Do you want to be Happy?

I wanted to divert from the virtue discussion briefly to dive further into many of the concepts that came up during the post on Humility, specifically Freedom and Detachment, but then I realized that I actually should have prefaced the whole topic of virtue with the WHY behind it. Why bother at all?! Why bother to be virtuous? Why bother to value freedom?!

Succinctly put, Freedom lies in proper use of our free will to know and choose the good.  Freedom is the product of employing our Intellect in order to know the good and engaging our Will to choose the good. 

Virtue is to habitually choose the good. So implicit in the practice of virtue is the freedom to perform what you choose and to know what that good is in the first place. 

But why bother choosing the good? Why go through the struggle for freedom and virtue if “the good” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and you might as well just get along without it? Not all of us are the kind that needs to be a straight A student or wants to do the right thing simply because “you’re supposed to”, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I guarantee that every single person on this planet wants to be happy. It is happiness that pursuing the good promises. Therefore, in order to be happy we must choose the good, and in order to choose the good, we must know what the good is, and in order to do both those things, we must be FREE.

Freedom, friends, is not license. Our culture understands freedom as having the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want. This is not correct. We become subject to our desires and a victim to anything keeping us from fulfilling them. Freedom is to have the ability to pursue happiness – to know the good and choose it. So here’s the thing, if our freedom is dependent upon outside factors, then the world can quickly become a dangerous place and one with many enemies, but the argument I am placing before you here is that freedom to pursue happiness is completely an internal battle!

So what is “Happiness”? We are promised supreme happiness, Beatitude, when in heaven, but since none of us are there yet, what is the happiness that we can expect here on this side of eternity? Interior peace. When our insides and our outsides are congruent. When our actions match our values and we live and love from a place of total detachment, without expectation.

I think that it is actually disappointment that is the greatest shackle of this world, the one that robs us of our happiness and makes us powerless over our interior disposition. Disappointment leads to bitterness, resentment, anger, passive aggression, or shutting down. Disappointment and all it’s rotten fruits, if matched with unforgiveness, is the greatest block to the spiritual life. Disappointment waltzes in through the front door of our hearts in so many forms: an unmet expectation, an unknown expectation, a preconceived expectation of being let down, a rejected request, an unmet ideal – all of these disappointments are often prefaced by entitlement, self-righteousness, or an overwhelming lack of self-awareness…it is not always intentional. 

The purpose of freedom is sometimes described in the Catholic world as to have freedom FOR, not freedom FROM. Freedom FOR God, not freedom FROM obligation. I agree with this, but there’s more. We do need to have freedom FROM something – We need to have freedom from our desires that lead us away from the good, freedom from expectations that lead us down the road to bitterness and unforgiveness.  This, my friends, is where Detachment comes into play. 

Detachment. It’s actually a virtue. Not middle finger detachment which is where I’m at in a lot of my detachment skill level, but to release those expectations and desires that keep us bound and block us from totally and freely loving God’s will for our lives! Total detachment, is freedom because then NOTHING can have power over us to rob us of our interior peace and the end result of that is joy, happiness.  The thing is, anything that comes between you and your relationship with God, your greatest good, is an attachment. Even if it’s still somewhat good, like having a good relationship with a sibling, but when you don’t have it, it leads you to irritability and resentment, then there is some attachment in you that needs to be released and let go of. 

This release and detachment is what leads to Purity of Heart. I’ve been growing in my understanding of purity lately as well and without diving too far into it, I want to recognize that this is not limited to sexual purity but a clean heart that is devoid of any earthly attachments that lead you to unforgiveness! It is an interior disposition of your soul and the aligning of your will in total trust to the challenge God has for your life. It is the Pure of Heart, who are promised to “See God” aka Beatitude aka Supreme Happiness aka if you want to be happy you have to be pure of heart and if any part of you is unhappy it is because you are still attached to something that is less than your greatest good and it is coming between you and your relationship with God. Phewf!

SO, we have established that we all want to be happy, but where we get tripped up is when we misappropriate a desire for a lesser good as something that is our greatest good. This is where we start to lose our way, get confused, resentful, bitter and restless. The funny thing is, anything can be an experience that draws us closer to God if we go to him in that pain. The lack of fulfillment of a lesser desire is something that can bring us closer to God because it’s an opportunity to affirm our faith in His good will for us despite the obvious suffering. The fulfillment of a lesser desire is something that brings us closer to God our of joy in a disposition of gratitude! We can detect where we are attached to something that is drawing us away from God when we look at the way we think and behave when it goes unmet. That is the true litmus test. We can have desires of all kinds, but it is the attachment to it, whether from entitlement or self-righteousness that poisons our hearts and makes us prisoners of ourselves. 

If looked at in this light, I at least, am convinced that I want to dare to embark upon this road of self-mastery because damnit I want to be happy.  I’m sick of being miserable and falling into the same ruts of disappointment and contempt. I long to detach, but my grip is tight. So I’ll pray, I’ll repent, I’ll ask for help – I will continue to try again and again and again, and like water washing over a rock, perhaps these jagged edges of my soul will eventually be formed into perfect smoothness, the alignment of my will with Gods, the integrity of my inner values and outside actions, the release of my expectations of others, the ownership of my own dignity and value, and then I can rest in the joy of interior freedom.

So I ask you, do You want to be happy?

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