Choose Joy by Kay Warren

This week, I’ll be participating in a blog hop that gives you a chance to read selected passages from the hot-off-the-press book Choose Joy by Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Kay shares the path to experiencing soul-satisfying joy no matter what you’re going through. Joy is deeper than happiness, lasts longer than excitement, and is more satisfying than pleasure and thrills. Joy is richer. Fuller. And it’s far more accessible, Kay says, than you’ve thought possible.

Below is a passage about Kay’s marriage that really jumped off the page at me. I could hear myself in her words! Yikes!

Offer Nonjudgmental Love

If you’re a perfectionist with yourself, you’re probably also somebody who criticizes other people. Those two tend to go together. Because you’re not happy with yourself, you’re not happy with others.

Some of us feel duty-bound to point out to other people their imperfections. Then we expect them to be grateful for it, as if they’ll say, “Oh, thank you! I was waiting for you to tell me about that flaw today!” Even worse, we point out someone’s imperfections to other people, falling into the trap of gossip and judgment.

When we criticize someone, it has a lot more to do with our need to be critical than with their imperfections or differences. And when we are critical of another person, we are missing the beauty in them and in our relationship with them. We destroy the delicate seedling of joy that is trying to take root in their heart. In Romans 2:1, we read, “Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors” (Message).

A few years ago, Rick sat down with me and said something that sobered me up fast. He said, “Kay, I don’t think you like me.”

I said, “What? Of course I like you! What do you mean I don’t like you?”

He said, “You’re always picking on me. You criticize how my shirt is tucked in or not tucked in. You tell me whether this color goes with that color. You tell me my hair is sticking up, and you smooth it down like I’m six years old. You treat me like a child. No matter what my opinion is, you have something to say about it. You just pick at me all the time.”

My first response was, “No way! I don’t do that! I do not behave like that.”

And he said, “Yes, you really do. I know you love me, but I’m not sure you like me anymore.”

So I went back to the Lord that night and I said, “God, you’ve got to help me here. Because I have the feeling he’s right. And this is really sad and ugly.”

The Lord reminded me of this image from the Bible: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:15). Then he gave me a picture of Rick as a cardboard cutout—and I was Ms. Pac-Man. I kept coming up to Rick and taking a bite out of him. Gobble, gobble. I took little pieces of him over and over. I could see that if I kept doing that, I was going to destroy him. I was going to destroy the love between us. I was going to kill our joy by this constant gobble, gobble, gobble!

Is there someone in your life you keep picking at? I’m not talking about big things. I mean little bites, constantly. The Bible says in Luke 6:37, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier” (Message). How much clearer does Scripture have to be before we see that we kill joy when we can’t offer others nonjudgmental love?

You might be thinking, I “pick” on her because she has some major flaws and weaknesses and I know how to help her! It’s absurd to think that picking on someone—being overly critical and judgmental—will make them change, yet we do it constantly. It’s futile, my friends. I recently found this anonymous riff on Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

Philippians 4:8 says, “Keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable” (GW).

Think of the person closest to you. How much of that person is good and worthy and acceptable and wonderful? You might say, “Ninety percent! There’s only ten percent of him that drives me crazy.” Or you might say, “Fifty-fifty. It’s hard to see the good in her sometimes.”

As you apply this Scripture, where do you think you need to put the emphasis in your thinking about that person? On the part that is irritating, frustrating, immature, and weak? Or on the part that is awesome, the part that is worthy of honor and commendation and respect? If you put all your attention on the negative, you are creating a miserable relationship.

It doesn’t matter what the percentage is. Where you put your focus and your energy is going to determine how successful that relationship is. Every relationship you and I have would improve 100 percent if we would apply this, if we would put our focus on what’s right, on what’s good, on what’s worthy of respect in that person. Yes, there’s brokenness, immaturity, things that need to change. But until we focus first on what is good, we will not know joy in that relationship.

Remember, nothing will restore joy in another person’s heart faster than the words, “I accept you as you are.”


Hop along with me! Here’s a list of the posts about Choose Joy you can look forward to reading from other bloggers this week:

6/14- post from Renee Swope at
6/15- post from Holley Gerth at
6/16 post from Kayla Aimee at
6/17- post from Stephanie Howell at

This excerpt was reprinted with permission by Revell Books. Follow along on Kay Warren’s blog hop and check out another excerpt at Renee Swope’s blog on Thursday.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.