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Finding Joy Through Pain

Being happy is a transient state, a feeling, I have never met anyone who is happy all the time. Joy on the other hand is more of an emotion it contains happiness but goes deeper. Joyful people are those going through a rough time but not going under.

This is a subject that I've been talking about with friends for a few months now (and some strangers too). It's an idea that sounds pithy and a bit away with the fairies. But, I believe that we can all master the concept of finding joy through pain and apply it practically. Life will not become problem free, but we will hopefully find it is easier to live life to the full when we look for and find the good.

Firstly, I must define what I mean by joy, because we have all felt pain and know what that is. I want to say that in my opinion joy and happiness are two different things. Related, but, not the same. The words happy and joy both have their roots in Middle English; happy has its origins in the word luck and joy in rejoice. Someone described it like this: Happiness is an inch deep and a mile wide, joy is a mile deep and a mile wide.

I'm talking about the difference because I'm not saying that we should find happiness through pain. In many circumstances that is nearly impossible. But I think we can find joy.

Being happy is a transient state, a feeling, I have never met anyone who is happy all the time. Joy on the other hand is more of an emotion it contains happiness but goes deeper. Joyful people are those going through a rough time but not going under. Joy gives you peace when all around you isn't very calm. The actual process of finding and sometimes extracting joy can be challenging, it can also take a long time. It is a choice and one that you must make continually. The decision you make to not stay in your pain is one that you make when things are quite tough. Then you have to try and stick it out.

After a bereavement, a counsellor said to me you have to imagine yourself as a stained-glass window and you've been broken. You can't make the picture what you were, but you can make a new beautiful picture.

We must decide if we want to stay where we are or if we want to get to the other side of pain and live a full and purposeful life. That's how you find the joy. It should be joy, it can't really just be happiness. Because happiness doesn't go very deep and when the next knock comes you may just be overwhelmed by the sadness and fear again. When you have joy, which runs a mile deep you're able to look at the situation and say "this is not great and it doesn't look good, BUT, I have an opportunity to make a new beautiful picture with the pieces and fragments that remain."

It is a choice. Sometimes we stay in our pain because we know it, it's familiar and therefore feels safe. We may want to rebuild, yet we don't quite know how to put the pieces back together again. Looking and feeling different can fill us with fear. Attempt a new picture anyway rather than trying to make the old one over or worse still sitting surrounded by fragments that say nothing of who you are and most importantly who you can be.

The jobs I've left because of situations that were unfair led me to new paths and skills that I would have NEVER discovered if I didn't leave the place I was. I'm still using the skills I learned in the job I would never have had if I were comfortable where I was. Literally the pain of the situation sent me searching for the new. My life's purpose came alive in me after losing my daughter. Am I happy she's not here? No. I use the joy that came in finding my purpose as something to hold onto when I feel sad about it. The relationships/friends that leave us, sometimes we choose to walk away from them, the empty space it leaves hurts either way. It does however leave room for love and friendships that are better suited to where we are. The joy in finding people who understand us and really care for us helps to ease what we have lost.

In many situations we have the chance to turn things around and start over. I'm not saying we don't feel the pain deeply and I'm not saying we should pretend it doesn't hurt even when joy comes in. What makes joy through pain even more special is the contrast. What used to fill us with sadness brought with it some good and that happiness is no longer fleeting.

I think of all the people who have lost loved ones to Cancer, Alzheimer's and other diseases. They often begin to fund raise, literally climbing mountains and throwing themselves down the sides of building to raise money to find cures and care for the ill. I'm sure they think about the people they have loved everyday. They make their pain a springboard in the hope that someone else won't have to suffer like they did. When they raise funds, and know that the money is going towards something they believe in there is a sense of joy and pride. That is finding joy though pain. It makes life worth living.

This is all much harder to do than it is to write down. With one short life, let's invest our time on things that help us to stay joyful, purposeful and feeling like we really want to live. Trouble will come, but joy often comes with with it. We have to be determined to find it.