2018 Word: Choose Joy

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choose joy

It’s that time of year again, time to choose a word.

While part of me thinks this practice is trendy, the other part of me appreciates the purpose behind the practice. I’m choosing to overlook the fact that everyone is doing it and it seems like a fad. In ten years will we look back and make fun of the way we all had words that we put on t-shirts and jewelry? The way we lovingly mock The Rachel (if you were between the ages of 18 and 28 in the late 1990’s and ever had your hair cut, you know what I’m talking about) or the way we look back with embarrassed fondness on jelly shoes.

I have chosen a word for the past three years. I’ll admit that the past two years I didn’t find true value in it and I think that is because of user error. I don’t think I chose correctly those years. They were good words, they just didn’t stick with me through out the year and that is because I don’t think they truly resonated with me on a deep level.

A few months ago a friend of mine told me that she noticed I consistently use a certain hashtag on Instagram and now she associated that frame of mind with me. #choosejoy

Even though I have been seeking the joy in everyday life for quite a while now, I’m making it official and using it as my 2018 word. Heck, maybe I’ll be crazy and take it into 2019.

I’ve been thinking about why I try to choose joy so often. My friend assumed it’s because I’m an optimist and really positive person. For the most part I am optimistic. INFPs tend to look for the good in people and situations.

But on closer reflection I choose joy not because I’m a naturally joyful or optimistic person. Quite the opposite. I choose joy because if I don’t, I want to burn the whole thing down.

So often the world can feel so heavy. The trouble we have gotten ourselves into on this planet weighs heavily on my mind and heart. If I dwell on it too much I can become overwhelmed with how much rage and unresolved sorrow there is in this world.

Spiritually, emotionally, politically; we have become cannibals.

That is why I try to choose joy.

We all have the freedom to decide how we will react to a situation, a person, or a circumstance. We can react with anger, rage, sadness, despair, coldness, indifference, melodrama. Or we can decide that despite the ugly things that happen to us or in the world, we can react with compassion, empathy, understanding, and possibly joy.

I’m not saying that I don’t ever get angry. Very often my reaction is frustration, rage, anger, and/or disgust. Very often I have myself a little temper tantrum or pity party. When I’m angry at the world I ask Adam if we can move to a cabin in the woods and only ever see and talk to our tiny family of four (as long as we have Netflix. And HBO Go. And Trader Joe’s. That’s all I need…Netflix, HBO Go, and Trader Joe’s) He tells me that no, we can’t move to a cabin in the woods and I turn away in a huff. Then I put my big girl panties on and realize that negative reactions aren’t going to get me anywhere. Once I’m done feeling sorry for myself or irate at someone else, I realize that while I can’t control other’s actions, I can control mine.

I can decide if I will see the person or circumstance upsetting me as just an obstacle to my selfish desires or as a creation equal to myself.

It reminds me of something my mom used to say whenever we would see someone on the street or a teen who had clearly made poor life choices. She would see them in their sad state and say “somewhere there is a mother…” In other words, somewhere in this great big world, once upon a time there was someone who loved that person.

All of that to say the reason I try to choose joy in the small and ordinary things is that it makes it easier to choose joy in the big and difficult things. It makes it easier to remember Christ’s call to love God and love others. It makes it easier to stand for justice and mercy when the truly easy choice would be to turn a blind eye.

Today I choose joy.

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