children. A commentator recently replied to one of these articles, saying this:
Don’t you think it just might be nice to accept that both male and female one might be much happier and prefer to live their life as the opposite gender for whatever reason they choose? And if this makes them feel more comfortable and so happy and enables them to live a better life then why anyone has problem with this I do not get it.
This is how I replied to her:
Thanks ****. Um no, it is NOT nice to lie to people and let them lie to themselves and harm themselves. That is never a good course of action. An obvious case that is quite similar has to do with anorexics. They may think they are fat but they are not. If we go along with their delusions and say, “Yes, sure you need to lose more weight” we are not helping them. They will likely die if we give them that lousy advice. Catering to their delusions will only be harmful for them. The same here: your birth sex is a biology reality, and simply wishing it away is the height of delusional and harmful thinking.
In both cases we have people that need help for mental and psychological issues. Permanently changing and harming their bodies is not how we help people or show compassion to them. And a lot of the hormone therapies and surgeries are actually quite dangerous. Lopping off or altering perfectly normal and healthy organs and body parts is not medicine – it is child abuse. We need to help these people deal with their core issues, and not permanently harm them and mangle their bodies.
Simply pandering to what might make a person “happy” is a lousy way to proceed here. Some children (and adults) are happy when they bully other people, or sexually abuse others, or steal from others, etc. If we really care about other people, we will want what is best for them, not some spurious and fleeting notion of happiness.
One of the biggest growth industries right now has to do with trans regret. Countless people have transitioned, only to find it has done nothing to deal with their fundamental inner problems that need to be addressed. It did NOT make them happy. It only made things worse. So now so many of them are involved in detransitioning.
And did you even bother to read the article? Did you not see the cries for help from people involved in this? As one of them said, “We don’t normalise having cancer and we don’t normalise medical conditions, yet society is normalising transgenderism, which trivialises my grief and pain….”
It is never nice to allow people to harm themselves, to lie to themselves, and to self-destruct. But see more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/08/18/transgender-and-trans-truth/
Sadly this gal has simply soaked up the world’s wisdom that the only thing that really matters in life is to be happy – whatever that means. All other considerations are simply thrown out the window. That is a recipe for disaster. No wonder Western culture is in such a bad way when we adhere to such patently absurd and harmful ways of looking at life.