The “Happiness Narrative”
The identification of powerful cultural ideas/idols is a first crucial step in training and raising children who will remain committed to Jesus Christ. The first anti-Christian idea pushed from the culture is what we referred to last time as the “identity narrative.” That is, that the freest, most virtuous and most “authentic” person in the one with no constraints or rules that govern and control their individual wants/desires. Once you and your child can recognize the idea, then you move to challenge and undermine the idol or idea.
The second powerful cultural idea or idol is what some have called the “happiness narrative.” This idea can be captured in this phrase, “you should never sacrifice your happiness for anyone else.”
This is an enormously pervasive concept as nearly any parent reflexively answers the question of what they want most for their children with the phrase, “I just want for them to be happy.” One should really run an analysis of the different definitions of “happiness” and distinguish being happiness from having joy. No time for that now. This idea/idol will likely not be stated outright in the form above when it occurs in movies, television shows, online or in song.
So what are some practical ways to dismantle this idea/idol so as to undermine it with your own children or those you love?
1) The most resilient and desirable type of happiness or satisfaction is one that comes after heavy, consistent, costly sacrifice.
2) Pursuing happiness for happiness alone creates unhappiness and frustration. Happiness and satisfaction is a byproduct of pursuing aims bigger than individual happiness, happiness ceases to deliver when it is an end in and of itself.
3) The Bible stands against this specific idea/idol in many places - Matthew 20 where Jesus warns against the pursuit gratification at all costs; But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” And here from Paul in his letter to the Philippians; "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
4) Some of the best research work in the social sciences over the last 75 years has verified that most people’s pursuit of moments of happiness (indexed to personal desire and whim) rarely ever achieves lasting, significantly strong happiness/satisfaction.
The relentless pursuit of individual gratification and satisfaction wears people down and invites intense psychopathologies into your life. So talk to your kids, call out the secular modern “happiness narrative,” undermine it, and then replace it with the Biblical Christian alternative.