Pastors, friends, family, strangers, and events can steal away our joy if we allow them. I was reflecting on the times in my life that I have allowed other people to steal away my joy. Certainly as a young child, I received my joy from my parents and immediate family. You see this all the time as a mother smiles down at her child, and the baby smiles right back. Babies take their cues from the mother for the most part. As they grow into toddlers they start to sense their mom’s mood. My Katie has always been in tune with my feelings. If I am having an off day, she recognizes it right away. If I start off the day happy and joyous, she senses that and radiates her own joy for the day. Thanks to Katie, I really try my best to be happy and joyous in the morning (which is not my normal attitude). I really strive to be for the most part happy, so Katie will start her day off to a good beginning.
As a teenager, I probably still took my cues from my mom, but I added in my friends’ emotions also. When my friends were angry, I was angry, when my friends were petty, I was petty. When my friends were joyous, I was joyous. Teenage years were an emotional roller coaster. My feelings and emotions were all over the place.
As an adult, I still allow my joy to be swept away by others. When I make a phone call to a customer service person, if they get irritated with me, I begin to get agitated too. When Pete has a bad day, I have one too. Do you see a pattern here?
You see, all my life I have allowed others to usurp my joy, my hope, my light. Why? Is it truly possible to overcome these “take downs?” Sure it is. I am allowing others to do this to me. “They” don’t recognize that their emotions are causing my joy to be lost. I am the one allowing it to happen.
So what should I do to stop this from happening?
I do try to limit my time with toxic people. I would like to clarify that toxic people are not bad people. We at some time in our life will be toxic to someone else. It just happens. Our disfunction, bad choices and inability to let things go as God plans will make us at some time in our life, toxic to someone. When I begin feeling down and depressed because of someone, I try to limit the time I spend with them. Limiting time with friends is good. Too much time with one person can be very difficult for any relationship. I know when I start to spend too much time with one person, you become one-minded. I start to think and act like the other person. I lose my identity, and guess what? I open myself up for losing my joy. I stray from God’s plan because I become lost in the friendship or a situation. So limiting time with others is a great way to stop your joy from being overtaken.
Strangers or acquaintances can conquer joy in minutes if I let them. This is when I find God’s love inside of someone. When someone comes at me with an attitude of anger or hostility, I think to myself – What does God love about this person? I did this just the other day with someone who really irritates me. You know that kind of person that just gets under your skin. You know when someone doesn’t care for you and they act fake. They think they are fooling me, but I can see right through it. Yes, this kind of person can really steal my joy. Anyway, the other day this happened. The person pretended to be my friend to get information out of me. I didn’t budge. The conversation went nowhere good and I could feel my joy slipping away, down the hall, around the corner and just about as it was going down the drain: I stopped. God, why am I always bumping into this person? What do you see in this person? I could hear Him through my heart that day, “Anne, she is very feisty, but I need her to help Me. She loves me dearly and just because the two of you don’t connect doesn’t mean she isn’t a good person. She does so much for My mission. I need you both – in very different ways – but I need you both.” I got it. I nodded and politely left the conversation with this person. We parted ways, but I wasn’t mad, agitated or upset in any way. I saw God’s Glory through her and moved on.
Sometimes when a friend just needs to let it all out, I find that I feel her pain so deeply that I too begin to feel her sadness and her hopelessness. I think I am helping her by lending my ear, but I become so engrossed in the sadness, that my joy is zapped away. Women have a hard time breaking free of empathy. We empathize with everything and everyone. We cry at the drop of hat. We feel vivid fear when our friends are scared. Heck, sometimes I just read the newspaper and start feeling sadness. As women, we need to see when we are allowing others to take our joy. God has a plan, and our sadness, anger or revengeful thoughts could distract from that plan. So next time your friend needs to vent, make sure you are prepared to hear them out, yet stay emotion free. Your joy should not change because of your friend’s situation. Ask yourself, “What is God’s plan from my friend? Will my comments or emotions interfere with that plan?”
You see, it is my decision whether to let someone steal my joy. I can choose to see the bad, or I can ask God to reveal His love. I can choose to get angry and frustrated, or I can allow God’s plan to be revealed. I can get sad and depressed, or I can pray for that person that God will show them hope. I don’t have to give up my joy to empathize with others. No way! I can empathize with others and still feel hope, love and be in awe of God’s beautiful plan.