We all want to be happy. That’s a given. I think we would all agree, however, that sometimes we get confused as to the definition of happiness. We are told to be “joyful.” Indeed, the scriptures tell us, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) In fact, if I counted right, the Topical Guide gives us 92 scripture references for the word joy. Lately, I’ve done a little thinking about what joy is and what gives me joy.
What Does Joyful Mean?
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as experiencing, causing, or showing joy: happy. I’m not sure I totally agree. I think there is a difference between happiness and joy. A good spaghetti dinner can make me happy, and good quality ice cream even happier. Joy comes from my heart. Joy permeates my soul. Joy brings me peace and tranquility.
Sometimes I know something in my brain or my heart, but I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. When that happens, it can be helpful to me to make lists. This was one of those times. I made lists of the things that have brought happiness and joy to my heart recently in an effort to decipher the difference between them. See if you can see the difference.
|Things that Made Me Happy||Things that Made Me Joyful|
|Clean fresh sheets on my bed||Smiles from my grandchildren|
|Fresh, clean towels||Watching a young mother pretend to run with her toddler running behind her—the look on his face: determination; on her face: pure “joy”|
|Clean hair||Reading old journals and letters that I wrote to my family when I was raising my children|
|Looking out the window at a new fence freshly stained with redwood stain||Lunch with friends|
|My parakeet “Lemon Drop” attacking his toys||Walking in the park with my husband, taking a detour to a part of the park we don’t usually walk, smelling flowers on the path, and sitting on a bench with him enjoying the shade. Realizing how much I missed walking with him during hot summer weather, that the hot weather is gone for the year, and that there are many more walks over the next nine months before the heat is again prohibitive.|
|Hot blueberry pancakes||A purple wildflower in a pot in my yard|
|Hot blueberry cobbler||A child waving to me in a parking lot|
|A chocolate dipped ice cream cone||Soft music playing in the background of my morning|
|A new purse||Dew on the grass sparkling in the sunshine|
|Getting the stain out of a favorite blouse||A hug from my husband when I wasn’t expecting it|
|Planning a vacation||Mourning doves cooing, and other birds chirping in our yard|
|Looking at pictures of dogs at the animal shelter and knowing when we get back from vacation, we will be going to get one to replace our dog who died a couple of months ago||Being in the temple—especially after my hearing aid battery died in the celestial room and there was total silence|
|The end of my dieting plateau||Being able to serve others|
Analyzing these lists, I’ve come to the conclusion that the things that bring me happiness—while good—are short-lived. The things that bring me joy are either Heavenly Father’s creations, or have some basis in an eternal principle—marriage, children, motherhood, temple work, friendships, connecting the generations, music being equivalent to prayer, and service or ministering.
At least for me, being joyful is an attitude. It is taking all of the things that give me joy and giving them priority in my life. If I live the commandments, live up to my covenants, and work towards a goal of making our family an eternal family, I can’t help but be joyful.
Blueberry cobbler is wonderful, ice cream is heaven on earth, but neither can compare to sitting in total silence in the celestial room of a temple of God. Fresh, clean towels may make my morning, but a smile from a grandchild becomes embedded in my heart forever. A new purse keeps me from restitching the handles on the old one for the fifth time, but a hug from my husband lasts for eternity. My parakeet attacking his toys will give me a laugh, but soft music enlightens my soul. Shampooing my hair always feels wonderful, but reading old letters and journals about experiences with my family reminds me of eternal covenants.
Happiness and joy are both wonderful things. I’m glad I have both in my life. I pray that my children and grandchildren will always have both happiness and joy in their lives. However, if I had to choose between fleeting happiness and eternal joy, I’ll take joy any day, hands down.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.