If I were to take an informal survey, raise your hands and tell me if you are “Happy” today? Now if I were to ask you again, how many of you are “Joyful”?
Did some of you raise your hands for HAPPY but not JOYFUL? Why?
How many think Happiness and Joyfulness are one and the same thing?
How many just don’t feel like raising their hands?…..just kidding.
Well, over the next few weeks I plan on doing a series about Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord. I will attempt to show you the difference between Joy and Happiness. That’s not to say that you can’t be happy and joyful at the same time, because obviously you can, but there are also times when you can experience joy without feeling happy. How is that possible, you might ask?…well let’s start with some definitions:
Happiness: is a state of being that is generally short-lived. In other words, happiness occurs over and over again for a variety of different reasons, generally caused by a pursuit or an activity that the individual has done or experienced resulting in this “happy” emotion to occur. For example:
You can feel happy when you are:
Reading to your child, or walking your dog, or going on a holiday….I’m sure we could come up with countless things to list that make us happy….
Now some of you may say, “But Lynn, I experience “joy” doing those things as well…” In other words the word “happy” is just not a strong enough emotional word to adequately express how you feel. I totally understand that. It’s like we equate the emotion JOY as a kind of step up from happiness.
Here’s the differentiation between Happiness and Joy and we’ll use our original examples:
You are happy reading to your child. It’s bonding time. It’s cuddling with your child and sharing a good book and getting some good quality time in with your child…you are happy until he suddenly looks up at you and you realize he has a kind of “green look” in his face. In fact, as he leans against you, you feel that he’s a little warm and suddenly your “happy” emotion has dissolved into concern for your sick child….
Another example: The prospects of going on a holiday makes you happy. You have planned this tropical get-away, you have enjoyed a week soaking up the sun and the whole experience has left you happy and contented. On the way home, you’re still happy reliving all the great memories of the past week, until you land and you discover that the airline has lost one of your bags. Your happiness is replaced with frustration, possibly anger. In fact, if you are an A-type personality like I am – this ONE negative experience may adversely affect how you felt about the entire holiday….
Let’s take another more extreme example: You are a fit, active woman. You eat healthy, you are happy with your good health. Sure, you’re happy…until one day you become sick….
See where I’m going with this?…
Happiness is a state of being, an emotion that can be interrupted and therefore is temporary. It can be experienced again and again but not necessarily with the same intensity as before…
-you can go back and read to your child and be happy but you might never recapture the same mood as before the child got sick.
-you can go on holidays and be happy but you might always be thinking about whether or not you’ll come home with the same amount of bags as what you left with.
– you can recapture your healthy state again and be happy, but you might have had to change your lifestyle to do so. It just won’t be the same again.
I came across an interesting website that actually measures how Happy you are….I am not a social scientist so I don’t know whether the measurements are accurate etc. but I thought that their definition of “happiness” was interesting:
“Happiness is a belief that a hoped-for state of affairs is coming into existence. Pleasure is limited to the feelings of the moment. Contentment is the feeling that a hoped for state actually exists. Unhappy reactions to being blocked from an activity are the best measure of a person’s true goals. It matters little where you came from but greatly where you now choose to go and what you choose to do.” (Charles Scamahorn’s Happiness Scale – HAPS – A scale for measuring human happiness, 2006). http://www.probaway.com/MetaScales/Happiness/Happiness.htm
Based on that definition alone, we can see that it is entirely up to the individual whether or not he or she will be happy or not. We can also add that if you set your goals too high for yourself and you fail in the attempt to achieve that goal, you won’t be happy. Often happiness is in the pursuit of things entirely centered on the individual. In other words, if you set out to be rich, or healthy, or powerful, or lose weight etc. etc. and you somehow are not successful in achieving that goal you will not be happy…ever. Therefore you have two options: try harder to achieve those goals (and we know what that means…stress, stress and more stress….) or try to avoid being blocked in achieving these goals.
What I read here is that the only way to achieve true happiness is to completely avoid anything that would cause you to be unhappy…..in fact as I researched a little more, many world philosophies today are based entirely upon that fact alone: avoidance of anything that will cause you pain, hurt, distress, or upset. Happiness is only achieved if all negative experiences and feelings are removed. So these philosophies advocate that people try to avoid or at least control negative influences that would undermine their state of happiness.
So here’s some homework for you today:
- 1. Make a list of things (people, events, activities etc.) that make you happy.
- 2. Briefly ask why those things make you happy?
- 3. Take time today to participate in one of those “happy” activities!
(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)