What Is Joy (And How Do We Find It)?Jun 06, 2023
Joy: a) a source or cause of delight b) a state of felicity or happiness c) the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (or the expression or exhibition of such emotion)
Is joy in danger of becoming extinct? In this current age, an age where we don’t even blink at the sight of twenty-four-hour news cycles assaulting us with the four D’s—danger, disaster, death, and division—is joy slowly being eradicated from our daily emotional experience? Has your personal joy ever gone missing?
At times in my life I’ve found joy rather easy to locate each day, but at other times—for obvious reasons and for no discernible reasons at all—those “sources and causes of delight” have seemed conspicuously absent from both my orbit and the galaxy at large.
At times I’ve even been angered by the concept of joy. I’ve been put off by the mere mention of it. It seemed phony and overexposed. It seemed overly simple. People who said they were “joyful” were either disingenuous or stupid, a saccharine flock of schmucks who wore plastic smiles and refused to analyze their relationships, their religion, their personal goals, and the genuinely complex and often contradictory nature of pretty much everything we experience on a daily basis.
Joy didn’t really exist, I suspected. At least not for adults. At least not for thinking adults. At least not for me.
When I had the above thoughts —the thoughts that a) joy didn’t exist for me, or b) that if it appeared to exist for me, then I was simply fooling myself—I realized that I had to make some changes in my life and reexamine my ideas about happiness. I had to rearrange a few of my definitions and orientations.
For example happiness, joy actually, didn’t have to be defined in very large ways. It didn’t have to be a five-thousand-dollar windfall, an exotic vacation, a promotion, or a new car: it could be a good book, a good meal, an interesting (or superbly horrific) movie enjoyed with my wife, an outdoor walk or run, or any other number of extremely accessible and relatively cheap experiences.
Ecstasy might be found in the fleeting “huge” stuff, but joy is found in appreciating the everyday experiences.
And joy, I realized, didn’t have to rely on achievements either. It didn’t have to be found exclusively at the tail end of pursuing goals (i.e., in results). Results make us proud, and they can provide evidence of our hard work, but joy is found on the walk toward the goals. It could be found in taking small daily steps that made me feel good about myself, I realized.
For example, I didn’t need to make a million dollars off writing to feel good about doing it. I could simply feel good about logging a solid number of writing hours per week. If I devoted a respectable chunk of my time to something I felt was important to both myself and the world at large, then I could be happy about that.
At one particularly low point in my life—when I was simultaneously struggling with health, career, financial, and emotional issues—I realized that finding joy in the small things is imperative for surviving life’s storms. And I now realize that reorienting one’s definitions of satisfaction toward things that are readily accessible and personally meaningful must be a daily and ongoing exercise, even in the “smooth” times.
I love this definition of joy: “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”
So, you’re telling me that it’s okay to simply feel good about feeling good (my “well-being”)? I can do that. When I’m happy, or rested, or energetic, or inspired, it’s okay to simply feel good about those states of being. I don’t have to analyze them. I don’t have to wonder if other people approve of it.
And you’re telling me that it’s okay to simply feel good about the prospect of possessing what one desires? That sounds a little bit like daydreaming, which I’ve always been pretty good at, and that sounds an awful lot like taking small steps toward big goals.
When we take those baby steps, we imagine they might turn into something greater. And even if they never do, according to this definition of joy, the great emotional reward is already there simply because we allowed ourselves to engage in the act of imagining.
Just allow yourself to daydream for a bit today.
What do you want out of life?
A new career?
A more meaningful spiritual life?
Relationships without drama and with unconditional love and acceptance?
Imagine these things happening. Take small steps toward them, and feel good about those small steps.
Allow yourself to simply dream of a better life. That is another way that joy can be found right now.
Joyless people are often creatures of their own creation or byproducts of unfortunate experiences. They are in pain, they are confused, they are overly moralistic or jaded, they are overly ambitious or materialistic, and they are overly affected by the opinions and definitions that others spout into the air around their tired heads each day.
As previously stated, full disclosure, I’ve been a joyless creature at times, and it was for each of those above reasons to varying extents. And it was also because I was facing some truly difficult circumstances and challenges in my life.
Life can be arduous. But guess what? We can be depressed or worried or sick at times because of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we have to be joyless.
Joyless is more of a deliberate transformation to an overarching state—like cynicism or self-loathing—and that sort of transformation takes a willing participant to happen. Don’t be that willing participant. Don’t let joyless happen. Try to find your little pieces of joy each day, even in the midst of trying circumstances.
And as always, focus on the joy that is yours in knowing that God is with you each day and cares for you personally. He created you with love, and seeking Him back with curiosity and love (i.e., looking for Him everywhere and focusing on His presence and promises) really is one of the shortest paths to joy.
Have a blessed and fulfilling week as you seek greater joy in you daily walk,
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