Happiness is simultaneously the most simple, pure, and childlike emotion we experience and is also the most misunderstood and difficult to achieve. This isn’t our fault. We are constantly fed many lies about happiness and well-being that distort our notion of what happiness is and how we are to go about achieving it in our own lives. Often we are told that happiness is tied with success, including, but not limited to, wealth and status (it’s hard to cry when you’re sitting in a Bugatti), popularity (TikTok was made for a reason), appearance (just the fact that thinspo exists), or even just the experiences we cultivate (what I wouldn’t do to be sipping an oat milk latte in a trendy cafe right now).
Given that the simultaneous possession of each of these things is impossible, we cope with this “loss” by telling ourselves that we must work harder, longer, take more photos to nourish our aesthetic, and run ourselves into the ground (literally) in order to “live our best lives.” Then one day, if we’re lucky, we’ll be happy.
Unfortunately, I can tell you from my years of experience, it doesn’t work. Society has taught us to treat happiness as a commodity — something that can somehow be possessed, bartered for, and accrued. And thus, we can save it, forgoing happiness in our present situation in order to have more at a future time (imagine that RUSH you’ll get when you finally cash in all your happiness tokens — euphoric).
A while ago, during a routine Facebook scroll, I came across an article titled “25 Uncomfortable Things You Need To Do If You Don’t Want to Regret Your 20s.” Brianna, as she promised, gave us 25 darn good things. But #26 was the kicker.
BONUS: 26. Learn to be happy here, now, today. If you do not learn how to be happy in the present, no job, no partner, no success, no trip, no money, nothing that you are working for will be as enjoyable as you think. You cannot save up your happiness to be released when you think you deserve it. You either have it now, or you have it never.
This quote presents us with a new proposition. How are we to “be happy here, now?” This sets us on a course towards joy, a lasting, divine happiness.
My 3rd grade teacher used to say “it’s called the present because each moment is a gift.” As Orthodox Christians, we can continue that analogy to realize that each moment in our lives is an opportunity to encounter Christ. In his book Everywhere Present, Fr. Stephen Freeman explains that our concept of the universe is problematically two-storied. God lives upstairs, we live downstairs. But this is antithetical to a God who is, as we say at the beginning of every Divine Liturgy, everywhere present and fills all things. As we begin to understand our one-storey universe, we realize that “we are never separated from God who is freely with us, but also giving Himself to us in everything around us.” As we learn to realize God’s presence on Earth, we live our lives transformed, allowing Christ to make Divine what was mundane, and speaking to us in every interaction with His creation.
Since Christ is continually calling us into communion with Him, the burden falls on us to hear His call, and in doing so, choosing to respond in a way that brings us joy. In the Akathist of Thanksgiving, we read:
We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen; for eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be.
It has long been said that gratitude is the foundation for joy, so this should come as no surprise to us. The Psalmist, in describing how the Lord shepherds His people, writes, “You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over,” and later, in Psalm 136, “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever” repeating the final line 26 times in the same Psalm. Clearly, joy, wholeness in Christ, and, yes, happiness, are ours for the taking. Our job becomes opening our hearts to the mystery of God’s grace, and choosing in each moment to give thanks.
And so, in a world with so many choices, choose Joy.
Student Leadership Board Chairman
Andrew Gluntz is a senior at The Ohio State University studying Chemical Engineering and is currently the Chairman of the Student Leadership Board. In his free time, he enjoys drinking coffee, reading good books, and getting college students involved in OCF. So join today!