The simple, unselfish joy that something good has happened to someone else – reading this line gave me a thought – have I experienced this before?
It has been rightly stated that it is relatively easier for a person to feel compassion or friendliness in situations which demand them, than to cherish a spontaneous feeling of shared joy, outside a narrow circle of one’s family and friends. It mostly requires a deliberate effort to identify oneself with the joys and successes of others. Yet the capacity of doing so has psychological roots in one’s nature which may be even deeper that his/her compassionate responses. There is firstly the fact that people do like to feel happy (with — or without — good reason) and would prefer it to the shared sadness of compassion.
Admittedly, the negative impulses in us, like aggression, envy, jealousy, etc., are much more in evidence than our positive tendencies towards communal service, mutual aid, unselfish joy, generous appreciation of the good qualities of our fellow-men, etc. If this potential for unselfish joy is widely and methodically encouraged and developed, starting with the a child and continued with adults, the seed of unselfish joy can grow into a strong plant which will blossom forth and find fruition in many other virtues, as a kind of beneficial “chain reaction”: magnanimity, tolerance, generosity (of both heart and purse), friendliness, and compassion. When unselfish joy grows, many noxious weeds in the human heart will die a natural death (or will, at least, shrink): jealousy and envy, ill will in various degrees and manifestations, cold-heartedness, miserliness, and so forth. Unselfish joy can, indeed, act as a powerful agent in releasing dormant forces of the Good in the human heart.
Nowadays, moral exhortations fall increasingly on deaf ears, whether they are motivated theologically or otherwise. Preaching morals with an admonishing finger is now widely resented and rejected. It was also with this situation in view, we can acknowledge the fact that a virtue like unselfish and altruistic joy has its natural roots in the human heart and can be of immediate benefit to the individual and society.
In this troubled world of ours, there are plenty of opportunities for thoughts and deeds of compassion; but there seem to be all too few for sharing in others’ joy. Yet, in a world that can never be without disappointments and failures, we must also arm ourselves with stability and composure to protect us from discouragement and feelings of frustration, should we encounter difficulties in our efforts to expand the realm of unselfish joy.
Envy and jealousy need not be our friends anymore.