Happiness

“The Greeks had a word for the feeling one has when one is happy: makarios. It is a feeling of contentment, when one knows one’s place in the world and is satisfied with that place. If your life has been fortunate, you should feel makarios. We use idioms in English to try to approximate this experience. We’ll say, “My life has really come together,”” … “In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that if you are a peacemaker, then you are makarios. Since English doesn’t have a word for this feeling, translators have struggled to find one. What do you call it when you feel happy, content, balanced, harmonious and fortunate? Well, translators have concluded, you are blessed. Thus our English translations say, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5: 9). Unfortunately, this introduces another problem. The English language prefers clear subjects for its verbs. So the missing puzzle piece in the Beatitudes is, How is one blessed? What goes without saying in our culture is that God blesses people. Consequently, we often interpret this verse to mean, “If you are a peacemaker, then God will bless you.” But this isn’t what Jesus meant. Jesus meant, “If you are a peacemaker, then you are in your happy place.” It just doesn’t work well in English. Alas, here is the bigger problem: maybe the reason we North Americans struggle to find makarios in our personal lives is because we don’t have a word in our native language to denote it.” [Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien]

This reminds me of Abram Maslow’s peak-experience of the self-actualized person.

  1. A comfortable acceptance of life [Deuteronomy 29:29]
  2. Acceptance of others (unprejudiced) [Zechariah 8:17; Galatians 6:2]
  3. A love for nature. [Genesis 2:15; 1 Corinthians 12:22]
  4. Single-minded, non hypocritical, natural and spontaneous [Romans 12:9; 2 Timothy 1:5; 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 2:17]
  5. People are not problems; people have problems [Ephesians 4:28; 2 Corinthians 12:21]
  6. Increased desire for privacy to meditate, dream, “pray,” create [Psalm 1:1; 91:1]
  7. Environment independent: can work, live, enjoy life anywhere in any cultural setting. Socially independent. [Philippians 4:11]
  8. Fresh emotional responses to life, deep feelings, especially of joy. [John 4:14; 10:10]
  9. A deep sense of belonging, family, part of something “big” or “important” [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6]
  10. A keen awareness of others: “empathetic understanding” to use Carl Roger’s phrase [John 11:35; Romans 12:15]
  11. Meaningful friendships [John 15:15; 1 Corinthians 1:9]
  12. Appreciative of the contributions, successes, and achievements of others as adding to their well-being. [1 Corinthians 12:24]
  13. Strong ethical and moral principles [Exodus 20:1-17]
  14. Non-defensive, not easily offended, but accepting of the opinions and feelings of others Non-hostile sense of humor. [Galatians 4:12]
  15. Creative, active ministry [1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11]
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