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  • Writer's pictureEmma Harman

Are we entitled to be happy?

Happiness is something that I think most human beings would strive towards. It is certainly something that modern western society holds in high regard. "Do what makes you happy", and "Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life", are commonly heard expressions. I don't believe it is a stretch to say that we are encouraged to find happiness in all facets of our lives. If part of our life is not bringing happiness then it needs to be removed or fixed or adjusted somehow to restore the balance in favour of our happiness.

What if happiness was not the be-all and end-all? What if happiness is just one of the range of human emotions that we all experience. What if we aren't meant to be happy all the time? What if the human experience was supposed to be rich and diverse and we were supposed to struggle at times, to grieve, to be sad or angry or afraid?

I wonder that our constant search for happiness can actually hinder us in finding it. The older I get the more I appreciate time, the cycles and rhythms of life. There is a time for everything. Just as Ecclesiastes says:

"For everything there is a season,

A time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace."

Rather than seeking happiness all the time, I think we would actually do well to recognise the cycle we are in and learn to feel and accept the whole range of emotions. Just like a beautiful piece of music ebbs and flows, so too does life. Music would be boring if it was all one note, or beat or even just one instrument. Life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Instead of happiness, I think the goal needs to be contentment. Contentment is much deeper and more at our core than happiness. Contentment is born from a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. It is not as fleeting as happiness and can co-exist with other feelings. Contentment is more of a choice we make to accept that life can be messy but that at a deep level we are OK.

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