I was recently traveling out of state to support a friend of mine as his groomsman at his wedding. The groom, the other groomsmen, the photographer and I all lived together in a house for three days or so while the bachelor’s party, rehearsal and other festivities were continuing.
Alec, the photographer, a friend of mine from college, was actually shooting two weddings that weekend. One evening, one of the other groomsmen made a comment about him that struck me as incredibly insightful. He said that, for being one of the busiest guys he knew, this photographer was also the most peaceful person he could think of. I instantly agreed.
After the wedding, the night before I left to drive back to Colorado, I asked Alec about where he got his inner peace. He quickly answered “I just have joy man.”
Since then, I’ve been thinking about his answer. Alec recently tweeted a quote of a quote to me. It was John Piper quoting G. K. Chesterton. In his book, Orthodoxy, Chesterton said “Man is more manlike when joy is the fundamental thing in him.” Though it’s obvious from the context that Chesterton is using “man” in the general human sense of the word, I believe this quote contains a lot of truth that we as men need to receive.
Man is more manlike when joy is the fundamental thing in him.
Awhile back I talked about the importance of finding your identity as a a son of God (a genderless spiritual reality for both men and women) before anything else. You need to find your identity in sonship well before you try to find it in manliness. I’m now realizing that Joy needs to be another integral aspect of who we are. Substituting “human” for “man”–if humans are more humanlike when Joy is the fundamental thing them, and an integral aspect of your humanness is your manhood, then you’ll be more of a man when Joy is a foundational aspect of your character. The same would go for women.
This flies in the face of the Hollywood image of men.
On one hand you have the American Manly Man. The American Manly Man is stoic, only smiles when he is shooting something, can’t maintain a relationship with a woman because he’s too busy being a hard-ass and fighting. The American Manly Man doesn’t laugh from Joy–he just makes cynical, sardonic remarks about how he doesn’t care. His smile is really a painful grimace.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the American Dude, who is too stupid and base-minded to have real joy. Real Joy is set on higher, eternal things, but the American dude is content to find his ersatz joy in fart jokes, boobs, football, beer and bacon. Joy gives us incredible drive but the American Dude is content just getting fat and doing whatever his wife tells him to. His grin just says that he doesn’t know what to do.
These stereotypes must not define us as men. They are based on fear. The Manly Man is too scared to feel and the Dude is too scared to act. While I’ll probably always like the Die Hard movies and will always laugh at fart jokes, I need to find that, beyond all of that fluff, Joy is what is truly integral to who I am as a man. Be clear that we’re talking about Joy and not just happiness. The difference is important but there is not sufficient space here to lay out a theology of joy and a discussion of how a man obtains it. That will be your job for now and maybe we’ll discuss it in the future.
For those interested, here is the full quote from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton. As you’ll see there is way more to the thought than what we’ve discussed above.
The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity. This is what I call being born upside down. The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear.
—Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
So what do you think? Is Joy integral to who you are? Should it be? What do you think Joy is and how do you get it?