5 Joy Competencies to Counter the Effects of Confinement During COVID-19, Pt. 2

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the second of a two-part series. You can find part one here.

As I mentioned in my first post, seasons of crisis like this global pandemic and economic collapse can provoke extreme anxiety. Joy is a powerful virtue that can counter the negative effects of seeing one’s daily routine turned upside down, constantly hearing upsetting or shocking news, being uncertain about one’s future, and being concerned about one’s own and loved ones’ safety. Cultivating joy requires focusing on specific competencies that reshape the way we live and even absorb the negative information that saturates the world right now at a micro and macro level.

In this second post, I will discuss the last two joy competencies that have the potential to transform a season of uncertainty into a time of unprecedented opportunity.

Joy Competency 4: Experience spiritual joy.

Crises can help us realize what is important. As a result, we are more vulnerable to worrying about food, clothes, safety, jobs, health and other basic needs. To put it differently, crises naturally activate our survival mode. This way of functioning can lead to challenging collective dynamics that deeply disconnect people from each other.

Spiritual joy is finding a way to reconnect with what is sacred and beyond ourselves. In other words, it is seeing beyond ourselves and our own needs. This type of joy allows us to 1) stop us from trapping ourselves with negative thoughts, 2) remember the things valuable to us, and 3) contemplate and pursue those things.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Crises reveal the strength and limitations of the values on which we really build our lives. As they become more apparent during this pandemic, take time to evaluate them. Are they really life-giving? Are they strong enough to sustain you and yours in such a time as this? Do they bring joy or despair? Spiritual joy is fueled by values that are solid enough to carry us through hard times.
  • Explore what it means to pursue simplicity, beauty, justice, truth, gratitude, forgiveness, or love in times of crises. Such concepts have a history of helping us to focus on what is beyond ourselves and elevate us to what is beautiful. Spiritual joy is also fueled by what is beautiful at various levels. The more threatening and disheartening an event we face is, the more we find simple acts of humility, love, brotherhood, and care beautiful. This is your time to bring the best you have to offer to the world. To find it, ask yourself, “What would deeply bless me at such time as this?” Then do it for free and freely for others.
  • Hearing alarming news constantly can discourage and frighten us, and even shape our perception of the world. Spiritual joy enables us to see hope where it really exists. How can you fuel your hope and bring hope to others around you? Look for and share stories that remind you how crises are opportunities to see ourselves and the world with open eyes so we can refocus on what really matters.

Joy Competency 5: Reconnect with your vocation.

Crises disrupt our pattern of life, which can bring confusion on situations we had once deemed safe. This fifth joy competency can offer us the opportunity to reset the automatic mode we were on before all of this started.

To understand the meaning of vocation, we first need to explore the Greek word telos. Telos refers to an ultimate purpose or end goal. From a Christian perspective, telos points to what is good and what “should be” according to God. It points to an initial intention for humanity or overarching project for the world. From this perspective, vocation is how we live a telos in the here and now1. Vocation is finding our place and role in God’s larger story. It is living now for what matters in the ultimate sense.

Some ideas to consider:

  • What is your ultimate goal? What is the metanarrative that has captivated your attention and energy so far? Does it make sense during these times? Reading sacred texts, such as the Bible, can sustain and inspire us to find our way and remain stable through disruption. For example, Matthew 7:24 reminds Christians that building their lives on a solid foundation or metanarrative, will allow them to be stable in times of crisis.
  • Play your “bigger game.” This concept, developed by Rick Tamlyn2, encourages and dares people to live with a compelling purpose3. While this pandemic has been disruptive, it can give us the break we need to evaluate the trajectory of our lives. It can open our eyes to what really matters. Every person has a unique set of competencies, gifts, talents, culture, experiences, and relationships that uniquely qualifies them to address specific issues that impact the world. Vocational joy activates when we begin “to play our bigger game” in alignment with our individual metanarratives. When we start to creatively solve problems or effectively address certain issues from a place of purposeful meaningfulness, vocational joy fills our hearts.

Spiritual joy and vocational joy are connected. They fuel each other. Spiritual joy is all about rediscovering life-giving values, while vocational joy is living out those values with purpose and courage. This pandemic is an extremely challenging season. More than ever, our world needs people who dare to live differently, are open to new possibilities, and exemplify a purposeful life of joy that creates value for both themselves and the world.


1. King, P. E., & Defoy, F. (2020). Joy as a virtue: the means and ends of joy. Journal of Psychology and Theology(2020). https://doi.org/10.1177/0091647120907994

2. Tamlyn, R. (2013). Play your bigger game: 9 minutes to learn, a lifetime to live. Hay House.

3. See https://www.biggergame.com.

About the Author

Frederic Defoy

Frederic Defoy

Frederic Defoy is a PhD student in the Psychological Science program at Fuller Theological Seminary. He served as a Thrive Scholars Fellow from 2018-2020. He holds an MA from Wheaton College in Christian Formation and Ministry and is a professional vocational coach. Fred is actively involved in the Thrive Center's Joyride Project and Spiritual Exemplars Project. He hopes to contribute to the discussion of helping others embrace their vocation and connect them to their purpose.

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