Who Measures Happiness

If we ask enough questions about parents want for their kids it’s happiness. A good job, a faithful spouse, a safe environment, a healthy body…those are parts of what the parents believe are recipes for happiness. But who measures it?

A quick internet search provided some interesting articles for my consideration but I just want to wax philosophical for a moment and consider the implications.

Logan LaPlante nailed this topic to the wall in his TED talk: 

I couldn’t have, and won’t put it any better than that. My efforts to raise children will be for naught if I forget this valuable principle of teaching them how to be happy. How can I teach them that? I’m not even convinced I’m happy yet but I think I’m learning. I’m learning that happiness comes from what Dr. William Glasser called our 5 basic needs. We have a need for love or belonging, freedom, power, fun, and survival. Everyone needs these five things, but in various amounts. Every speaker, author, student, parent, and friend I’ve talked to since being introduced to Dr. Glasser’s work has echoed the same needs in their own life. Those who are happy, or relatively so, have more of their needs met. Those who aren’t happy, don’t.

The moment I became content was the moment I became a Christian. This may not be one of the more popular revelations these days, at least as of June 29, 2017, but it feels just as true to me now as it did when I chose to follow Jesus 11 years ago. In Jesus, the man who was revealed in the Christian scriptures, I finally found all my needs miraculously met.

Belonging: I belonged to a community.

Power: I had power over sin.

Fun: I had fun through learning about God’s word.

Freedom: I had freedom to pursue my interests within God’s boundaries.

Survival: and I had the promise that my name would never be erased.

Through this framework, I’ve come to discover the power of learning about the world, treating others with love and respect, and finding out about forgiveness through my own mistakes. Without these needs being met, I may have not been open to constructivism, respectful parenting, libertarianism, and democracy. I think learning about these things have not challenged my faith, they’ve strengthened it. If I ever lost the key that unlocked all these ideas, that is Jesus, I wonder if I would also lose the foundation that those ideas constructed themselves on in my mind.

What’s odd about all of this is that God, at least in my reading of the Christian scriptures, was not all that worried about our happiness…in so many words. Jesus summarized the whole law by saying that we should love God with all that is within us and love our neighbors as ourselves. People who do this seem pretty happy. So maybe it is important to God.

Philip Mott

I've been working with families for two decades now. I write about topics pertaining to parents of children ages 4-12.

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