There was a speaker at the last general conference, that told a story about a girl’s boyfriend that recently left the church and he said to her that “he has never been happier”. She asked how could that be possible? The speaker went on to quote scripture and stated, “there is simply no enduring joy outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ”.
I actually agree with that statement but not in the way you think. Here is an epiphany that I had recently, “whatever you believe is what binds or frees you”. If you believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you don't follow the rules and guidelines you believe to be true, then there is no way you can find happiness or enduring joy in this life. You are actually living in conflict with yourself. Conversely, if you don't believe in religion but believe in societal values and/or universal law, that belief is what determines your happiness and enduring joy and if you are measuring up to it.
So both “sides” are actually correct, for themselves.
It is human nature to want to belong, to feel a part of something. That is why we come together as communities, at church, sports teams, at the movies, etc. It is interesting to me that when someone believes without a doubt their way is universal truth, then they cannot see how someone else can possibly live differently from them and actually be happy. It doesn't matter if you are Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or a Scientologist. They all feel their way is the only way to find real happiness or enduring joy.
HAPPINESS VS JOY
In the Christian community, many feel happiness is short term and joy is long term (eternal). Some think happiness and joy mean the same thing. Regardless of the way we personally define the words, one thing that we can all agree on is ALL OF US desire and WANT to be happy and/or joyful in our lives.
We all want it. We all search for it. We all try to figure out the way or path to “IT”. Many people have different ways to describe “IT”. Many have different ways to measure or attain “IT”.
So what is “IT”?
First, I think it is important to review some definitions of the words around this topic. These definitions are from Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, etc. I realize these sources are not perfect in facts or agreed upon descriptions but for this purpose they are general and will serve the purpose in general definition.
- Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
- Pleasure: a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.
- Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
- Happiness: Happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being.
- Enduring: continuing or long-lasting.
References: Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, AZquotes, pursuit-of-happiness.org
Second, let’s review some notable people throughout history, that have discussed the topic.
Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Socrates said, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Buddha said, “When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Mahatma Gandi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Eckhart Tolle said, “Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of Being. It is an essential part of the inner state of peace, the state that has been called the peace of God. It is your natural state, not something that you need to work hard for or struggle to attain.”
“The joy of Being, which is the only true happiness, cannot come to you through any form, possession, achievement, person or event - through anything that happens. That joy cannot come to you - ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and thus is one with who you are.”
Brene Brown said,
“Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments - often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we are so afraid of the dark that we don't dare let ourselves enjoy the light. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.”
Dieter F. Uckdorf said, “Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find Joy in the Journey.”
Even our own Declaration of Independence talks about “IT”: “among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …”
Please keep in mind the ever changing societal standards of these meanings as well.
“There is debate about what the word "happiness" may have meant in 1776. Current usage focuses on pleasant, positive emotions and having needs satisfied whereas in 1776 the common meaning may have been "prosperity, thriving, wellbeing".
Happiness, pleasure and joy are FEELINGS, on a spectrum. Regardless how any of us measure that spectrum, we all want to feel THAT WAY: true inner peace. We all want that feeling to be long lasting. Anyone that has experienced it wants it again and may even be fearful of not having it again. Do we let fear drive out the joy? Do we have power to have Joy in our lives? From philosophers, belief systems and thought processes over centuries, it seems that we do already have Joy within us, but just need to allow it. I believe the only way to do this, in our human experience, is to find true alignment within ourselves.
How do we find alignment with so many feelings, thoughts and the desire for belonging? Go within. That is why Mindfulness has become such a focus to connect with your true inner self, GOD, Source, Universe, etc. Keep in mind:
- Thoughts are always coming and going based on circumstances
- Feelings come from the thoughts
- We cannot control our thoughts or feelings (only the reaction)
- Thoughts and feelings are our personal guidance system
If you feel confused or sad or angry there is a reason: you are not alignment with yourself. Your personal guidance system helps you to identify and make changes in your life to get back to alignment of what feels right to you. If you feel happy or content or excited, you are in alignment. YOU are the only one to determine that. It is really the most SIMPLE and PERFECT personal guidance system, if we get quiet enough and listen (without influence of others in our lives). I’m convinced the more we suppress our own personal guidance system, the more we allow others to have personal authority over our own happiness and joy.
From the book The New Earth, Eckart Tolle said,
The 3 modalities to live by (for alignment) are: If you can’t do any of those you have 3 choices:
- Acceptance 1. Change it
- Enjoyment 2. Walk away from it
- Excitement 3. Accept it
STOP: Pay attention to your guidance system right now. Does any of this resonate with you? Does it not? If it doesn't, that is ok. The only thing that matters is if it feels right or good to you. If you find some truth or relatedness to your inner self, please carry on.
All of the above definitions, ways and quotes over millenia essentially say the same thing! Joy is a spiritual, internal practice (not physical), enjoying your state of BEING (present), and realizing your worth is infinite no matter what you DO or SAY. Sometimes we give away our personal authority and alignment within ourselves, and that is when JOY and our state of BEING is stripped away.
Why do we allow others to take that away from us? Why do we focus on if someone is happier than we are? Christ said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Determining someone else’s happiness and lasting Joy doesn't bring you any closer to your own happiness or joy. It only brings a sense of superiority that you know the way, but they don’t know what is right for them and their personal guidance system.
Focus on the alignment and gratitude in your own life and stay present as much as possible. Then you will have more to give in the world. I believe that is what Buddha was saying as well, when we are present and not worrying about EVERYONE and EVERYTHING (past, future), then that is where we find the lasting, enduring JOY and PEACE, now.
Sending you all Happiness, Joy and PEACE….