To grasp human flourishing and thriving, we must understand joy. However, no theoretical models explain the complexity of joy as a fruit of the Spirit, nor fully account for its impact on human life. We suggest that joy is best conceptualized as a virtue, a psychological habit, comprised of characteristic adaptations and given meaning by transcendent narrative identity. Thus joy involves knowing, feeling, and enacting what matters most. Developmental science and Christian theological approaches to teleology inform the ultimate ends to which joy is aimed. They suggest that telos, the purpose or goal of development, may be understood as a dynamic process that perpetuates human and social thriving and involves (1) the growing self, (2) mutually beneficial relationships, and (3) evolving moral guidelines that ensure an ongoing fit and flourishing of self and society. We synthesize developmental psychology, virtue science, and theology to propose a definition and framework for understanding the development of joy through thriving. In order to promote scholarship on joy and to elucidate its transformative nature, we discuss joy in light of discipleship, vocation, suffering, justice, and eschatology and identify issues for research.
Religion as Fertile Ground
Abstract An extensive body of research points toward spirituality and religiousness as resources for promoting human thriving. People with strong connections to the transcendent and religious meaning in life often view morals and values as central to their self-concepts. Although moral identity theory and contemporary views of virtue development emphasize the importance of narrative identity for habituated moral action, the two are often discussed in isolation of each other. In this chapter, the authors highlight how their commonality is particularly evident when examining the potential of religion to provide a transcendent self-narrative that leads to virtue formation and moral action…
How diverse beliefs shape the experience of transcendent gratitude
Author: Jeane Nelson, Susan Mangan, Rebecca Ann Baer, Jeff V. Ramdass, Pamela Ebstyne King Abstract: As a novel contribution, this study considers transcendent gratitude (e.g. gratitude towards non-human benefactors such as God, Science, or Karma) across diverse belief systems. The sample included 619 participants (M age 37.5, 52.6% female) across the U.S. with beliefs across three distinct categories: a) Theistic; 38.4%), b) Spiritual but not theistic; 26.4%, and c) Non-theistic/Non-spiritual (Other); 35.2%. Across the three belief systems, we tested the associations between gratitude and theistic predictors (e.g. feeling comfort or anger towards God, fidelity, interaction with God, attachment to…
Neurodiversity and Thriving: A Case Study in Theology-Informed Psychology
Author: Leidenhag, J. & King, P. E. Abstract: The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ to speak of conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and others as differences, not disorders or pathologies, relies on a robust account of human flourishing that can incorporate these conditions. Conceptions of illness and well-being are always partially theological, whilst also having to be grounded in the empirical realities of the present time. Therefore, positive developmental psychology is a particularly apt field for developing a theology-informed psychology. This article argues that recent work in theology-engaged psychology of thriving, as opposed to subjective flourishing, is the best approach…
Subscribe to our newsletter and get our 2024 February Thrive Calendar PDF.
You Got It!