Lance Scranton: Joy or happiness?
This time of year there is frequent opportunity to help students understand the difference between joy and happiness. Unfortunately, the holiday season brings upon us the realization that for some, the time off, or away from the busyness of life, doesn’t offer any kind of respite.
The culmination of the past eleven months, or many years, doesn’t produce feelings of happiness. Family estrangement, economic difficulties, or fear of the future heighten feelings of despair and desperation where peace and reflection should reign.
Spend just one week in a public school classroom and you will witness the effects of a harsh, cruel world bent on the destruction of joy in the lives of children. The world we live in has decided that the very institutions that allowed for family stability and security have become targets for attack and derision. The family unit is an example of the patriarch, cultural traditions promote racism and sexism, citizenry is laughed at and community is continually eroded.
Yes, the world has changed and things are much different than they used to be no matter how old you are, because the rapidity of change is no respecter of age. The difference between happiness and joy begins at the source. Things and stuff can make you happy for a time, but like scrolling through Facebook or video feeds…it never really satisfies. Getting what we always wanted will make us happy for a time but eventually we want something more or different.
It is the nature of the happiness beast that it must constantly be fed.
Joy is something different and doesn’t require the same kind of stimulation and usually frustrates people who don’t understand. Joy doesn’t depend on who you are, what you have, or what happened last week, last month or last year. Joy isn’t concerned about self as much as it is that others are part of the celebration. Sharing in the things that make life worth living, and celebrating the success of others makes us more thankful when good things do happen and less likely to stay in a funk when circumstances don’t go our way.
So how do you find joy in a world that overvalues happiness?
Remember that you are on this earth for a reason, no matter your circumstances, and make it a point to keep your eyes more upward than ahead. Life isn’t always what we expected, or deserve, but the season helps remind us that there is the opportunity to partner with someone who can offer us eternal joy.