Like most others, I have two voices going on in my life. There’s my inside voice, that dialogue carrying on inside the privacy of my mind – generally snarkier, more socially inappropriate, politically incorrect and probably a little profane. And then there’s the outside voice, the more edited, public version of my thoughts – that’s what you generally hear from me.
For example, let’s say one of my kids stumbles into our bedroom at some God-forsaken, middle-of-the-night hour when I’ve gotten too late to bed and need to get up too early in the morning.
Outside voice: Oh honey, what’s wrong? Are you ok? Bad nightmare? Why don’t I tuck you in and stay with you to help you get back to sleep?
Inside voice: NO, NO, NO!!! You can’t be serious! What’s so scary about a raging, voracious dinosaur ready to swallow you up for a late-night snack? Suck it up already. What would it cost me for one full night’s sleep – I’ll pay for it so I can wake up a coherent human being.
I’m working on integrating these two voices into one, so that the public me and the private me are pretty congruent. But both those voices are useful. In the right circumstances, my inside voice can speak clearly for me, simply being my unedited self with all of its raw and uncooked humanity; and then at other times I need to let my outside voice take the lead, allowing me to be more than what I’m actually feeling. Most of the time it’s a bit of both.
So what on earth does this have to do with joy? It’s coming – stick with me. Joy begins as an inner experience – it has an inside voice. It’s a gladness you feel, a delight that grows within. But that inside voice can’t be kept indoors. It’s got to come out into the light of day and shout out a bit. Think of a really good massage (I mean insanely good) – your inside voice is saying “Holy shnikey, those hands are pleasure incarnate. This just might be better than … (you fill in the blank).” But you can’t contain that delight and you find, along with a little drool, your outside voice escaping from your mouth, mostly as grunts and moans of delight. Or think of a great meal – you can’t hold back the “mmmmm’s” of enjoyment. I have a friend who hums during particularly enjoyable meals – his wife can always tell when she’s hit a homerun.
Joy has an outside voice too – it’s the language of praise. C.S. Lewis writes: “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise … The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical person[s], children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps … I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced … minds praise most… In commanding us to [praise] him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.” (Reflections on the Psalms).
I think that this relationship of joy and praise works both ways – mostly praise is the natural, spontaneous expression of a prior inner experience of joy. But sometimes the act of praise opens me up to a wider experience of joy; sometimes my outside voice can teach my inside voice a thing or two.
So here’s my experiment for today – I’m not going to wait for my inside joy-voice to lead out. My outside joy-voice is in the drivers seat and I’m going to intentionally praise, honour, admire, and generally applaud people, clothes, behaviour, food, and events around me. Let’s see what happens.