Does Everyone Deserve To Be Happy?

Updated 15 August 2019

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by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.

People often say that everybody deserves happiness. But is that really true? Does everyone deserve to be happy? This is probably one of the most discussed philosophical questions of this era, so I've tried to get to the bottom of it.

The answer obviously depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I would love to say that everyone deserves to be happy. That's the most ideological answer to this question, right? But upon further thought, I have to say that I actually don't believe that everybody deserves to be happy. Why? Because some people's happiness depends on the unhappiness of others. I believe that people who don't believe everybody deserves to be happy are the ones who don't deserve to be happy.

Wait.... what? Isn't that a paradoxical answer? Well, yes and no. In this article, I am going to show you different points of view on whether or not everyone deserves to be happy. I've included different examples that will help you answer this question for yourself as good as possible.

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I hate to break it to you, but the biggest chunk of our happiness is out of our control. But still, more often than not, happiness comes from within ourselves. This post is merely a piece of a much bigger chapter in my huge (free) guide on how to be happier. Learn how to control your happiness in Chapter 7: Internal happiness.

This article will be pretty different than what's usually posted here on the Happy Blog. The question of whether everyone deserves happiness is a very difficult question to answer from a philosophical point of view. For that reason, I'm going to try to include as many points of view as I can here before I add my own.

Why everybody deserves to be happy

Why does everyone deserve to be happy?

It's simple, because the world would be a better place if everybody would be happy. Think about it: when every single person on this planet would suffer from depression, the world would be a sad place, right? It's the happy people around us that provide happy situations in which other people can be happy as well. In fact, I've published an entire article about how happiness is contagious like this.

Is the answer really this simple though? Would the world really be a better place? That depends on how you define "better"? Is the world a better place if everybody would be happy? Maybe, yes, but there are also reasons to believe that the world would simply not be a better place. And those reasons often involve the negative influence that mankind as a whole is having on this planet.

If everybody on this planet would be happy, then everybody would also live longer and be more productive. Wouldn't that just accelerate the world's population, and therefore pollution, global warming, and eventually perhaps the downfall of our planet?

To be honest, this enters a whole different topic which is not within the context of this article. However, it's good to know that happy humans will not necessarily make the planet "a better place".

Crime, violence and humanitarian disasters are often caused by unhappiness

Whenever something bad happens on our planet that isn't caused by something natural (say, an earthquake or a hurricane), it's most often caused by an unhappy group of people.

What makes me say this?

Well, I'm going to use an extreme example here, but I think they'll get the point across:

  • Adolf Hitler's goal in life was to pretty much conquer Europe and Russia entirely. I think it's safe to assume that he was not happy until he reached his goals.

Whenever you hear about a terrorist attack, a shooting or some other terrible thing, it's often caused by somebody who is unhappy in his or her current situation.

I think it's safe to assume that a lot of terrible things would not happen if everybody on this planet would be happy.

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When people spread unhappiness, are they doing it on purpose?

Whenever something happens that makes me unhappy, it almost never happens because of somebody willfully trying to hurt me. Here are some examples:

  • When a person stresses me out at work, it's usually because that person has a huge deadline to reach and is even more stressed out than I am.
  • When somebody cuts me off in traffic, that's pretty much always because he or she wasn't even paying attention.
  • Back when I still played soccer, if someone fouled me and kicked me in the face, it was just because they were trying to get to the ball.

These may be silly examples, but they all share a similar truth: whenever I'm hurt by somebody, they usually never have bad intentions. These people are not actively trying to hurt me.

And I believe that's the case for 99% of the unhappiness that is spread around the world.

Here's a better example: If my government decided to tax my income more next year, they are not doing so because they are trying to hurt me. They only do it because they believe that these new tax rules are for the greater good. Sure, I may be negatively affected by these new rules, but that was not the intention.

People rarely try to actively spread unhappiness around the world.

Unfortunately, there are always people that are different.

Psychopaths and unhappiness

Osama bin Laden said that his goal (or duty) in life was to let everyone experience happiness in Islam, as found on Wikiquote.

I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion.

Now, what I'm going to say might seem controversial, and hey, it probably is. But this quote shows to me that Osama truly believed that his actions were making the world a better place.

In his eyes.

Now, Osama bin Laden was not an idiot. In fact, he was intelligent. Unfortunately, this character trait is often found in psychopaths. What I'm trying to say is that Osama bin Laden surely knew how his intentions were crushing the lives (and the happiness) of literally millions of people. Even if he believed he was making the world a better place, he was only trying to provide happiness for the people that supported him. Adolf Hitler probably thought he was making the world a better place as well.

Bin Laden's goal in life was to destroy the lives of everyone who opposed him and his views. Again, he may have believed he was a good person himself, but this cannot be supported from an objective point of view. That's why he's regarded as one of the worst people in the history of mankind.

For the people on that list, happiness is a zero-sum game. This means that someone's gains are at least equal to somebody else's losses.

Can everyone deserve happiness?

Let's go back to the start of this article. Does everyone deserve to be happy? The most ideological answer would be a resounding YES. But since we are all human beings (not robots) from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures, I think it's literally impossible for everyone to be happy.

No matter where you are in the world, there will always be groups of people that are fanatic and extreme enough to actively cause unhappiness for others. I don't think there will ever be a time where this is different.

So does everyone deserve happiness? Yes, maybe, but it's certainly not possible in my opinion.

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My humble opinion: does everyone deserve to be happy?

No.

Wait. What?

How can the author of a website called Tracking Happiness possibly disagree with the statement that everybody deserves to be happy? Isn't the entire goal of this website to spread happiness?

Well, yes, but after giving this a lot of thought, I think that there are definitely people who I think don't deserve happiness.

Specifically, the people that don't want others to be happy.

Osama bin Laden actively and consciously caused unhappiness for a lot of other people. Adolf Hitler did the same thing. Hell, there are a lot of people still alive today that would desperately want to see other people live an unhappy life. And the people that I'm talking about are working every day towards their goals, which are to make life as difficult as possible for certain other people.

Live and let live

I want to wish for happiness for everybody out there who is able to live and let live. With that, I mean the people who don't give a damn whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, an atheist or a Scientologist. You can be whatever you want, as long as you're not actively trying to make the lives of other people worse.

In short, if you just want to be as happy as possible and want others to be happy as well, then I sincerely think you deserve happiness.

Why is this a paradox?

According to my own answer, I do not deserve to be happy.

I only think people who believe that everyone should be happy deserve to be happy themselves. By saying that, I indirectly mean that some people do not deserve to be happy. There are some people (mostly extremists/terrorists) that I simply think do not deserve to be happy. Because their definition of happiness is literally based on the unhappiness of someone else.

In my opinion, those people do not deserve to be happy.

Let's go back to my original answer to the question "does everyone deserve to be happy?" My answer is that I only think people who believe that everyone should be happy deserve to be happy themselves.

I would only deserve to be happy according to my own rules if every person on this planet would not consciously spread unhappiness. If nobody on this planet would want to harm or hurt others, then yes, I believe everybody deserves to be happy. Is this possible? I don't think so.

But it doesn't hurt to dream a little, though.

world would be better if everybody was happy

Tracking my happiness

I want to mention here that I've been running this website (Tracking Happiness) for over 2 years now. Why? Because I honestly believe the world would already be a "better" place if everybody at least understood their own happiness a little better. I am therefore working every day on spreading the idea of Tracking Happiness. What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:

  • How happy was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • What factors had a significant effect on my rating?
  • I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.

This allows me to constantly learn from my evolving life. It's how I purposefully steer my life in the best direction possible. And I believe you can do the same. In fact, I believe the world would become a slightly better place if you started right now.

You can be happier. Discover how with my free template!

  • Track your happiness every day
  • Learn more about what makes you happy
  • Receive my custom template for free

Closing words

Let's summarize: I would love to say that everyone deserves to be happy. That's the most ideological answer to this question, right? But after really thinking this through, I have to admit that I don't really believe that everybody deserves to be happy. Why? Because some people's happiness depends on the unhappiness of others. I believe that people who don't believe everybody deserves to be happy are the ones who don't deserve to be happy.

It's time to share your opinion! What do you think? Does everyone deserve to be happy? If not, why? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this exciting topic in the comments below!

Who runs Tracking Happiness?

My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.

I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.

My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.

With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!

Hugo Tracking Happiness Snapshot

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