So What is Joy Anyway?

so what is joy anywaySo what is Joy anyway? Why do I want it? How do I get it?

If I’m writing 31 posts on Finding Joy in Motherhood (and I am), then I’d better explain what I mean by “joy.”

This is the post I’ve been drafting and re-drafting since July.

(that’s three months of dithering, ugh. i pinned a lot of word art on the subjects of happiness and joy during that time.)

I even wrote about what happiness means to me.

Why was this hard to write?

I was stressing out about the religious stuff.

In some Christian circles, they make a big deal about Joy being listed as a Fruit of the Spirit.  They go on to say that happiness isn’t.  Clearly implying that Joy is something we should strive for, while Happiness is just… worldly.

But that always confuses me because happiness is in the Bible too.

So I went round and round and never could figure out what to say.

So, What is Joy Anyway?

I decided to try the dictionary.  (all definitions are from

Joy defined
Did you catch all that?

Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good-fortune.  Joy is a state of happiness or felicity.  It is bliss.  It is delight.

The definition also includes “the prospect of having what one desires.”

In contrast, what is happiness?

happiness defined
Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment.  It is a pleasurable or satisfying experience.  It is Joy.

Um, what’s felicity?

The first time I ever read the word felicity, it was always written as “marital felicity.”  It was in (ahem) bodice rippers, and it was something older people always wished a couple that was getting married.

Y’all, I thought it meant people were hoping they had great sex on their honeymoon.

Then I thought it meant they got pregnant soon.

(I was 16 when I discovered romance novels, which may account for my confusion.)

For the record, “marital felicity” is an old fashioned way to talk about “wedded bliss.”

Bliss is defined as an extreme state of happiness.

Hello… felicity…

Felicity is normally defined synonymous with bliss – a state of extreme happiness.

But I LOVE what typing “define felicity” into Google yields.

“The ability to find appropriate expression for one’s thoughts.”

Let that sink in.

I want it all.

I don’t want to distinguish between happiness and joy.  To me, it’s an academic discussion.  I want them both.

I want them for me, and I want them for you!

Look at those definitions – they give a clue to how to actually achieve happiness and joy and even (giggle) felicity.












satisfying experience

expression for one’s thoughts

If you had all that, don’t you think you’d find motherhood a little more joyful?  Honestly, wouldn’t life be better in general?

I’d like to propose adding a few more words to that list:  laughter, thankfulness, and treasure.  Trust me, they fit.

So now what?

Today’s “Joy assignment” is a simple one.  I’ll even give you two options.   Either

a) Spend five minutes laughing WITH your kids  (or)

b) Jot down three things you are thankful for.

If you need help, you can check any of my posts on (a) how my kids may me laugh or (b) thankful thoughts.  I post about how my kids make me laugh every Tuesday, so I’ll be sharing another story today.

(updated: Today, my kids made me laugh about Turkeys.  Honest.)

If you need more help than that, drop me an email.  I’ll do my best to send you some resources to help.

Seriously, let me know how it went.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Houston Mom Blogger Susan Baker has a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood. She has two elementary school boys, one engineering husband, and one cat. She has a strange fascination for eggs, socks, and books. She spends far too much time on Social Media and at Target. [/author_info] [/author]

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. LOVE THIS POST… I don’t want to distinguish either, I want joy, jubilation, happiness, love, and cherished moments all the time.

    I am thankful for a wonderful family, parents who are there to help, and home to live in.
    karen recently posted..Chicken and Veggie PastaRoniMy Profile

    • Thanks Karen. It was a hard post to write until I just threw up my hands and said “I want it all.” Then it got easier.

      Today, I’m thankful that my mom is helping me declutter my house. I’m thankful that I have almost an entire day to write. I’m thankful that I’m caught up on laundry. 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post! I love the sound of my boys laughing together…but when I hear them giggling together my first thought is “what have they done or gotten in to that they shouldn’t have.” And that thought sucks the joy right out of the moment. So today I will (try) to push that thought out and join in the laughter. Thank you for this!

    • Nikki – There are many times I have the same response as you do. (Oh great, what mess have they made now!) But it’s so worth it when I can push past that and see my kids as treasures. Make it a goal to stand outside the door while they play happily and just listen. Listen to how they work together as a team. Listen to the outrageous imaginations. Listen and appreciate the wonder of how different they are from each other (and from you!). I promise it will be worth it.

      I share a story about how my kids make me laugh each week for a reason. It’s selfish. Knowing that I have to write that post really helps me keep focused on enjoying my kids.

  3. What a wonderful description of what we all want to have in our lives! I love how you wrapped it up, put a bow on it, and then left it up to us to open the gift. Thank you! I watched my guys (my boys and their dad) have a major tickle fest last night. It was such a joy-filled and joy-giving experience that it capped our night off beautifully. I fully intend to laugh with them again today.
    Dawn recently posted..Putting It All Out There Today – Please Be KindMy Profile

    • Dawn, thank you for such glowing praise. After struggling with this post for three months (I thought it would be dry and boring) I am so thrilled that it resonates.

      I can’t wait to unwrap this gift of Joy over the month of October. Yum!

  4. Holly Jahangiri says:

    Why won’t Chrome autofill these little blanks for me? It will on every other website I visit. (I know you’re special, but I’m pretty sure that’s NOT the answer to THIS question. 42 isn’t, either.)

    See, I think this business of redefining every word is one of the root causes of human strife. I’ve never heard Felicity used in the context you describe, but it always seemed that the Felicitys, Graces, and Prudences of the world weren’t, very.

    Imagine how much death and destruction could be avoided by substituting “willed by God into being” for “son of God.” Less confusing, roughly the same thing, really, and just as important. Seriously. Who knows what connotations the Aramaic word really carried, whatever it was? And yet, we’d argue over it until the cows came home. They’d hear us, leave again, and we’d have no milk for a week.

    I think I’ve known joy that wasn’t exactly synonymous with happiness, and I KNOW I’ve known happiness that wasn’t quite tantamount to joy. I’m pretty sure I’ve felt ecstasy, but not the kind Saints are described as experiencing. (Mine was more of a fleeting felicity.)

    Again, we should spend more time noticing and experiencing, maybe, than thinking about how to define everything. 🙂
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Social Media Stamp CollectorsMy Profile

    • Holly… I thought you were avoiding me these days. I’ve missed our little chats. 🙂

      I’ve forwarded your Chrome issues to my webmaster. I have no idea what the problem is, but I’m certain it’s something he’s done to “optimize” me.

      I can’t believe you didn’t spend time reading trashy victorian romance novels at some point in your life. I’ve done my best to google up some proof of the horrible dialog I recollect from my teen years, but I just can’t find it. It was something along the lines of the younger sister blushing madly as she wished her older sister “felicitous relations in your upcoming nuptials” with some old guy. Then there would be the sister’s friend giggling inappropriately as she says “my your felicitous union bring you many children and much joy.” You can understand my confusion!

      (EEEK – can’t imagine what google will do with THAT little paragraph.)

      I started my series on Joy in Motherhood with a broad swath of definition (this post) for a reason. I didn’t want to be limited to a strict definition of just what is encompassed by “joy” and I didn’t want to have to avoid things that were more about mere “happiness.” I also wanted to head off any discussions about the spiritual aspect of joy (versus the more “carnal” happiness) that I’ve heard discussed in real life. Yes, it’s a semantic discussion. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an actual point of discussion between very real (and well intentioned) people.

      If you notice, I ended by saying “I want it all.” Regardless of whether the emotion would be technically classified as joy or happiness or felicity, what I really want is to feel good and enjoy life. It’s a whole lot easier to be a good mom if I actually enjoy the job!

      From that view point, I agree with your assessment that “we should spend more time noticing and experiencing, maybe, than thinking about how to define everything.” That’s kind of the point I was making.

      Like everything else, a semantic discussion can be used for good or harm. I was attempting to use it for good as an INCLUSIVE tool. It can, as you pointed out, be used to hurt people in an EXCLUSIVE or DIVISIVE manner.

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