Happiness: A right or a privilege

Recently, at a high school graduation ceremony, the principal listed several things that have affected the graduates of 2013. These graduates have never known life without a cellphone or MP3 player. They’ve watched technology take off and offer “new & improved” things with increased regularity. Social media are the norm for this graduating class: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. They’ve had pictures and videos posted on a routine basis for most of their lives. DVRs, Netflix, Hulu & Amazon Prime have made on-demand television and movie watching an expectation. You no longer have to wait for the summer reruns to know what happened.

We have developed a fast-moving, impatient life style. Remember Hallmark’s slogan “When you care enough to send the very best”? Today, with the instant social media, Facebook “helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” We used to get the Yellow Pages and “let your fingers to the walking”. Now, Verizon trumpets “Can you hear me now?” Timex told us “it takes and licking and keeps on ticking.” Nike says “Just do it!” In our fast food society, we are unwilling to wait for anything. In our rush to make everything better, and faster, and quicker. we have robbed our children of the gift of savoring the moment.

We push our kids to grow up quickly. Little girls are dressed like grown-ups with make-up and high-heels. We start asking about boyfriends before they can read. Little boys are “coached” early to excel in sports. Our children are exposed to open sexuality in the media, in entertainment and too often in our homes. We no longer protect their innocence, but encourage adult behaviors way before the emotional base is ready to handle it. We are more concerned with being friends with our children than we are in parenting them.

We teach our kids with our own actions that happiness is the most important thing in life. We show them that happiness means a big house, a fancy car, and lots of money. Happiness is something pursued with a passion. People become disposable in the quest for happiness. The momentary pleasures and excitements that were at one time considered the little extras of a respectable, hard-working man or woman’s commitments, have now become the focus of everyday life. Why waste time on commitments and promises? Just go directly to the fun! I deserve to be happy. And, when happiness becomes elusive in one place, we just move on to another.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for being happy. It’s my preferred emotion. But, it is just that: an emotion. I do not want to be controlled by my emotions. And I do not believe happiness should come at the expense of those around me or even of my own conscience.

I look around at the world that I am leaving to my kids and my grand kids and sigh. My generation has done so much damage with the lackadaisical attitudes we have taught this generation. Adulthood brings with it responsibilities and privileges. unfortunately, my generation has taught that the privileges are actually rights. And these rights often are demanded at the expense of the responsibilities.

More is not necessarily better. Fast doesn’t always mean quality. Easy doesn’t build strength or character. Stop running after temporary happiness and instead make some serious, life-long investments of time and patience.

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