Goldilocks understood something that we often miss: happiness is found in the sweet spot between too much and too little. Happiness is found in expecting the right things of the right things. She tried the extremes but found contentment in the third option. So must we. It’s not easy to take a step back and examine our motivations like this. But it is necessary. It’s how we know whether we are living for the right things, hoping the right things, and expecting the right things.
In this timeless children’s tale, a carefree little girl stumbles upon a house in the woods while its occupants, three bears, are away. Being curious, and obnoxiously nosey, she decides to have a look around.
In the living room she tests out their chairs and finds one to be too small, one to be too large, and the third to be just right. Then she gets hungry and makes her way to the kitchen where she finds three bowls of porridge (a word to make oatmeal sound less nasty). The first is too cold, the second is too hot, but the third is just right.
After all her exploring and snacking, Goldilocks is getting sleepy so off she goes to find a place to nap. In the bedroom she tests one bed and finds it too soft, the second bed she finds too hard, but the third is just right.
We’ll leave the story here because there is some debate as to whether, when the bears get home, they eat Goldilocks, or she escapes having learned a valuable lesson about snooping and personal property.
What has this fable to do with the pursuit of happiness?
What We Expect
Our instinct is to expect too much. Our defense mechanism is to expect too little. What we need is the option that is just right. It does exist, and we can find it (without breaking and entering).
As we seek to find right expectations we need to understand where our expectations go wrong. The problem is not simply that we expect too much or too little. It is not just a matter of quantity—how much we expect—but what we expect too much of.
Sometimes we place our expectations on wrong things, like when we expect any happiness to be delivered by things that are sinful. Take, for example, pornography, gossip, workaholism, and greed. We might look to them to deliver happiness, but we will always be left disappointed.
Yes, sin stimulates senses and offers immediate pleasure, but it eventually leaves us feeling diminished as people and further from God. Consider your own heart, desires, and motivations for a moment. What aspects of your life you are counting on for happiness that are against God’s expressed will?