I was painting a nursery mural for a baby named Joy, so for the 8 hours I was working I had her name—Joy— bouncing around inside my head. What a beautiful word to focus on for an extended amount of time! Some might call it meditation, but “Joy” is much too exuberant to solemnly meditate on. The word itself seems to exude it’s essence. The “J” looks like an extended hand inviting you to join in, the “O” looks like a giant bubble, and the “Y” seems to stand up and jump for….well…JOY!
A small but mighty word.
As I thought about joy, I found myself wondering:
What’s the difference between joy and happiness?
The Dalai Lama once said, “Happiness is something ready-made. It comes from our own actions.”
Happiness stems from the choices we make each day and tends to be circumstantial. Happiness happens “to” us and works it’s way from the outside to the inside. Happiness is flaky. You can’t rely on it. It comes and goes, maintaining constant visitor status. A nomad that has no home and flits like a butterfly from person to person.
Then there’s JOY. Always readily available, it’s a gift that begins within. It’s a choice….and sometimes it’s a hard choice. But the option for joy is always there and it’s accessible to everyone, no matter the circumstance. Unlike happiness, it manifests from the inside-out. It’s an internal explosion that bubbles up and seeps out through actions and words, overflowing on to whomever is around. Joy is contagious.
So am I saying happiness is inferior to joy?
Absolutely not. We need the butterflies, the sunsets, a good movie, homemade cookies, and clean sheets to balance out the local news, the mundane, the stinky diapers, and the brussel sprouts of our days. But we would be wise not to rely on the strength of fragile butterfly wings to carry us through our days. Happiness is delicate. We need the exuberance and vitality of joy to sustain us in the times when happiness isn’t strong enough to carry our heavy burdens of reality.
I’m thankful for the gift of Happiness and all that she brings. I relish looking for her as she pops up throughout my day and I appreciate the ways she enriches my life.
But I know that in her absence—and even in her presence—there will always be JOY.
Constant, sustainable, exuberant JOY.
That state of utter contentment.
The ability to say, “It is well with my soul.”
So here’s to both Happiness AND Joy.
From the outside-in and the inside-out, may they both have their way in your life today.
*Photo of my husband, son, daughter & me jumping for Joy!