Anybody see Joy? Which way did she go?

In a healthy brain, you should be able to return to joy from fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and hopeless despair within 90 seconds. “What?! You must be kidding! That sounds impossible!” It may sound impossible, but it’s true.

Science doesn’t tell us yet, at least as far as I’m aware, why fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and hopeless despair knock joy out—they just do. These six big, bad negative emotions are very difficult for most people, but everyone needs to learn how to come back to joy from them if they want healthy, joy filled relationships. When you think of being in fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame or hopeless despair, you would think that when you are back to joy you would feel, “Woo hoo, yippiee, skippy, life is wonderful!” But that is not what is happening in your brain.

Being able to return to joy means that you are still in the middle of the emotion but you are glad to be with somebody in the midst of the big bad negative emotion.

Take fear for example. You are in the middle of a tornado…many of you are huddled together in the basement…you have your family members together. You are still frightened with the tornado going on around you, but you are glad to be together. You are glad that your family is there, and even though you are still in fear, you are building joy because you are glad to be together. Joy is the crucial element there.

You want to build a pathway back to joy from each one of those negative emotions; otherwise you get stuck and don’t know your way back.

The problem is that most of us are missing a skill or skills along the way. When you can’t find joy when in the midst of those big negative emotions, you become lost in them.

In the examples of Jesus being able to go through what He went through… Often times when you think of Jesus being angry you go back to when He overturned the tables in the temple as the illustration of Jesus being angry. He may have been, but Scripture doesn’t use the words “Jesus was angry.” The place that does talk about Jesus being angry is in the story when He healed the man with the withered hand. Jesus was angry, Scripture says so, but He was still who He was—He was a healer and He healed the man with the withered hand even though He was angry.

He was angry with the Pharisees who were upset about Him healing on the Sabbath. He was rock solid in who He was. The strong emotion of anger did not cause him to act differently than always did. If He had been full of sadness or disgust or shame or any of those emotions, it was still like Him, as a healer, to heal. He did what it was like Him to do regardless of what emotion He had. So he healed the man.

Jesus remembered who He was in the midst of anger and you and I likewise need to remember who we are in the midst of strong emotion. Remember who God created you to be so that you are able to relationally interact with other people during your upset or theirs. That is a crucial skill that you need to be able to learn to use in your everyday lives.

For pastors in particular, being able to know how to relate to your staff, your family, your congregants, the ones in your church, and continue to be relational with them during their upsets is critical to the overall health of each group.

People tend to view authority figures, especially pastors, as representatives of who God is. Leaders often bear the brunt for wounds people have toward authority figures. If you run into a pastor, or people in authority over you, who don’t have these skills you feel dismissed as if they are not paying attention. You feel diminished. If you, as pastor, are not able to stay engaged with upset people and stay relational with them, you are not able to teach them the skill of returning to joy because these skills are all passed on relationally.

How can you learn this skill?

Come to the Thrive Training. When you come, you will work at being able to pay attention to who God created you to be—what kind of a heart did God give you? You want to know how to repair ruptured relationships; how to return to relationship with people when you are feeling upset, overwhelmed, misunderstood and accused—which is frequent in relationships in church. People can be upset about how the music or child care is run, or when someone spills on the new carpet. You want to be able to return to joy when interacting with upset people who are stuck.

Thrive Training is like teaching you how to ride a bicycle. You can read the manual on how to ride a bicycle and imagine it and watch somebody riding a bicycle, but you have to get up on that bike and practice to actually learn balance. You have to take off those training wheels, and learn how to be able to navigate. That’s what we do at Thrive Training and when we work on returning to joy we practice the skill; we have to do it over and over again. It’s not something you can learn right away; you have to practice it.

I puzzled for some time why these relational skills were not just written up in a book so I could learn them. Why did I have to come to the Thrive Training? It finally dawned on me…reading and all that encoding and decoding happens in the left brain. Relational skills happen in the right brain. The right brain doesn’t learn well from books. It’s into show and tell. It runs more like monkey see, monkey do. If you learn it from a book, only 1/2 the brain is involved! You learn from a brain that already knows how it is done. Ah, ha! I finally get it!

Action step:

  1. With your bonded partner, check your calendar and sign up for the very next Thrive Training
  2. If you do not have a bonded partner or cannot take 5 full days to train your brain, find a Thriving Recover Your Life program and commit to one night a week. You will love the result!

Blessings, Chris and Carol 

Carol A. Brown, B.A., M.A.C.I.                                                         Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                                             Chris Coursey, B.A., M.A. Theology, author, international speaker and trainer

This post is from a talk given by Kitty Wilder for Pastors Weekly May 9, 2013.

2 thoughts on “Anybody see Joy? Which way did she go?

  1. Thanks for this really interesting and Bible-based look at joy. I agree with you that joy is something we should always be able to return to. One of the most amazing examples of this is the Bible is Paul and Silas singing in prison after being whipped. It seems impossible. Yet the key lies not so much withIN as it lies withHIM. Joy is a Spirit gift that is beyond circumstance, a truly amazing gift as you point out. It is great that you talk about joy and not happiness. For the difference and a great parable about this pop in here –

    Thanks again!
    Love in Jesus

    • Hello Malo, Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate the blog you included. The distinction you make between happiness and joy is important. In our Life Model and Joy Starts Here books we define joy as the feeling you have when “someone is glad to be with you.” Jesus is ALWAYS glad to be with us…in prison, on the job, in sickness or health, He is always glad to be with us!

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