Zia Hassan

Joy Thieves

“Don’t let anyone steal your joy.”

This was a phrase written in permanent ink on the teacher’s board in the copy room of a school I worked at. It made sense for a school setting for teachers, who have their joy stolen constantly by basically everyone, including people outside of their job who think they understand their jobs.

For years, I was convinced not to let anyone do this to me. I figured a good attitude could keep it from happening. But then it happened. At one point my joy was stolen. I won’t get into the specifics of how, but the joy of what I did every single day was deliberately stolen.

If your joy gets stolen, there is a way to get it back. There is a way to reclaim it from whatever entity took it.

You see, joy can’t actually be stolen, even though the saying goes that way. Instead, it’s more like it’s extracted. Joy is confidence, joy is frictionless… but when joy is extracted by someone or something malicious, the residue is often a sticky mess of fear. And it’s not the type of fear that keeps you up at night. It’s the type of fear that causes inaction.

When someone does this, the result is often that we stay stuck. When I got my joy stolen from me as a teacher, and it made me want to quit. This is the ultimate goal of joy-thieves, who often have had the joy stolen from them first, and they have nothing better to do but to ensure that the cycle continues.

So if we want to reclaim our joy, we must take action anyway, despite the residue of fear. We can’t quit, because then we risk becoming a joy thief ourself.

Our joy thieves never actually win. They lost the game a long time ago. But until the day that we are driven to steal another person’s joy… there is still hope for us yet.