A journey from trauma to authenticity
Is our happiness important?
Is our happiness important?

Is our happiness important?

Are emotions such as happiness important? What happens when emotions are suppressed? How is “God’s glory” sometimes used to control and abuse other people?

I read the following meme on Facebook, and want to highlight how this can be used to spiritually abuse others, as was my experience as a child. The meme is as follows:

“We are NOT called to do what makes us happy. We’re called to do what glorifies God.”

I was taught that our own happiness is not important. What matters is glorifying God – or in other words, obeying God, obeying parents and other authority figures, doing our duty, making sure we do not damage the witness of the church etc.  

It created a part of me called, “Don’t feel”. Whenever anything felt remotely uncomfortable, upsetting, painful, or, God-forbid, anger-inducing, Don’t Feel jumped right in and stuffed the emotion down and out of sight. He slapped a smile on my face and told me sternly to grin and bear it.

Don’t Feel taught me that my happiness was not important. He taught me that my feelings were not important. Therefore, I felt that I was not important.

Glorifying God, of course, was defined by others. It was used to require blind obedience. It was used to coercively control.

When a person suppresses their emotions, they do not disappear. They come out in other ways. They twist a person’s gut into irritable bowel syndrome. They blind a person with headaches. They erupt through their skin in an angry red rash. They attack the person in the form of autoimmune diseases. The pressure of them builds inexorably as high blood pressure. They suffocate the person with panic attacks. They crush their chest, they grip their shoulders, they take away their breath. The person may be passive-aggressive, have flashes of terrifying, uncontrolled rage, or dissociate.

When a person believes that they are not important, they continue living in harmful circumstances long after a healthy person would have left. They stay in the loveless marriage, the abusive relationship, the cult or the job where their boss is mistreating them.

“Glorifying God”, can also be twisted to mean that doing church work is superior to doing secular work. It can give such church leaders a certain status, which the less scrupulous may use to obtain respect, privileges or to abuse their power.

“Glorifying God” can also be used to silence people when there are breaches or trust, abuse or wrong-doing in the church. It is said then to mean not letting other people know about human failings of Christians, otherwise it will damage the witness of the church and detract from God’s glory. So, the dynamic is set up, where the church leader is revered as the person that brings glory to God through their divine work, and when they do something harmful to others, congregants will not speak up, because they fear it will damage the reputation of the church. They, and their happiness is not important, so why would they risk angering God?

And it does create a toxic version of God. This God who needs to be glorified so much, that he/she does not care about human happiness.

I found that the way out of this downward whirlpool was coming to realise my intrinsic worth as an equal human being. I could then see that one of my deepest desires for my own children was that they might be happy. I want them to feel their emotions, each and every one, and learn to listen to them. I want them to know how to recognise tension in their bodies, and respond to this with what they are needing in that moment. I want them to learn to regulate their emotions, let them flow through and out of their bodies, resolved. I want them to be able to name their needs and express them. I want them to be happy.  

And if that is what I want for my own children, surely that is what a loving God would want for the people he/she created? And surely the best witness of a church is when people are valued, and their emotions are valued, and they can come as they really are.

So, I say, “When you are living wholeheartedly, delighting in the joy of having a life to live, you bring glory to God quite naturally.”

Or simply, “there is nothing so wonderful as meeting a person who loves wholeheartedly and gratefully.”

happiness on faces of some girls
Photo by Leah Dale


  1. Chris

    Thank you for that. I don’t disagree. I suppose reading ‘The Alchemist’ many years ago influenced my thinking.

    I have observed, that happiness does sneak up on you, those who pursue happiness as an end never seem to find it.

    Jesus is the ultimate example in his life and death. He certainly kept religion in its place. As Christians, we believe that he brought glory to God. But his mind and heart (emotions/feelings) were always in synchrony. Ours seldom are and maybe this is a prime reason for the misery we drag around with us. Heaven and true happiness here is maybe when these come together.

    I agree we do need to steer a course in life away from negative and harmful influences especially when we have kids on board, but avoiding one set of hazards can put us on course for another. Sadly there is no navigational school for Christian parents.

    You will have observed the impact of such stress on health more than me. From my personal experience I’m pretty laid back and I have never felt harmed by upbringing, or negative church or work life experiences. But I have auto immune conditions and an antibody producing cancer so hey maybe!

    Keep going with the blog!

  2. Hilary Lyndon

    One of my favourite passages is when Jesus says (paraphrased) .. “to do the will of the Father is food and drink to me”. In other words God plays to our strengths and obedience to God usually builds us up and gives us enjoyment as we use our gifts for Him. Doing things which run contrary to our wellbeing are often a person’s idea to make you fill a hole in their jigsaw, not a response to God’s call on your life.

  3. Pingback: Lament – Emotions As Guides On The Healing Journey - returning home to yourself

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