Yes, You Are Allowed to Feel Joy When the World is in Pain
When things are falling apart all around us; when the world is upside down; when so many are suffering so much, is it proper to feel joy? Do we, by experiencing moments of happiness, levity and delight, dishonor the pain that we, and others, are enduring? Is it selfish to find joy in the midst of the world’s sorrow? It can seem that way, can’t it?
I have been wrestling with these questions for a while now, and I have finally settled on an answer that feels right to me. The world needs joy right now. The world needs laughter. The world needs hope. We can keep hope alive by looking for moments of joy. Spreading joy is a gift that we can give to a broken, hurting world.
So I have made it a game to look for joy in my life every day. Joy comes in small packages, and small moments,and is easy to overlook. Sure, there is joy in big packages — grand celebrations, babies being born, promotions that we have worked so hard for. But most of the time, joy is abiding right beside us, quietly waiting for us to notice it.
Simple things like the way the light falls across the kitchen counter, lighting up a row of apples and my mosaic utensil holder. The taste of chocolate melting on my tongue. The first cup of coffee in the morning. A bird using the dew on the grass to bathe, flapping and sending the drops spraying up where he can catch them with his wings. His pleasure in this ordinary task brings a smile to my face and causes joy to swell. These are all small pleasures that read as joy if we are paying attention.
We will have so many moments of sorrow in the next weeks, months and maybe even years. If we are going to be resilient, if we are going to survive with our sense of hope intact, we are going to need joy. Joy puts down roots, keeping us grounded when we are in danger of being blown over by sorrow.
Joy is contagious. Others need joy as much as we do. That is why we all love those silly videos on social media. They make us laugh. They remind us that we are multi-faceted beings, capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions. We can’t afford to become one-note symphonies of sorrow. We need the notes of laughter and joy to bring lightness to the music of life. Life is heavy enough without us cancelling joy.
We need to sing and dance, make love, eat delicious food, write poetry, walk in the woods, splash in puddles. “We need to turn off the news and turn on Beethoven” as Jack Kornfield likes to say. We need to pay attention. Life is offering us the opportunity to soak in joy.
We need to intentionally create moments of joy for ourselves and others. Find a funny card and send it to a loved one you cannot visit right now. Bake blueberry muffins for your neighbor who is struggling. Put on your favorite tunes and dance in the kitchen. If we are not intentional, we can forget the things that make us feel that life is worth living. We need to find reasons to go on, especially now.
Make room in your life for joy. This won’t erase the sorrow, it will just make it easier to carry. Let’s help each other make it through this difficult time by spreading joy to others. Joy is contagious. It is the one thing you don’t have to be afraid to infect others with. We need a pandemic of joy right about now.
Go. Be Joy. The world desperately needs it.