The importance of having joy

I’ve been blessed to have the same boss for well over 20 years, and I consider him a dear friend and mentor to me. However, there are some setbacks as well as benefits when you work with someone so closely over an extended period of time. One of the setbacks my boss, Rick, and I experience is we both tend to feed off of each other’s energies. When he is in a bad mood, I am sure to end up in a bad mood. When I am ecstatic about something, it is infectious to him. You get the idea.

Over the past nine years, unfortunately, we discovered that both of us have a tendency toward negativity and it also affects those around us. It wasn’t until earlier this week when Rick and I had a long conversation about how we needed to change our outlook, or run the risk of bringing everyone who worked for us down into an abyss of complacency and boredom. We both re-evaluated our attitudes toward work, and about our lives. I griped about things, and then he griped about things. A shift happened when we realized that despite our shortcomings and disappointments in life, we also had a great deal to be thankful for. Indeed, we had and have a lot to be joyful over.

When we started talking about the things that were positive and right in our lives, despite the things that saddened us, we realized we have done quite well and we should celebrate those small accomplishments. Nothing that is positive is insignificant if it brings out a sense of joy. Later that day, Rick sent me an email quoting Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which stated:

Your awareness narrows with negative emotions and broadens with positive ones. It is when feeling good, then, that you’re best equipped to see holistically and come up with creative and practical solutions to the problems you and others are facing. Your wisdom, then, ebbs and flows just as your emotions do. – Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Rick ended his email by letting me know that we act more wisely when experiencing positive emotions that broaden and build our relationships with others and our perspectives on life. I thought it was a wonderful way to demonstrate how being positive impacts our relationships. He didn’t stop there. Rick being the very spiritual person he is also sent me a daily devotional the next day to reinforce both of our needs to be more joyful in our outlook. He took his daily devotional email and sent me some more sound advice:

As children of God we have joy in our spirit. But we must choose to let it flow out into our minds, bodies, and circumstances…Joy is part of the provision God has given us so we can walk in strength and victory. Not allowing joy to flow out of our innermost being allows a weakness that can provide an opening for the devil…Joy is part of the “fruit” produced by the Holy Spirit through our human spirits…But we must choose to let the joy out. We must open our mouth and release words of joy, thanking and praising God. We must choose to let the joy flow! But don’t expect this to always be easy. It’s when things seem the worst that you need to act on this the most…

One way to keep our focus on the Lord is to rejoice in Him. As children of God, we have joy and peace in our spirits. But our minds may be blocking the flow by keeping our focus on circumstances and our reasoning. Sometimes it’s good for us to just let loose and force ourselves to really rejoice and praise God. Just go ahead and make a fool of yourself praising God! God won’t mind…To rejoice means to re-joy or to have joy again. In the Lord, we can experience joy again and again and again!… SAY THIS: I will let God’s joy flow out of my spirit by rejoicing in the Lord. – Excerpt from Church For All Ministry Devotionals at http://CFApublications.com

As both Dr. Fredrickson and Church For All Ministry so aptly put it, focusing on the positive – on being joyful and having joy, is good for us. Speaking from personal experience, I notice that my mood often changes when someone positive or who exudes a lot of joy in their presence is around me. The feeling and state of being joyful has a way of lifting a person’s spirits. Being with or talking to someone who sees joy in the ordinary or mundane has a way of turning us around. Also, joyful people attract other joyful individuals. Someone who is genuinely positive can see beyond their circumstances and look for the good in whatever is happening.

In each of the books in The Last Prophet series, the main character, the prophetess Sophia, must and is able to find some good in her circumstances, and often prays for God to help her find “joy” in her situation. As my friend/boss, Rick, reminded me, we need to find the good that comes from what is happening and not focus only on what is wrong. We know what is wrong, so let’s look for what is going well in our lives instead. Focusing on the positive and finding joy in the midst of a storm is a skill that must be built by practice and use. Such is the case with the book series, and in our own lives perhaps that is what will help us overcome and persevere to the finish line.

When we are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we should do as the devotional advised… re-joy ourselves in the One we believe to be our Higher Power, Creator, and/or God. In other words, find the way in which we can rejoice. It is good for us and for those around us too.

How well do you find the positive in circumstances that start out differently? What are ways you express joy to others? What brings you joy? Feel free to comment in the space provided.

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