Pleasure Vs Joy

During this Christmas season, we hear many songs and much talk about joy. "Joy to the World", we sing at Church and often people wish one another "joy and peace" during this time.

But often, I don't see too many people full of joy. People get upset if they didn't get "what they wanted" on Christmas day and trying to navigate through a big city during the Christmas season can be anything but "joyful."

and this got me thinking, "what is joy, anyway?"

As i dove further into this mystery, I realize that I often confuse pleasure with joy.

Let's investigate.... defines pleasure as: The satisfaction that accompanies the exercise of a human faculty. Depending on the faculty used, there are different kinds of pleasure, namely, sensuous or intellectual.

Is pleasure a bad thing? In and of itself, absolutely not. God gave us pleasure as a gift to enjoy the things of life. We enjoy reading a good book or seeing a good movie. We enjoy watching a beautiful sunset or beholding a rose in bloom. We breathe in deeply the scent of baking cookies and we delight in hugging the ones we love. These things are very beautiful. They give us pleasure. And if we allow it, pleasure can lead to joy which is on a deeper level.


 Joy is defined by the same source as: In spiritual literature, the feeling aroused by the expectation or possession of some good. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joyful emotions affect the body, but they are essentially in the higher faculties of the soul. Differs from pleasure, which may affect the human spirit but originates in some bodily sensation. Thus joy is possessed by angels and human beings, and its source is the rational will. 

Perhaps we could look at this difference as contentment in the emotions and then contentment of the will. As I looked at these two definitions and reflected upon my own experiences in life, I can see where I confuse the two. This may also explain how Jesus, and those close to Him, can undergo deep suffering but still experience joy.

Because most of our society lives at a very superficial level, we are constantly encouraged to abandoned pursuits and relationships that no longer "feel good". Once the natural feeling of pleasure is gone or absent for some time, society says that is a signal of a deeper reality that "love" is gone.

But this is completely backwards.

Emotions (the word "emote" means "to move") move us. They are given by God, they are good. But emotions are at the service of our will. They are guided by our will. Which is why we discern with our will whether a pleasure is good for us or not. A 13th cookie may give us pleasure but is not in our best interest.

If pleasure leaves a relationship or a pursuit, it's not a sign that "true love" is gone. It's a signal to dive deeper and grow.

Joy is a deep gift from God that we can pray for. We can pray to be open to this gift of true joy. This kind of joy is like the depths of the ocean, where the seas at the top may be choppy and turbulent (something that we know is right may not always "feel good" and suffering does not usually "feel good") and so there may be difficulties and obstacles but at the bottom of the sea of our soul, all is quiet and we persevere by the grace of God.

When we interviewed Sr. Catherine Marie, O.P. on our radio show "Sisters in Christ", she said, "True joy cannot be faked, it radiates from within".

While pleasure may fade and we may become weary, joy is a gift from God that never ends.

It's an eternal gift.

Just like you are.

Merry Christmas.

I wish you peace and true joy :)


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