I’m Going Pro-Joy

Almost everyone I know has a cause of some kind — Save the Planet, Pro-Choice, Rally for Democracy, Evangelize America, Tax the Wealthy, Go All-Organic, Buy American, Conceal and Carry, Grow Your Own ______, Weight Lift, Save Your Money — you get the drift.

What has been bothering me, though, is that most of the time the passionate cause-people come off totally pissed that you aren’t for their cause, or angry that the rest of the world can’t see whole grain truth. When pro-lifers start protesting and shouting outside Planned Parenthood clinics, it makes me cringe and wish I didn’t have to associate myself with pro-lifers. But I am pro-life. I just don’t like to scream.

So what I propose is that people adopt joy as their number one cause. It’s impossible to have joy and be pissed about how your neighbor won’t give up eating a cow. Because joy radiates out from love, joy doesn’t need to get all red in the face every time a sports star humiliates his hometown. I’d like to see some people who are certain about what they believe, who can give a reason for the hope they have, to simply believe those things, talk about their beliefs with humility and compassion, and embrace their passion in joy, rather than frustration.

I have never been swayed by someone screaming in my face. But in a casual conversation, a good friend and colleague of mine mentioned that his wife was the only person he knew who was both pro-life and anti-death penalty. It was said with admiration for his wife, who embodies this joy-passion formula, not with angst that the rest of the world hasn’t embraced this same belief. And it made me think about the connection between these two causes, something I’d never given much thought to before.

The fact of the matter is the whole world is never going to be on the same page with me, and the whole world is never going to agree with you whole-heartedly about everything you believe. I have some really firm beliefs about humanity and faith, but I am learning more about myself, humanity, nature, faith, relationships, etc., to know that these beliefs need to be malleable. I need to be able to have an open ear and an open heart, to be able to speak AND listen, to be humble, consider, test, and evaluate what is going on in the world around me. And respond appropriately.

It isn’t good to lock my beliefs in a box. Especially without any breathing holes or access to water and food. My philosophy of life should be permitted to grow and develop, and I should be allowed to retract a few of those beliefs I stood so firmly on several years ago.

But if we do not have “ears to hear,” we might as well slip away into our causes so we can stand around nodding and agreeing with our like-minded peers all day long, content to remain just as we are– ticked off that the rest of the world doesn’t get it. Whatever “it” is.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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