Joy and gratitude are two of the deepest touch points of human existence. Joy is a multi-faceted concept that is best thought of as an emotion-virtue composed of delight in that which is ultimately good. Gratitude is an affirmation of the good and a recognition of where that good is sourced. As self-transcendent, positive emotion dispositions at the heart of many religious and spiritual traditions, these qualities are key components of the flourishing life. Gratitude been object of serious study across many traditions for many centuries; joy has only recently become the focus of investigations in theology and in the human sciences. We explore the connection between the two, and with a special focus on youth thriving, we consider how gratitude practices can potentiate joy.
part of a larger study on ‘spiritual fruit formation’ in adolescents, teenaged participants in Young Life outreach “camping” programs completed surveys immediately before and immediately after the camping experience. Participants were American teens attending standard Young Life camps in the United States (Lake Champion, New York and Sharp Top Cove, Georgia) in summer 2007 and teens from international schools from six European nations (primarily American and British by birth) attending a service-oriented Young Life camp in Kovachevzi, Bulgaria, spring 2007. The outreach components of both types of camps (including talks, small group discussions, special music, games and skits) were similar as they were conducted by American Young Life program staff. Nevertheless, personality inventories revealed that a different profile of teen was more likely to ‘make a commitment to God’ during the Young Life service trip as compared with the standard Young Life camp. ‘Making a decision’ at standard Young Life camps was predicted by high extroversion and high emotional instability; whereas those teens that made a decision during the service trip were high on introversion and intellectual curiosity. Results suggest that different types of outreach camping experiences may be better at preparing different types of kids to respond positively to the Gospel message.