Virtue of the Week: Joy


Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the valley because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of spending a week at the beach. We are far too easily pleased.C.S. Lewis

It was exactly one year ago this Christmas eve, that my doctor switched my PICC antibiotics to something that left the taste of 9 volt batteries in my mouth. My antibiotic options were running out and little did I know that an evasive surgery was in my future. So after taking that trip to the dark valley last Christmas I have decided to focus on “Joy” this Christmas. The most important gift we can give ourselves is a “joy list”. This list consists of everything and anything that brings you joy. The smell of a Christmas tree. A child’s smile when opening a gift. Christmas lights. Begin with the most precious, the people in your life and then move on to nature and the arts. Seriously, write them down. Take this list out and re-read it whenever you need to remind yourself of all the things you have that bring joy into your life. When you find yourself all tense and overworked, take a five minute break. Take a Joy Break. Pick something off your list and think about it for just a couple minutes. Don’t be so busy that you can no longer enjoy just “being”! If you are so busy trying to be a success that you only have a short Joy List remember that success is measured by the degree that you are enjoying peace. Sit down right now and write down ten things that make you joyful. The Joy List can change your life. On this list goes everything that brings Joy into your life. From sunshine to a stranger’s smile – put anything that makes you smile, feel warm and fuzzy, and just plain happy on this list. Keep your “Joy List” in your wallet or purse and remember to add to it whenever you think of something that brings you joy. You now have a list that you can refer to at a moment’s notice to remind yourself of all that you have to appreciate.

We are called to spread “joy”, especially this time of year! Spreading joy is really hard though when there are so many people around us who are suffering from the effects of clinical Christmas stress and depression. That’s right….at a time of year when we should be most ‘joyous”, many people find this the most depressing time of year. Much of this stress and depression is self-imposed and rooted in:

  1. Absence of a beloved family member that creates feelings of loneliness and regret.
  2. Family conflicts that have been “brewing” all year long are forced to a head with family gatherings around the holidays.
  3. The pressure of gift buying and expectations with tight budgets and poor economic times.
  4. Physical exhaustion brought on by the holiday shopping, schedule changes, kids out of school, and social obligations to friends or work.
  5. Loneliness for the elderly, isolated, unmarried, and social outcasts. Those who have no family and few friends.
  6. Seasonal emotional disorder brought on by winter and the lack of daylight.

Pretty depressing huh? So how can we help? First of all, we need to be extremely sensitive to these causes of stress and depression in ourselves and others. Recognize the symptoms of these causes for a lack of joy and see if we can directly address the pain. Empathy. Put your entire focus outside of yourself and into loving and serving others who are suffering. Ease their pain, grow joy in the joyless and I just bet that what you sow you will also reap.