I don't want my daughter to be happy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting for her unhappiness either, I'm merely trying to communicate my desire that happiness not be the central motivation of her life.
So often today it seems we, as a society, operate on a scale of hyper-individualized self-satisfaction. It stems from this notion that the opposite of misery is happiness. I suspect those two things are far more alike than they are different - at least in contexts with which I'm most familiar.
I think about the friend who says, "I'm quitting my job to go to art school." Now I have no problem with that, per say; I applaud non-economic decisions in general and I think we could use far more artists in the world. However, when you go deeper and ask why - often the response is: "I'm just not happy."
I don't think it's an issue of happiness. How many people do we see in enviable positions - with money, power, fame, or success - who claim to lack happiness? I imagine it's more a lack of purpose.
We humans have this insatiable desire for fulfillment. We recognize that individually we lack something and we're desperate to figure out what it is and to fill the lack. Despite the passe nature of seeking happiness in money, possessions, power, or fame, we still do it. We've also added some socially acceptable pursuits as well - domestic tranquility or philanthropy (Peter Rollins would add religious tranquility, and I think he's right).
None of these are, on their own, anything other than the age-old attempt to fill our inherent emptiness with something other than another person. I think this comes from a bastardized understanding of love.
We've whittled love down to a solitary act - something we do for or to someone or something else, usually in support of another's journey towards happiness. We do it to make ourselves feel good and we do it to make someone else feel good, but there is no relationship, no transaction taking place.
Love is something that irrevocably ties us to another. This is the antithesis of happy. For if we love in this way and ever become unhappy, we're stuck. It's one thing to quit a job because of unhappiness - likely your employer has no more loyalty to you than you do to them, but we hesitate a bit (although seemingly less and less everyday) when someone quits a marriage for the same reason.
Why? Because there's some implied commitment there (or at least there's supposed to be). When we tie ourselves to others we forfeit the right to make our personal happiness the primary motivation of our life.
Our society has responded by avoiding commitment like the plague. We've removed the stigma around breaking agreements and incentivized not forming them in the first place. From independent contractors at work to pre-nups in marriage (if you get married at all) to individual state, cities, and sheriffs deciding which laws are worth enforcing - we've embodied the idea that "you can't make me do anything I don't want to do."
And that's fine. I believe in every person's right to make those decisions. I just don't think it's healthy - and I know it's no path to happiness, no path to finding purpose and contentment.
The irony, if you will, the paradox of human life is that our innate desire for self-fulfillment cannot be filled by on our own. It can't be done by seeking happiness. It can only be accomplished by giving up that individual desire to be fulfilled. It happens by loving others irrevocably, by giving someone else the right to control what we do. It means loving in such a way that we tie ourselves to others.
I don't want my daughter to be unhappy - that's not the idea - I want her to love and be loved. I want her to have purpose, to be apart of God's redemptive purpose in the world. I'm fairly certain this doesn't always make one happy, but there' more to life than simply enjoying it.