St. Augustine is best known for his religious writings. However, despite his strong relationship with God he struggled throughout his life and did not always have a positive or happy relationship with the world around him. Specific episodes in his life were traumatic in nature and can help to explain some of Augustine’s writings (Anderson, 2012). For example, when he was a child in school, his school teacher believed in corporal punishment. Augustine resented these attacks and subsequently refused to study and to learn Greek, a language that he would later realize would be extremely important in achieving his goals (Bonner, 1986). Even as a grown man, he faced trials. He was torn from his lover for an arranged marriage to an underage girl that was supported by his family and, a traditional practice of his time.
Not only did his marriage cause heartbreak but some experts argue that it was never fully realized by Augustine in the first place (Deane, 1963). Despite or maybe because of these life circumstances, Augustine looked to his faith for a form of happiness. He found delight in the Lord and in maintaining obedience to him. Additionally, he was one of the early theorists that saw the body and the spirit as a balanced union with one another (Anderson, 2012). According to his theory protection of the body is, in essence, a way to protect ones spiritually.
With this ideal in mind it is unsurprising that Augustine also found happiness in working closely with others. He famously promoted a term called ‘just war’ and espoused that human beings should practice pacifism when dealing with conflict. That being said, his opinions are wide ranging and Augustine showed an understanding of joy that was much more complex than pure bliss. While happiness is a complex process for him it as able to exist in the moments where he overcame pain and a tortured spirit.
- Anderson, James F. St. Augustine and being: a metaphysical essay. Springer, 2012.
- Bonner, Gerald. “St Augustine of Hippo Life and Controversies.” (1986).
- Deane, Herbert Andrew. The political and social ideas of St. Augustine. Columbia University Press, 1963.