I believe that God meant for us to be joyful. The Bible is full of verses exhorting us to be joyful, like Philippians 4:4, which says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!” This isn’t just when life is easy and fun, either. It’s all the time.
For many years I was not a joyful person. Not even close. I had times when I was happy and fun to be around, but in the depths of my heart and soul where my true nature lay, there was no joy. I could be happy for a moment, or fake a smile or a laugh, but that wasn’t the same as having joy. Joy is not a fleeting feeling that’s dependent on circumstances; it’s a consistent attitude. An anchor when your life feels tossed around by the storms.
I firmly believe that joy is a choice that can be made, and something that can be nurtured, developed, and fostered. Joy doesn’t just happen. You must work at it and make choices that preserve it. There are things you can do to increase and safeguard the joy in your life (thus this blog!), but joy isn’t something you can just store up once. You can’t live off of your joy reserves forever. You also have to protect it from things that will deplete it. Just as there are joy-givers in life (you can read my list here), there are also joy-hijackers. Work on avoiding these at all cost if you want to maintain your joy!
Here are a few of my biggest joy hijackers:
This is probably my top joy thief. I don’t know that anything steals my joy quicker than when I get sucked into comparison. It is just an ugly, ugly trap.
- Jealousy or Envy
These two almost always come as a result of comparison. When I keep my eyes on my own lane, I’m usually pretty happy with where I am and what I have. When I start looking into my neighbor’s lane, that’s when I start to become jealous of the race they’re running.
Another one that inevitably comes from comparison. (See why comparison is so dangerous?) Comparing myself or my life to others often leads me to become dissatisfied – dissatisfied with my body, my personality, my status, my roles, my husband, my possessions, my skills … the list goes on and on.
- People-pleasing and approval addiction
I am a Grade A people-pleaser. I have this driving need for everyone to like me and approve of me. Of course I know this is not at all possible, and it’s a huge joy thief, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. We’ll just call this one a work-in-progress and leave it at that. One of these days you’ll read my post, “How I broke my approval addiction!” … but until that day I’ll just be real and share my ongoing struggle.
When I am tired, I mean dead dog tired, it is really hard to be joyful. To prevent this, I make it a priority to get an appropriate amount of sleep each night. It doesn’t always happen of course (hello round-the-clock feedings!), but I do my best. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel guilty about it. Our society (especially women, and especially mothers) places great importance on “burning the candle at both ends,” but I think that’s silly. I know me – I’m much more productive and MUCH more pleasant to be around when I’ve gotten adequate sleep. Our bodies were designed to refuel during sleep. Why do we think we’re better the less we get?
- Starting my day without my quiet time
I know moms who get up when their kids get up, and if it works for them, more power to ’em. I, however, need time to myself before my son gets up. When I’m able to start my day in the Word and other edifying reading, my attitude throughout day is better. When I don’t get my quiet time in the mornings … yikes. The whole day feels harder and I feel more on edge.
- Fear & Anxiety
Many times when I reflect on why I am feeling so gloomy and joyless, I realize that I’m really just afraid of or anxious about something. For example, when I get upset about overspending, I’m really just afraid we won’t have enough. When I beat myself up about not doing a job right, those feelings are motivated by a fear of someone else’s disapproval (which goes back to #4).
- Being around negativity
This is another biggie! Have you ever been around a negative person and felt more joyful from the exchange? I’m betting not. Spending time with people who constantly grumble and complain or criticize usually infects my own attitude. To protect my joy, there are certain people or situations that I simply have to avoid.
My list could go on, but those are the first ones that quickly came to my mind when I thought about what steals my joy. It was a really interesting exercise, and I highly recommend you do the same. Write them down. Maybe post them where you’ll see them throughout the day. Remind yourself of what attitudes, behaviors, or environments are not conducive to joy in your life, and then determine to do whatever it takes to avoid them.