June 27, 2024

Discovering Joy

This post is based upon an interview between Psychology Today and Dr. Pam King

Click here for the full interview post on Psychology Today’s website.

What is Joy?

Joy is more than just happiness, which can be fleeting. Joy is a profound human experience that shapes our lives in meaningful ways. With joy, people experience something deep and enduring involving our thoughts, feelings, and actions in response to what matters most. It is a deep, enduring delight in what holds the most significance. Joy can be cultivated and practiced as a virtue.

Understanding Joy

Joy, a core part of the human experience, has both overwhelming and sustaining qualities. We’ve all felt joy in response to a reunion with a loved one, good news or meaningful accomplishments. Most people link joy with goodness, but what kind of “goodness” leads to life-altering joy?

Through philosophical, theological, and psychological lenses, we can identify three key areas that inform joy: growing in authenticity and strengths, deepening relationships and contributing to others, and aligning with ethical and spiritual ideals. Living a strength-based life, reciprocating relationships, and maintaining moral coherence lead to more joy. This indicates that joy is not just personal but involves our connections with others. We find joy in doing what we love, deepening relationships, and pursuing our values. When these elements overlap, we experience the most joy.

Complexity of Joy

Joy is incredibly complex. Joy and sorrow are deeply intertwined. Both are responses to what matters most—joy in celebrating, and sorrow in losing significant things. Yet, joy and sorrow can coexist, showing how true joy, tied to personal growth and connections, endures through loss. The key is staying connected to what deeply matters during adversity.

  • King, P. E. (2019). Joy Distinguished: Teleological Perspectives of Joy as a Virtue. Journal of Positive Psychology, 15:1, 33-39, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2019.1685578
  • King, P. E., & Defoy, F. (2020). Joy as a Virtue: The Means and Ends of Joy. Journal of Psychology and Theology.
  • King, P. E. & Argue, S. (2020). #joyonpurpose: Finding joy on purpose. In D. White and S. Farmer (Eds). Joy as Guide to Youth Ministry. Nashville: General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.
  • Yale Divinity School: Dr. Pamela Ebstyne King on Purpose and Joy
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