According to a recent poll (see linked article), “Americans aren’t a particularly happy bunch.”
In 2023, Wall Street Journal-NORC recorded the lowest levels of people claiming to be confidently happy since 1972. While the majority claimed to be “pretty happy” or “not too happy,” only 12% of U.S. adults polled claimed they were “very happy.” See the “Not too happy” graph at bottom below where X at 2021 intersects with Y at 12.0%.
Makes us sad. But we can’t say we’re surprised.
Again, as the graph shows, levels of reported happiness began to decline sharply in 2018—no doubt a result of political, social, economic, and eventual pandemic stresses that the U.S. has recently faced. Some would say an element of insanity has entered our thinking as a nation. Feelings of fear, anger, and confusion have plagued us the past few years. Some believe it’s generational.
So, what’s keeping the 12% from having these emotions overwhelm their life—unlike the rest?
The article goes on to explain that these individuals generally have three things in common: (1) They tend to believe in God, (2) They are generally older in age, and (3) They value community involvement and personal relationships. In other words, they have come across the power of good worldview and praxis in their lives that matches that worldview with truth or reality . . . whether they realize it or not!
Let us explain. The first two—belief in God and one’s age—are inexorably linked to worldview. Of course, as we have said many times in past posts, what one believes about God and the spiritual world is fundamental to one’s worldview (if desired, read more here) and greatly determines what one believes is their worth or purpose in life. As one ages and gains more life experience, one’s worldview is either reinforced or changed.
The third commonality—community involvement and personal relationships—is the element of life that offer each of us the most “praxis” in worldview. Popular Western worldviews suggest that helping others and sharing life with them are good things. These people have made a regular commitment to community or a sense of solidarity and become fulfilled as they serve and succeed.
Fulfilled lives always begin with family. (To exist, each person has a father and mother.) As life continues from childhood, one’s relationships commonly extend outward to friends, work, church, and other community organizations. Politics is not the center of life, only necessary for governance and security.
Of course, Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe mankind shares a common humanity being made in the image of God (imago Dei). We are each unique children of God, yet universally similar. Human secularists find this true in “natural law.”
In sum, this process is how worldview and praxis have worked together for centuries in the West. Such a life journey has the power to produce a happy—perhaps even joyful—life. Of course, as the survey shows, not every worldview and corresponding life praxis produces happiness (in fact, many produce pain and misery), which is an important conversation for another time.
However, it’s interesting to note given Western human experience that the chief end of our strivings (whether in belief or action) that we can agree on is almost always happiness. There is much social science taught on happiness in universities, and this is also a subject for another time. However, to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the first time-tested life goal is a close relationship with God (the First Commandment).
As one theologian once wrote, “Happiness being by all men desirable, the desire of it is naturally engrafted in every man; and is the centre of all the searchings of his heart and turnings of his life.”
There is clearly a desire in each person to crack the “good worldview + praxis = happiness” formula, and we’re happy that “12% of those surveyed” seem to have done it. We think Thomas Jefferson and our other Founders were hoping when they dignified “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence that America might have developed a much higher batting average by now.
It seems freedom has its own challenges.
In any case, clearly, our low happiness rating is a sign of the times. Alarms should be sounding. We know we can do better by refocusing on truth, goodness, and beauty. (Maybe even God.)
America is nothing without that. In this great country, you are still free to explore and choose. Welcome to Praxis Circle!
On virtue and happiness:
On applying virtue to life to find happiness, Western style:
On virtue for feminists (men and women together):