The last time my husband and I drove to the grocery store, I was struck by how many billboards advertised their products or services using slogans that contained the word happy, or images of someone smiling. Even in the grocery store, countless products with images of someone smiling stared back at us from the shelves.
I can accept a toothpaste company using a smile to advertise its product, but will owning this brand of shampoo, that type of beer, a particular insurance policy, and the tire with wide treads really make me smile?
It’s no wonder many people in our society have a confused idea of happiness and chase after it in the wrong places – food, sensual relationships, money, fashion and possessions. That’s exactly what advertising screams at us – wear this, buy that, go here, do such and such, and you’ll be happy. Even though we KNOW this message isn’t true, we fall for it, over and over again. Why? Because deep down inside, a part of us wants it to be true.
As Christians, we know that part of this is linked to our own fallen nature. Does the word “temptation” ring a bell? We’re tempted. Tempted to go with the flow and follow the arrows for happiness, even though we know they’re pointing in the wrong direction. It’s the direction we want to go in.
But even if we fight the temptation to act like spoiled children always wanting more Christmas presents, we still tend to look for happiness in external things because it’s an EXCUSE.
It’s an excuse to keep looking outside of ourselves and blaming the store, the product and the bank for our dissatisfaction with life, rather than blaming ourselves.
Happiness isn’t something we can bump into at the store, or find in a special location. It’s a state that exists inside of us; ultimately, happiness is something we choose by the way we think, act and live.
Abe Lincoln got it right when he said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
We can be happy with little or much, just as we can be miserable with little or much. I’m not a Puritan by any means – I love good food (especially good chocolate!), and live a reasonably comfortable life. But I try to remind myself that any goods I have, or don’t have, aren’t the source of my happiness, nor are they to blame when I go through periods of unhappiness.
As a Christian, I believe that happiness goes beyond just “making up your mind” because I believe that it is deeply connected to knowing God’s love. That being said, Lincoln was correct. Whether you are a Christian who believes that happiness is related to faith, or not, happiness is a matter of making up your mind, and choosing to see the good and beauty that is in your life, rather than all you think is missing.
So, go ahead and make up your mind about how happy you want to be!