The Difference between Happiness and Joy

Most people have a hard time understanding the difference between “Happiness” and “Joy”. When it comes to nourishing our souls, “Happiness” is like a candy bar (not very nutritional), and “Joy” is like a plate of meat, potatoes, and vegetables (fills you up and is good for you too!).

Happiness is when we are delighted and pleased with good fortune (often outside forces which we don’t control) such as good health, good relationships, a good job, a good house, and plenty of food and clothing.

Joy on the other hand runs much deeper than happiness. Joy is a matter of our soul, it runs deep into the core of us and radiates throughout our being. Joy is the response to something bigger, something eternal and often comes from conquering oneself and willingly enduring suffering, insults, pain, humiliation, or hardships for a virtuous cause. “Joy” is based on the permanent unshakeable knowledge that in the big picture…..all will be well with your soul.

If we look at the messages coming from our post-modern media, we could easily conclude that being happy is the most important thing in the world. TV and magazine ads scream that we have to buy this product or that service because it will make us happy – and after all, don’t we deserve to be happy? In movies and television shows, characters leave their partners, change their lives, and break the rules – all in a quest for happiness. The pursuit of happiness dominates our society, but the “worlds” happiness is often shallow and empty.

True “Joy” nourishes our soul even when our lives are often difficult and filled with hardship. This kind of joy has little to do with buying the right car, clothes, or cologne. It has nothing to do with leaving your partner for a younger, better-looking person, or making millions of dollars in the stock market. The promises of “happiness” that the world tries to sell are futile, empty, and destructive. True “Joy” doesn’t depend on having all the material things you want. It isn’t connected to having an easy life. Instead, it’s a deep and powerful emotion that comes from inside, uplifting and sustaining us even when it appears as though the world is crashing down around us. The seeds of true joy are sprouting in us even when we experience hardship, suffering, and pain. We decide, by controlling our human nature whether to let these seeds grow into joy or not. True “Joy” is something we choose. Every time we make the choice to be contented, to be thankful, to celebrate the good in life rather than complaining about all that’s wrong, we are choosing to experience true “Joy”.

Our temporal lives will always be filled with pain and hardship. You may be suffering from a chronic illness, or perhaps from depression; you may be trapped in an unhappy marriage, you could be jobless, facing crippling financial problems, or you may be experiencing the illness or death of a loved one. Happiness won’t do much to change these circumstances, other than maybe provide a quick “fix” (enter drugs, alcohol, sex, consumerism).

But real, Spirit-filled joy is possible, no matter what the world throws at you. It’s something that nothing and no one can take away from you.

How important is it to be happy? If by “happy” you mean the momentary contentment that results from having all our desires met, then the answer would be that that kind of happiness is not very important. But if you are referring to true “Joy”, the feeling that comes from suffering through the worlds pain and hardships and choosing to not complain about it, being thankful for what you do have, and celebrating your blessings…..then it’s very important.

Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself
Mahatma Gandhi
Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is
C.S. Lewis

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