Happiness – what we all appear to want
You can’t listen to the news or read magazines and articles for long these days without coming across something to do with happiness. We seem to be almost obsessed with the subject.
If you do a Google search on the word, you get 645 million results (at least, I did today when I tried today). “How to be happy” produces even more – 3.92 billion!! More than “World Cup”, which only delivers 1.9 billion!!
Most of us think we know what we mean when we utilise the word happy. But here’s an odd thing. When it began to be used, centuries ago, it carried the meaning “lucky” or “favoured by fortune”, and words with that sense persist today, for example, “happen”, “perhaps” and “haphazard”.
So it turns out that something we really want has about it an atmosphere of randomness, or at least unpredictability.
And of course that’s what we find in life. We can’t predict our happiness, and in many ways we can’t control or determine it. We can try, but often it turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax when we do stumble on it (“So that’s all there is? There must be more than this car, smartphone, or holiday?”)
But there’s another word that, although less commonly used, has a rather different feel to it. What is it?
This word has very different origins. It derives from the Greek word chara, meaning a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. That may sound rather like happiness, but you can get an idea of the difference when you look at other words that flow from it.
- Gratitude or being thankful (eucharisteo)
- Grace (charis)
- Bestowing favour (charitoo) and even…
- Forgiving (charizomai).
These convey much more than the “getting-what-I-want-to-make-life-feel-more-pleasant” that we often understand happiness to mean. Joy and its derivatives seem to have more of a sense of giving than getting.
And paradoxically, that is pretty much what we discover in life, at least over the course of a whole life span. If we live primarily to get, satisfaction and even happiness tend to elude us. But a life that engages with giving at least as much as getting usually discovers more gratification and fulfilment.
How’re you doing?
What would you say characterises you more – happiness or joy? Would you like to discover more about how to grow joy?
We’ll look some more at this important word next time. Meanwhile, take a look at my book, “Lasting Happiness”, which has quite a lot to say on the subject.