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Guard Your Joy!

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

As we go through our daily routines, we are often bombarded by numerous distractions. Some distractions are quite welcomed and positive at times, providing us a much needed respite from life's multiple stressors. I can think of a few - a good night out with friends, good music or a movie, quality time with a significant other, or even relaxing with a good book (or whatever you choose for fun). Other times, however, these distractions are our own negative emotions, temperaments , and outlook. While we indulge them, they are quietly robbing us of clarity and peace of mind, leaving us exhausted, despondent, and off-centered. Though these negative distractions come to us in many forms, you must never, ever, surrender your joy. Guard it with everything you've got.

One of the major distractions that many of us face is discontent. Despite having every comfort this age could offer, our cravings and wanting for more, drive us towards anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction. The more we accumulate, the more empty and unsatisfied we are. And the deeper our emptiness and dissatisfaction grow, the more intense that yearning for more becomes. Unhappiness feeds our discontent. And discontent further feeds our unhappiness. It is a vicious cycle. We have become addicted to the high of having. But have we ever experienced the joy of simply being? I will explain later.

Another distraction that plagues us is the tendency to take things personally. I had to learn (and keep learning) that not everything was (is) about me. The way others choose to act or think, is, to this day, none of my business unless it threatens my safety or causes me harm. We are never responsible for the actions of another. Yet, we are quickly triggered by what others say, imply, do, or even by our perception of their actions. A simple difference of opinion is enough to cause some persons to spiral out of control. But why? Our negative response/reaction is but a bruised ego on parade - an unhealthy view of our self-ascribed importance. An agitated spirit will only incite negative thoughts and emotions, ultimately hindering or destroying one's ability to critically discern and navigate one's personal/shared spaces. Bad energy contaminates. So walk away from it! Avoid it.

Last, but no less least, is the distraction of resentment. Have you ever experienced the heavy clouds of bitterness over feeling wronged, unrecognized, insulted, taken advantage of, or mistreated? Sometimes you may feel that way because of a job, a person, or because of something you were forced or felt compelled to do. Whatever the cause or the source of one's resentment, it is a negative emotion that poisons not only the person it emanates from but also everything else around. I was forced to confront the resentment I carried and nurtured deep inside for so many years. I identified it, accepted it, and examined the why's and how's. That exercise was painful, even brutal. But a simple question I asked myself changed my perspective completely. That question was, "would I choose this emotion if it was offered to me and would I willingly choose to feel this way?" My answer was "absolutely not!" The antidote to my resentment was forgiveness. And it still is. Whenever the forgiver forgives, he/she ends up being the forgiven, because forgiveness always emancipates the forgiver.

So, why then, would we trade our joy for misery, bitterness, anxiety, anger, or pain? And why do we easily choose to be distracted by negative emotions, people, or things that only destabilize and hinder us from living full and meaningful lives? Acceptance of what is, frees you from the pain of the past and the lingering fear of not being enough or having enough. When all your energies are brought to the present, you will confront each distraction with urgency and diligence. Your questions will not be asked of tomorrow but of the present. Examine what you feel in that moment and decide if this is an emotion you would choose now. Then focus on the things that are most meaningful and beneficial to your life (however small and/or seemingly insignificant) - the things that bring you happiness right now. And be intentionally grateful every minute for them. A grateful spirit has no room for discontentment - it treasures its many blessings. A mindful spirit has no room for ego - it rejects unhealthy views of self and is quiet and assured. And a forgiving spirit has no room for resentment - it learns to accepts things (and people) as they are and moves on to brighter and better.

So guard your joy by sharing your joy. And it will eventually come right back around to you. You ultimately get back what you put out. Choose to be happy each day. Be intentional and brave. The universe does not give us utopia where things are make-belief. It gives us NOW where things are real (good or bad). So build the world you want to live in and share that happy space with others who you deem worthy of your time and energy. Who knows, maybe your happy space is exactly what the world needs right now!

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