Happiness is Not an Emotion

It’s a Moral Obligation; Another Wise Insight from Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager explains why happiness is important
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This article was updated on 02/22/21.

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Happiness is such an important concept that it is written into the U.S. Constitution. Firstthings.com says, “The right to “the pursuit of happiness” affirmed in the Declaration of Independence is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy. Further, the Declaration doesn’t guarantee the right to happiness, the thought usually goes, but only the right to pursue what makes you happy.”1

But of course saying, ” taken these days,” implies that this this is subjective. Dictionary.com defines happiness as a noun meaning, “1. the quality or state of being happy, and, 2. good fortune, pleasure, contentment, joy.”2

Dennis Prager takes the importance of happiness and drills down much deeper. The importance of it turns out to be much less than simple self-interest. Let’s have a look at his concept as I see it.

Happiness is Not for You, It’s for Others

Individuals that are unhappy shouldn’t inflict that moodiness on others. Doing so is not a right; in fact it is quite a disservice. Case in point — I once worked as the maintenance supervisor at a certain hotel. The corporate name is not important. My immediate boss was a very uncomfortable fellow to be around. He had temper tantrums and was verbally abusive. I ended up being the buffer zone between not only him and my crew, but also between him and the housekeepers since I speak Spanish and he didn’t. And, he always had something to say about their work even though those women were dramatically underpaid. I eventually quit when he cursed me out in the public lobby. I have hypertension (high blood pressure) and don’t need the grief.

What was his issue? The two common thoughts were that he was on some serious steroids (big-time weight-lifter), or he was off his medications for a condition that smoothed out his mood and attitude. The bottom line? He made everybody miserable just by walking into the room. The take-away is that attitude is contagious. If you can’t be happy, make an effort to seem happy.

As an aside and interesting observation, Prager states that, “In most cases, marriages are between a moody and a non-moody. Most are; here’s the proof. Where I have met a couple of non-moodys married to non-moodys, I have never once met a moody married to a moody. Know why? I’ll tell you why. Because the moody may be moody, but they’re not stupid. They never marry one of their own.”

Acting Happy Can Make You Happy

It may seem like a contradiction but acting happy can make you happy. More importantly, unhappiness, if left unchecked, feeds on itself like a malevolent leech. To avoid this, get out of your state of thinking. Psychologytoday.com says, “How to stop the misery: Instead of putting yourself down for your mistakes and failures, make the conscious decision to grow from them. ‘Oh, now I see what I need to do in the future. I’ll look at this as a challenge rather than as a problem.’ This self-talk will help you develop a ‘growth mindset,’ to use the phrase of researcher Carol Dweck. People who can grow from their setbacks are more likely to succeed and to feel better about themselves.”

Fake News Begs for an Attitude Adjustment

Whether you think fake news has an effect on you or not, it does. This is true whether you are on the right, the liberal left, or somewhere in the center. The media has an agenda and intends to change (or affirm) your views. This polarizes us. Question everything. When you find the truth, adjust your attitude. Not necessarily your opinion; that might be a bridge too far. But, don’t take the attitude to work.

So that’s it. If you are an unhappy person, work on losing the attitude. Show a happy face to the world and your family. You will have fulfilled a great moral obligation and made yourself happier in the process.

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  1. James R. Rogers, Firstthings.com, The Meaning of “the Pursuit of Happiness,” https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/06/the-meaning-of-the-pursuit-of-happiness
  2. Dictionary.com, Happiness, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/happiness?s=t
  3. Meg Selig, Psychologytoday.com, 10 Ways You Are Causing Your Own Unhappiness, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201701/10-ways-you-are-causing-your-own-unhappiness

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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