I searched the web with “Joy is” looking for some help finding the deeper meaning of joy. I landed on compassion.com, a nonprofit organization that gives people the opportunity to sponsor a child living in poverty. They have a long page discussing joy versus happiness. They say:

“The true definition of joy goes beyond the limited explanation presented in a dictionary — “a feeling a great pleasure and happiness.” True joy is a limitless, life-defining, transformative reservoir waiting to be tapped into. It requires the utmost surrender and, like love, is a choice to be made. Joy is not simply a feeling that happens.

Joy is also not great happiness or even extreme happiness. It is not elation, jubilation or exhilaration — emotions that may be present with joy, that may seem like an expression of joy, but which don’t define joy. In its truest expression, joy transforms difficult times into blessings and turns heartache into gratitude. Joy brings meaning to life. It brings life to life.”

I bolded some sentences of the quote for emphasis.

Each morning, I vow to choose joy. Just making the promise causes me to smile. I think of joy as something I kindle in my soul. It simultaneously sparkles in the moment and glows steadily underneath the busyness of life. The kind promise I’m working with this month is “I will live with joy for no apparent reason.”

I think of happiness as a response to situations or conditions in life. It lasts as long as they last. Then it fades. Joy can burble underneath even difficult situations. Joy can coexist with pain, disappointment, and heartache. Regardless of my circumstances, I can choose joy.

I want to be authentic. I know I will feel sad or angry sometimes. Emotions add color to life. There is value in being honest about how I feel. I want to plumb the depths as well as frolic in the shallows. In my experience, the painful parts of life happen without effort. Recovering from them requires effort.

My morning vow is a statement of intention. When I drift into crabbiness or disheartenment, I will redirect myself toward joy. It’s a promise to practice an ongoing process. Practice means trying and continuing to try. It doesn’t require perfection but does invite constancy.

Why commit to joy? It’s a reminder not to take things (especially myself) too seriously. It’s an invitation to play.

In your journal:

  • How do you think about joy and happiness?
  • If you had a morning vow, what would it be?
  • Do the painful parts of life happen without effort?