COMMENTARY 886.5: Happiness and Purpose

by Michael Josephson on July 3, 2014

in Choices

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As you celebrate the Fourth of July, please take time to discuss with your family the historical and spiritual significance of the Declaration of Independence and the 56 men who risked their lives issuing one of the great documents in human history.

At the core of the Declaration is the profound assertion that each of us has an unalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Unfortunately, too many Americans believe they’re entitled not simply to pursue happiness, but to be happy. This breeds an “I deserve it” mentality and “whatever it takes” strategies to help them get or keep the things they think will make them happy.

But alongside our unalienable rights to pursue happiness are unalienable responsibilities to be good and decent people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting and going after money, possessions, power, or status, provided we do so honorably. The deeper question is whether the pursuit of happiness is an adequate life goal.

Helen Keller said, “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence weren’t simply pursuing happiness. Instead, they pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to establish a government based on moral principles. This took character. And character is what life is really about.

According to philosopher George Santayana, “Character is the basis of happiness, and happiness is the reward of character.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

don July 29, 2012 at 9:21 am

I sought happiness and it eluded me. I sought the purposes that God had put in my heart and found happiness.

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Diana McC July 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

This is one of the best you’ve ever written, Michael. Like your comment, too, don. :)

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