Joy suckers – what they do
Ever had something or someone come around and steal your joy? You know, you are having a pleasant day and then someone rear-ends you at an intersection! Or, your significant other calls and says it is over! It can really throw you into a tailspin. Those people are sometimes called “joy suckers” – they suck the joy from our lives.
We have all faced such situations. How did you respond? Today on Facebook, someone posted what they felt was the proper response: a picture quote that read, “Walk away from anything or anyone who takes away from your joy. Life is too short to put up with fools.” I don’t know the original source of that quote (Google has over 5 million different links to it.) It is generally used anonymously.
Is that a good plan for dealing with hardships? Inquiring minds want to know.
1. The reality is that life comes with a lot of heartache and pain
Our relationships are complicated and there are no “quick-fix” answers (such as the quote above suggests.) It seems to me that the vast majority of Facebook posts are such “picture quotes.” Unfortunately, they are almost all cliches. A cliche’ is a literary device (phrase) that evokes an emotional response without requiring any consideration of the deeper meaning. Besides filling the Facebook timelines, they are used by public speakers, politicians, and even “exciting” preachers and evangelists. (See Note1, below, for the definition of a cliche’). And although they get thousands of “shares” and “likes” on Facebook, they actually do little or nothing to help people live better lives – whether posted on Facebook, spoken by politicians, or preached from the pulpit on Sunday.
When we are faced with sad news, unfortunate situations, or difficult choices, it is rarely appropriate to just “walk away.” Most of those situations require that we deal with them – usually at that very moment. To do otherwise is similar to the (likewise overused cliche) “ostrich sticking his head in the sand.” Relationships require work. My wife and I have been married for over 50 years and we are continually given the “opportunity” to work things out. 🙂
2. Difference between “pleasure” and “joy”
Each of us seeks pleasure in life. It is the feel-good emotion. But, no one can stay on an emotional “high” continually. Those who desire such are considered hedonists. in the Bible, Moses recognized that pleasure is a fleeting thing (see Hebrews 11:25). Pleasures are (by definition) temporary and are quickly lost. After the feeling is gone, we often discover that there is a price to pay.
Real Joy, on the other hand, should be lasting. Joy, as described in the Bible, comes from knowing that we are in Christ and we are loved by Him (see John 15:9-11). When we receive the Holy Spirit, He develops fruit in our lives. Joy is an example of that fruit (see Gal 5:22). indeed, the trials of this life are intended to help us mature and, when we properly respond to them, result in “pure joy” (James 1:2). To receive the “crown of life” in eternity requires that we persevere under trials in this life (James 1:12).
Joy suckers – who they are
Complainers and grumblers attempt to get others to share their misery. Quick question: Which person do you tend to spend more time with? A cheery individual who finds good in everything, or a grumbler who would question your motives if you offered them a gift? For most of us, the answer is obvious. No one intentionally extends their visit with a person who can never be happy. The old saying, “Misery loves company” suggests that misery is contagious. They are the consummate “joy suckers.”
Those who revel in the pain of others should be avoided. Store shelves next to check-out registers are packed with “print rags” that supposedly “expose” the latest dirt on the most popular celebrities. Even the nightly news is often tainted with innuendos about some politician. Our society seems to thrive on hearing the worst about others.
But our words should build up and encourage – rather than tear down or disparage (see Eph 4:29). Christians should never be guilty of seeking and repeating the problems facing others. Gossip is defined as “information about the behavior and personal lives of other people” (Mirriam-Webster). Some “prayer chains” are little more than gossip connections. And, Romans 1:29 includes gossip in the list of acts that stir God’s wrath.
Joy suckers – am I one
I suspect that all of us, at times, have been guilty of some form of sucking the joy from others. It is easy to get pulled into the “wide road” of “ordinary” behavior (see Matt 7:13). We end up following the crowd and discover that we are guilty of grumbling and complaining to our friends or, engaging in a bit of gossip about our neighbors.
Ask, “Do I do this in a regular or somewhat consistent manner? If so, then we have probably developed a lifestyle that leads our friends to add us to their list of joy suckers.
The proper attitude is to value others. The second chapter of Philippians has been called “God’s personality development course.” It could also be called a “plan for attitude adjustment.” The cliche’ about walking away assumes an attitude of “me first and me only” where my personal happiness is the only issue. However, Philippians 2:3 states that we should “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” When we truly place value in those around us, we will be less inclined to “rain on their parade” and more likely to rejoice with them or feel the pain when they are hurting.
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Note1: Anton C. Zijderveld, a Dutch sociologist, throws light on the function of a cliché in the following extract taken from his treatise “On Clichés”:
A cliché is a traditional form of human expression (in words, thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts) which–due to repetitive use in social life–has lost its original, often ingenious heuristic power. Although it thus fails positively to contribute meaning to social interactions and communication,. O it does function socially, since it manages to stimulate behavior (cognition, emotion, volition, action), while it avoids reflection on meanings.