Is this contributing to my wholeness?

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

—Hugh MacKay, The Good Life

I found this passage, which I find deeply resonant, on A Cup of Jo.


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10 Comments

  1. Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Yes yes yes! As a woman who struggles with this idea of being happy all the time, I completely agree. There is a place for me between happy and sad, a place that inline in frequently. It’s reflective. It’s real. I’ve always struggled with people who tell me and other to “smile” all the time- and I’ve never forced that ony own kids. Sometimes it’s ok not to smile. Sometimes it’s reality.

  2. Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Oh how I especially love that last line about having a bad day. Very reminiscent of the Louis C.K. bit too, which I also love. I love that my 6.5 year old tells me, often, while she’s crying, “Being sad is a GOOD thing, Mommy.” Feels like I’m steering the bus in the right direction, you know?

  3. Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    What a marvelous, powerful quote. Wholeness. YES.

    Thank you for sharing this, Lindsey. xoxo

  4. Debbie
    Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Oh Lindsey, this resonates as so right to me. It would appear that our children’s whole generation is focussed on doing and getting things to make them “happy”. And although there is nothing wrong with trying to be happy, it is vital that we do not ignore our sadness, our darkness, it has so much to teach us. I have held each one of my children through their waves of sadness, crying in my arms, and always at the end, by just listening, being there and not trying to fix it, they come out relieved and the clouds part somehow. Thank you for sharing this passage, it so perfectly expressed.
    Debbie (7McKenzies – instagram)

  5. Ari
    Posted July 4, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Yes, yes and yes. Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

  6. skt
    Posted July 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this. So true. So very true. And what I want for my kids is not the unrealistic pursuit of happiness, but something else entirely. Closer to wholeness. Something that includes resilience and purpose and a deep deep experience of being alive, of which happiness is only a part. Thank you for sharing Linds!! “Happy” 🙂 4th!! 🙂 Here’s to all of the people over the years who have sacrificed to give us our freedom. xo

  7. Posted July 5, 2014 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    The word “happiness” is the problem; it conflates the pleasant life with the good life and the meaningful life.

    The ideal is to live a life where 1) You enjoy your daily activities, 2) You have time for relationships with people you care about, 3) You feel like you’re learning and growing, 4) You are giving back to your community.

    She who does all four is truly happy.

  8. Lindsay
    Posted July 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I love this so much. Thank you for the reminder.

  9. Posted July 8, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh, how I needed this! Thank you.

  10. Posted July 17, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I love this! As someone working on my happiness project and struggling because so much of my resolutions don’t always make me feel happy, this seems to be the insight I needed all along!