Want to be Happy or Holy?


I want to begin with a multiple-choice quiz. To answer the questions, you need to know about four sisters whose names, starting with the oldest, were Reba, Susan, Angie, and Hannah.

When their mom gave them chores to perform, each of them responded differently. Reba rebelled. She was sixteen years old and believed she had out-grown obeying her mom, so she refused to do her work. Susan sulked. She was a “passive resistance” type who did the work slowly, carelessly, and with an “attitude.” Angie acted with anger. She fought her mother tooth and nail, and after dumping out her anger on her mom, finally gave in and did her chores. Hannah happily obeyed. Noticing how her sisters acted and observing how unhappy each of them seemed to be, she tried a different tactic. When reminded about her chores, Hannah said “sure Mom, and then jumped right in with her work.”

Hannah would honestly admit that she didn’t always feel like cooperating. Sometimes she felt like rebelling, sulking, or getting angry, but she saw the negative results in her sisters’ dispositions, so she decided to stick with the “happiness” approach even when she didn’t feel like it.

Now for the quiz:
1. Which of the four sisters most resembles you?
2. Twenty years later, which of them do you think was most peaceful and happy?

It is easy to side with Happy Hannah in this story, but is she the one I resemble? You say, “but you are grown up and have no mom to boss you around anymore.” Wrong! My training at home was “boot camp” for my life later on. I never stop “growing up.” I have a loving parent, called my “heavenly Father” who gives me direction for my life. There is a part of me that wants to resist his will and do what I want, when I want, and how I want. There is a part of me that wants to choose the easy, unhappiness road.

I know, however, that, in the long run, happiness will be mine only if I line up with God’s plan for my life. Rebellion, sulking, and anger always lead down the street that dead-ends in unhappiness.
Today we are reminded that God’s will for us is “holiness,” and, therefore, holiness is the secret to happiness. Popular belief would have us think the opposite– that holiness is an obstacle to happiness.

St. Paul addressed the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). He told them that they were “called to be holy.” He told them that they had been “enriched in every way with all discourse and all knowledge,” and that there were “not lacking in any spiritual gift.”

They were rich with the food of God’s Word, and they had wonderful spiritual gifts to share with one another. This is what holy people have, and what makes them the happiest people on earth!

St. Matthew told early Christians what Jesus taught (Matthew 24:42-51) as a secret to happiness.
“Happy is that servant whom his master on his arrival doing so (their assigned mission). Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.”

Do we see where holiness leads? Do we see how happiness is the fruit of being faithful to the mission God has given us? “All” his property will be ours!

As we check out the people we know, even in our own families, we find many of them are unhappy. We see people like Reba, Susan, and Angie every day. They dodge “holiness” because they think it doesn’t work. Then we see a few people like Hannah who seem to abound with happiness. She learned at an early age that holiness is the true door into happiness.

What is God asking me to do with my life and my gifts? How am I responding to his request?

“They publish the fame of your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your justice” (Ps 145:7).

About the Author

Author Bob Garvey lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a master’s degree in religious education and has been an active leader in the Catholic charismatic renewal for forty years. After retiring as a high school teacher, he began to write daily commentaries on the Church’s liturgical readings and other topics relevant to Catholic spirituality. He is married to Linda, has three daughters and four grandchildren.

Author Archive Page


  1. Wonderful analogy and reflection… Let us surrender our lives to the Lords will with happiness. Amen.
    God bless you!

  2. Thank you Bob. What a wonderful reflection on how to lead our lives. So simply put. The outcome to how we behave in our lives is there for all to see. Stay obedient, stay cheerful. Our heavenly Father helps all the way.

  3. I liked it Bob! Your writing speaks to the heart. Thank you all that volunteer to keep this site active. Peace be with you.

  4. Thank you Mr. bob for this beautiful explanation on how to be happy….
    truly to get happiness in this world is hard to achieve but for the secret to have the happiness is to be obedient and loving person…and love God above all…

  5. Thanks Bob for a very interesting example of holiness and happiness. We too can try to be like Hannah and happier for it.

    God Bless You.

  6. You CAN convey this to your children, anonymou!. Just ask them to observe the people around them and decide who in their opinion is happiest. BE sure to voice your opinion too! They will note that the people who are happiest are those who have God in their hearts, listen to Him, hear Him, and show their love for Him by loving and accepting others! THey give of themselves no matter what the cost may be to them. They may not admit it readily at first but as they think about it they soon realize this is the truth! DOn’t be afraid to ask them more then once! WHen you see happy people, ask them if they can feel their happiness or do they think it is only a materialistic happiness! I hope this helps anonymous. BOb’s reflection will no doubt be the best source of help but I thought perhaps this could be of some assistance to you as well! I pray you will reach your kids heart!

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