Steeling Other People’s Joy

It was supposed to be a fun night. I’ve looked forward to it for months! Last night my mom and I went to a concert featuring Lionel Richie and Earth, Wind & Fire. The music was good and the 70-something musicians could still sing and boogie! Everything was going pretty smoothly… until intermission.

Pumped off the high of “September” which wrapped up Earth, Wind & Fire’s set, there was a break in the action as the team adjusted the stage and prepared for Lionel. I stood up to stretch my legs during intermission as my right leg had fallen asleep from the narrow pathway between my seat and the row in front of me. After standing a few minutes, minding my own business, and letting my leg wake up, I turn around to realize that a man behind me is yelling at me. He must have been attempting to get my attention, but I had put in ear plugs during the height of the volume, so I couldn’t hear normal talking levels around me so well at that moment. He was screaming and gesturing at me, “MA’AM! SIT! DOWN!” He was two rows behind me and three seats to my left side so I have no concept of how I was disturbing him despite standing. Also…it was intermission. What were you worried about missing on the stage, dude?!? I am sure my face was shocked. I felt my jaw drop and my brow furrow as I slowly sat, shocked at the confrontation and unable to process what was happening. I was angry at the injustice and nearly burst into tears at the feeling of shame being the recipient of the outburst. I first had to concentrate on deep breathing to regulate myself. Only then did my mind begin to race, thinking of all the things I wish I had said in retort to the outburst…

“Hello sir, it appears like you’re trying to get my attention. Let’s try that interaction again, shall we. Because that can’t be your best effort.”

“Can you help me understand how me standing is offensive to you? Do you wish to stare at the blank stage?”

“I have a medical need to stand, so please bear with me while I abide by my physician’s instructions.”

“I’m still deciding if I have to go to the bathroom.”

I spent the next 30 minutes imagining retorts so that I could make him feel as small as he had made me feel. But was retaliation really my goal? Or clearing my name? So, all my snarky retorts were left to roll around in my imagination all night long.

This morning, I texted a friend who asked how the concert was and told her the good, the bad, and the ugly. She texted back, “People r idiots.” Sometimes. I couldn’t agree more! I wish I could have just not let it bother me, but that interaction last night felt so wild, it really bothered me and I just couldn’t let it go.

Then she texted, “It makes me sad how people have the ability to steel other people’s joy.” [sic.]

Steel other people’s joy. It was a typo, but oh what an important one. Yes, absolutely even perfect strangers have the ability to steal our joy. This man greatly tempered my enjoyment of this evening I’ve been looking so forward to! Instead of dancing to the songs, I spent the second half of the show seeking to make myself small and inconspicuous. People who cut us off in traffic or honk aggressively the mililsecond the light turns green can steal our joy. Rude folks and self-obsessed “me monsters” can steal our joy. We do have the power to steal joy even from perfect strangers because these interactions can leave lasting impressions.

But we also have the power to steel joy. Steel with two E’s means to bolster, or to mentally prepare to face something difficult. This is defiant joy– practicing joy in the face of difficulty, challenge, or imperfect circumstances. I need people to steel my joy and provide perspective, compassion, & endurance. I need others to steel my joy to encourage it to be strong, steely, sturdy, solid, and secure. Steely joy is immovable by the whims of life, traffic, and even, crotchety concert goers.

In fact, the more we steel our joy, the less people can steal our joy. Choose your vowel wisely. Use it for good.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Excellent picture of what happened and the feelings it stirred up in both of us. As I told you, I wanted to say,”It’s intermission, this is when you’re supposed to stand and stretch your legs! “ But then I thought to myself , “People!!”
    In spite of that man, it was such a fun weekend in multiple ways. Don’t let him steal your joy! Love you!

  2. Isn’t it interesting how a friend’s misspelling is God’s lesson for us. And how one man’s rudeness teaches us to steel our joy and not let someone steal our joy. I’m glad you and your mom had a fun night together.

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