Joy. A Misnomer?

By Kimberly Inskeep

Recently, when the furry red puppet Elmo asked the world, “How are you doing?” on social media, the resounding sadness that answered back became newsworthy.

We know things are not the way they ought to be. And yet, there is a longing to persevere; and for many, to play a part in making it better. For some, this longing comes from a sense of responsibility to humanity; for others, from faith and hope in the future; and for still others, a desire to feel significant. Logic and experience would tell us we are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. Whatever the motive, this longing is more powerful than idealism or romanticism. It is by this longing that we are motivated to change the world!

I believe that the tension between what is and what we long for can become a creative tension…a tension that calls us to act—to answer the world’s sadness with something tangible, powerful, and shared across generations. I’m talking about joy.

Joy is different than happiness. We can describe “happiness” as a feeling—pleasure, ease, feeling good. But there’s a difference between happiness and joy. The laughter in your child’s voice; the moment on vacation that caused you to snap a photo; the music that makes you pause; the sounds of celebration; the sites of loved ones returning home—those are moments that are deeper than happiness…they’re hints of joy.

Joy is serious business. Joy is not merely a side effect of positive experiences. That is happiness. Joy is not solely concerned with personal gratification. That is pleasure. Joy is a more profound and sacred connection to something beyond us. It serves as a signpost toward meaning.

The raw grief that answered Sesame Street’s question, “How are you?” cannot be healed with mere happiness. It needs to be met with something stronger and deeper: joy.

If we, as parents, can learn to let our longing for a better world motivate us toward seeking joy—rather than simply seeking happiness—then we have a chance to share something powerful with our kids. Something that might just help us change the world, together.

This is a blog about shared joy…between parents and children, between friends, and with the world around us.

Please join me in Growing Shared Joy.