A few weekends ago, I was extremely cranky. Outside, it was gray, gloomy, and pouring down rain–not exactly the type of weather to pull me out of a bad mood. I didn’t know why I was so miserable. My life was full of many blessings that I was grateful for. Nothing bad had happened. Sometimes, we feel crappy, and there doesn’t need to be an explanation.
It was just “one of those days” when my fiance and I decided to go to Target. We have a rule that whenever we go, my fiance picks up a bottle of soap because it’s the only place he can find his favorite type. He has been using the same scent for as long as I’ve known him–a heavenly blend of yuzu and bergamot. It’s a scent I’ve come to love because I associate it with him–one that comforts me beyond anything else.
As you can imagine, I didn’t take it very well when he decided to choose a new scent on an already crappy day. For some reason, it crushed me. I wanted to cry right there in the checkout aisle, and then cry more because crying over soap is ridiculous. The new scent wasn’t him. I didn’t even like it–it smelled like very woodsy baby powder. I hinted at this fact. I also hinted that buying a new scent was making me feel even more depressed. Still, he bought it. Crap! I thought.
When we got into the car my fiance revealed to me that he was also feeling uncharacteristically down that day, and that he thought maybe buying a new scent of soap would cheer him up a little.
Ouch. Suddenly I felt like a terrible person.
Here I was having a fit over him buying a new scent when he was only doing it to lift his mood.
I realized that nothing feels worse than stealing another person’s joy. I hadn’t done it on purpose; I was genuinely upset that he would no longer smell like “my fiance”. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’d taken something that was supposed to make him happy and twisted it into a negative experience.
How many times do we steal others’ joy without realizing it?
Here are some examples of stealing joy:
- A friend considers dying their hair and we talk them out of it.
- Our partner wants to try the new African restaurant but we refuse because it’s unfamiliar to us.
- Our sibling wants to attend college but we tell them they aren’t cut out for it.
- Our dad discovers country music and we tell them how much we hate it and why it sucks.
- We refuse to let our child wear the silly outfit they adore because we don’t like it.
Sometimes we feel we are protecting others (or ourselves) by acting as a major bubble-burster, and occasionally bubble bursting is needed. I’m sure your son would rather know that the car he has his eye on is missing two wheels and an engine. Just as I’m sure your wife would like to know when the jeans she is trying on at the store have a giant hole exposing her underwear.
But, before you steal someone’s joy, consider whether or not it is worth it.
What’s the worst that could happen if you allow the person to experience joy? Is it really your place to take away their joy? Is whatever they’re doing (or whatever phase they’re in) an experience they should have? Even if the outcome likely won’t be good?