“Do whatever makes you happy” “As long as you’re happy” “I’m glad you’re happy” “They seem happy”
It’s not enough.
The sentiment is great. It’s good to be happy. Happiness is fun. But it’s not joy.
Here’s where the danger lies. It can be dangerous to wish someone happiness or desire “just happiness” in a choice, relationship, change, or lifestyle shift. There are thousands, if not millions of things that can make us “happy” that aren’t good for us, healthy for us, good for the time or stage in our lives, or are just morally bad. We can get warm fuzzy feelings from many things that don’t turn out good for us. In extreme examples, addictions all feed a desire for happiness and successfully get millions there every day. Happiness shouldn’t be the goal or journey we desire.
Joy, on the other hand, transcends our day to day circumstances and feeds our souls sufficiently. Joy isn’t fleeting, and joy doesn’t need a daily fix or high. A guy can make you happy when he brings you take-out and your favorite movie, but a man in your life can bring you joy when he illuminates at the discussion of his passion. A friend can make you happy by going on a shopping trip with you, but a friend can give you joy by showing you tender care when your heart is hurting. I have joy in knowing people, loving people, and creating things to name a few. But I feel our modern culture’s focus is on what can make us happy right now.
“It makes me happy.” “As long as she’s happy” “Well, he’s happy.”
I’m not happy for someone just because they got engaged, met a guy or girl, chose a college, or have a job. That may sound harsh, but I think it’s actually a symptom of loving someone well.
If someone I love is in a really toxic situation or selling themselves really short all while enjoying themselves, I won’t express that I’m happy for them just because it’s the thing to do. Whether it’s my place to speak against their situation is case by case, but sometimes just lacking affirmation of that choice is enough. It’s as cheap as the old yearbook slogan, “HAGS” in the book of someone I barely knew (short for Have a Great Summer in case you didn’t know). It’s disingenuous to spew off to someone I care about. It almost shows how much I really care.
Now I know most people don’t go into speaking that word with ill intention, but I offer it up to consider or to explain. When I am asked “Are you happy?” or told “As long as you’re happy- that’s all that matters” or even explained away regarding a sad situation with “well, he/she seems happy.” “Well, I’m happy for them anyways”……………I’m not buying it. And don’t be shocked when I respond unconventionally.
I’m better than happy—I find great joy in my life, friendships, and pending marriage. Deep peace and careful thought fill my heart and mind with my state in life. There are times I struggle to find joy. There are things that bring me happiness too, like a good deal or seeing a good movie. It wears off. Certain things don’t.
How can we tell if it’s joy then? In my opinion, we feel joy when our actions, thoughts, or experiences reflect God’s Image. When my friend’s selfless acts remind me of Jesus, when a song makes me dance and I praise God for my ability to move and the artists who create, when my fiancé’s soul lights up like the Bridegroom of the Church at the sight of me…. These things…they ought not be mistaken for their duller byproducts. Truth and Morality beget Joy by Natural order. How wonderful it is!
Pro Tip: I look for example of this at St. Rose of Lima. She’s a fascinating saint who while on earth, sacrificed her beauty that could have brought her much happiness in life by finding a husband or many male suitors. Instead, she followed the religious life she was called to by God. There, she found joy that puzzled many.