When I got married this summer, I expected that my personality and my actions would change as I got used to my new life. I was hoping that tying the knot would bring some unexpected changes, like a newfound love for spontaneous vacuuming, but unfortunately for my wife, this was not the case. I did get one unexpected change, though: my tendency to do little dances in public places has gone from non-existent to more common than is probably socially acceptable. It took me a while to figure out why this was happening to me. My teenage years, after all, are filled with awkward memories from church and school dances, and despite some haranguing from friends, I’ve so far refused to take any of the social dance classes that are so popular at my university. Despite all this, I keep catching myself in the aisle of a grocery store shuffling my feet in a not very talented, but kind of enthusiastic way.
I think it has something to do with joy.
I like to think about the differences between happiness and joy. The five chocolate candies that I ate a couple hours ago brought me happiness, but the sugar headache I have now has cancelled out the happiness that the candy brought me. Being surrounded by family on Christmas morning and seeing the smiles on their faces as they opened their gifts also brought me happiness, but that happiness lasted. It wasn’t superficial, it reached into every part of me and made me want to remember that moment forever. That kind of happiness is joy.
Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the true source of joy. We can find superficial, temporary happiness in many different things, but to find lasting, deep joy, we need to follow eternal principles and have eternally significant experiences. I once met a man from Portugal who was dismayed by the wreck that was his life. He spoke negatively of his job, of the economy, of many things, but he lit up when he talked about the birth of his son. In high school, I belonged to a competitive speech and drama team that was usually more drama than competition, but at our Thanksgiving party, we put our differences behind us and celebrated our association as a team, and the drama went out the window. People who could barely tolerate each other at tournaments were hugging each other and tearing up at each others’ stories.
I hope that these examples I’ve just given show not only how we need to turn to eternal things to find joy, but also that anyone can feel joy. No matter what the circumstances of our life are, we can have joy as a goal, and we can find that joy if we are committed to finding it. In fact, the prophet Lehi asserts in the Book of Mormon that the purpose of our existence is to find joy.
As you can tell from my dancing anecdote at the beginning of this post, joy changes people. It makes life a little more fun, and it helps you not worry as much about what other people think. It shapes your priorities, and it helps you ignore the bad things that happen in life. It takes some work, but it’s a valuable investment. I highly recommend it.