In process of redefining happiness, this post looks at ethics as one of the aspects connected to it.
Ethics is moral principles that define right and wrong. The norms are different, and they change depending on times, religion, culture, peer group and many other factors. Like the very ideas of “good” and “bad”, ethics is a relative notion. What is ethical for one is unacceptable for another (consider different ethical approaches to abortions, euthanasia, capital sentence, traditional vs. non-traditional family, and almost anything else). However, as imprecise as ethics is, it is in large part the reason behind our choices and actions – grand ones and everyday small ones.
Behaving in the ethical way, being "good" is usually believed to be rewarded by being happy both during this life (when good triumphs over evil, everyone lives happily ever after) and in the afterlife (the concept of paradise). I will concentrate on the life as we know it - here and now.
There is also a reciprocal relationship - some philosophers assert that whatever makes you happy is by definition, ethical.
I believe that happiness is not directly related to morals, society norms or ethics, and being good does not necessarily mean being happy. Plenty of us have never killed, or stolen, or cheated on their spouses. It doesn't mean that we all are automatically happy people.
Happiness can be found in exercising the moral virtues. But not necessarily. One can do good and not feel happy, or one may do bad and feel happy. It depends on what takes priority for each individual in case if a choice is required: doing the right thing or being happy.
This is not to say that we are released from any moral obligation and may run outside and wreck havoc. We still must behave ethically and in accordance with our conscience for the sake of doing the right thing. But it is useful to recognize what happiness is and what it is not, as well as what our priorities are.
Happiness comes from inside us. It is our reaction to ourselves, to our actions and to the outside world. We are happy when we are content with what we do, even if it is not what is accepted by others. Happiness is being in peace with yourself, knowing, accepting and liking yourself.
(art by NARUTODANINJA)