I bought this book last fall at a Jesuit retreat center. The only thing better than lakeside solitude is lakeside solitude with its own bookstore. Mostly, I picked this book for the cute cover. Additional bonus: Richard Rohr of recent enneagram fame and Stephen Colbert wrote the blurbs on the back.
In this book, joy is defined as “happiness in God…a deep-seated result of one’s connection to God.” A lot of the book is about how it’s ok for believers to enjoy life. Specifically, how it’s good to experience joy, humor, and laughter. I thought this was a given, but in some traditional religious circles this has been a problem. Perhaps because of my age, I haven’t been around that too much. It’s not hard for me to imagine that God has a sense of humor, or that people who believe in God should be joyful. Therefore, that part of the book wasn’t really for me.
What was for me, I think, was Martin’s fantastic articulation of the differences between humor (can be good/bad), laughter (can be good/bad), and joy (always good). Humor and laughter can be used to hurt, and Martin here makes the point that the safest and most edifying types of humor are “relaxing” (putting people at ease) and “prophetic” (playfully challenging power structures to keep people humble and to elevate others). I think in 2019 we’re all aware of the dangers of putting our foot in our mouth, and how we want to honor others with our words. This book provided some useful advice for doing just that. The book also includes great advice on how to practically share your joy with God, which in the long-term will probably be my favorite part.
It’s also full of funny stories, because how do you write a book with a Pope and Mother Teresa lol’ing on the cover without jokes?