This week is National Pursuit of Happiness Week. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either.) For me, the pursuit of happiness is marriage and family.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.)
The meaning of the phrase pursuit of happiness has been debated for 238 years, and will continue to be debated in years to come. Happiness means a lot of things to a lot of people. It is believed that Thomas Jefferson actually took John Locke’s phrase life, liberty, and property and changed property to pursuit of happiness. All these years later, we really don’t know what was in the minds of the founding fathers as they signed that precious document. Hopefully, we do know what happiness means in our own lives. Happiness to me is marriage and family.
My pursuit of happiness is getting up every single morning with the goal of trying to make my marriage a little better than it was the day before. Does it always work? No, it doesn’t. Some days are better than others. The magic is in the trying.
I discovered long ago that a marriage is happy only if the partners are happy. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” A positive attitude is really important in marriage. If I drag myself out of bed in the morning, grumble over my breakfast, and shout something on my way out the door about the lack of support I’m getting, it’s probably not going to be a very productive day. So let’s turn that around. If I get up with a smile, give my partner a kiss, thank him over breakfast for something he did for me—even if I have to pull something out of a hat—the day might go a whole lot better than in the first scenario. I’m happy, he’s happy, and there is peace in the home.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t at some point talk about issues that need to be resolved. On the contrary, communication is vital to a good marriage. It’s the presentation of that communication that makes the difference. Will I present it with a smile and a positive attitude, or will I complain and take on the persona of the Wicked Witch of the West?
I love Helen Keller’s attitude about happiness.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. (Helen Keller.)
I once knew a couple who were struggling to keep their marriage together. They were both young and stubborn. Neither one of them had a good attitude, so they ended up getting a divorce. One of them continues through life with the same sour attitude, looking at the closed door, has been married and divorced several times, and has never found happiness. The other one learned from the experience and found the open door to happiness. I’ve thought about this couple many times over the years and the fact that attitude really determines our fate.
Along with attitude, we have to be looking for happiness in the right place. Happiness comes from within. We shouldn’t be dependent upon our spouse for our happiness. Our partner can’t make us happy; we make ourselves happy. In difficult times, we can be happy. Even at the very depths of sorrow, we can feel a ray of happiness if we are willing to reach within ourselves and pull out our faith. In those moments, if we unselfishly give of ourselves we will find joy.
The problem is that too many of us try to consume happiness rather than generate it.
. . .
The golden pathway to happiness is the selfless giving of love—the kind of love that has concern and interest and some measure of charity for every living soul. Love is the direct route to the happiness that would enrich and bless our lives and the lives of others (President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Ensign Oct. 2000, “Our Search for Happiness”).
Happy marriages are born in unselfish love. As we strive to serve our partner and our family, we are pursuing happiness. Setting aside our egos, foregoing the childish imaginations of our hearts, and truly serving with love is the best course on a pursuit for happiness.
Happiness does not always require success, prosperity or attainment. It is often the joy of hopeful struggle, consecration of purpose and energy to some good end. Real happiness ever has its root in unselfishness—its blossom in love of some kind (William George Jordan, The Crown of Individuality, 2d ed., New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1909, pp. 78–79).
I love that phrase hopeful struggle. I think we could probably describe all marriages as hopeful struggles. Notice that he says the joy of hopeful struggle. Looking back at my own marriage, there were many struggles. Though I may not have realized it at the time, I see in hindsight that there was joy in those struggles. There was joy in the task of solving our problems together. We worked as a team—even in the hard times. It was the team effort that made those struggles joyful. Love did blossom because of those struggles. Again, attitude is everything. We were hopeful in our struggles.
I challenge you to have a good attitude and be hopeful in your pursuit of happiness this week. Serve your marriage partner and your family with unselfish love. I know it will make a difference.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.