Do any of these statements sound familiar? If they do, I’m making the assumption that you live in America. We want to be Happy with a capital H, now and always. In fact, psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, believes that we make many of our decisions based on what we “think” will make us happy in the future.
*When I finally graduate from college, I will be happy.
*Getting a “real” job would make me happy.
*If only I could get a promotion, I’d be so happy.
*I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds.
*Finding and marrying Mr. Perfect would make me so happy.
*When I have children, my life will be complete, and I will be deliriously happy!
*If only I had a bigger house with a little acreage, I’d be happy.
*If my yard didn’t’ require so much upkeep, I’d be happy.
*If I could just spend a few hours at the beach, I know I’d be happy!
From the preface of Eve’s Sisters: “Armed with a background in psychology, I could readily spot the application of certain psychological principles to their lives and ours. Like the women of today, the women of the Bible struggled with emotions, relationships, and personal choice as they navigated their way through life….With its themes of love, faith, individuality, and fulfillment, the Bible can actually be seen as a self-help book.”
While I stand by my assertion that Eve’s Sisters draws comparisons between the women of the Bible and the women who live today, lately I’ve been thinking about a psychological principle that seems to mean more to American women alive today than to Esther, Naomi, and Mary: happiness. Note that I said American women who live today. American women of yesterday might have been too busy keeping their heads above water to think much about happiness.
Maybe Eve’s sisters wanted to be happy too, but upon reflection, I can’t remember seeing the word happy anywhere in the Bible. Admittedly, I’m not what I’ve heard referred to as a master scriptorian. Nor do I recall any women in the Bible laughing with joy. Well, there was Sarah who laughed when she overheard one of the three visitors (angels?) telling Abraham that she would have a baby, but I’m pretty sure she laughed because of amusement and maybe incredulity. An elderly woman, she was 90 when Isaac was born!
William James, considered by some to be the father of American psychology once wrote, “How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure.” Is James right? Or was he influenced by cultural context too? I think he must have been; otherwise he would have said “most people” instead of “most men.”
According to the experts, a cross cultural view is a must when considering emotions, language, behavior, and thinking. I need to remember that as I ponder women of different cultures, past and present. And I need to keep in mind that writing is a process, always changing as one’s knowledge and experience change.
So tell me. Do you think women in the Bible were happy? Do you think they perceived of the term in the same way that Americans do? As an American, do you expect to be happy?