Accentuate the positive?

by Paul Burmeister

I am preparing a devotion on 1Samuel 3, in which I use Johnny Mercer's lyrics ("accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative") to set up the terrible message young Samuel must deliver to Eli the priest. I am reminded of Oliver Burkeman's book, The Antidote, 2012, which provided me a balanced viewpoint for advising young people. Burkeman is a British journalist and commentator on topics of social psychology.
Burkeman challenges assumptions about happiness—the state of being happy—prescribed as an antidote for life's ills. Who says happiness is a valid goal in the first place? What does it mean to be happy? How come the effort to feel happy is precisely the thing that makes us miserable? (see Wegner's ironic process theory) Is it possible to be happy enough? Have you noticed that thinking positively works well for people who already have high esteem? etc.

In view of Aristotle, who by the way would agree that happiness is a gift and not a goal, the Christian wrestles with happiness as a virtue: happiness is so subjective and appears to be exclusive of the Christian virtue of suffering. For the Christian, happiness and positive thinking begin with, or flow from, what faith sees in the promises of God.