Do You Want To Be Happy ?
Levels of Happiness, or Methods of Seeking Happiness
Every healthy person wants to be happy, but did you know that there are four different methods of seeking and achieving happiness ? Knowing about them can help you choose the best method, so that you will find true and lasting happiness. These different methods are described below as the four different Levels of Happiness.
Ego satisfaction is the driving force in life for those in this level. Competition is the motivating force that compels them to strive to be the best in their particular field. They will habitually compare themselves to others, always trying to outdo and outperform those whom they meet. However, this level also has its own downside as well. It can easily lead to contempt toward others. This feeling of contempt is often felt for both those who do not strive, as well as for those whom the person perceives as being better than himself. This level, also can easily lead toward the feelings of jealousy and or resentment. The feeling of fear is also not uncommon for the person who might be having trouble in becoming the very best. And the best by definition is an extremely exclusive and small group of people. Feelings of anger, suspicion, and depression are also common.
While the method described in level 2 might be characterized as EGO in, the method in level 3 is in some ways the opposite, EGO out. The self esteem of the person in level 2 is based on what he achieves for himself, whereas in level 3 the person’s self esteem is based on what he provides for others.
What Makes You Important ?
Everyone has the need to be important in some way. What makes you feel important and useful ? The way that we define happiness is consistent with how we measure our self worth and how we define our purpose or our reason for living. The standard of how we measure our self esteem and our identity of who we are as a person will also be dependent on this definition of happiness that we choose to live by. Most everyone is motivated by thoughts, feelings, or ideals that give importance to their life. Each person will inevitable chose, either consciously or unconsciously, from one of the following four categories.
Does having more money, possessions, or sex appeal make you more important ? This idea belongs to level one of happiness. This person’s ego and self esteem motivates this person to acquire his desired pursuit as much as possible. He will usually feel the need to possess his desired object to a greater extent than those in other levels.
Does being the best at something make you important ? This falls into level two. This person’s ego and self esteem will usually necessitate him to desire the recognition and the esteem of others as well as for himself to view his own abilities to be superior than most other people.
Does making the world a better place by providing for others make you more important ? This is level three. This person’s ego is vulnerable to developing a savior complex, where he needs to see his own efforts manifesting a positive influence in the life of others.
The fourth level
When John the Evangelist referred to himself he called himself, "the beloved disciple." He was not trying to say that Jesus loved him more than the others, rather he was just describing the greatest gift given to him by God. The one thing that described who he was as a person, that most clearly indicated his identity, was the fact that he was loved by God.
This is what gave meaning and importance to his life that he was a beloved disciple of Jesus. It is this understanding, that we are loved by God even though we are sinners, and that we indeed can by His grace partake in His divine Family [Romans 8:15-17, 2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:1 ] that is characteristic of the fourth level of happiness. While this person will still have the desires of his flesh, he is willing to subordinate them to God’s higher plan. The State may make you a dignitary, but God gives you dignity.
What is Love ?
There are four different meanings to the word love.
The first three types will be influenced by our emotions and controlled by them. If a person turns against us and betrays us we will lose the Eros, or Philia, type of love for him or her. How romantic do you feel toward someone who has cheated on you ? The offering of forgiveness and compassion to those who cannot repay, and to those who are even our enemy belongs to the Agape type of love.
Our culture in the U.S.A., especially after Roe Vs. Wade, which legalized abortion, says that a person only has an extrinsic worth, that is, the worth that society is willing to grant to him. Christianity on the other hand, says that each individual has an intrinsic worth, and inalienable rights [life and liberty etc.] given to him by God his creator. Our present culture tells people to live for happiness levels one or two where each person is out for himself. Our culture also tells us that the only law is whatever society mandates at that time.
However, this concept of law, solely determined by society, and not by a higher being which is God, easily leads into a Fascists type of state where those in power can easily oppress those who are powerless. And as the power shifts from one group to another the rights [ and the abuses ] shift as well.
When people live according to the first and second levels of happiness
the culture as whole deteriorates as each person lives just for himself.
The younger generation can detect that something is wrong in our present
culture or at least that it is incomplete in terms of lasting happiness
for everyone. According to these levels, one and two, life has very
little to offer. By pointing out these insufficiencies and
unhappiness we can inform people about happiness levels three and four.
Happiness in Relationships
People will often seek happiness in their relationships with others. "No man is an Island," to quote John Donne. However, the principles that govern their relationships will reveal which level of happiness they are operating in.
If a person seeks relationships with others primarily for what they get out of these relationships they are in level one. They judge the relationship on what they get in return for their investment. They seek to satisfy themselves. Prostitution is a good example of a relationship within this first level. Relationships at this level can be described as contracts, an exchange of goods and services. The motivating factors of those in this type of relationship will be the satisfying of ones own desires. However, since what is received from the other, and even what is desired by the first person is always subject to change, this type of relationship is always subject to termination.
On the second level of happiness others are often seen as useful tools to aid oneself in achieving his goal or else as competitors.
On the other hand, if a person seeks the true good of the other, especially their spiritual good, and offers an unconditional love based on and in their relationship with Christ then this person has a level four type relationship. This type of relationship is a covenant. Whereas a contract is an exchange of goods and services, a covenant is an exchange of persons, in Christ.
The laws or principles that govern relationships in the fourth level
will be in conformity with the truths revealed by God. For example,
if a man truly loves a woman who is married to another he would not do
anything to break apart her marriage, since he desires her spiritual good
more than any fleshly desires that he might have for her.
The concept of freedom has two different meanings depending on which method of happiness a person lives by. In the first two methods, freedom is seen as something that removes constraints. Freedom and choice are the ability to do what I want to do right at this very moment. This is licentiousness.
Whereas, under the third and fourth model of thinking freedom is seen an opportunity to chose that which is good, for both ourselves as well as for society as a whole, and also the ability to fulfill God’s divine plan. Freedom in these models enables the person to attain a higher good. This understanding of freedom calls for commitment and responsibility.
Laws, that is good ones, are seen as liberating and protecting.
The requirement to stop at a red light protects individuals from getting
into a wreck and killing themselves. Ignoring the law, society’s,
nature’s, or God’s leads to harm. For example, a person is not free
to ignore the law of gravity and jump from a ten story building.
This understanding of freedom can look like the opposite of the first understanding
of freedom in levels one and two which sees laws as hindering and unnecessarily
restrictive. Whereas in these higher levels good laws are seen as
freeing, protecting, informative, enabling, and promoting that which is
Suffering and Justice
This article addresses the subject of suffering from
the very limited context. For more about suffering see the following (but even
this link below is not a comprehensive treatment on this mystery) :
People in each of the four levels will desire not to suffer. However, those operating in level one will seek to avoid it at all costs since it is contrary to their primary goal. Unfortunately, this will often lead to the hurting of others. Sometimes this individual in level one will know about the suffering he causes, but often he does not since his focus is on himself.
Those individuals operating in level two will only
to undergo suffering
in order to attain their own goals of promoting themselves. Since
they view all others as competitors they will also often hurt others, knowingly
Because of our fallen human nature we will all experience the pain of unfulfilled desires. In our search for happiness if our focus is on the things of this world such as a certain security, or a comfort, or attaining a certain relationship, or a certain aspect within a relationship [e.g. if only my wife, or husband, was more ... (fill in the blank) ] there is a real danger of becoming obsessed with this one thing that we do not have.
And even if we do achieve that goal there will always be another goal or desire that we have yet to achieve. We can always image something that we do not have. Humans seem to be hot-wired to need to be striving for goals. Goals are good and it is healthy to strive for them, however we need to have a healthy balanced plan of action. An obsession with one thing can often lead to depression.
So, what do
we do when we fail to achieve this heartfelt desire ?
In the Old Testament the Israelites were called upon to regularly offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in a prayer service that was ritualized to commemorate one of the many different great blessing that God had granted to them. For example, the Passover ritual commemorated with great thanksgiving how God had saved them from slavery to the Egyptians.
So, when the Christian is faced with the pain of some unfulfilled desire he purposefully forces himself to thank God for the blessings of faith, and the spiritual truths revealed in God’s Word, and the hope of heaven that the Christian knows if faith is better than the worldly desire that is left unfulfilled. This does not mean that the pain or suffering will go away.
Are emotions are not always true and accurate indicators of what constitutes happiness or as to what leads to happiness. A man may feel deeply in love with a gorgeous new lady that he just met, but that does not mean that a relationship with her will lead them both to heaven or even toward earthly happiness. A man may know in faith that what God has already given is better than the worldly desire that is left unfulfilled, however that does not mean that his emotions will reflect this. We are not (probably ever) fully in touch emotionally with the gravity of our own sins and how great the gift of forgiveness actually is.
Consider the life of one of the saints who was beaten up by some robbers on account
that he did not have any money which they had hoped to steal. After
getting beat up this saint went away joyfully whistling and praising God.
Obviously he felt the pain of getting beat up, but he chose to focus on the
greater gifts that God had given to him by focusing on Jesus Christ, and His
Life, His Death, and His Resurrection.
Who Are Your Heroes ?
[Disclaimer: The references to individuals below is not intended
in any way as a judgment about them or their spiritual life. Rather,
it is only intended as a reference to the degree of success, as it is stereotypically
portrayed by the media, that these individuals achieved in their respective
areas. Of course, before God there are no stereotypes, but only unique
individuals who are deeply loved by Him.
Who would you like to be like ? Who would you like your children to grow up to imitate ?
In the first level you might admire Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, or Donald Trump the billionaire, or maybe even Imelda Marcos who was never in want for a pair of shoes - owning over six thousand pairs herself.
In the second level you might admire those who rose to the top of their pursuits. For example; O.J. Simpson the football player, or Magic Johnson the basketball star, or Mike Tyson the heavyweight boxer, or maybe President Richard Nixon, or even President William Clinton of the U.S.A. government.
In the third level you might esteem a person who joins the red cross.
In the fourth level your hero is Jesus Christ and those who followed Him.
Augustine ( 354 - 430 AD ) progressed through all four levels. While living according to the first level he lived for his own passions. He lived with his girlfriend and fathered an illegitimate child. Later, he had become one of the best orators of his day, while striving for happiness according to the second level. Later, he joined the heretical Manichaen sect which demanded extremely strict self denial of all fleshly desires, the third level. However, when he heard Ambrose teach about the love of God he converted and became a true Christian. " .. .. for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Augustine’s Confessions 1,1,1.)
(This article is partly based on notes from an EWTN TV program with Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. He may or may not agree with all that I have written. If you would like to see a TV series, Healing the Culture, by Fr. Robert Spitzer, watch EWTN Wednesday 11pm. or Saturday 5am. Eastern Time.)
If you would like to read another article of mine, click below and see