Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness...or Humility?

If you are a dad with daughters, do yourself a favor and invest in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker. The book is chock-full of practical advice I wish I'd read nine years ago before Trae was born. Here's a take from Chapter Four on the necessity of a dad to teach his daughter humility:
"Parents always say they don't care what their kids do as long as they're happy. As the mother of four, I understand this. I am incredibly selfish. If my kids are happy, I sleep better at night and enjoy my days more.
But think about this: Is that really what you and I want for our daughters? Should happiness be the goal toward which they work?
We all pursue happiness. It's our constitutional right. And happiness is a great state of being. But if you teach your daughter that happiness is her 'arrival point,' it could make her miserable. Here's why.
If she makes happiness her goal, you and she will discover that there are thousands of things that might make her feel good. Perhaps it's securing a Rhodes scholarship. Or maybe it's having a baby at fifteen. Or maybe it's the uninhibited expression of her beliefs to the point of wearing T-shirts that say '---- Authority!'
The problem with making happiness her goal is the lack of guardrails. A goal of happiness can become a justification for self-indulgence. It can encourage selfishness. It can be how children become 'spoiled.' And, most important, it can actually lead to unhappiness, as there are no limits to a child's -- or an adult's -- 'wants,' and these wants never ultimately satisfy a deeper need. So happiness remains out of reach.
The paradox is that happiness is truly found only when it is routinely denied. In my practice, the happiest girls are always the ones who live with humility. The unhappiest girls are the ones who are most self-indulgent in their pursuit of happiness.
If you think about this, it makes perfect sense. Self-indulgence is easy and takes no strength of character. Eating four pies feels good while you're doing it, but it will leave you feeling sick and make you fat. Watching soap operas rather than doing homework might seem like fun, but it won't prepare you for life after high school. Having sex whenever you want and with whomever you want might feel good, for a while...until you contract a sexually transmitted disease, or get pregnant, or find yourself deeply depressed.
Humility teaches us rules and self-restraint, that we're part of a larger community and need to work together for the good of the whole. Humility teaches responsibility, and it teaches us to consider the needs of others. It tells us to look outward rather than focusing obsessively on ourselves, and it reminds us that we aren't the only ones who count.
The result is that girls with humility experience the real joy and happiness that comes only from strong, healthy relationships with family, friends, and others. We have rules to keep our relationships healthy. And among these rules is denying ourselves so that we can help others.
If you teach your daughter to be good rather than simply happy, she will become both. Teaching your daughter humility is a wonderful gift. And it can be taught only by example" (86-87, 92).