The difference between happiness and pleasure


It seems that the pursuit of physical pleasure is the motivation driving modern society, thus there is no higher good other than to fulfill one’s desire which is often confused with being happy. People work to have fun and they believe that if they have enough money, things and personal experiences that their happiness will grow. Yet, a person can overindulge in activities that bring pleasure, thus causing displeasure and disgust, such as getting drunk and overeating.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that, “It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which entirely satisfies one’s desire; otherwise it would not be the ultimate end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s desire, is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true. Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness.”

Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): “Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.”

Our Lady of Lourdes, in the third apparition to St. Bernadette Soubirous, mentioned to her that “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” Pleasure is not a condition of our happiness and oftentimes, it is a cause for great suffering because it may satisfy temporarily, but it leaves us wanting for more. Our true happiness resides in the contemplation of God and conforming our wills to His own.