Thursday, December 09, 2010

What is the opposite of Joy?

What is the opposite of joy?

Misery? Sorrow? Grief?

Leslie Weatherhead said, “The opposite of joy is not sorrow. It is unbelief.”

I read somewhere that the opposite of joy is fear.

My cousin Matt said that the active form of joy’s opposite would be hate.

Isaiah 35:1 =
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.

So, is the opposite of joy “wilderness”?

When I posted the question on Facebook Wednesday afternoon, there were 11 unique responses in 35 minutes. And the words people offered were very different – misery, sorrow, summer, despair, dissolution, sadness, loneliness, anguish, apathy, emptiness, and complacency. (I think the “summer” response was supposed to be a joke.) I also liked Ed’s response, “A week without church.”

It is fascinating that so many different words were offered by different people. That says to me that “joy” is a deep and multi-faceted idea, open to a wide range of interpretations. See, I’m thinking about the opposite of joy as a means to understanding joy itself. For example, if the opposite of joy is “sorrow” or “sadness,” are we saying joy the same as happiness? Surely not, if what we mean is the superficial feeling of momentary pleasure that we call happiness sometimes, but maybe so if we’re talking true happiness, which then begs the question, what makes happiness “true?”

“Apathy” and “complacency” are kind of in the same category; a neutral and uninspired approach to life. “Emptiness,” “loneliness,” and “dissolution” are similar. “Misery” and “despair” each have a hopeless, lethargic feeling, whereas “anguish” seems to be more active.

If none of the words my Facebook friends suggested are precisely the opposite of joy, it can certainly be said the joy does not include any of these things. None of these are ingredients in the recipe for joy. But are their opposites?

Apathy’s opposite is ardor or fervor, or maybe passion.
Complacency has a lot of meanings, but would awareness maybe be its opposite?
Emptiness, loneliness, and dissolution are opposed by fullness, relationship, and completeness.
For misery and despair we might go with delight or maybe hopefulness.
And anguish’s opposite is something like comfort or solace.

Mashing all of that together, joy might be an ardent awareness of the fullness of life that instills solace and hopeful delight.

So, how does that work for you?


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