Saturday, April 23, 2022

Maintaining the Appearance of Happiness

Room, in our house

Donna Freitas writes: "The appearance of happiness has become so prized in our culture that it takes precedence over a person’s actual happiness." (Freitas, The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost, p. xvii)

Note the subtitle of her book: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost.

Christian Smith, in his Foreward to Freitas's book, comments:

"In our attempts to appear happy, to distract ourselves from our deeper, sometimes darker thoughts, we experience the opposite effect. In trying to always appear happy, we rob ourselves of joy. And after talking to nearly two hundred college students and surveying more than eight hundred, I worry that social media is teaching us that we are not worthy. That it has us living in a perpetual and compulsive loop of such feedback. That in our constant attempts to edit out our imperfections for massive public viewing, we are losing sight of the things that ground our life in connection and love, in meaning and relationships. 
Our brave faces are draining us. We’re losing sight of our authentic selves." (Ib., pp. xvi-xvii)

So what is the answer? You must go deep. It will explain a lot of things, including what's now happening in America.

Augustine understood the depth of our human condition. He wrote of our estrangement from God due to succumbing to three temptations: "the love of power, the pervasiveness of lust, and our inability to find contentment." (Richard Foster, Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion)

These three temptations keep our hearts in a turbulent mess. We are reminded it was Augustine who wrote that, because God made us for himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Centuries later Henri Nouwen prayed, Augustine-like, asking God if the restless seas in his heart would ever settle down.

Augustine's answer was this: 

"When we are unable to rise above our own self-love, we manufacture all kinds of diversions in an attempt to find a happiness that endures. But eventually we realize that nothing in this life provides the happiness and joy that come from God alone.... Our only hope for enduring happiness is to discover the enduring restlessness of our spirit." (Foster, 29. Emphasis mine.)

My Books