True joy transports us into a pleasurable state that may include delight, ecstasy, or bliss. Lifting us naturally up, real joy reflects an honest sense that our life is getting better.
Real joy does not compensate for other pains; it does not rely on chemical substances for its effects.
The satisfaction of revenge can easily be confused with real joy. The difference is simple: revenge seeks to redress old pains whereas real joy is truly pleasurable - in and of itself. Revenge may elevate us from a diminished state momentarily, whether from a sense of inadequacy, injustice, fear or anger. Although revenge may temporarily mask our pain it is rarely able to address the actual cause of our injury. Pursuing revenge is more like stirring a hornet's nest than applying a salve.
Natural joy also gets confused with getting high from drugs. While intoxicants make us feel as though we are moving toward greater perfection, power, and freedom, this is only an illusion. Although we may feel especially happy when under the influence of mood-enhancing drugs, this is not an accurate signal of our well-being. This is not true joy. When drugs wear off we are usually left off worse than before. This is how we know that recreational drugs produce only an illusion of true joy.
It can be hard to tell true joy from other forms of pleasure. This is a distinction that we can only make for ourselves.
For those who have not seen it, this video shows a remarkable moment of joy that stretches into blissful awe. Some people think the narrator was on drugs, he has said he was not. What do you think? Is this true joy?