I am no philosopher but I have been thinking lately about this: what is the difference between pleasure and joy? I suppose pleasure is a fleeting thing. Food, sex, even intellectual pleasures, only last as long as the you are engaged with the thing that is giving you pleasure. They are gone and all we have left are the memories of those things and usually a desire to seek them out again. Not that pleasure is a bad thing; I do not believe it is. What I do believe is that the abuse of those pleasures can turn into a bad thing.
Joy however, tends to be lasting. The two obviously have some sort of connection, but joy is a deeper thing. Joy tends to spring from love and vice versa. It is hard to say that love springs from pleasures although you can easily speak of love as being a certain kind of pleasure. But the depth of joy, the healthiness of joy, the permanence of joy, is striking when compared to the transitoriness of pleasure. All these musings are very general though, and I am sure a true philosopher or someone with a deeper intellect than mine could come up with much sharper distinctions between the two.
But there is one thing I can talk about: the joy of turning away from sin, and even from certain pleasures. The other night I went to confession. I enjoy confession actually, even though it can be a difficult thing to do sometimes. It is hard, quite frankly, to confess ones sexual shortcomings on a regular basis, but I find that my confessing those things, by openly telling someone what is troubling me, is greatly rewarding. And that is not even to mention the divine graces I believe flow from God when one confesses one’s sins. Pride is the greatest stumbling block to spiritual growth, and confession is one the greatest weapons God gave us in combating pride. And what I have always found, in my entire life, without exception, is that after an honest confession of my sins I feel a sense of peace and joy afterwards. And the joy and peace I feel are much stronger, much better, much healthier, much more rewarding than whatever pleasures I had been seeking before, whether they be sexual, carnal, or those springing from pride and ambition. That sense of joy helps me then to move on and overcome whatever it is that is troubling me. It is not a perfect process by any means, at least for me, but it is a great gift from God.
There have been many times in my life where I have been discontented with the Church. Usually I was upset because the Church makes is rather clear about the sinfulness of certain kinds of behavior and in all my pride I did not want to accept that. Then, after I have returned, usually following great suffering, I wonder why I was ever so discontented or even malcontented. The joys of a decent life are far more rewarding than that fleeting pleasure of another type of life.