Here’s the truth, what sounds like a catchy song can actually be a dangerous theology!
I remember first hearing Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” when I was in middle school. To be honest with you, I kind of liked it! It had a nice laid back feel and the message seemed simple and convincingly easy.
Bobby McFerrin’s solution to worry was simple; stop worrying and be happy instead! It’s sadly ironic that Robin Williams appeared in the original music video from 1988. In the video you can see him quickly change his frown to smile when McFerrin sings “be happy!”
Unfortunately Mcferrin’s solution didn’t work for Williams!
I want to share with you several reasons why Mcferrin’s philosophy is flawed and doesn’t work in real life. If you want to go more in depth I suggest you pick up a copy of my book, “What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You!” I spend and entire chapter debunking the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” philosophy.
Problem #1 It offers no solutions
Even in the song there are no solutions offered. Mcferrin sings about not paying your rent and then tells you not to worry. The problem is that your lack of worry isn’t going help you pay the rent and the fact that you’re happy probably isn’t going to make your landlord forgive your debt.
The song is actually a denial of reality. McFerrin took this teaching from a well-known Indian Mystic named Meher Baba, who taught that all reality is a figment of your imagination!
Problem #2 It has no legs to stand on
Not only does this philosophy not offer solutions but it also has no foundation, it has no basis for making its claim. It’s like telling someone who’s cold to be warm, it’s impossible to do unless you actually provide him with some means for warming himself up. McFerrin’s song give the listener no bases to change his thinking and to release him from his worry.
Problem #3 It relies on your own emotional strength
What McFerrin is really asking us to do is to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Yes, it can be done, but the results are always temporary. You can put a smile on your face and pretend that you don’t have a care in the world, but sooner or later your worries will catch up to you.
Problem #4 It is illogical
If you think about it there’s really no connection between not worrying and being happy. Where’s the reason? Where’s the logic? It’s not there and that’s why it doesn’t work!
Problem #5 It misunderstands man’s greatest need
There’s an assumption in the words of this song. The assumption is that man’s greatest need is to be happy. If man is happy then everything will be fine.
Man does not need to be happy!
In fact if you look at the life of Robin Williams you’ll find someone who spent much of his life making people happy. It seemed like he was happy, and I would guess that he often was happy!
Yet it wasn’t enough!
We need more than happiness, we need a deeper peace that can anchor our soul in suffering, when we’re not happy!
We need a joy that stays with us in the trials of life and holds us together with our tears won’t dry.
We need a hope that gives us strength when the world around us is boiling over with war, hatred, and all kinds of unspeakable evil!
A better solution to worry!
Maybe Bobby McFerrin’s song can be fixed. I want to offer a solution. Let’s replace “Be Happy” with “Believe in Jesus.”
“Don’t Worry, Believe in Jesus!”
- You can read a full report from our Extreme Institute here.
- Grab a copy of “What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You” on Amazon.
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