If you’ve been following the David drama, you’ll notice a pattern: David spoils his children rotten. And boy howdy, some of them are really rotten. Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah: they’re all shockingly handsome and they’re all awful human beings. Because, I think, David makes a very modern mistake. He wants his kids to be happy. Says so today–“the king never at any time displeased him by saying ‘what were you thinking?'” Happy is too easy: we should want our kids to be good.
Happy is easy to come by. It means getting your way every time. Which is really easy to come by, so long as you don’t mind being a bully and cad. Every bully and cad I’ve ever met was pretty pleased with her/his life. Ted Bundy was happy doing what he did, for that matter. Happy just means you get your way. But good, friends, is much harder. It means that you actually think before you speak or act, and that your own satisfaction is only one of several things that you take into account. Is this moral? Is it helpful? Does it help or hurt others? Good is more complicated that happy–but as Adonijah and Co. show us, happy untrammeled by questions of good is an achievably low moral bar, set so low that we’ll almost never fail to hit it.