I love history, especially American history and the more I read and study the American Revolution the more amazed I am by our founders. The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant document in so many ways and set our country on her path to greatness.
The second paragraph of that document starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the entitlement to happiness.” Oh wait, that’s not right, is it “life, liberty and the right to happiness?” Actually many people wish this inspiring document said that because they could then blame others for their lack of happiness. The fact it says “the pursuit of happiness” is somewhat annoying to many who would like to shrug off the minor detail that they are responsible for their own contentment.
It was Thomas Jefferson who added this line in the Declaration and if you Google the term “pursuit of happiness” you will take a mind-boggling journey down many paths and explanations as to the reason and meaning of this term. It seems Jefferson believed if you cultivated close friendships, limited your desires to the essential necessities of life, and rejoiced in the moment, happiness was yours to keep. That’s a far cry from those today who claim their right to happiness means the government supplies them with anything they want and desire at the literal the expense of everyone else.
We all have the right to pursue happiness, but there is no right to be happy. Happiness comes from within and it is up to each of us to decide what will truly make us happy and to pursue a course in our lives that will bring that about. I like the quote from Dennis Waitley, a well-known motivational speaker and author who said, “It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” Thankfully we have the right to pursue happiness in whatever way we choose, but there are no guarantees in our Declaration that we will achieve it. And that’s the way it should be.