When I hear “pursue happiness”, “think of happy thoughts”, “do more of what makes you happy”, I agree up to a certain extent. I’m guilty of quoting these my self and there’s absolutely nothing negative in that, but as I read one of my devotionals this week, it made me realize the difference between what gives me pleasure, what makes me happy and what gives me joy. I never considered to look into this until now. Why am I pursuing happiness when I can pursue Joy? It has to do with the fact that I have experienced things that give me true joy and that’s my wish for you reading this blog. So many of us are in pursuit of happiness no matter how young, old, poor or rich we are, but what if we can bring it up a notch and be in pursuit of things that makes us more joyful than usual?
After some research, I came up with this simple descriptions:
PLEASURE: A source of satisfaction. Tends to be elusive and short term. Mostly physical.
HAPPINESS: A sense of well-being or contentment caused by things “happening” at the current moment. Can be temporary or longer term and you can measure how happy or unhappy you feel.
JOY: An attitude or a belief that comes from within oneself which soothes even in the most sorrowful of situations. It’s a state of mind caused by meaningful things that can’t be measured.
To illustrate, when I was a teenager I thought that if only I had a few pairs of shoes to choose from, I’d be happy. You know, white shoes or sandals for the summer, black shoes or boots for the winter and all sort of heel sizes. Growing up I always only had one pair of shoes at the time. I would never put the pressure on my mom raising 5 children and working hard to make ends meet just because I wanted the pleasure to have more than one pair of shoes. I would get a new pair only when the ones I had looked old and ready to be thrown away. If they were black, the next pair would be white and viceversa. It would give me a sense of having a variety. I now know that having a closet full of shoes of all shades and shapes you can imagine, still doesn’t give me the joy I long for. This certainly gives me pleasure. Things that give us pleasure in life tend to be temporary.
What I longed for was intangible, immeasurable, it didn’t have a color or a shape. Sometimes I imagined my dad surprising me on a birthday or during a school ceremony while getting a recognition. Sometimes I hoped he would come into the door on father’s day and always on Christmas…It never happened. I guess I just wanted to hear him say, “I love you and I’m here for you” even though he wasn’t in my life growing up. However, some sort of closer connection with him would have given me a life-long feeling of joy as a little girl.
Pleasure, happiness and joy mean different things for different people. I always think of my mom as a model for me. I know she found pleasure in eating ice cream or any type of sweets (especially birthday cake!), meaningful conversations, spending time with family and connecting with people caused her lots of happiness -the laugh attacks were hilarius and contagious. The joy of her salvation and deep relationship with God gave her an indescribable joy that she shared freely and openly with others in hope for them to experience the same.
Let’s be in pursuit of “that” which is meaningful and gives us purpose in life. This, my friends, will increase the joy and the sense of fulfillment we all long for, and in turn, help us live a life of significance.