In 2006, Will Smith starred in a movie called The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith plays the character of Chris Gardner, a struggling sales man who uses his life savings to invest in bone scanning devices. While he does make something of a living from the sale of the devices, it’s never quite enough to raise his financial position, which puts a strain on his marriage to his wife Linda.
The movie then follows Chris’ journey as he overcomes homelessness, the weight of becoming a single father to his son and the bitter sweet feeling of being in the role of your dreams that pays very little. After six months of pretence – he never wore his financial or marital woes on his face or gave his colleagues any reason to believe he was a struggling single father – he wins the full-time position and ultimately becomes happy.
A lot of us can relate to similar feelings of lowliness, inadequacy or despondence. For the last week or so I felt like a lot of the things I’m desperately trying to attain were out of my reach. I don’t know how many of you have played that awfully cruel – but hilarious – trick on babies and toddlers where you give them something and just as they reach out to take the item from you, you suddenly take it away. I felt exactly like that.
Life was offering me everything I had ever envisioned on a silver platter and just as I am about to reach out for it, the platter would disappear. I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders and I found myself trying hard to conjure happiness. This is typical of millenials. We’re told that happiness is the only thing worth chasing. From “5 ways to be happy”, “quit your job if it’s not making you happy”, “divorce your spouse if they’re not making you happy” , happiness is the only thing worth dying for.
What if I told you there’s something far better than happiness? What if I told you that happiness just seems like a lot of work especially for something that dissipates so quickly? Would you believe me? Would you stop trying to be happy?
Happiness is a fallacy. It took me a long time to come to terms with this truth because it goes against everything society subscribes to, but happiness is a fallacy. The saddest thing about happiness is the disappointment you feel when it can’t be replicated and so you revert to drowning your sorrows in a sea of self pity. Happiness is not constant. It’s the silent killer, the drug with the least recorded side effects.
Contentment is the real deal. Paul said to the church in Corinth (Philippians 4:10-13):
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I no longer feel the need to be happy because contentment is soul-satisfying. Contentment isn’t the gateway to complacency or an excuse for laziness. Contentment is an appreciation for where you are and being satisfied with the journey up until that point.
So in place of happiness, I chose contentment.
So here’s to life, love and the pursuit of contentment.