Shades of Meaning: happiness and joy

What is the difference between happiness and joy? The question arises from an Assembly at school I was compelled to write.

Is one just the other with “very strong” added to it?

In the interests of investigation I asked my daughter to show me her joyful face. The results were… not terribly illuminating!

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Let us step into a few other shoes and mayhaps develop some ideas…

As a teacher in an explicitly religious school, could we suggest that simple happiness and fear are products of and caused by this our material and prosaic world; joy and horror are our reaction to being touched by the divine world?

Joy is certainly an ancient word from the Proto-Indo-European root gau- meaning to “rejoice”, becoming in Latin gaudere and in Greek gaio. Now there are certainly clear religious and spiritual connotations to the words joy and rejoice. We sing to God to give “joy in my heart”; we “come with joy” to meet our Lord; at Christmas we seek “tidings of comfort and joy”; we rejoice in the Lamb, the Lord, the Virgin Mary. I could go on…. But we have a strong collocation between religion and joy.

If we step into a Freudian point of view, do we parallel the concepts of happiness and joy with the conscious and unconscious minds, respectively? Perhaps there are so many conscious concerns that, the more socially aware we become, the less joyous we appear? We become worried about the way our faces screw up and become less composed; that awful snorting laugh we sometimes make; the fear of laughing at something no one else finds funny.

Certainly from the point of view of a parent, I have witnessed the lovely uncontrolled joyous laughter of my children give way to increasingly self-conscious controlled smiles.

What a tragedy that we give allow these things to happen!

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