Are you allowing “Pleasure” to crowd out “Joy” in your life and your work?

I was sitting in church yesterday and this concept came up in the sermon presented by our pastor and it really started me on a path regarding the difference between Joy and Pleasure in my life and my work.  Here is a quote from one of C.S. Lewis’ books that speaks to this more clearly:

I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world. But then Joy is never in our power, and pleasure often is.
Surprised by Joy, chapter 1, 5th paragraph from the end

C. S. Lewis on Joy

Let’s dive a little deeper into the difference between Joy and Pleasure and then discuss how to seek one while not settling for the other.

Here is the definition of Joy:

-A feeling of great pleasure and happiness (noun)
-A thing that causes joy

Here is the definition of Pleasure:

-A feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment (noun)
-Used or intended for entertainment (adjective)

The challenge with using just these definitions is that one calls upon the other for its definition.  Here is a better description of Joy:

Pleasure is dependent on circumstances, but joy is inward and is not disturbed by one’s environment.
Henry Bosch-Our Daily Bread  4/4/2001

When I consider Joy and Pleasure and then use the additional lens of Inward versus Outward, then this discussion takes on a whole new meaning.

Another reading while doing research for this post calls Pleasure a “side dish” while Joy or Fulfillment is the “full meal”.

Let me draw a few personal distinctions that help differentiate Joy versus Pleasure for me:

  • Seeing my sons succeed provides Joy
  • Having a good meal at a restaurant is a Pleasure
  • Reaching a long-pursued goal brings Joy
  • Getting home safely at the end of the day is a Pleasure

There are two major distinctions I draw when comparing a Joy and a Pleasure.  They are as follows:

1.  Joy comes as a result of a longer-term plan or series of activities.  In many cases (not all) the most intense Joy comes from seeing the success of others versus my own personal success.

2.  Pleasure can be intense, but it is short-term in duration.  In many cases the more intense the pleasure, the shorter the period of satisfaction, sort of like a sugar high.

Now that I have drawn a difference between Joy and Pleasure for myself, how do I apply this to my own life and what might you do to do the same for your life?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. The greatest Joy can come from long-term plans that are laid out with the intent of influencing and affecting many others outside of your own world.  This does not mean that you cannot plan for your own joy, but my greatest Joy seems to come when I am focusing my efforts on the needs of others.  It may be the same for you also.  Consider not only your own needs, but consider those of others also.  How will your efforts help or encourage them versus just focusing upon yourself?
  2. Pleasure is necessary and encouraged in small doses spread over a period of time.  I liken Pleasure to eating candy.  A little candy on occasion can be a good thing, but too much candy on a repeated basis can cause things like tooth decay and an upset stomach, not even to mention weight gain and the higher likelihood of Diabetes.

Joy versus Pleasure; Inward versus Outward

How will you focus your life and your efforts?

Is it more important to plan for Joy by affecting and encouraging others or is it just as important to provide that short-term “fix” for yourself when pleasure is involved.

I’ll come back to this later this week and next as I look at Joy versus Pleasure in the job hunt and in career planning.

Have a Joyous day.