“The cheerful of heart has a continual feast” (The Book of Proverbs).
UNLIKE JOY (WHICH IS A VIRTUE AND CAN BE CONSTANT), HAPPINESS IS A MORE OCCASIONAL VISITOR. Life in this world can be difficult and painful, but it can also be pleasant — and we love the happy days, whether they are many or few. “Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length” (Robert Frost).
(1) We shouldn’t try to force happiness. I chuckle when I recall Willard R. Espy’s quip, “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.” Happiness can’t be manufactured directly; it’s a byproduct. So we should give up the popular “pursuit of happiness” and get busy doing other things. “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open” (John Barrymore).
The genuinely happy are honest about the real world. They don’t play mental tricks and try to convince themselves they are happy when they are not. As realists, they don’t demand unbroken happiness in a broken world. They can live without happiness if they have to.
(2) We should not neglect the “little” happinesses. Many of the most delightful things in this world are ordinary and easily overlooked. We would be happier if we were more observant, and if we took the time to relish the simple pleasures. Benjamin Franklin was right: “Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.”
(3) We should be grateful for happiness. When happiness comes calling, it should be treated as an honored guest. Sara Teasdale had the right perspective in her well-known motto, “I make the most of all that comes, and the least of all that goes.” We should relish the good times appreciatively, maximizing their enjoyment — and then relinquish them with the right attitude. “Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is” (Maxim Gorky). May we never say goodbye to any happiness without having enjoyed it gratefully.
But finally, may we never be selfish. Since we never have any happiness except by God’s grace, we must look for ways to pass it along. May we relate to everybody around us as happily as we can.
“Happiness held is the seed — happiness shared is the flower” (Anonymous).