Monday, September 22, 2008

Feelings vs. Actions

In the dictionary, joy actually is a subset of happiness; it is the extreme end of the happiness spectrum. (Happiness: "a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy" - Joy: "intense and especially ecstatic happiness") These definitions make it clear that, technically, one can feel happiness without experiencing joy, but one cannot experience joy without being happy.

That having been said, in order to understand a word I look for the nuances of actual usage. Generally, we say that we "feel happy", while we "have joy". Likewise, we say we "are happy", but we "are joyful". Finally, we don't "happy" as a verb, but we do "joy". (The dictionary lists joy as a verb.) That's the distinction I draw. Happy is a feeling that comes and goes; joy is something that we have or possess, something that causes us to do - to "joy".

I know the limitations of this analogy, but it is much like the distinction we draw between belief and faith – a distinction many others don’t make. Belief is something our mind and/or heart feels; faith a belief that is so strong that it drives our actions - a belief so strong that it motivates us to do. Likewise, the Bible draws a clear line between the type of love that is "felt" and the type of love that is "expressed through action" - a love so strong it will cause us to act upon our feelings - to "love someone" as a verb. Paul makes that distinction explicit in his discourse on charity.

It's good to feel, but it's better to act on those feelings.


Kalola said...

I don't know if this relates to your post, but I'm feeling fairly happy today because I'm reconnecting with the Queens Girl that I am. This may not make sense, so folks would have to view my blog today. :)

Papa D said...

kalola, It does if it involves actions and not just feelings. *grin*

I'll check it out.

Tasha said...

well said! when i am as old as you i hope i have this same wisdom :)!

Jami said...

When I am as old as you, Ray, I hope that I joy more. :)

As a person who battles depression, I have such a hard time with both joy and happiness. I am happy sometimes. I am filled with joy from time to time. I hope for eternal joy, and I try not to guilt too much about not being there now.

I know you aren't giving the "Bad depressed people! Bad!" talk, but so many people do. The whole "you are breaking a commandment when you aren't 'of good cheer' and 'man is that he might have joy'" discussion can sting a bit. A lot actually. After all who doesn't want to be filled with joy?

Papa D said...

"I know you aren't giving the "Bad depressed people! Bad!" talk, but so many people do."

Yeah, I wish they would stop and really consider that whole paradigm, especially when it comes to depression. I know it's hard to understand what you can't experience, and I understand the tendency and need to preach a general ideal, but I also wish even at those times people would acknowledge openly and directly and prominently that it ALWAYS is a "to the best of one's ability" discussion - in anything we discuss.

There is no need to answer here publicly, but I hope you are getting whatever help you need, Jami - whether or not that includes medication. I'm not sure if you read my post from last Wednesday called "Spiritual Prescriptions". I know you haven't commented, so if you haven't read it, please do.

Tash, some days I feel older than others. Right now, I think I actually am ten years younger than you. (**sticks out tongue and wiggles fingers with thumbs in ears**)

Stephen said...

That is really well said.

I need to write about medication and religion. Some people reject medication all together, others feel every woman in the Church over forty should be medicated.

/Argh /Sigh

But still, there is an underlying state of being we reach, beyond or in spite of the limits of the flesh, that we can find sometimes. I liked your post and the comments.

Christy said...

I'm a little late in commenting on this post - hopefully you'll know it is here. Regarding depression, what I have experienced as the saddest part of not being able to feel joy is that I am not feeling gratitude. They seem to go hand and hand. Feeling grateful makes me joyful. So, there are times when I can feel joy by taking stock of my blessings - getting a little perspective, I guess.

Another thing that helps is service. I had a wonderful experience once coming home from visiting teaching. I was given the gift a gratitude - it just came on me, given to me by the spirit, and yes, it felt joyful. I know it was a gift for my service.

Papa D said...

Thanks for sharing that, Christy.