Pleasure vs. Joy - What's the Difference?

Dear Fr. Chris, what is the difference between pleasure and Joy?


This is a poignant and in depth question, which confronts every single person living in this age.  First, we must define these two words in order to comprehend just how different they are.


Pleasure is the connection with immediate gratification linked to an action or thought.  It is a necessary aspect of life which allows us to continue pleasing activities, in the hope of developing a more lasting connection to one another through relationships.


Joy is the result of much work in and through interpersonal relationships.  Primarily, this happens in community in our lives.  It is only through finding joy in sharing our lives together that we can hope to find Joy in the Lord.  Or, put another way, we cannot have Joy in Christ in isolation.  Even monastic hermits come together with other monks for Holy Pascha—and carry that Joy with them into the rest of their year.


Thus, the difference between pleasure and joy is one of focus and direction.  Pleasure is focused on individual gratification.  Joy is the focus on the relationship with the other—spouse, family, neighbor, and ultimately God.  When the source of the pleasing is absent, there is no pleasure.  However, in a truly joyful relationship, when the other person in said relationship with us is absent, we still carry with us the joy of that loving connection. 

The heart of the difference of this focus and direction is this: 

pleasure cannot transcend our current state—Joy can and does every single day.