January 2008 - Vol. 15

What Makes Youth Happy?

by Mike Shaughnessy

The following article was originally published in the North American Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to this monthly newsletter, please visit their website at: http://www.kairos-na.org/youthculturenewsletter.htm

Itís your constitutionally guaranteed right in America to pursue happiness.

MTV sponsored a poll in August of 2007 to determine whether American youth are happy and if so, why? Knowing what makes youth happy also improves their marketing.

Their results mirrored those of the National Survey on Youth and Religion from 2005.

Seventy-two percent of Americans aged 13-24 say they are happy or mostly happy. What makes them happy? Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll? No. Family and friends are number one and two. God (religion) comes third, but an important third.

Sixty-five percent of young people say their religion/faith is important in making them happy. In this group four out of five claim to be happy. What about the thirty-five percent who say religion/faith is not important? In this group only three out of five claim to be happy.

So, God helps on the happiness scale.

Is this a problem? No, God intends for us to be happy with him forever, but it can be guaranteed that we will not be happy if my happiness is my goal. Happiness is the by-product of a selfless life of loving God and neighbor.

This is where youth culture is deceptive. It trains youth to believe that the pursuit of my personal
happiness is the goal of life. It then promotes self-centered methods of obtaining happiness, most of which cost money and draw young people away from loving others and toward themselves! Parents can unwittingly reinforce the problem by trying to provide happiness directly to their children instead of training them in the selflessness that actually leads to happiness.

TO THE POINT: helping youth not to be self-centered is one of the most important things we can do to ensure their happiness. Unselfish service should characterize our families and youth groups.

[Mike Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people.]

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