In preparation for a course on Life Principles I'm teaching I'm reading Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.'s book Healing the Culture. In it he discusses the four levels of happiness, beginning with the happiness that comes from externals (pleasure), the happiness that comes from success (ego gratification), the happiness that comes from doing something for another person without hope of payback, and finally the happiness that comes from absolute, perfect, unlimited truth, beauty, goodness, being and love, which, of course, can only be gotten by a gift from God.
Probably the most important point he makes is the distinction between tangibles and intangibles. People who choose to live at level one or two do not accept the reality and priority of intangibles over tangibles. They will not make the necessary sacrifice of immediate personal satisfaction to do what is right, even when they know it is right.
According to Fr. Spitzer, the sign of settling for (and being of necessity disappointed in) level two is self-pity. We keep whining about not having this or not getting that. We know that wise men say that doing X is a good thing, but what is the use of doing X since nothing good will come of it?
I, by the way, am an expert at this kind of whining.
Karol Wojtyla points out, similarly, that resentment comes from the loss of tangible rewards one would experience if one obeys the divine law about human sexuality. Only those who do not expect some kind of obvious, tangible reward from their actions are operating on level three or four. Of course, even level three will ultimately not satisfy, leading to its own frustration and the need to open oneself up to the absolute, which we call God.
Very good stuff, Life Principles. I highly recommend it.