Are You Happy? An Approach to Evangelization

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

Despite the fact that citizens of modern first world countries have a higher standard of living than any other historical period, these same people suffer from a profound emptiness and malaise. Perhaps you know people in your life who are suffering from this emptiness. It can, however, be difficult to know how to help them.

But if their problem is their unhappiness, then often the best approach is to begin a discussion with them about happiness.

Similarly, if you feel that your organization’s culture is stagnating, reviewing the question of happiness with your employees should also be your first step. In both evangelization and internal renewal, happiness must be our starting point.

The following video and article provides a helpful outline of how this approach begins.

Have you ever felt unhappy but didn’t really know why or how to stop? Do you have any idea what that would even look like? You’ve seen some people who have so much going for them, but they’re still so unhappy.

Humanity has been trying to make sense of this problem forever. Aristotle said that happiness was the one thing that you could choose for its own sake. Everything else you choose because you hope it will make you happy.

You may not know exactly what it is, but you already have an idea of happiness kicking around in the back of your mind, influencing your choice of friends, driving your choice of career, shaping every single decision in your life.

Your notion of happiness affects whether you think your life is think incredibly valuable or totally worthless, so you should know exactly what it is. Chances are your idea of happiness is one of the four things on this list.

  1. The first kind of happiness we might call pleasure. This would come from a delicious ice cream cone or from pizza. From beautiful clothes or Mercedes 500 E-Class with leather upholstery.
  2. The second kind of happiness we may call ego-comparative. This comes from being better off than others, or at least being seen as better off than others. Who’s winning and who’s losing?
  3. The third kind of happiness we could call contributive. This comes from making a difference to somebody or something beyond ourselves.
  4. The fourth kind of happiness we could call transcendent happiness. This deals with the things that you’ve longed for since childhood. Truth, fairness, beauty, love and home. These might seem hard to find in the world around us, but even pursuing these things can change us and bring us happiness.

The life already revolves around one of these definitions of happiness. You need to find out which it is and see if it’s even the one you want. Because, if happiness is your destination and you don’t know what it is how will you ever get there? How will you ever be happy?


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