Imperfect Happiness

November 14 2022 | by

Dear Mr Pfister: My name is Florence and I am 70 years old. I have a devoted husband, three married children and six grandchildren. My husband and I are both retired, and we lead a quiet life. My problem is that I often think that all I have is not enough, and that I don’t really love any of my relatives in a real way. I dream of finding a new love and running away. These are certainly not true Christian thoughts, don’t you think?


I think there’s something important to define as we begin our discussion: love. Love is commonly defined as “willing the good of another.” This means that, even when it causes me difficulty, I’m willing to do what is good for the other person. Love is not a feeling as much as it is an action and state of being. Therefore, despite these difficult thoughts and desires, you’ve continued to love your family through God’s grace. What a blessing this is from Almighty God.

Please also know you are not alone in your thoughts and desires. Saint Augustine reminds us of the restlessness we have – and will continue to have – in our hearts until the time in which we rest in God for all eternity. Outside of Him we cannot have complete fulfillment. We will always feel a sense of emptiness in various areas of our lives because we cannot find or achieve the fulfillment we are seeking in this life. It’s not possible because I can always desire more; more friends, more relationships, more everything. With God, however, I cannot. He is the fulfillment of all desire.

And because of this inability, we tend to fill ourselves with what we believe will fulfill us: fame, money, power, relationships, etc. The list is practically endless in relation to what we will use to fill this void. The what we seek is not, however, God Himself.

When we understand ourselves in this way, we can comprehend in a deeper way why we feel the need to run away from a life we see as not completely fulfilling. But does this mean I will always have to settle for less in this life? Am I destined to be unhappy?

Absolutely not. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that we can receive what he refers to as “imperfect happiness” in this life. By imperfect he doesn’t mean bad, just that it cannot be the “perfect happiness” we will achieve in Heaven in the Beatific Vision. One of the ways in which we achieve this imperfect happiness is through living a life of virtue. Charity, love, is a virtue of profound importance in finding this happiness. And from this we can see that choosing to love our spouse, children, and grandchildren despite our inclinations otherwise will lead us to the highest degree of happiness we can possess in this life.

God’s goodness is manifest in all of His creation, and when we seek this goodness and beauty, we in turn find joy. Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches us that the devil will utilize fear to push us off of the path we are on if it is indeed a good path: fear of emptiness, fear of not loving others well, fear of not finding what we believe we want or desire. Saint Ignatius is very clear that we are to remain still in these times and await the clarity of God’s goodness and mercy to again come into our lives. I would implore you to remain still and seek God’s infinite love in order to manifest it to others and to experience it yourself.


Updated on November 14 2022