Lessons from a Killjoy

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

After a morning play date, a friend and I decided to take our two preschoolers to a local fast-food restaurant for lunch. Once we had finished eating, the kids dug into their sacks and pulled out their toy: a headband with dog ears on top.

The joy on their faces was contagious as they placed the ears on their heads. What came next was a slew of panting, barking, and sniffing as our 3-year-olds transformed into dogs.

After a few minutes, our giggles had grown to full blown belly laughs. I shushed the pups as another customer was approaching our table.

"You really need to get a handle on your kids..." he said in a gruff voice.

I thought he was being sarcastic.

He proceeded, "...you are being way too loud, and my wife and I are trying to eat our lunch in peace…" He kept going, "...everyone can hear you and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves..."

Before we could pick our jaws up off the table, he dumped his entire tray in the trash, and escorted his wife out the door.

I was shocked, embarrassed...insulted.

On my drive home, I replayed the incident and all the things I should have said in my head. Once I put my mama bear claws back in, this question hit me:
Are there times when someone’s joy is too loud for me to handle?
I am not the type of person to walk up to a complete stranger and chastise her. But his contempt for joy (I hate to admit) bears similarity to my attitude sometimes.

Let me explain...

Sometimes I yell at my kids for playing too loudly instead of joining in their laughter.

Sometimes someone shares their good news, and it sparks feelings of jealousy instead of happiness.

Sometimes I shut down another person’s ideas instead of acknowledging their enthusiasm.

Sometimes my 6-year-old proudly wipes up his mess and I say, "You missed a spot," instead of "Thank you for cleaning up!"

Sometimes my husband asks me to watch basketball and I spend the whole game on my phone instead of cheering alongside him.


I am not suggesting we affirm risky, careless, or unsafe behavior in order for someone to feel good. It is important to be authentic, genuine, and honest. But not at the expense of another person's joy.

When we let our desire to be right, to get what we want, or to give our opinion overshadow someone's joy -- it's time to examine our motives.

I can’t change others’ reactions to my joy. But I can change how I react to theirs.

Maybe fast-food man was fighting a battle of his own that day. Maybe he was truly suffering or had just received the worst news of his life…or maybe he was just a jerk.

Regardless, he killed our joy.

It has been years since that awkward encounter and I still remember how sullen I felt. Let me remember that my words and reactions have power. May they never evoke such shame in others, even on days when their joy is too loud for my weary heart to handle.

Be kind. Let's share one another's sorrows and joys.

If you’re struggling with anger, grief or sadness, I’d love to have a conversation about how to find the joy within you.

Have you ever experienced a killjoy? Did you handle it gracefully or lash out?

Has there been a time when you were the killjoy? What did you learn from that experience?

Leave your answers in the comments! I'd love to hear your experience!

Heather is wife to a funny blue devil, mom to three lively boys, and singer both on stage and in her child's ear. She is the owner of Kaloupek Counseling, LLC a private practice offering mental health services to children, teens, and adults in Decatur, IL.  You can read more about her, her blog, and counseling practice here.  Want to reach out? Send her an email!  She would love to hear from you!


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