Is happiness overrated?
Is happiness overrated?
Martin Seligman now thinks so, which may seem like an odd position for the founder of the positive psychology movement. As president of the American Pyschological Association in the late 1990s, he criticized his colleagues for focusing relentlessly on mental illness and other problems. He prodded them to study life’s joys, and wrote a best seller in 2002 titled “Authentic Happiness.”
But now he regrets that title. As the investigation of happiness proceeded, Dr. Seligman began seeing certain limitations of the concept.
Instead, Martin Seligman now thinks we pursue accomplishment for its own sake.
This feeling of accomplishment contributes to what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, which roughly translates to “well-being” or “flourishing,” a concept that Dr. Seligman has borrowed for the title of his new book, “Flourish.” He has also created his own acronym, Perma, for what he defines as the five crucial elements of well-being, each pursued for its own sake: positive emotion, engagement (the feeling of being lost in a task), relationships, meaning and accomplishment.
“Well-being cannot exist just in your own head,” he writes. “Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.”
I’m glad to see a richer evaluation of the dimensions of human thriving. Happiness, while nice, is one-dimensional and we are often myopic when considering whether the outcome of a decision brought us happiness or not. I observe myself making choices without regret that give me great satisfaction while leaving me less “happy” in the narrow sense of the word. At least, in the near term, as I recover from the resulting sleep deprivation or mourn the lack of time to pursue a fleeting personal interest. I wonder if the best way to achieve happiness is even to pursue it directly. Feelings of positive emotion are the natural byproduct of engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.
Moreover, focusing excessively on our current personal happiness can turn it into our god and our faith in it may lead us to pursue it in ways that are ultimately damaging to us and those around us. Without the interim unhappiness sometimes produced by disciplined hard work and training, we may never become the person who we know we are deep inside. Greedy pursuit of happiness may also lead us to abandon relationships the consequences of which will only lead to a lifetime of regret. I met someone for whom the public discussion of happiness contributed to his almost leaving his wife and kids. Marriage and parenting is day after day of self-denying hard work. Which is to say, it is a living act of love. The self-denying hard work does not always produce “positive emotion,” but if you devote yourself to it as you might to your career, it does produce engagement, deep relationships, meaning and accomplishment.
Happiness may not be overrated, but it is not enough.
[P]raying in his name is not a matter of saying certain words at the end of our prayers, such as “in Jesus’ name”…praying in the name of Jesus means praying in his authority and for his purposes. Praying in Jesus’ name involves bowing before his sovereignty and seeking his sovereign will.
[Fitch says that we are prodded by the theologians Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Kevin Vanhoozer and Christopher Wright to understand the Bible as] ‘our one and true story of God for the world — infallible in and through Jesus Christ our Lord’. This leads in Fitch’s view to a major shift in preaching: from expository preaching (which he sees as modernity and also as part of the ideology [of evangelicalism]) to proclaiming the mission of God in Christ through the Spirit and inviting others into that mission. Bible reading is not just inductive and personal but corporate and narratival.
[T]he kingdom is not something we create by our own efforts, but rather something we receive.
‘Jesus Christ desires mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For he came not to call the righteous, but sinners. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
The Crucifixion, a painting from a church in Taormina, Italy (via Mark Roberts, “The Seven Last Words of Christ: Reflections for Holy Week”)
Waging war with the weapons of peace
Scot McKnight shares some lessons John Howard Yoder learned about nonviolence that were published posthumously in Nonviolence - a Brief History: The Warsaw Lectures:
- Nonviolence knows of no enemy to be destroyed; there is an adversary to be reconciled.
- Nonviolence works with the grain of the universe by refusing to place the adversary outside the circle.
- Nonviolence can only be used for a good cause and appeals to the moral insight of the adversary.
- Nonviolence has tactical advantages but it transcends tactics.
- Nonviolence provides the opportunity for creativity — those with weapons wait for the first strike.
- Nonviolence is not quietism or legalistic; it enters into conflict but seeks to preserve the adversary’s honor.
- Nonviolence for the Christian is rooted in the cross as paradigm for ending violence and showing love.
The place where God calls you is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire
As Kingfishers Catch Fire
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.