My Joy Level is Not Another’s Responsibility

My Joy Level is Not Another’s Responsibility

“To laugh you have to let go of something.” I frequently say this when introducing the concept of laughing at lies. I go on to say, “Wendy and I have been married for over forty years. We love each other and are best friends, but even so, we don’t always agree with each other. Ha ha.) And when I think she is really wrong, I am not laughing. Because if I laugh, then she will think things are okay. I don’t want her to think that. I am tempted to say, ‘I am a victim of you. My joy depends on your behavior. For me to walk in biblical joy, I need you to do what I think you should do.’ (Ha ha.) But how many of you know when I laugh with her, I have let go of that thing (whether it was anger, manipulation, frustration, or whatever). You cannot hold on to those things and laugh at the same time. You have to let go of one or the other. Now I know we don’t laugh all the time. We ‘weep with those who weep’ (Romans 12:15), and when we are having brave communication with people we are usually not laughing, but laughter is still a powerful and needed weapon in the mouths of believers.”

I chuckle every time I share this, especially when I indicate my joy levels depend on Wendy’s behavior. I laugh, but I am also convicted because I realize how much I DO depend on what other people do to determine my level of joy. 

One of the biggest lies of the victim mindset is this: Other people are responsible for my joy level and happiness. If we battle this, we are unconsciously looking for a spouse, our children, our parents, a friend, a leader, or someone else to do the right thing to prove they love us or to validate us. 

Hear this: we cannot depend on other people to fill our joy tank. Ultimately, every person will disappoint us in some way. If we depend on others and don’t take responsibility for it ourselves, then we will never find the joy of the Lord as our strength.

Codependency in our relationships causes us to primarily look to others to meet our emotional needs. Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior (Quoted from Psych Central website). 

Here are six steps to take to break the tendency of expecting others to meet our self-esteem and emotional needs (including our joy):

    1. Admit your tendencies – It is a forward-moving act to humble ourselves and admit our dependence on others for our joy level. 
    2. Repent from it – As we humble ourselves before God, we will find grace to renounce and replace this victim mindset with the truth that we are strong and powerful in Him (and that we are not a victim but a victor).
    3. Take ownership of your own joy – Say this out loud: I, not others, determine how much joy I walk in. 
    4. Value soul prosperity over good circumstances – Our response to something is almost always more important than the something. “Beloved, I pray that you be in health and prosper in all things, even as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
    5. Get vision and purpose for difficult times – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing . . .” (James 1:2-3). We build our joy muscle by pushing against negative emotions with the promises of God in our thoughts and words.
    6. Celebrate progress, not perfection – It is one thing to take ownership of our own joy, but it is a real journey to walk it out. Just as a toddler does not walk perfectly at first, we too will not walk perfectly at first in taking ownership of our joy. To combat the lie, “I cannot do this,” we celebrate progress instead of perfection.

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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.