Exercising Joy

Prompted by someone on my Facebook page, this post will be about joy. I’ll discuss what joy is, how it differs from happiness, what makes me joyful, and what robs me of joy, and anything else I can think to write about joy. Hope you enjoy!

First I’ll give two definitions of joy, in comparison to happiness to set them apart. Today we use them fairly interchangeably, but like so many other words, joy doesn’t mean exactly what you think it means. The Webster 1828 version of the dictionary (Thanks Steph) defines joy as such: The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success. Comparably, the happiness definition is as follows: The agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good; that state of a being in which his desires are gratified. Now the 1828 version was published in England, and in my opinion is better because it includes God in its definitions, like it should be. But for those who would prefer a modern dictionary, here are the modern definitions of the words. Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. As a verb, it means rejoice. Happiness: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment; fortunate and convenient.

From these definitions, I would like to show the difference. While similar, joy exists much more in doing good and the feelings that stem from that, while happiness is purely a feeling as it pertains to the self. In other words, while they can exist in the same place, and be synonyms at times, joy is less selfish and more selfless, while happiness is more selfish. Being different, having one doesn’t necessarily mean one has the other. For example, when I go off to college, I will have to get rid of a lot of stuff, and I will probably have to give it to Goodwill. That doesn’t make me happy, but it does make me joyful. Losing a loved one doesn’t make you happy (hopefully), but if they were in pain, you are probably joyful that they are no longer suffering, though based on my views the physical suffering of most people is instead replaced with a different kind of suffering after passing, but I don’t think this is the time or place to speak of that. The point is that joy is selfless while happiness isn’t. A common complaint among non-believers is that being Christian doesn’t make them happy. While I have a lot to say about non-believers “excuses”, I am focusing on happiness and joy. Christianity shouldn’t make you happy, it should make you joyful. Happiness is an indulgence of the flesh, which isn’t wrong to have, but if that’s your goal then there is something wrong. The flesh is weak and tainted and evil, but in Christ our souls are clean and joy is ever present with the Lord. Service is humbling and while it doesn’t really make me happy, I feel joyful, which unfortunately have some similar physical and mental feelings, causing people to mistake the two. Like I said before, they can exist in the same place at the same time, but one does not constitute the other. There is nothing wrong with being happy, unless you choose happiness at the expense of joy. It’s a bit of a stretch for some people, but I would even argue that service of the Lord brings the greatest joy. Non-believers can experience joy, don’t get me wrong, and I’m not undermining or placing less value on their actions, but actions themselves do nothing for God without a committed relationship with him. Christianity is not a works based faith, and while they can be beneficial in this world, they don’t “clean your slate” with God, they mean nothing to God on an eternal scale because those actions are not serving the Lord. It’s kind of confusing and hard to explain, and I might be letting the ball down here, but I hope I’ve made my point. Without God, those joy-inducing actions are unimportant, but still important. It’s two different kinds of importance. I’ll let that sit to avoid tying myself into a bigger knot, and this whole talk about actions is sort of digression from my original topic.

Now that I’ve differentiated joy from happiness, I’ll share what makes me joyful, beyond a simple answer of service. One way I experience joy is with friends. It’s true that friends exist to fill our mental needs and desire for companionship and can be a selfish thing, but real friends extend beyond that. Real friends are people you would do anything for, within reason. You exist for them, and they exist for you. God puts them there so the two (or more) of you can support each other, which is a selfless action. Giving support to a friend does not usually raise the thought “if I don’t do this, what do I have to gain or lose?”. When you help a friend, it is for their benefit and for their health and mind. Friends are an example of something that induces happiness and joy, which is one reason why people love to have friends. Another way I experience joy is when I experience God and serve him. My missions trip to Mexico didn’t cause much happiness (aside from the divine street tacos) when compared to joy. I made new relationships, I strengthened existing ones, and I grew in God. For more information, see my Mexico Reflection post, but for this post, all I can say of Mexico is that it was beautiful, and it filled me with joy most of all, sometimes with happiness. It’s one reason I firmly believe third world countries are more fortunate than first world countries in some ways. Rich(er) people tend to think that life is about material possessions and getting a job and being financially successful, or living a happy life. But these people who have nothing live BETTER in some ways, because they live JOYFUL lives. They have next to nothing, but their sustenance doesn’t come from their possessions, it comes from God and their family and friends that God placed in them. That’s talking about Christians in those countries, and I would say it can be true of other religions. But for those who don’t have God in such impoverished conditions, I would be willing to bet they live much more miserable lives by comparison. Anyway, God gives me joy, and while I am far from perfect, I continue to look for him and serve him and attempt to grow. Another thing that gives me joy is making another person smile and/or laugh. I can’t explain it, but seeing another person’s face light up and hearing their beautiful (though the tonal aspect of their laugh may not always be beautiful) laugh makes me feel as if I’ve made their lives better somehow, that I’ve done them a service somehow. I feel joy that I was able to bring some light to their life, whether they need it or not. I’ve always wanted to go into a profession where I can make people feel emotion, because that’s what I feel I’m good at; that’s what God gifted me with. It’s why I write and take an interest in theatre and music and acting. It’s why I crack jokes more than the average person. At least I think so, I’m not sure how many jokes are cracked by the average person. It’s one reason why I’m usually not afraid to talk to people about serious things. I see myself as someone who may not always satisfy people’s physical needs, in the sense that I don’t want to build things or be a lawyer or doctor, but their mental and emotional needs, which is why I like to provide comic relief and stress release by talking to people about their problems. That’s what I get joy from, because then I feel like I really helped somebody out, no matter how small. Those are essentially the big three things that bring me joy. Anything else can pretty much be put under one of those umbrellas.

Now I’ll talk about what takes my joy away. Pretty much everything in my Tiny Thorns post can take away my joy, but these next four things more so than any other. The first one is hypocrisy. I try to live to serve, but what makes that difficult is when one person is a hypocrite. You cannot ask me to do something or stop doing something, and then turn around and do it without good reason. For example, if somebody were to ask me to stop saying a word because it bothers them, and then they go around using it, I would be pretty mad. I was attempting to comply with their wishes, but then they turn around and do it themselves which seems ungrateful, ignorant, and rude to me. It infuriates me. Hypocrisy in anything irritates me, and I even talked about this sort of hypocrisy with my dad yesterday on a political scale. It’s for another post, but to put it simply, I won’t generalize, but their is a LOT of hypocrisy in minority groups and a lot in the democratic party. I don’t necessarily consider myself either political party, but I align more with the conservative party socio-politically, and from what I see, I can see a lot of hypocrisy in the democratic party, but I won’t generalize or be so ignorant to say that it doesn’t exist everywhere. That bothers me that it exists at all. Anyway, another thing that takes joy away is deceit. Similar to hypocrisy, since hypocrisy is a form of deceit, deceit makes me mad. I hate being lied to because it usually means to me that the other person doesn’t care enough to tell the truth and is usually pretty selfish. I am a huge believer that honesty is the best policy, and for more information on that, see my post Honesty: The Best Policy. And, frankly, deceit is a seed of the devil, everything he does is deceitful. Isn’t that a little bit scary? Lying and deceit is sinful and a quality of the devil, why would anyone want to do it? Well, for happiness and self-preservation, or simply selfishness. Not joyful at all. Wrath is also a suppressor of joy, be it on my part or another. I don’t like being wrathful, but there are some times I slip up. It leads me to be selfish and arrogant and frankly evil in action towards other people. And the same applies to other people. It just isn’t possible for joy to exist with wrath, so naturally wrath takes away my joy. I’d much rather be joyful and having fun than being wrathful and screaming at people. My last one is isolation. This isn’t caused by any actions of people, but by people’s inaction. When I say isolation, I don’t mean some along time, because we all need that at times. What I mean by isolation is feeling like nobody is there for you, no matter how many bodies surround you. It’s one of my biggest struggles, and it leads me into a depressed stupor. I feel lonely and basically awful when that happens. Everyone does. It even has the extra danger of making it more difficult to regain the joy because it typically isn’t a feeling that subsides with time.

Oh well, that’s my joy post. Tell me what makes you joyful and not joyful. Tell me what you think about joy. There is no other way to live life in my opinion than to joyfully serve the Lord. Thanks for reading!

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