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To grasp human flourishing and thriving, we must understand joy. However, no theoretical models explain the complexity of joy as a fruit of the Spirit, nor fully account for its impact on human life. We suggest that joy is best conceptualized as a virtue, a psychological habit, comprised of characteristic adaptations and given meaning by transcendent narrative identity (McAdams & Pals, 2006). Thus joy involves knowing, feeling, and enacting what matters most. Developmental science and Christian theological approaches to teleology inform the ultimate ends to which joy is aimed. They suggest that telos, the purpose or goal of development, may be understood as a dynamic process that perpetuates human and social thriving and involves (1) the growing self, (2) mutually beneficial relationships, and (3) evolving moral guidelines that ensure an ongoing fit and flourishing of self and society (King et al., in press; Schnitker et al., 2019). We synthesize developmental psychology, virtue science, and theology to propose a definition and framework for understanding the development of joy through thriving. In order to promote scholarship on joy and to elucidate its transformative nature, we discuss joy in light of suffering, justice, and eschatology and identify issues for research.
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Joy as a Virtue: The Means and Ends of Joy
Pamela Ebstyne King
Frederic Defoy
Thrive Center for Human Development
Fuller Theological Seminary
King, P. E. & Defoy, F. (in press). Joy as a virtue: The means and ends of joy. Journal of
Psychology and Theology.
Author note
Pamela Ebsytne King, Thrive Center for Human Development, Fuller Graduate School of
Psychology; Frederic Defoy, Thrive Center for Human Development, Fuller Graduate School of
This work was supported by a grant from the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.
Correspondence should be addressed to Pamela King, Thrive Center for Human
Development, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
To grasp human flourishing and thriving, we must understand joy. However, no theoretical
models explain the complexity of joy as a fruit of the Spirit, nor fully account for its impact on
human life. We suggest that joy is best conceptualized as a virtue, a psychological habit,
comprised of characteristic adaptations and given meaning by transcendent narrative identity
(McAdams & Pals, 2006). Thus joy involves knowing, feeling, and enacting what matters most.
Developmental science and Christian theological approaches to teleology inform the ultimate
ends to which joy is aimed. They suggest that telos, the purpose or goal of development, may be
understood as a dynamic process that perpetuates human and social thriving and involves (1) the
growing self, (2) mutually beneficial relationships, and (3) evolving moral guidelines that ensure
an ongoing fit and flourishing of self and society (King et al., in press; Schnitker et al., 2019).
We synthesize developmental psychology, virtue science, and theology to propose a definition
and framework for understanding the development of joy through thriving. In order to promote
scholarship on joy and to elucidate its transformative nature, we discuss joy in light of suffering,
justice, and eschatology and identify issues for research.
Keywords: joy, virtue, telos, thriving, transcendent narrative identity
Joy as a Virtue: The Means and Ends of Joy
What is the chief end of humankind? To glorify God and enjoy God forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1643–1652
I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not a substitute for joy.!
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 1955!
Given the common claim that joy is to be central to the Christian life, it is ironic that
Christian psychology has not given joy more thorough study. The first question of the
Westminster Catechism (1643–1652) quoted above points to the prominence of joy by stating
that the chief end of humankind is to “glorify God and enjoy God forever.” Even within the
burgeoning field of positive psychology, joy has rarely been addressed from conceptual or
empirical perspectives (for exceptions, see Fredrickson, 2001; Meadows, 1975, 2014; Vaillant,
2008, Watkins et al., 2017). Lest joy remain a nebulous part of the growing pantheon of
positivity, this construct, which the Christian tradition identifies as a fruit of the Spirit, warrants
deep consideration from an integrative perspective. Such an undertaking is timely given the
growing interest in potentially joy-related constructs such as positive emotions, character
strengths, virtue, purpose, well-being, thriving, and flourishing. Coinciding with such social
science endeavors, positive approaches within Christian theology have been recently burgeoning
in areas such as joy, flourishing, and the good life (see Charry, 2010, 2013; Croasmun,
Grozdanov, & McAnnally-Linz, 2017; Strawn, 2013; Volf, 2015, 2017, 2018; Volf & Croasmun,
2019). In this paper we aim to bridge these all-too-often parallel but rarely intersecting efforts to
offer a psychologically and theologically informed perspective of joy, in order to promote its
scientific study and map out directions for future research.
Currently within the psychological literature, diverse conceptualizations of joy exist. In
fact, some are contradictory, ranging from involving levity and delight to having substantive and
sacred meaning (Johnson, in press). That said, the most common denominator is that joy is an
emotional response to something good. Although a start, existing conceptualizations fall short
both in terms of vagueness and subjectivity regarding a designation of “goodness” and in regard
to capturing the moral and spiritual nature of Christian joy. We agree with Lewis’s (1955)
provocative quotation above suggesting that joy is more substantial than all other pleasures,
including happiness. Our goal is thus to distinguish joy from happiness and other pleasures and
to define the goodness related to joy. Given these aims and the multidimensional nature of joy
evident in the Bible, we argue that joy is best understood as a virtue based on knowing, feeling,
and enacting what should be, what truly matters, and what is good in the ultimate sense (King, in
In order to present an integrative framework that is conducive to empirical study, we first
argue why virtue offers a more substantive conceptualization of joy than emotion, which is
currently most prominent in the psychological literature. We then describe the psychological
processes involved in virtue. In order to distinguish the goodness that is relevant to joy, we draw
on teleology from psychological and theological perspectives to provide a framework for
understanding human telos, which informs appraisals of ultimate goodness. Given that a
Christian understanding of human telos (God’s purpose for humanity) is not fulfilled in this life,
we suggest that joy occurs through thriving, which we describe as the process of transformation
toward telos. We conclude with an integrative model of joy and discuss it in light of the Christian
life and identify future directions for the study of joy. !
Why Joy as a Virtue?
Currently, the psychological literature lacks a coherent and consistent understanding of
joy. Most often joy is treated as a basic emotion, a discrete emotional response, or an enduring
disposition—none of which capture the complexity of biblical joy that has prominent relational,
moral, and spiritual elements. Consequently, we propose virtue as a more robust and promising
formulation of joy.
Some psychologists designate joy as the basic positive emotion or as a bodily response to
something good (e.g., object, event, person) (see Ekman & Cordaro, 2011; Izard, 2007). From
this perspective joy is not discrete, but rather is viewed as a broad affective dimension present in
various proportions in other emotions that have specific appraisal structures (e.g., gratitude,
interest, pride). For example, Wundt, Titchener & Creighton (1894/2012) considered joy and
sorrow as fundamental moods from which all other emotions were derived. Following, a
cognitive appraisal provides specific meaning to the general positive emotion of joy. As an
analogy, as the basic positive emotion, joy is like a revved engine of positivity. The appraisal
structure serves as a steering wheel that guides the engine of good feeling in a specific direction,
such as toward the emotion of awe or gratitude. Specifically, Izard (2007) identified joy as a
basic emotion because he understood it to possess the five characteristics of basic emotions: (1)
is universal and part of an evolutionary process, (2) requires only a minimal or rudimentary valid
appraisal, (3) is associated with an innate feeling that is invariant across the lifespan, (4) affects
cognition and action, which in turn modulate one’s experience of joy, and (5) is a constant source
of motivation that serves adaptive functions.
Emotion science finds that cognitive appraisals accompany emotion or affect (Clore &
Ortony, 2008) and the appraisal structure of joy as an emotion remains vague. The most specific
treatments of joy describe it as a discrete emotional response to goodness that in some cases is
circumstantial and in others may become enduring and dispositional. What warrants an
assessment of “the goodness” that invokes a joyful affective response varies throughout the
literature. Joy has been associated with vivid pleasure (Darwin, 1899), pleasant experiences
(Wundt et al., 1894/2012), meaningful work (Myers & Diener, 2018; Watkins et al., 2017),
relationships (Myers & Diener, 2018; Schore, 2014; Watkins et al., 2017), and meaningful
objects (Watkins et al., 2017). For Vaillant (2008), joy is a multidimensional phenomena that is
“all about connection with others” (p. 124) and involves a specific appraisal structure that is
particularly related to connections and reunions with loved ones. Schore (2016) concluded that
joy results from the mutual regulation occurring through social exchange, which primarily
develops early in life through visual connections between an infant and his or her attachment
Valliant (2008) and Watkins et al. (2017) also suggested that joy is experienced in
connection with an “object of joy” that may be human, divine, or material. In this way, joy has
been conceptualized as an intense short-lived emotion, but joy is also described as a more subtle
stable state. As such, joy can be more enduring than an emotional response to circumstances and
can also be described as a disposition. Watkins et al. (2017) found that joy as a disposition is
related to gratitude and involves the appreciation of joy objects such as intimate relationships,
meaningful work experienced as pleasure, or something that is perceived as good.
In the most specifically conceptualized empirical study of joy at time of publication,
Watkins et al. (2017) assessed joy as a discrete positive emotion and found in multiple studies
using modified forms of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Extended (PANAS-X) that
joy factored as clearly distinct from boldness/strength, surprise/astonishment, attentiveness,
calm, and gratitude/thankfulness/appreciation. In other studies, various assessments of joy have
also been associated with other emotions such as pride of achievement (Izard, 2007); affection
and pride (Diener, 1999), hope and inspiration (Kast, 1991); interest, contentment, and love
(Fredrickson, 2004); amusement, contentment, and serenity (Tong, 2017); or love and gratitude
(Armenta, Fritz, & Lyubomirsky, 2017).
Joy has also been formulated from a eudemonic perspective, in which it results from a
life well-lived that is full of meaningful accomplishments, personal growth, excellence, and
virtue. For instance, Fromm (1947/1965) conceptualized joy as “an achievement” that
“presupposes an inner effort, that of productive activity” (p. 188). In the same vein, Schutz
(1967) defined joy as “the feeling that comes from the fulfillment of one’s potential” (p. 17) and,
more specifically, of one’s potential for “feeling, having inner freedom and openness, fully
expressing oneself, being able to do whatever one is capable of, and having satisfying relations
with others and society” (p. 23). Meadows’s (2014) study on psychologists’ opinions of joy led
him to conclude that joy is “the fulfillment of an important yearning or desire which is
considered crucial to one’s own flourishing” (p. 99), which for Meadows refers to living with an
optimal range of functioning “that implies goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience” (p.28)
and that “serves a larger purpose or hold vital meaning” (p. 154).
In addition to having many sources, psychologists also describe a variety of experiences
related to joy. The common description of joy involves positivity and often a high degree of
excitement, exuberance, or elation (Darwin, 1899; James, 1922/1983; Kast, 1991). However,
through his phenomenological study of joy, Meadows (2014) found three types of joy: excited
and serene joy, individuated and affiliative joy, and anticipatory and consummatory joy. From
the Buddhist tradition, Zeng et al. (2017) introduced the concept of appreciative or empathetic
joy understood as being joyful for the good fortune of others. In addition, psychologists do not
agree on the potential spiritual aspect of joy. A transcendent component to joy is irrelevant to
those who conceptualize joy as the basic positive emotion (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011; Izard,
2007). Whereas Valliant (2008) and Watkins et al. (2017) specifically argue that joy involves
transcendence and connection to something beyond mundane life, others like Tong (2017) argue
against a transcendent quality to joy.
In addition to other positive emotions, joy is often associated with intense, physiological
expression, action, and movement. Scholars have noted joy being expressed in singing, dancing,
laughter, random movement, and play. Frijda (1988) defined joy as a “state of pleasure plus the
urge toward exuberance and contact-seeking” (p. 351). Valliant (2008) suggested the importance
of play for the experience of joy, but specified that playing along with celebrating strengthens
one’s connection with others through joy. For Izard (1991), play is a source of joy and joy is a
by-product of goal attainment. For Fredrickson (2001), the emotion of joy is connected not only
with the action tendency of play, but also with pushing one’s known limits and being creative.
Joy is also sensed as a pleasant, desirable, positive, and rewarding feeling. It additionally
increases one’s capacity to appreciate the world, creates bonds or a sense of belonging to the
world, and is accompanied by strength and vigor as well as a sense of harmony and unity with
the object of joy (Izard, 1991). As such, joy may function to motivate others toward life-giving
relationships and activities. In this way, joy includes an exciting affect that leads to a state of
action readiness.
Evolutionary psychology explains how theorists perceive the benefits of action readiness
associated with joy from an evolutionary perspective. For instance, citing Tooby and Cosmides
(1990), Fredrickson (2001) explained that emotions, like joy, are evolutionarily adaptive to the
extent that they motivate action tendencies that presumably helped our human ancestors survive
life-or-death situations. Currently, for most people surviving is less of a daily issue, emotions
like joy that serve to affirm and reinforce learning, prosocial engagement, and self-regulation
direct humans toward purposeful pursuits and thriving (King, Barrett, Greenway, Schnitker, &
Furrow, 2017). Evolutionary theorists have associated joy with the urge to play, push the limits,
and be creative (Fredrickson, 2001), exuberance and contact seeking (Frijda, 1988), serenity and
calm (Meadows, 2014), smiling and laughter (Darwin, 1899)—all tendencies that enable humans
to thrive through the adaptive activities of learning, regulating, and socially engaging (King et
al., 2017; Meadows, 2014).
In summary, within the current literature, joy as an emotion is treated as a basic positive
affective response to something good that is foundational to more specific positive emotions with
cognitive appraisals, or as a discrete positive emotional response to a potential variety of good
things—and that joy can be circumstantial or may also become enduring and dispositional.
Furthermore, the experience of joy may be constituted by a variety of emotions that range from
serenity to elation. Although some categories of goodness have been named and a few
empirically evaluated, psychology currently lacks a clear definition and framework for
identifying joy-worthy categories or the extent of the goodness required to warrant joy. The
disparity and inconsistency within the literature point to the need for further study, but they also
suggest that joy may in fact be a multidimensional construct—and that an effective
conceptualization of joy would allow for both a nomothetic and an idiographic understanding of
the experience and development of the phenomenon.
Furthermore, these formulations do not address the complexity of a Christian
understanding of joy as a fruit of the Spirit or the varied meanings of joy within the Old and New
Testaments. Although a thorough biblical treatment of joy is beyond the scope of this paper, we
highlight that as a fruit of the Spirit, joy may be understood as an enduring quality or capacity
that emerges from living in Christ that is produced by the Holy Spirit (McMinn, 2012; Moo,
2013). Fruits of the Spirit may be ways that humans bear the image of God as they live out their
call as followers of Christ and become uniquely conformed to Christ’s image through the work
of the Holy Spirit (King & Whitney, 2015).
Within the Bible there are various Hebrew and Greek words for joy.
In some biblical
instances, joy is emotional and invariably associated with action tendencies such as praising,
clapping, singing, and shouting (e.g., Psalm 47, 94, 95, 100). In other places, such as in the
epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to joy as an enduring quality that results from deeply
knowing God and actively engaging in God’s eternal work in this world. Thus, joy is not solely
an emotional response. Within the Christian tradition, joy involves emotion but also is wrought
with profound meaning and includes right acting. Paul’s epistles, especially his letter to the
Philippians, convey that joy involves being related to God and God’s people, being transformed
by God’s Spirit, and participating in God’s ongoing work in the world. The goodness that joy is
associated with in the Bible has moral and spiritual heft, and although joy is something that
humans can pursue, it is ultimately a gift from God through the Spirit (Wright, 2015). Adding to
the complexity, joy is also described as eschatological, meaning that the joy experienced in one’s
present life is a foretaste of what is to come and plays a directional and motivational role in the
believer’s life.
Current conceptualizations of joy as an emotion are vague, and although emotion science
allows for varying levels of meaning to be attributed to and define specific emotions (see
Rosenberg, 1998), current approaches to emotion do not allow sufficiently for consideration of
the moral and transcendent complexities of joy evident in theology to be fully appreciated or
studied. Consequently, given the need for a more nuanced and complex formulation of joy that
addresses cognitive, emotional, behavioral, moral, and spiritual dimensions, and given the lack
of a systematic and theoretical understanding of the unique meaning or appraisal structure that
defines and distinguishes joy, we argue for conceptualizing joy as a virtue involving knowing,
feeling, and doing what is ultimately good or what matters most.
Joy as a Virtue
Virtues are enduring but malleable psychological capacities that enable people to sustain
enacting what is morally good. They are formed by patterns of psychological processes and are
given meaning by belief systems. Virtues and character strengths include cognition and beliefs,
affect and emotions, and behaviors and practices (Fleeson & Jayawickreme, 2015; King et al., in
press; Lerner & Callina, 2014; McMinn, 2017; Sandage & Hill, 2001; Schnitker et al., 2019) that
!For!example,!in!Hebrew,!gladness:!Samach ( שָׂמ ַ ֣ח ), see Ps 16:9; or exceeding joy: Simchat ( שִׂמ ְח ַ ֪ת ), see Ps 43:4. In
Greek, inward joy: chara and charein (Phil 3:1); or blessed: makarios (Matt 5:3). See Morris (1984) for the various
forms of joy in the New Testament.!
sustain a moral fit with one’s context (Damon & Colby, 2015; King et al., 2019; Lerner &
Callina, 2014; McMinn, 2017; Nucci, 2016). What distinguishes virtues from character strengths
is that a transcendent belief system informs what is morally good (King et al., in press; Schnitker
et al., 2019). In order to present a thorough formulation of joy that captures the complexity of
biblical joy, we draw from philosophical classical conceptualizations of virtue that build on the
construct of habitus, which defines virtues as habits acquired across time through intentional
practices that enable individuals to enact what is morally good within the context in which they
live (MacIntyre, 2007; Brown, Spezio, Reimer, Van Slyke, & Peterson, 2013). Such an approach
offers a multidimensional understanding of joy that portrays the importance of both the
psychological processes and the theological beliefs involved in joy.
Drawing upon developmental science, personality theory, moral psychology, and positive
psychology, the first author and colleagues conceptualized virtue as a hybrid personality unit
based on McAdams and Pals’s (2006) three-level personality theory, in order to present a
researchable conceptualization of virtue development and to distinguish virtue from character
strengths (see King et al., in press; Schnitker et al., 2019). McAdams and Pals (2006) identified
the importance of (1) biologically influenced dispositions or traits, (2) mid-level characteristic
adaptations, and (3) narrative identity for informing personality. Drawing on their three-level
theory, we posited that virtues may be understood as hybrid personality units comprised of their
mid-level unit, characteristic adaptations, that are given meaning by the third-level unit, narrative
identity. However, we argued that virtues are informed not by any narrative identity, but rather
by a transcendent narrative identity that provides a moral orientation beyond the self (see King,
in press; King et al., in press; Schnitker et al., 2019).
McAdams and Pals (2006) described characteristic adaptations as mid-level personality
units that involve consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and motivations that
describe more what a person “does” than what the person “is” or “has” (Cantor, 1990 in
Schnitker et al., 2019). While no definitive list of characteristic adaptations exists, they typically
include motivational units (e.g., goals, strivings, life projects, strategies), mental representations
that guide behavior (e.g., schemas, internal working models), and patterns of interacting with the
world (e.g., emotional regulation, moral intuitions, empathy) (McAdams & Pals, 2006; Schnitker
et al., 2019). Characteristic adaptations are shaped by both biology and experience. Although
they become patterns or habituated, they are malleable across life and can be intentionally
From the perspective of personality development, these characteristic adaptations—
psychological habits or tendencies—are given meaning by a person’s narrative identity, which
McAdams and Pals (2006) define as the evolving stories individuals tell about themselves and
the world that inform their identity. As such, beliefs and values derived from local and
metanarratives contribute to an individual’s forming narrative identity. As these beliefs and
values are integrated into one’s self-concept along with reoccurring experiences of oneself,
characteristic adaptations are given meaning by the individual’s forming narrative identity (King
et al., in press; Schnitker et al., 2019). Similarly, within philosophy, classical approaches to
virtue also highlight the importance of narrative. Philosophers like MacIntyre (2007) emphasize
that the moral good of virtue is defined by one’s local context—meaning that the beliefs and
narratives of one’s community determine the understanding of what is “good.” For example,
tendencies toward being outspoken on behalf of one’s interests might be understood as brave or
courageous in the context of one person’s narrative, but for another person from a different
culture, this characteristic adaptation might be experienced as a vice and be viewed as impetuous
or selfish. The narrative one tells about one’s self and the world informs the meanings of
characteristic adaptations.
However, not all narrative identities function the same. Research demonstrates that
transcendence has unusual weight in people’s lives and serves to orient one’s sense of self and
their understanding of the world around them (King, Clardy & Ramos, 2014). The greater the
levels of sacredness associated with one’s understanding of transcendence (e.g., God, absolute
truth), the stronger the influence transcendence has on one’s meaning-making, identity, and
behaviors (King et al., 2014). Perceptions or experiences of the transcendent are so profound or
significant that they invoke an emotional response that inspires commitment and devotion,
prompting the integration of beliefs and meanings into one’s identity and resulting in fidelity to
the worldview (Erikson, 1959; King et al., 2014; Lerner, Dowling, & Anderson, 2003). Rather
than just attending to the moral nature of virtue, this view sees virtue as informed by a
transcendent belief and value system that has formative significance to the individual. Such a
transcendent narrative identity not only serves to orient one’s beliefs, emotions, motivations, and
behaviors beyond the self, but also sustains one’s devotion to these ends. Referring to Charles
Taylor, Volf and Croasmun (2019) describe how when people identify with a transcendent vision
for life, they “undergo a transvaluation of values” that serves to reorder their life accordingly (p.
Psychology explains why transcendence is so powerful and results in enduring change.
Transcendent narratives serve to “sanctify” prosocial beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors (Mahoney
& Pargament, 2005). Similarly, motivational science has demonstrated that ultimate concerns
serve to organize one’s entire goal system and orient life aims (Emmons, 1999). Examples of
higher-order motivation include purpose (Bronk, 2014; Damon, 2008; Liang & Ketcham, 2017)
or ultimate concerns (Emmons, 1999) and are more likely to become incorporated into one’s
narrative identity when they include transcendent, spiritual, or sacred content. Consequently, the
thoughts, feelings, and motivation patterns that comprise characteristic adaptations are
understood as virtues when they are seen through the lens of a transcendent meaning system that
is incorporated into one’s identity and that results in consistent moral behaviors. Consistent with
this perspective, McMinn (2017) articulated, “Virtue requires a vision of what is possible, replete
with a deep understanding of our purpose for living, and then movement toward that telos” (p.
27). Experiencing and engaging transcendence result in an overarching meaning-making process
that provides coherence internalized in the form of beliefs and becomes the foundation of one’s
narrative identity and motivates purposeful behavior.
In summary, from the standpoint of understanding virtue as a hybrid personality unit,
virtues are psychological patterns given meaning by a transcendent narrative identity, which
directs and sustains a person’s beliefs, emotions, motivations, strivings, and actions for the
betterment of something beyond the self. The integration of a metanarrative into an identity
provides meaning, motivation, and commitment to live out one’s beliefs and values, which
encourages virtuous habits. Figure 1 illustrates the different components of virtue that are
summarized as characteristic adaptations and transcendent narrative identity. Characteristic
adaptations include many processes such as empathy, internal working models, goals, and
character strengths. These are given meaning and incorporated into one’s self concept through
one’s adapting narrative identity. The figure points to the importance of an integrative
framework because it highlights not only the role of psychological processes, but also the
importance of transcendent narrative and beliefs that serve as the basis of meaning of one’s
identity, self-understanding, and virtue.
<< insert figure 1 about here >>!
This multidimensional perspective of virtue informs our understanding of joy. We can
ask, what are the characteristic adaptations potentially involved with the virtue of joy? And how
do transcendent narrative identities inform the virtue of joy? Classical conceptions of virtue point
to the significance of the cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of joy. For all virtues,
the cognitive element provides the distinct meaning of the virtue and informs the appraisal
structure of a given virtue. Science, theology, and philosophy provide clarity on the definition of
some virtues such as gratitude, pride, and patience, whereas to date the definition of joy is less
clear. For example, gratitude involves the appraisal that someone has done something important
for me (McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001; Watkins et al., 2017). Pride involves
the appraisal that I have achieved something of value (Watkins et al., 2017; Van Cappellen &
Saroglou, 2011). Emotion science finds that cognitive appraisals accompany emotion or affect
(Clore & Ortony, 2008). For example, a feeling, such as delight in a beautiful day, may trigger
either a conscious or preconscious cognitive appraisal, such as “Thank you, God, for your
creation!” In the case of gratitude, research has demonstrated that it can be practiced and
habituated; one can make intentional efforts to consciously notice experiences of gratitude that
involve both feelings and cognitions of recognizing the gift and the giver, and these thought
processes can become automatized (Emmons & McCullough, 2004. !
Given the general consensus that joy involves positive affect, although the nature and
distinction of the emotion of joy are still under consideration (Watkins et al., 2017), we suggest
that the cognitive construal related to joy has the potential to distinguish joy from other positive
emotions and other virtues. Consequently, we are suggesting that the cognitive appraisal of joy
recognizes that something is good in the ultimate sense (see King, in press). Thus, joy is a virtue
that involves recurring patterns of positive emotions, cognitive construal that something should
be in the ultimate sense, and behaviors that are motivated by these thoughts and feelings or that
promote them as enduring habits. Joy both shapes and is shaped by experiences and behaviors
that are aligned with one’s sense of what should be. We suggest that joy is both a response to
what should be or what is ultimately good and that it can be deliberately formed as a virtue with
regard to what should be or what is ultimately good. In order to inform an understanding of what
should be and what is ultimately good, we turn to teleology.!
The Ends of Joy: Telos!
In his recent address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis (2018) challenged
his advisors among leading natural and social scientists, “The culture of life must look more
deeply into the ‘serious question’ of life’s ‘ultimate destination’” (June 25, 2018). His
admonition should be taken seriously by all scientists, clinicians, clergy, or other practitioners
guiding the restoration and formation of human life. Consequently, in light of the subject of joy
as a response to what is good or what should be, we turn to teleology, the study of purpose,
goals, or ultimate ends (King, in press; Lerner, 1985; Pepper, 1942).!
Developmental Teleology
No doubt, what should be and what is good in the ultimate sense is open to much
interpretation and may have both objective and subjective meanings. One way of understanding
what should be or what ultimately matters considers what humans are made for and/or what are
our ultimate ends. Developmental psychology has applied teleology to inform an understanding
of the ends or goals of human development (Balswick, King, & Reimer, 2016; King, 2016; King,
in press; Lerner, 1985; Pepper, 1942). Historically, when stage theories were the lauded means of
understanding human development, teloi were conceived as fixed endpoints. Different
developmental theories identified a highest stage of development as their specific telos or goal.
For example, Kohlberg’s (1984) stages of moral development present the Universal Ethical
Principle Orientation to be the endpoint or telos. For Erikson (1959), the final stage of integrity
comprises the goal or telos. In the more recent past, with the emergence and now dominance of
relational developmental systems approaches, teleology is often disregarded. That said, although
some concepts of telos are static and function as a fixed endpoint, Pepper’s concept of
contextualized teleology and, even more so, Lerner and Kauffman’s (1985) elaboration
emphasizing a developmental contextualized teleology better fit with relational developmental
systems approaches and are well aligned with classic understandings of telos. Classic
understandings of teleology base telos on the essential nature of the object being discussed. Its
end goal depends on its nature. For instance, Aristotle argued that humans are fundamentally
rational beings and conceived of human telos as resulting from the use of reason—and the
highest good was contemplation (Schnitker et al., 2019). !
From a developmental science perspective, humankind is an epigenetically developing
species; thus, growth and development are part of our telos (Lerner, 2018). A developmental
contextualized approach to telos suggests that telos is not static but rather dynamic, and involves
ongoing adaptation to best fit the individual with one’s relationships and circumstances. The
reciprocal interactions between the person and his or her contexts bring about human
development. The extent to which a person maximizes the potential for personal growth and the
greater good affects the changing developmental paths throughout one’s life (Baltes, Reese, &
Nesselroade, 1977; Lerner, 2018; Overton, 2015). From this perspective, development is not
directed toward a specific end, nor is it random, but is directed toward a means that perpetuates a
trajectory of ongoing thriving. A developmental, contextualized telos understands the causal
variables of development as interacting in a manner that perpetuates thriving over time.!
In order to sustain this goodness of fit, one requires the capacities to further the
development of individual strengths, meaningful contribution to the greater good, and non-rigid
moral parameters that safeguard long-term congruence between the individual and his or her
context. Thus, a developmental contextualized teleology suggests that telos or the purpose or
goal of human development is a dynamic process that perpetuates human and social thriving and
involves (1) the growing self, (2) in mutually beneficial relationships, (3) with evolving moral
guidelines that ensure the ongoing fit and flourishing of self and society (see King et al., in press;
Schnitker et al., 2019). !
Returning to joy, this tripartite notion of telos informs the cognitive nature of joy. From a
teleological perspective, joy is informed by one’s sense of ultimate purpose or goal. Thus, the
cognitive construal of joy is either a conscious or unconscious appraisal of how the object of joy
aligns with one’s understanding of telos. Thus, the virtue of joy is both experienced and
cultivated when the person lives in accord with these three dimensions. The affective component
or the feeling of joy is experienced to a great extent when our lives are lived in alignment with
one’s authentic self, meaningful reciprocity with the broader world, and one’s ethical guidelines.
This formulation is rather agnostic and does not prescribe what one should believe, but it points
to the importance of virtuous living that sustains the thriving of the individual and the contexts in
which one is embedded. The emphasis here does not claim that joy is determined by what one is
becoming, contributing, or following, but rather that joy occurs when the combination
perpetuates a thriving trajectory and growth over time. Furthermore, this perspective of joy
emphasizes the importance of knowing at some level what one holds to be of ultimate purpose. !
Christian Teleology
Following Aristotle and MacIntyre (2007), who point to the importance of the embedded
context to inform morality, and given that we have rooted our treatment of joy in the Christian
tradition, we seek to build from a theological or biblical perspective. Although we cannot address
all Christian perspectives in this paper and humbly acknowledge our limited ability to apprehend
God’s intentions, we specifically turn to theology to inform an understanding of what should be
or what is ultimately good. As such, Christian teleology offers a perspective of God’s purposes
or intention for humankind. Specifically, the doctrine of the image of God has been a resource to
inform an understanding of telos, God’s goal or purpose for humankind, that guides our
understanding of what ultimately should be (see Balswick et al., 2016; King, 2016; King &
Whitney, 2015). Consequently, in light of the subject of joy as a response to what is good or
what should be, we turn to Christian perspectives on teleology to garner an understanding of the
good life and a theologically informed understanding of “what should be.” !
Given that the Christian tradition centers on the person of Jesus Christ, who declared, “I
have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10; NIV), it is surprising that
more of the Christian psychological academy is not directing scholarly efforts toward
understanding this notion of fullness of life. In many ways, more Christian psychology and
ministry appears to focus on the broken aspects of humanity, thereby emphasizing what Jesus
saved us from, rather than what we are saved for (King, 2018). In this way, positive psychology
may be a constructive and fruitful endeavor to clarify the nature and promotion of psychological
capacities that can contribute to this abundant life in Christ—or what Christ has saved us for.
That said, we remain critical, and at times suspicious, of how “positive” is defined within the
field of secular psychology (see King & Whitney, 2015). Words like “positive” and “good” (e.g.,
“the good life”) are helpful in that they have served to pivot scientific, clinical, and applied
efforts from focusing not only on the negative but toward something more; they do not, however,
offer a specific orientation or destination toward which those efforts aim. Consequently,
teleology is an important resource to inform the direction toward which human lives, by the
grace of God, should be headed (see Balswick et al., 2016; King, 2016; King & Whitney, 2015). !
Recognizing the goodness of God’s creation and that humans are made in the image of
God (Gen 1:27), we summarize a trinitarian and Christological understanding of the imago Dei
(see Balswick et al., 2016; King, 2016; King & Whitney, 2015). We align with theologians who
have argued that to be made in the image of God is to reflect the unity of the Godhead and the
uniqueness of the distinct persons of the Godhead and who have affirmed Jesus Christ as the
perfect image of God (Col 1:15). Thus, God’s goal or purpose for humankind is to live as unique
individuals in unity with God and one another and to become more conformed to the image of
God in Christ. !
Conformity to Christ. The first consideration of telos is becoming like Christ. As
Christians, we affirm that we are made in the image of God. The Bible declares that Christ is the
perfect image of God; thus, becoming like Christ is part of our telos. Furthermore, being
conformed to the likeness of Christ is our telos because it is God’s telos for humankind. “For
those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29) to
the extent that God works all things together for good for those who have been called according
to God’s purpose. Being conformed to the likeness of the image of God in Christ is a shared telos
among humans. Thus, we take on the ways of Christ and grow toward the character of Christ
(see Crisp, 2015; Marshall, 2001). Believers are to take Jesus’s command to his disciples
“Follow me” literally. They follow his actions of love, care, liberation, justice, healing,
reconciliation, and redemption. In the context of discussing Thomas Aquinas’s view of the
incarnation, Gerald O’Collins (2002) wrote, “The incarnation should also be recognized as the
highest conceivable development for humanity” (p. 17). Christ, as the logos, is the pattern for all
of humanity and for humankind to follow. As such, Christ is both the Alpha and Omega (see
Thompson, 2017). He is both the source of all creation and the goal of all creation.
Consequently, becoming like Christ is part of our human telos (see Figure 2).!
Particularity of Persons. Second, although we are called to be conformed to the image
of God in Christ, this call to conformity does not mean uniformity with Christ. The Bible never
suggests that we are to become Christ; rather, we are to become like Christ as ourselves. Inherent
in the imago Dei is the value of uniqueness. Christological perspectives of the imago highlight
that the eternal Son came to dwell with humanity as the Jewish man Jesus of Nazareth.
Trinitarian anthropology emphasizes the uniqueness of the three persons of the Trinity: the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One member is never compromised by another. The Father remains
the Father, the Son remains the Son, and the Spirit remains the Spirit, each contributing uniquely
to salvation history. Yet at the same time, the three remain one. The unity of the Trinity does not
jeopardize the uniqueness of the Father, Son, and Spirit (J. Torrance, 1989; T. Torrance, 1992).
Psalm 139 reminds us that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made by God (vv. 9–10). So
although our telos is to conform to the image of God in Christ more closely, we each do so
uniquely—with our own particular gifts, propensities, and interests. The Bible proclaims that
each person has a unique constellation of spiritual gifts to be used for the welfare of the church
(1 Cor 12). Each person is created to be and become themselves—not another. In this way,
human uniqueness and differentiation have an integral part in the human telos. One can then
conclude that God intends humans to live a life characterized by growing authenticity and living
into one’s strengths and passions.!
<< insert figure 2 about here >>!
Relationality. That said, as much as the Bible affirms human uniqueness, telos is not an
individual enterprise. Telos insists on relatedness. God reached out to humanity through his Son
and draws humankind to Godself through the Spirit. Love and relatedness are at the center of
creation. God created humankind to be in relationship with God, humankind, and God’s broader
creation. Christ, as the perfect image, exemplifies this love and unity. We see similar themes of
relationality and reciprocity in trinitarian theology. Although Christians affirm the distinct
members of the Trinity, Christianity is a monotheistic faith. We believe in one God. One of the
greatest mysteries of the Christian faith is our understanding of the triune nature of God—that
God can be simultaneously one being and three persons. Karl Barth (1975) wrote, “The divine
modes of being mutually condition and permeate one another so completely that one is always in
the other two” (p. 370). Unity and uniqueness—in reciprocity—lie at the heart of the triune God.
The three persons remain unique through their mutual interrelatedness. The theological term
perichoresis (co-inherence, mutual indwelling) was applied to the Trinity to capture the unique
nature of these reciprocal interrelations. Each person of the Trinity finds being in the others
without coalescence. Moltmann (1996) nicely summarizes: !
According to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three divine Persons exist with one
another, for one another and in one another. They exist in one another because they
mutually give each other space for full unfolding. By existing mutually in each other,
they form their unique Trinitarian fellowship. (p. 298)!
Thus we understand that relationality is seminal to the imago (see Figure 2). Just as God
exists in relationship, humans are to exist in relationship: “To be human is to be created in and
for relationship with divine and human others” (Gunton, 1993, p. 222). All believers are called
by God to be part of a relational community, placed in the body of Christ by the Spirit (1 Cor
12:13). Theological anthropology suggests that bearing the image of God, which is elemental to
our telos, means living as unique individuals in reciprocating relationships with God and others
(Balswick et al., 2016; King, 2016). To be human is to be a particular being in relationship,
distinct and unique, yet inseparably bound up with the other, for “all particulars are formed by
their relationship to God, the creator and redeemer, and to each other” (Gunton, 1993, p. 207).
Particularity is discovered in relationship with our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sustainer, and
with each other. For humankind to realize its created intention, humankind must be understood
as social kind (Gunton, 1993). It is the self’s encounter with the divine and human other that
enables it to realize its uniqueness. To be human means being in relationship with another. !
Relating to God. As Tanner describes, we have life by imaging God, and we do so by
“living off God”—like a fetus living off its mother. God created us, Christ offers us salvation,
and the gift of the Spirit allows us to be shaped in the image of Christ. By “attaching ourselves to
the incomprehensible that has attached itself to us,” we find life and gain a new identity and
vocation that we would never be able to achieve on own terms (Tanner, 2010, p. 56).!
Relating to Others. This relational understanding of the imago Dei suggests that being
human involves living in reciprocating, authentic relationships with others. Following the pattern
of life lived out by Jesus Christ—between himself as the Son of God and the Father, or between
himself as Jesus and God’s people, or according to the pattern epitomized by the Trinity—such
relationships are characterized by mutuality, by give and take, and they enable the self to be
known most fully in the process of knowing another. Our telos not only involves being
conformed to the image of God in Christ, but perhaps we image God more fully as we relate as
distinct selves in deepening communion with God, with others, and with creation. !
In addition to the important element of human telos that consists of relating to others and
knowing and being known, telos also involves reciprocity with the people, societies, and
environment that surround us and to which we are contributing in meaningful ways. Discussions
such as this often quote Frederick Buechner, who states that vocation is the place where our
deepest gladness intersects with the world’s greatest needs (Buechner, 1993). Not only is our
engagement with the world part of our telos, but our ongoing relatedness to God, others, and the
world leads us to a deepening discovery of our participation in God’s ongoing work in the world
and ultimately of our telos. Theological notions of flourishing insist that individual flourishing
happens in relationship with the broader context’s flourishing (Volf, 2017). Although everything
is created by God to be and become what it is and not another, living in reciprocity, no doubt,
includes living as covenant partners with the natural order (Mouw, 2012). Joel Green (2004)
nicely summarizes: “Our human vocation, given and enabled by God, is to relate to God as
God’s partner in covenant. To join in companionship of the human family and in relation to the
whole cosmos in ways that reflect the covenant love of God. This is realized and modeled
supremely in Jesus Christ” (p. 197). !
In summary, figure 2 above suggests the tripartite telos of the reciprocating self (King,
2016). The overlapping ovals convey that telos involves God’s intention for us to become (1)
more like Christ, (2) more and more our unique selves, and (3) more deeply related to God,
humankind, and creation. This tripartite understanding of telos provides a response to Pope
Francis’s challenge of identifying the ultimate ends of human life. In other words, telos informs
“what should be.” Consequently, and in regard to our formulation of joy as a virtue, these
dimensions of telos inform the nature of joy. Thus, we experience deepest joy when we are
aligned with God’s purposes for humankind. This may involve growing more into one’s natural
propensities and pursuing one’s passions. It may involve growing in intimacy with others and
meaningfully contributing to the world around us as we become more conformed to the character
and ways of Christ. Based on vast psychological research—including psychological approaches
to well-being (Ryff, 1995), to self-concordance (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999), and to noble purpose
(Damon, 2008)—that suggest well-being is experienced when one lives with coherence of
values, attitudes, and behaviors, we posit that joy is most profoundly experienced and cultivated
at the intersection of these three areas. Joy is experienced when people (1) live more
authentically, (2) are engaged with others and the world in meaningful ways, and (3) live in
alignment with their ethical ideals. As such, living one’s purpose or vocation may be the fullest
expression of telos in the current life. In this way, telos serves as a framework for understanding
what ultimately matters and thus serves to inform joy.!
Christian theology and developmental psychology both point to the importance of the
development of self in reciprocal and beneficial relationship with one’s context, and to the
importance of ethics. Although Christianity explicitly states that Jesus Christ is the perfect image
of God and that growing in the character and ways exemplified by Christ as individuals and as
part of the body of Christ as depicted in the Bible is part of human telos, a more general
understanding of ethics may extend this idea to a broader population that do order their lives by
the Gospel narrative, by pointing to the importance of growing in one’s understanding and ability
to follow one’s ethical code and spiritual ideals that ensure beneficial reciprocal relationships
between the self and one’s larger context. !
Thriving: The Means to Joy
Although telos provides a helpful framework to inform the nature of the cognitive,
affective, and behavioral components of virtuous joy, realizing telos is never fully attained this
side of eternity, and therefore our joy is in the final consummation when we are fully unified
with Christ. Lest we leave readers adrift with a lofty and somewhat nebulous notion like telos
looming on the developmental horizon, we present thriving as the developmental process of
transformation toward telos as a means to joy (King, 2019; King & Clardy, 2014). In other
words, although we do not reach our telos this side of eternity, thriving is the process through
which we change, grow, and mature through the ups and downs of life toward that telos and the
process through which we experience and cultivate joy.
With the increasing interest in positive developmental psychology, a growing body of
psychological literature gives insight into the process of thriving. Both theory and science point
to the importance of the growth and differentiation of self, reciprocity with the other, and the
importance of ethics to ensure the prosocial nature and mutual contribution between the self and
its greater context. Although psychologists have dedicated much effort to understanding the
development of the self (e.g., identity, emotional, moral, personality development), numerous
approaches have argued that personal growth, although necessary, is not sufficient to designate
thriving (Benson & Scales, 2009; Damon, 2004; King & Clardy, 2014; Lerner et al., 2015). For
example, relational developmental systems theories (e.g., Lerner et al., 2015; Overton, 2013)
emphasize human plasticity as the potential for humans to develop through reciprocal relations
between individuals and the many systems in which they live for the mutual benefit of all. Thus,
thriving depends on and produces ongoing betterment of the individual and the person’s contexts
over time. As the person develops in character, purpose, and identity, and as contexts change,
thriving involves adapting to maintain a good person-context fit in order to fuel positive self-
development and promote the common good.
A number of researchers point out ways that thriving benefits both the individual and
society. According to Lerner (2004), mutually beneficial interactions between the individual and
society as a whole undergird a democratic society in which both thrive as they improve their
various capacities to make meaningful contributions. Others identify a key outcome of ideal
personal development as “making culturally appropriate contributions to self and society”
(Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) or as leading an engaged life with passion for what one is
doing and with social integration that assists and feels connected with others (Froh et al., 2010).
Similarly, Bundick and colleagues (2010) define thriving as “a dynamic and purposeful process
of individual context interactions over time, through which the person and his/her
environment are mutually enhanced” (p. 891). Others like Damon (2008) and Bronk (2014)
understand thriving through the development and pursuit of noble purpose, which is an
actionable goal that both is personally meaningful and benefits the greater good.
approaches offer explanations of the process of becoming a reciprocating self and reinforce our
proposal that thriving, integral to human telos and joy, encompasses both contributing to one’s
community and growing as an individual.
Essential to directing such noble ends implied in thriving and necessary to joy are the
roles of ethics and moral development. Joy, unlike happiness, delight, awe, and other positive
emotions, requires a defined set of morals and values. That said, we do not seek to be
prescriptive and identify a specific set of morals necessary for thriving and joy. Rather, we take a
metaethical perspective, proposing that individuals and communities must have a coherent,
prosocial set of ethical guidelines that directs self-development alongside social engagement for
the common good. In this day and age, given the pluralism of society and the lack of common
values, this metaethical perspective is especially necessary to understand thriving and therefore
Going back to telos as a dynamic process, we emphasize that thriving is a process, not an
end state. Thriving is thus more about a direction (towards telos) than a destination (King, 2018).
Thriving involves a developmental trajectory toward strength-based living, reciprocating
The scholars we cited are mostly within developmental science and use the term “thriving” more frequently and
infer the reciprocal benefits of thriving for self and society. In the field of positive psychology, which generally
focuses on adult theory and research, the terms “flourishing” and “well-being” are used more often. Although there
is often a eudemonic perspective, the emphasis is more on a quality of life that is derived from the development of a
person’s potentials and their realization in the fulfillment of personally expressive self-concordant goals (for a
review of over 150 indicators of human thriving or flourishing, see King et al., 2018).
relationships with others, and alignment of ethics and actions. Thus joy results from the
increasing capacity to adjust and recalibrate to changing demands, opportunities, and needs so
that people can grow into differentiated selves who meaningfully contribute beyond themselves
in accordance with their ethical ideals (King et al., in press; Schnitker et al., in press).!
From this perspective, psychological and Christian understandings of thriving and telos
are congruent. Although they may differ in the details, their form and structure align. Both
perspectives contend that thriving is a process, and the threefold understanding of telos directs
development toward living out a purpose that is found in becoming more of an authentic self,
cultivating beneficial reciprocating with the greater world, and growing in one’s ethical ideals.
Christian telos provides a more nuanced understanding of the human’s purpose. Purpose is based
on individual propensities and passions, it contributes to the greater good, and it is marked by the
character and actions of Christ. As stated, from both theological and psychological perspectives,
thriving involves development toward one’s purpose in a way that benefits the greater good.
Whereas from a Christian perspective, we emphasize that purpose not only is determined by a
mutually beneficial fit between the individual and one’s surroundings but is also aligned with
God’s purposes and involves becoming more Christlike through the Holy Spirit, who continues
to work toward making all things whole. In short, with the aid of God’s Spirit, we keep moving
toward that which God created us for: to become more like Christ as a particular person in ever-
deepening relationships with the broader world. “Life comes from God, gets meaning from God,
and reaches fulfillment through and in God” (Volf, 2017, p. 51).!
If joy is contingent upon telos, this suggests that joy is never fully realized or complete
this side of eternity. From this perspective, a joy-filled life is not found, but it is formed. Thus,
regarding a joy-filled life, the emphasis lies not on attaining a fixed state of joy, but on moving
and growing toward telos and more fully into the purposes for which God created humankind.
This understanding of joy as developing in a given direction is more helpful than understanding
joy as a final destination. Thus, joy is eschatological. Although we experience joy in our present
life, it gives us only a foretaste of what is to come. As such, this notion of telos serves not as a
goal to be realized in the here and how, but as an end to which we direct our lives. In other
words, joy is not static. Rather, joy is dynamic and develops in and through the process of
growth toward God’s purposes for us.
From this perspective, our argument suggests that people most fully experience joy
precisely when they live at the intersection of the three core elements described above—
conformity to Christ, being one’s unique self, and being deeply related to God, creation, and
others—which is how we understand God’s purpose for humankind. Thus, we experience joy as
we grow into fuller expressions of ourselves by engaging in deeper and more meaningful ways
with the world around us and living up to our ethical ideals. This perspective of joy aligns with
Volf’s (2017) understanding of joy resulting from living life well in a manner that affirms the
inalienable dignity of every human being, that roots social relations in love, and that is based on
an understanding of God in and through which we find fulfillment when participating in his
ministry of love. However, we depart from Volf to the extent that we suggest joy is not just the
emotional manifestation of a life well lived—or “the good life”—but is a virtue that results from
a life well lived in relationship to ourselves, others, God, and creation.
Joyful Considerations
We have argued that joy is best understood as a virtue that is determined by thinking,
feeling, and doing what matters most or what is ultimately good (King, in press). Virtues
explicitly involve enduring patterns of cognitions, emotions, and behavior that are moral and
have transcendent meaning. Given that social sciences possess no clear means to distinguish one
good thing from another or to decipher the degree of goodness required to designate joy beyond
subjective or conventional opinion, we proposed the telos of the reciprocating self to the
significance of self, others, and ethics as the contours that give definition and structure to joy.
We discussed thriving as transformation toward telos or as developing in a way that enables one
to more fully live out one’s refining sense of purpose. In this final section, we offer some
integrative considerations on joy, telos, and vocation; address the transformative potential of joy;
and present directions for future research.
Lived Telos as Vocation
Perhaps the fullest expression of telos this side of eternity, and therefore the greatest
potential source of joy, is vocation. Vocation may be understood as an individual’s unique
contribution to God’s ongoing work in the world. True humanity occurs in our active
participation—receiving and responding to the life of the triune God in the social and contextual
realms where God has placed us (Webster, 2003). The reciprocating self is an individual who
lives out life contributing in meaningful ways to the contexts and systems in which he or she
lives. As such, salvation offers freedom through which we can embrace our part in God’s
ongoing and unfolding story of redemption. Thus, vocation is conceived of as joyful and active
consent to engaging with and contributing to God’s work as unique individuals being conformed
to the likeness of Christ (King & Whitney, 2015). From this perspective, vocation might be
represented by the confluence of those places in our lives where our conformity to Christ as
unique individuals relates to the broader world (see Figure 2; King, 2016). Our telos is defined
by an alternative order—one set forth and defined by the pattern, the logos of Christ, and
salvation is an invitation to live according to the new order and to participate in God’s ongoing
work in this world (King, 2019). Consequently, vocation evokes the fullest expressions of
ourselves in relationship to God, others, and the world and is shaped by the order set by Christ,
which ultimately informs joy. Pursuing vocation as a call to life in Christ allows us to experience
more joy, which in turn motivates our continued participation in God’s activities.
Joy as Transformational Virtue
Psychology informs how joy also motivates and directs us as we pursue purpose. As
discussed previously, existing psychological research suggests that experiencing joy provides a
visceral experience that activates and enables people to pursue life-giving and transformative
endeavors. The positive feelings associated with joy actually allow human brain circuitry to be
more open to others and to new ideas. Thus, the positive feelings of joy actually increase our
capacity for creativity, imagination, and connection. Joy enables us to be less anxious and more
tolerant. In this way, it is vivifying and expansive. Frederickson (2001) describes how positive
emotions broaden and build our capacity for thriving. Joy’s mobilizing component coupled with
the cognitive appraisal of ultimate goodness enable joy to perpetuate the process of thriving and
pursuing one’s purpose. Thus when individuals reflect and act in ways that enable the awareness
and experience of the feelings associated with joy, individuals can intentionally cultivate the
capacity for joy. Furthermore, the whole notion of habitus rests on the notion that through
intentional practice, behaviors, thought, and feelings can become habituated into virtue.
Given that joy is predicated on becoming more a unique, authentic self and growing in
unity with others and clarity of ideals, we propose that joy may have an expanding effect that
helps humans to be more whole and more holy in the process of drawing us toward one another
and God (King & Argue, in press). In this way, joy is a transformative virtue that propels humans
forward in their development and formation. Joy not only results from thriving but
simultaneously fuels the human journey of thriving through pursuing purpose.
Theology and psychology create a powerful dialectic, informing us that joy is a response
to what should be and showing us how to cultivate a life aligned with and moving toward what
God intends. Psychology informs how joy activates us, but theology informs how joy directs us.
Current experiences of joy remind us of and simultaneously propel us toward what could and
should be and will be. In this way, the experience of joy both compels us and propels us. Joy
should always draw us further into the ways—the character and actions—of Christ. In this way,
joy may serve as a guiding compass; attuning to feelings of joy can serve to point toward
meanings and behaviors that bring joy. These theological notions raise important questions for
empirical research that may reveal patterns of reflecting, feeling, and behaving that serve to
expand the human capacity for joy and to reinforce and strengthen our engagement in joy(?) as
God’s agents of transformation.!
Although we have the gift of experiencing joy now in this present life, what we
experience is only a foretaste of what is to come. Joy involves an in-breaking of divinely inspired
hope and serves to assure us that although the world is still incomplete, it will someday be
complete and whole. The Christian narrative gives us hope in what is to come and confidence in
a sovereign, good, and just God. In this way, joy is available in the goodness of the gift of God’s
creation now, and it propels us forward in anticipation of the complete fullness that is to come
(Thompson, 2017). As an analogy, joy is like a threshold that enables us to experience “the
already” as well as to see “the not yet.” Joy holds the real and the ideal in connection and
conversation, serving to orient or reorient us toward what should be. As a threshold, joy is a
doorway through which we are always moving—with one foot planted in the goodness and
brokenness of creation and the other foot moving toward consummation.
Joy and Justice
As much as feelings of joy may increase our awareness of what brings delight or points to
our personal passion, virtuous joy provides a vision for what should be. In this way, joy is
subversive and directs and motivates us to challenge the status quo. As the emotional aspect of
joy resonates within us, we are reminded of what should be and thus inspired to pursue it. Joy
provides an alternative vision for the oppressive and broken systems in which we live. Therefore,
joy and justice should be closely aligned. Rowan Williams (2018) defines iustitia, or justice, as
the right to self-expression and to be uniquely equipped to contribute to God’s kingdom and be
conformed to Christ. Joy takes shape in the experience of that self-expression and effort to
contribute to God’s kingdom as one is being conformed to the image of God in Christ. Joy
reminds us of what should be, how we should feel, and how we should act on behalf of ourselves
and one another. The virtue of joy compels us to seek the greater good. Joy is neither an
individual experience nor is it limited to relationality and/or intimacy; in its fullest expression,
joy compels us to a deeper life in Christ and in deeper engagement with God’s creation.!
The two sides of the eschatological dimension of joy also inform how we should pursue
what “should be” in a world that too often promotes what “should not be.” Joy understood as a
virtue implies that joy can become an integrated part of one’s identity in such a way that one’s
joyful psychological habits are constantly building one’s capacity to live both counterculturally
(against what “should not be”) and in growing connection with God, creation, and others in the
midst of the reality of suffering, alienation, and tragic circumstances. Practicing and cultivating
joy as Christians is crucial. The expansive and activating qualities of joy can serve as an internal
resource of resilience and remind us of God’s reality revealed in Scripture and our role as agents
of transformation. Specifically, joy keeps us connected to (1) our unique self, renewed and
divinely equipped by Christ, (2) God’s presence, love, and grace, and (3) others in order to
effectively love them on God’s behalf. In other words, joy becomes an ongoing vocational
resource that allows one to access the personal, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual
resources needed to be and remain an agent of God’s shalom that prefigures the kingdom until it
finally comes.
Future Inquiry
Joy as a virtue that is experienced and also formed in light of knowing and living out
one’s purpose is contingent on one’s ability to know one’s deepest source of meaning and to
make or find meaning in one’s day-to-day life. In this way, joy involves the cognitive construal
of what matters most, the capacity for positive emotions, and acting according to one’s
convictions. In addition to the cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions of virtue typically
articulated by psychologists, we also have pointed to the relational, moral, and spiritual aspects
of joy. Taken together, these six categories pose specific directions for future research. Although
research has demonstrated that joy is a discrete emotion (Watkins et al., 2017), we have so much
more to understand empirically about joy. We suggest the following avenues for further study:
1. Given that joy involves a cognitive appraisal of what should be or what is good in the
ultimate sense, are different formulations of telos associated with varying levels of
the affective component of joy? How does the goodness of fit with an individual’s
understanding of telos and his or her surrounding culture’s assumption of telos impact
a person’s experience of joy? How does an individual’s capacity for self-reflection
influence his or her experience of the affective dimension of joy?
2. From an affective or emotional standpoint, how do other positive emotions such as
wonder, awe, delight, and pleasure contribute to or take away from joy? How does
one’s capacity for emotion regulation impact one’s capacity to cultivate enduring joy?
3. How do one’s actions promote or detract from joy? Does the notion of praxis hold
true for joy? In other words, can one learn joy by doing joy-inducing activities? For
example, can a young person discover their purpose or calling through participating
in an activity that they deeply enjoy? Are there specific practices, such as prayer or
mindfulness meditation, that may increase our capacity for self-reflection and
awareness of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to joy? Do activities such
as prayer, self-reflection, singing, and playing influence our capacity to experience
4. Given that relationality is part of our human telos, how does our sense of connection
to others influence our capacity for joy? Do early caregiver-infant relationships
influence our attachment styles and our ability for intimacy? Does current conflict in
important relationships impact the capacity for joy? Does a community that
exemplifies and supports one’s notion of telos and moral ideals assist in promoting
5. How does one’s sense of moral ideals influence one’s experience of joy? Do moral
violations detract from joy? How might forgiveness influence our capacity for joy?
Do different moral ideals promote more joy than others? Are there absolute morals
that inform joy? In the reality of a pluralistic culture, how do conflicting belief
systems influence the development of joy and one’s experience of joy?
6. Given the spiritual aspect of joy, does the extent of perceived sacredness attributed to
one’s understanding of transcendence influence one’s capacity for joy? Does one’s
perception of the extent of the benevolence of the transcendent influence one’s
beliefs, feelings, and actions and one’s experience of joy? For example, if one
understands God as love, then one’s feelings and actions would be informed by love.
Conversely, if one experiences God as judgmental and condemning, one’s actions
would be based on that perception of God. Does the nature of the transcendent
influence one’s experience of joy?
To summarize, joy is a virtue that involves one’s capacity for positive emotions and
abilities to identify and reflect on one’s system of meaning and to act accordingly. From this
standpoint, one can cultivate and strengthen joy by promoting fidelity to one’s narrative and
living out one’s purpose—through practices or relationships that enable one to clarify and affirm
their sense of purpose and increase their capacity for emotion regulation.
Understanding joy as a virtue informed by a teleology allows for an integrative
perspective by illuminating the importance of psychological processes, the contribution of
narrative and beliefs, and the role of the divine. In this way, our approach offers the broader field
of psychology a framework for considering the place of transcendent beliefs in influencing
psychological processes that are often informed by issues of ultimacy such as virtue, character
strengths, purpose, and identity. Such a perspective also allows for the potential universal,
subjective, cultural, transcendent, and moral aspects of joy to be explicitly considered. In
addition, a virtue approach helps illuminate how people experience joy in the context of
suffering and adversity, and why and how people have the ability to simultaneously experience
joy with other seemingly contradictory emotions like disappointment and sorrow. Furthermore,
understanding joy as a virtue comprised of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors provides a
framework for understanding the development of joy as a consequence of the bidirectional
interactions of a person and the many systems in which he or she lives (e.g., human, values,
supernatural). The threefold understanding of telos provides a framework for future research on
the development of joy that May examine the role of relationships, the development of self, and
moral development.
For a small word, joy is a complex and powerful construct. Joy is not just sentimental—
“feeling good.” Nor is joy just aspirational. In its truest form, joy is transformational. As a virtue,
the experience of joy involves at some level knowing joy, feeling joy, and doing joy. Joy is
contingent on knowing what should be and at the same time is an affective resonance with what
should be, as well as actions furthering what should be. Thus, joy as a virtue simultaneously
directs our thoughts, feelings, and actions toward what God intends. We experience joy now, and
joy drives us toward the not-yet. It is available in the goodness of the gift of God’s creation now,
and it propels us forward in anticipation of the complete fullness that is to come. Theology
provides unique insight into the power of joy: it finds its source and fulfillment in our God of
love, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Psychology provides insight into how experiences of
joy function to make meaning and allow coherence and equanimity, impacting our brains and
increasing our capacity for growth and the potential to see into the future and ultimately cultivate
more joy for ourselves and others. In this way, joy is transformational in that it orients and
motivates us toward God’s purposes for us. Virtuous joy is empowering. It is both a product of
and propels us on the Christian pursuit to glorify God, and it provides insight into the answer to
the first question of the Westminster Catechism: “What is the chief end of humankind?” To
glorify God and enjoy God forever.
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Figure 1: Virtue as a Hybrid Personality Unit
Figure 2: Tripartate Conceptualization of Telos!
... 1. For elaboration on the theological foundations of the Reciprocating Self that articulate telos as becoming like Christ as unique individuals in reciprocating relationship with others, see Balswick et al. (2016); King (2016); King and Defoy (2020). For psychological foundations of the Reciprocating Self based on relational developmental systems, see King (2020); King and Mangan (2022). ...
... Thriving toward the telos of the Reciprocating Self (Balswick et al., 2016;King, 2016;King & Mangan, 2022) elaborates on a psychology of joy. Joy involves knowing, feeling, and doing what matters most (King, 2020;King & Defoy, 2020). Based on the notion of telos, our ultimate aim and purpose, the framework of the Reciprocating Self suggests that ultimate significance is aligned with our deepest desires, found in authenticity, communion with others, and while being conformed to Christ. ...
In this article, we aim to explain how Miroslav Volf's theology of flourishing provides a new vision for psychologists. As the Henry B. Wright Professor and Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Volf is recognized as one of the most influential living theologians. His recent work offers a theology of human flourishing based in an eschatological vision of God's homecoming, the unification of the Creator with His created. For Volf, the end provides a telos, a purpose, and direction, for current human life. He asserts that although proleptic, flourishing occurs simultaneously within the two eschatological "already" and "not yet" realities through the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit in the context of love. The true life is a life led well, going well, and feeling as God intends and is characterized by love, peace, and joy. In this article, we summarize Volf's theology of the homecoming of God and human flourishing and bridge the disciplines of theology and psychology, by discussing how the psychology of thriving toward the telos of the Reciprocating Self provides a heuristic for psychologists. The heuristic offers psychologists a guide for research and clinical work that is aligned with Volf's eschatological vision.
... A justificativa para este resultado reside no fato de que no Brasil o orgulho é visto principalmente como o hubrístico, como uma emoção de arrogância. No Brasil, ser chamado de orgulhoso para muitos é um termo ofensivo e, portanto, isso pode ter feito com que o orgulho hubrístico tenha sido classificado como orgulho autêntico e o orgulho autêntico como alegria, já que a alegria é uma emoção positiva básica, podendo ser vista como uma ampla dimensão afetiva presente em diversas proporções em outras emoções positivas, tais como a gratidão e o orgulho (King & Defoy, 2020). Porém, para validar esse achado, foram realizados outros dois estudos. ...
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Objetivo: analisar a influência de apelos emocionais na intenção comportamental com relação a produtos orgânicos para cuidados pessoais. Marco teórico: utilizou-se a literatura dos apelos emocionais, em específico os apelos de culpa, medo, orgulho autêntico e orgulho hubrístico, para identificar seus efeitos na intenção comportamental no contexto dos produtos orgânicos para cuidados pessoais. Desta forma, utilizaram-se os apelos de culpa, medo, orgulho autêntico e orgulho hubrístico. Metodologia: quatro experimentos sequenciais em configurações de anúncios reais, com desenho experimental (within-subjects e between-subjects), foram realizados. Os dados foram analisados mediante ANOVA. Resultados: o apelo de orgulho autêntico estimulou maior valor de alegria, além de aumentar a probabilidade de os consumidores doarem, enquanto o apelo de orgulho hubrístico estimulou maior efeito de orgulho autêntico. Desta forma, foi evidenciado que o orgulho é uma emoção unidimensional no contexto nacional do consumidor de cosméticos orgânicos. Em seguida, descobriu-se que o apelo de orgulho unidimensional despertou uma maior atitude favorável e intenção de compra do produto anunciado em comparação às emoções culpa, medo e alegria. Conclusão: os achados reposicionam a discussão sobre o orgulho sob uma perspectiva unidimensional, pois o orgulho autêntico estimulou alegria. Ademais, os apelos positivos são mais eficazes para aumentar a intenção comportamental de cosméticos orgânicos. Em divergência com pesquisas anteriores, o orgulho provoca maiores atitudes favoráveis em relação ao produto anunciado. Portanto, para a conscientização do consumidor deve-se incentivar o uso de apelo de orgulho.
... The interview protocol (Appendix A), which included formal questions and question probes to elicit increased depth of response, was theory-based and designed to encourage open discussion of personal experiences with various concepts, including hope and spirituality. As part of the larger study, the interview protocol started with general questions about their interests and their sense of self (Hart and Damon 1988) and then moved to their opinions about and experiences of thriving (King et al. 2014;King et al. 2013), their personal strengths, faith and spirituality (King et al. 2014), ecological assets in their life, important relationships, critical events in their life (Flanagan 1954), their sense of purpose (Damon 2008;Bundick et al. 2006) and future orientation , how they coped with adversity, and what brought them hope (Bernardo 2010;Callina et al. 2017) and joy (King 2020;King and Defoy 2020). The interview segments of interest in the present study were those which asked about future orientation, faith and spirituality, and experiences of hope specifically. ...
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Hope contributes to positive development in adolescents, and religious and spiritual contexts may be particularly important for developing and supporting hope. However, extant literature on hope, religion, and spirituality neglects their synergistic relation, leaving questions about how they work together to support development. In this study, we explore how religiousness and spirituality (R/S) inform hope by identifying unique synergies that might be particularly useful in difficult contexts. Multilevel qualitative content analyses of interviews conducted with 18 thriving Salvadoran adolescents (50% female, Mage = 16.39 years, SD = 1.83) involved in a faith-based program provided evidence that the ideological and relational resources associated with R/S informed these adolescents’ agentic and receptive hopes. Agentic hopes, identified through expressed hopeful future expectations, revealed that adolescents held beyond-the-self hopes focused on benefiting three distinct targets: God, community, and family. Youth also described “sanctified hopes”, which were hopes focused on fulfilling God’s purposes directly and indirectly. Analyses of receptive hopes, which consider how hope is shaped and empowered by context, revealed that for these youth, hope was experienced in seven key contexts: self, caring adult relationships, family, God, youth development sponsor, social activities, and peers. Implications for fostering hope in R/S contexts within low-to-middle-income countries are discussed.
This paper proposes a new theory of joy as defined by the elation of right relation, i.e., an intense and temporary feeling of heightened positive emotion as a consequence of a just right fit between our identity and the moment we are experiencing. Diverse domains of joy are explored: emotional, social, cognitive, physical, communal, and ideological. Several ‘paradoxical’ forms of joy are also elucidated, including schadenfreude, self-denial, and ‘killjoy’ attempts to thwart the joy of others. Throughout the paper, promising research questions are presented. At the close of the paper, methodological issues in the investigation of joy are discussed. Researchers are encouraged to investigate joy among a wide range of groups – cultures, countries, ages, genders, and social classes.
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Happiness and suffering are two popular topics that are often considered contradictory and discussed separately. It causes an unbalanced understanding that indirectly leads to a misunderstanding due to the influence of successful theology, the law of karma or retribution, and Stoicism. The author argues suffering and happiness need to be discussed together so that a correct reflection on suffering should also contain happiness and vice versa. This paper, then, aims to build a complete thought by studying the letter to Philippians, which is known as the letter of joy, even though it was written in prison (which is identical to suffering). The method used is qualitative with a descriptive approach based on a study of the Philippians letter. The conclusion of the discussion is that because the letter of Philippians states that suffering and happiness are representations of God's grace, as believers, we should not hesitate to pursue happiness even in times of suffering.AbstrakKebahagiaan dan penderitaan adalah dua topik populer yang seringkali dianggap saling berlawanan dan dibahas terpisah. Akibatnya muncul pemahaman yang kurang berimbang tentang keduanya sehingga tidak sedikit orang percaya yang kemudian terpengaruh dengan pemahaman yang keliru dari teologi sukses, konsep hukum karma atau retribusi, dan filsafat Stoisisme. Penulis berpendapat penderitaan dan kebahagiaan perlu dibahas bersama sehingga refleksi yang benar tentang penderitaan seharusnya memuat juga kebahagiaan, dan demikian pula sebaliknya. Itu sebabnya tulisan ini bertujuan membangun pemikiran yang lebih lengkap dengan. menelaah surat Filipi, yang dikenal sebagai surat sukacita meski ditulis di dalam penjara (yang identik dengan penderitaan). Metode yang digunakan adalah kualitatif dengan pendekatan deskriptif berdasarkan kajian terhadap surat Filipi. Kesimpulan pembahasan adalah karena surat Filipi menyatakan penderitaan dan kebahagiaan adalah representasi kasih karunia Allah, maka kita sebagai orang percaya tidak perlu ragu mengejar kebahagiaan bahkan di saat menderita.
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In this paper, I seek to describe the phenomenon of joy, principally using approaches made available through the works of a constellation of philosophers who do not exclude as a matter of principle the possibility of a phenomenological dialogue with theology. Inspired by the characterisation of “expansive joy” by Jean-Louis Chrétien, I seek to explore the phenomenon of joy and how it is given to experience. Central to this examination will be the question of the intentionality of joy. Faced with Jean-Yves Lacoste’s distinction between intentional and non-intentional joy, I draw from the work of Jean-Luc Marion and Claude Romano to show that joy can be thought as an event that interrupts experience. I argue that joy is given prepredicatively to the affect and is recognised by its transformative effects in the self. Further, I maintain that these effects are open to being understood in terms of divine encounter.
Purpose This paper provides selective findings from a broader research project on information behaviours in serious leisure. This paper focuses on the positive feelings of information seeking and sharing in this context, aiming to capture and contextualise the joy of information embedded in and inspired by leisure activities. Design/methodology/approach The required data were obtained using semi-structured interviews with 20 serious leisure participants from Wagga Wagga city in Australia, recruited via a maximum variation sampling technique. The data were fully transcribed and analysed based on a qualitative thematic analysis method. Findings The joy of information is embedded within a wide spectrum of information activities in serious leisure ranging from information seeking and browsing to information sharing and information creation. Among all these activities, information sharing with peers and a broader audience is the most joyful experience because it often generates social engagement, a sense of belonging and friendship. Moreover, serious leisure is a productive ground to transform hedonic wellness into eudaimonic well-being, while continuous information seeking and sharing play a significant role in achieving this goal. Practical implications Information system designers can use the findings to consider the emotional aspects of information seeking and sharing to improve the usability of their products. At the policy level, cultural policy writers and decision-makers can make more informed decisions to support serious leisure. Originality/value This study explores the joyful aspects of information behaviour in a unique context. Exploring the joy of information is an emerging topic in human information behaviour scholarship, and the existing knowledge on this issue is still limited. This paper can contribute to creating new knowledge in this emerging area.
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The most specific psychological literature associates joy with goodness; however, psychological science has no clear means to distinguish one good thing from another or to decipher the degree of goodness required to designate joy beyond subjective or conventional opinion. In order to provide a framework for a science of joy that identifies both the psychological processes that comprise joy and a means of understanding and operationalizing goodness, I conceptualize joy as a virtue of knowing, feeling, and doing what matters most and propose a teleological framework to conceptualize goodness. Such a multidimensional understanding of joy informed by characteristic adaptations given meaning by a transcendent narrative identity and a developmental, contextual telos of the reciprocating self sheds light on the potential power of joy as a psychological phenomenon favorable for sustained positive affect that is animating and expansive, yet simultaneously has moral and spiritual heft to guide people in lives worth living.
The task of this short response is to interact with the article in this volume by Johnson and in so doing, advance a definition of joy. To that end, this article will focus on three elements, (a) contextualization/tradition, (b) human cognition as embodied, embedded, enacted and extended, and (c) clinical implications of the pursuit of joy. Contextualization will be explored through the specificity of culture and theological tradition. Embodiment, embeddedness, enactment and extension will be explored as an alternative to western anthropology which tends toward inwardness and individualism. Finally, clinical implications of joy will be explored in terms of the dialectical tension of balancing positive and negative realities of life.
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The most specific psychological literature associates joy with goodness; however, psychological science has no clear means to distinguish one good thing from another or to decipher the degree of goodness required to designate joy beyond subjective or conventional opinion. In order to provide a framework for a science of joy that identifies both the psychological processes that comprise joy and a means of understanding and operationalizing goodness, I conceptualize joy as a virtue of knowing, feeling, and doing what matters most and propose a teleological framework to conceptualize goodness. Such a multidimensional understanding of joy informed by characteristic adaptations given meaning by a transcendent narrative identity and a developmental, contextual telos of the reciprocating self sheds light on the potential power of joy as a psychological phenomenon favorable for sustained positive affect that is animating and expansive, yet simultaneously has moral and spiritual heft to guide people in lives worth living.
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Despite the large body of empirical and theoretical work that has emerged from positive psychology in the recent decades, surprisingly little work has been done by this field on joy. As a result, the work that has been done on joy is disjointed, and frequently does not build on the previous literature; indeed, the various definitions of joy that psychologists use often conflict with one another. The present article, therefore, seeks to address this gap in the positive psychology literature and provide suggestions for future directions, by placing the existing psychological work on joy in dialogue with itself and also in dialogue with the work on joy done in other fields, including, theology and religious studies, philosophy, and literature. The first part of this paper provides a systematic review of the existing work on joy and aims to develop an overarching framework that can be used to operationalize and define joy. This paper will then provide some suggestions for future directions for psychological research into joy, and will close by suggesting reasons why joy is an important phenomenon toward which positive psychology should turn its focus.
This study offers a theological analysis of, and response to, the modern world, and is at once a theology of culture and of creation. In the first half of the book, Gunton expounds some of the distinctive and often contradictory features of modern culture. It emerges that modern culture, far from being unique in its difficulties, reflects similar inadequacies in ancient thought. The distinctive pathos of modernity is to be found in one unique feature, namely the displacement of God that is a mark of all realms of life. The roots of the problem are sought beyond the Enlightenment, where they are often located, in the combination of platonism and Christian theology which dominated medieval Christian thought. At the heart of the matter is a deficient - because of an inadequately trinitarian - understanding of creation and creation's God. The second half of the book develops a powerful theology of creation where due weight can be given to both universal and particular, both society and the individual.