I don’t want my kids to “be happy.” It’s not my goal. There, I said it. It’s not a statement I make lightly. It’s one I have ruminated on for years and especially recently, on Mother’s Day, as I reflected on my role and purpose as a mom.
It’s not that I have anything against being happy. Happiness is fantastic – I enjoy those moments, reflect on those memories, and hope that happy days will arrive more often than sad ones, especially for my children. The problem I have with happiness is that it’s often the result of happenings – circumstances, environment, relationships. And it’s almost always temporary. This became obvious as I raised my kids and discovered that I actually had the power to “make my kids happy.” I remember tantrums in the grocery store would be instantly soothed with a trip to the candy aisle, sleepovers approved at the last-minute filled the basement with squeals of excitement, and car keys brought smiles and confidence – until the first accident, that is. I was not happy, Dad was not happy, our son was not happy, and the owners of the tree he took out – you guessed it, not happy (albeit gracious).
Seeking a deeper understanding of happiness, I was thrilled to discover a book titled, Happy – Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World. Secrets? Perfect. Surely there will be some answers – these even span the globe! Excited, I flipped to the pages highlighting the secrets of happiness in the United States and discovered three: “Count Your Blessings,” “Test Your Limits to Transcend Your Self,” “and Carpe Diem.” In other words, be thankful, be challenged, and live for the moment (or, at least, attend a Mardi Gras party).
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these things or the remaining ideas in the happy book, it’s just that I believe there’s more. As I skimmed the pages, I wondered what mine would be. If I were asked to be a contributor to this book or write my own, what would my secrets be?
I would begin with a focus, not on being happy but on being healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And as a Christian, my ultimate goal would reach beyond this world to a more eternal perspective – to move from healthy to holy.
Happiness is just not enough. It will not endure the storms of life to provide an anchor, a hope, a path. Holiness is so much deeper, with an internal impact bearing not only immediate fulfillment but lasting fruit, not only happiness but “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Holiness is my goal and my hope for my children. Maybe I’ll write that book one day – Secrets to Holiness.
Actually, it’s already been written.