Reflections

What will make your new year happy?
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What will make your new year happy?

It is an expression that is exchanged between those who are near and dear and even those who barely know each other. But I wonder how much thought is ever given to the significance of what we are actually saying, what we are really wishing for the person on the receiving end of our remark.

Hopefully, each time we mouth those three words, we are not just saying to someone else, “G,day!” but are genuinely trying to convey to the other person, “I really want you to be happy.” While that might introduce into our greeting a degree of genuineness, it still leaves it quite open as to what notion of happiness we are desiring for the recipient.

Being happy is, naturally enough, a pretty subjective issue. Nevertheless, there ought to be some essential ingredients that most of us would regard as essential to the attainment of a state of happiness.

As I sat down just recently to write this Perspective, my first offering to you for 2006, I decided to fall back on that time-honoured practice of consulting my well-thumbed dictionary to see how this quality of life is formulated there.

Having leafed through its pages, my gaze finally fell on this description.

“Happy:
1. favoured by circumstances; lucky,
2. having, showing or causing pleasure.
3. Clever, apt.”

Quite frankly, that array of definitions left me pretty cold and dissatisfied. This prompted me to come up with a better description of what I myself consider the wondrous concept of happiness to be.

As I see it, I am truly happy when I have in myself a sense of fulfilment as a person. Going a little more deeply into it, I believe that, when I am really happy, it is because I have the embracing satisfaction that I am loved for my own sake.

Therefore, I might not necessarily be enjoying good health, I might not even be successful materially or socially, but if I have a real sense that I am loved and cherished for my own sake, then surely I am happy in the most marvelous sense of that word.

The sort of love that satisfies me in these ways can be achieved on two levels – the human and as well the divine. In other words, I can be esteemed and valued in my uniqueness as a person by another human being or ultimately by God, our heavenly Father.

I guess that I am fortunate to have been blessed with a life of happiness. Sure, I have had passing phases of unhappiness, there have been occasions when I have been hurt and sad, as in times of grief, but even within those there has been an abiding sense that I am cherished as the person that I am.

So, when I wish someone else, “Happy New Year,” I like to believe that what I have envisaged here is what I hope for in them as recipients. I’m not naive enough to believe that, because that is my dream for them, it will automatic be achieved for them.

Having worked in the field of helping people to find happiness – both spiritual and human – for four decades as a priest and as a counsellor, I am only too well aware that there can be many obstacles confronting any person, couple or family striving for happiness. At the heart of all failed attempts to achieve happiness, the root cause invariably is a poor self-image or low self-esteem, usually held for a long period of time.

So, as I launch into yet another year of writing for you, I commit myself once again to patiently working with all the resources at my disposal to help you and those I encounter along the journey to find happiness, both here and hereafter. Please God, my contributions to this Perspective column in each issue of Kairos for 2006 will help you to find happiness, or to sustain you in it.
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