When we think about fighting to better our world, we think of feelings like rage and injustice, or frustration and discrimination. Seldom do we think about joy as a part of the efforts to make our communities better places. Regardless of the issue that moves you to action, celebrating joy is a critical element of the fight.
Joy comes up when we pause to take a moment to celebrate our wins. It is there when we look around the table or across the protest lines, and we see old and new friends alike. We find joy when we have a meaningful conversation with others who may not have previously understood our convictions.
Without joy in the fight, we become burnt out. We lose the rhythm to our efforts and the cause can begin to feel like an endless march into the abyss. This can quickly spurn into feelings of helplessness and hopelessness – neither of which are productive. Joy permeates the darkness and forces us to look deep within and far beyond ourselves. To remember the wonder of what we are trying to accomplish, be it additional supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, or acknowledgment of the systemic racism that is built into our country’s institutions.
Sometimes, it can feel unnatural or even can generate feelings of guilt when we feel joy when there is so much work still to do. It can feel shameful when we celebrate that the situation has improved for some, but when there are many still struggling. But celebrating joy does not mean we stop the work. It fuels the work. Celebrating joy does not take away from the work to be done. It propels the work forward.
It is important to approach feelings of joy with a sense of gratitude and to remember that each of us, regardless of what side of the fight we may find ourselves, is working to better the world in the way we each find fit. While sometimes those beliefs may just be in conflict with one another, often times one’s beliefs attack and diminish the rights of others, such as with civil rights issues. In these cases, when our own identities and personal liberties are on the line, it is all the more critical to recognize the joy in the fight and to find gratitude that one is able to experience it.
There are many ways to lean into joy as a part of the fight. It can be personal and private, through journaling or reflecting back on photos on your camera. It can public and loud, through social media posts or gatherings with fellow activists. However you decide to celebrate, do so fully and be present. Do so with the same vigor and conviction that you give to your cause. And then when the time comes, you can return to the work fully.
Sign up here to receive the highlights from the Starfish Impact blog in your inbox.