Sunday, November 01, 2015

Pastors: Don't Focus On Making Your People "Happy"

Battle Creek, Michigan
You will know the truth,
and the truth will make you happy.

- Not said by Jesus

"Happiness" studies now abound. In "Happiness: Beyond the Data," U. of Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting writes:

"Happiness studies are booming in the social sciences, and governments are moving toward quantitative measures of a nation’s overall happiness, meant to supplement traditional measures of wealth and productivity."

The pursuit of happiness does not lead to happiness. When the purpose of life becomes a bucket-list pursuit of pleasure, unhappiness and disquietude results. How so? Gary Gutting writes:

"The danger — particularly for a society as rich as ours — is making pleasure the central focus in the pursuit of a happy life. This is done explicitly in some versions of utilitarian ethics, which regard happiness as simply the maximal accumulation of pleasurable experiences. But pleasures themselves often induce a desire for their repetition and intensification, and without moderation from a reflective mind, they can marginalize the work that lies at the core of true happiness.

A pathology of pleasures is often signaled by an obsession with not “missing out” on particularly attractive pleasures and strong disappointment when a highly anticipated experience does not meet expectations. (Examples from the world of food and wine are widely available.) In my view, the best strategy to avoid “hedonic corruption” of happiness is to welcome wholeheartedly the pleasures that come our way but not to make the explicit pursuit of pleasure a dominating part of our life project. The same, of course, applies to the money that is so often the price of pleasure."

Life, real life, is not gained in the pursuit of pleasure. 

Note for church leaders and pastors: Many of your people are happiness-seekers rather than Jesus-followers. Do not make it your objective to keep your people happy. It won't work.