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“The word happy is a discriminatory word”: Canceling happiness vs. finding true joy in Christ

A hair stylist smiles while holding her scissors up
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Hair salons have been in the news a lot during these days of quarantine and closings, even leading a couple of owners to enter politics. A salon owner in England was in the news recently for a different reason. 

The owner listed an advertisement seeking an experienced hairdresser. But her effort to find one who was happy and friendly ran into problems. 

The job center rejected the ad because it said the phrase “only happy, friendly stylists need apply” discriminated against unhappy people.  

The salon owner called the job center and received this response: “I’m sorry, but the word happy is a discriminatory word and we aren’t allowed to use it, as somebody who is not happy will be discriminated against.” 

One person responded on social media, “I thought this was a joke, realizing it clearly isn’t has left me absolutely speechless… what has the human race come to?” 

I tend to agree.

In our cancel-culture world, it’s becoming difficult to use descriptive words for anyone or anything.

Happiness or joy? 

I have heard many times over the years that happiness depends on circumstances, but joy transcends circumstances.  

When we go through difficult times, it’s hard to control our emotions. We are all human.  

And reading the news today can bring out the worst in all of us. But, the joy God offers doesn’t depend on our world or our emotions. It is produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). 

Unlike happiness or other feelings we experience daily, it doesn’t depend on what’s happening at present in our lives. It transcends our circumstances. Paul had joy even during suffering (2 Corinthians 6:10). 

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for his death and resurrection, he told them: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). The joy Jesus spoke of before his departure is the same joy the angels spoke about to the shepherds: “Fear not . . . I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).  

That means all of us today. We face fears today, but the Holy Spirit is in the canceling business, too: he cancels our fears, our doubts, and insecurities and replaces them with the joy of Jesus. 

One of my favorite Bible passages is Habakkuk 3:17–18: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” 

It is a reminder that my joy doesn’t depend on the world or my emotions. When Jesus assured the disciples of his joy, he knew what they were facing. All the disciples were martyred except for John, who was exiled on Patmos. Yet, they were known for their joy (Acts 13:52), and others took note they “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). 

Jesus told the disciples before his death, “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).  

That assurance is ours as well.  

No one can cancel our joy.

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