rebelling against low expectations

The Happiness Myth


This world is teeming with people in unhappy relationships.

Unhappy marriages, unhappy families, and unhappy friendships surround us.

The gift of community that God created to be so good has been abused and broken. And I think what lies at the root of the deterioration of true community is what I call the happiness myth.

I realized that the happiness myth was the problem when I was humming a song all about it. The song has been on countless commercials (and it really has quite a catchy tune). It was written by Kyle Andrews and Neil Mason, and it’s called “You Always Make Me Smile.”

Andrews sings in the chorus:

“I don’t know why I love you
I just know I can’t stop thinking of you
Oh wait
It’s cause you make me smile”

The happiness myth says that our relationships are for our good, our benefit, and ultimately our happiness. Kyle Andrews and Neil Mason ask, “Why do I love you?”

Their answer: Because you make me happy.

So we pick spouses like we pick cats – with a checklist. Healthy, cute, clean, well-behaved, obedient, affectionate, and a comfortable fit into my lifestyle.

We pick friends like we pick food – what satisfies our wants and desires. How will this most benefit me?

And we get angry when our relationships don’t benefit us, when we have to sacrifice or serve.

You see, the happiness myth has spread even to Christian circles.

We have come to view community and relationships in culture’s unhealthy light. We have been struck with the “me” mentality, this pathological idea that our good is the goal of our relationships.

And this needs to change.

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

If Jesus Christ is to be our guide and model for how we are to live, then our relationships ought to be marked by service instead of selfishness.

Humility instead of pride.

An earnest pursuit of others’ good over our own.

Our relationships are not meant to always make us happy; they are to foster a community of mutual service and love.

The happiness myth is a lie. It is not the way a Christian is supposed to think.

Instead, let us draw near to the cross and, in submission to God, serve others like Christ did.

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Photo courtesy of Bob Bob and Flickr Creative Commons.

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About the author

Jaquelle Crowe Ferris

is the former editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway). She's the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and hosts a podcast for youth called Age of Minority. She's married to Joe and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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rebelling against low expectations

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