Recognizing moments of real joy

By James Willoughby

One of the buzzword phrases of 2017 was “fake news.” We have suddenly become so indignant about falsified news feeds that fill our social media pages. It’s funny how we selectively care about some of the junk that’s fed to us by the media, but we gobble up other garbage like it’s filet mignon.

News flash — Most of our culture is a fake news feed. We place materialism above altruism. We elevate politics over people. We pray at the feet of celebrity gods. We allow our id’s hungers to overpower our innate sense of right and wrong.

As a society, we have lost focus. Joy should come from relationships and helping our fellow man, but we have reduced joy to a marketing campaign — a false promise on the other end of a credit card transaction. A fleeting feeling from a deviant sexual relationship. A secret addiction’s carrot before the crushing blow of the stick.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that there are millions of good people in the world who get it. People who see through the smokescreen of our culture’s false promises. People who have rightly aligned their priorities and are serving their brothers and sisters. People who are leading their families in the ways of truth.

But I also know it’s easy for good people to lose perspective. I know how hard it is for me to stay focused on the things that matter most…on the people who matter most. I am lured into purchases I don’t need. I have allowed my flesh into the driver’s seat that my mind should rightly occupy. I have to fight daily against the fake feeds to recognize the real.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow did a study where he discovered that most people share a common (though fleeting) experience, having “moments of great awe; moments of the most intense happiness, or even rapture, ecstasy or bliss.” These blissful moments didn’t happen after buying a car, after a promotion or after their political party was voted into office.

These moments of pure joy often occur in the most mundane circumstances: while sharing breakfast with family, taking a walk in the woods or watching the sunrise in the still of dawn. Have you ever lived these pure joy moments? I have.

I have experienced it when truly recognizing the beauty of creation and the world around us. I have felt the connectedness of humankind in a way that has moved me to tears. Moments of silliness with my wife and children have filled me with unspeakable joy.

All of these experiences have given me glimpses into true joy. Sadly, these moments are fleeting for me, often replaced by anxiety about work, selfish desires or other clouded thoughts about things that don’t matter.

My prayer for each of us is that we will be able to harness these moments of joy. We are part of something great, something unseen, something impossible to fully fathom. Do you feel it from time to time? Bask in it. Let the fakeness of mass media and the false promises of addiction melt into nothing in the warmth of its rays.

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.