Happiness is Not a Virtue

There’s a song on the radio that has been annoying me lately every time it comes on.

It’s annoying because I think the message is actually harmful. But also because the song is so catchy, and it takes a huge amount of restraint to stop myself singing along.

The song is “Smile” by Dami Im, and it’s a Christian radio station.

(As far as I understand it, Dami is a Christian who won the X Factor in 2013, but doesn’t necessarily make “Christian music”.)

I’ve been wanting to write this post since I first heard the song on the radio a few weeks ago, but I’ve hesitated because, frankly, hating a song about happiness makes me seem like a cranky old woman. But I think what I have to say here is worth saying.

Go ahead and watch the video:

If you did watch the video, many of you probably now think I’m really messed up in the head.

I can hear what you’re thinking…

“It’s all about baking people muffins, and over-sized smiley-face balloons and PUPPIES! What do you have against PUPPIES!?!?”

Well, let’s put the video aside for a minute and have a closer look at the lyrics. Here’s the chorus:

You gotta live your life
You gotta treat you right
You gotta give in to the crazy appetite
You gotta shake it up
You gotta hold it down
You gotta do all of the things that
Make you smile, make you smile
Redefine what it is that really makes you happy
Get excited, let your world be a world that you build with a smile

What grates on me so much about this song is the extreme self-centredness of the lyrics. Unlike the video, it’s not about making other people smile, it’s about doing whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

But it’s more than that. I think this song’s message of “happiness for self as ultimate life goal” is actually harmful.

And at this point, I have to admit – it’s not so much this one song that I am against. It’s that this song is emblematic for a world that has made happiness into a virtue.

And when I hear this song, I think about all the people who end their marriages because “I’m not happy any more”. I think about people who continually put their kids second to their own desires because “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

And I think about my daughter watching Frozen, and how overjoyed she gets when Elsa sings “Let It Go” and builds her castle.

“Look Mummy! She’s happy!” my daughter exclaims each time, a wide smile breaking out across her face.

She can’t comprehend that although Elsa is happy, all is not well.

To her, happy = good.

To be sure, happy feels good. And that’s probably why it’s been elevated to virtue status.

But it is not a measure of inherent goodness. Bad things make people feel happy all the time. Should they keep doing these things, just because it will make them “smile”?

You might get the impression that I’m “anti-happiness”. That I want Christians to walk around in a state of perpetual mourning, dressed in black, not enjoying anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

I think happiness is great, and God made so much in this world for us to enjoy. But we need to find happiness in the right things. We can’t just unscrupulously latch on to every whim and desire that pops into our minds.

We need to transform our minds to find happiness in the things that make God happy.

We need to find our happiness in God himself.

Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

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3 thoughts on “Happiness is Not a Virtue

  1. I agree. There is a vast difference between happiness and joy. Joy, of course, only comes from the Lord and has nothing to do with circumstance. Embracing this is so important and so beneficial to all of our relationships.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Bro, Do You Even Read… | seriously serving the saviour

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