Christians generally defined joy as more long-lasting and happiness as temporal or fleeting, while non-Christians said joy and happiness meant the same thing. Even though she’s Christian, she was leaning toward the ‘non-Christian definition’ herself.
The problem with the Christian definition is that it encourages people to look down on happiness as a “worldly” thing, to look down on people who pursue happiness as being vain. It also encourages the idea of not having fun at all but yet claiming to be full of joy within – even though your face hasn’t got the memo yet.
When you think of someone, maybe a child, who is full of joy, don’t you picture someone who’s very happy too? So would you say that joy and happiness are the same thing?
I would say that happiness is a subset of joy. Someone who is joyful expresses happiness as one of his characteristics. Other characteristics that go along with that are: contentment, peace and hopefulness. Joy, to me, is a much greater degree of happiness. I would love to say, “You can have happiness without joy but not joy without happiness,” but I can’t even say that. I’m not convinced enough that the two words mean different things. This is just my own definition until I’m convinced otherwise.
Many people say that back in the day, the two words were used interchangeably – even in the Bible. But later on, many Christians began to spread this doctrine that it was only worldly people who sought after happiness, while true Christians were filled with joy. I think what they were attacking was the idea of finding happiness in things outside of God, but somehow ended up lumping things together until they made “happiness” into a worldly concept and adopted “joy” as a holy concept.
But that doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t seem correct. The dictionary defines ‘happy’ as “Feeling or showing pleasure, contentment, or joy”; and defines ‘joy’ as “Feelings of great happiness or pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind.”
So you definitely can’t separate the two. You can only make a distinction between relying on other people/things to make you happy, and being in control of your own happiness. And I think everyone agrees with that.
Apparently, what everyone does not agree with is that the words ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’ mean different things. As you just saw in the dictionary definition, the words are even used to describe one another. That’s where my confusion comes from! Do these words mean the same thing or not?
I don’t have an answer yet. I don’t think my fiancée does either. But, so far, she’s leaning toward the non-Christian camp while I’m leaning toward the Christian.
So I’m just going to stop here and turn the question over to you, my dear readers: What’s the difference, if any, between joy and happiness? And why do you think so?
Here’s keeping fingers crossed for a solution to this conundrum!