Young People Ask . . .
Aren’t Practical Jokes Harmless Fun?
IT WAS just a joke. The boys responsible were doubled over with laughter. They had tied some oil drums together, placed fins on one end, and painted the whole contraption white. On its side were the letters “C.C.C.P.”—the Cyrillic-alphabet initials for the Soviet Union. They placed it near the house of a man named Ted. Next morning, in a state of shock, he called the police, reporting that a Soviet missile had landed near his home. But while he was talking excitedly to one of the officers who arrived to investigate, the joke turned sour. Ted collapsed and was hospitalized in critical condition.
True, not every practical joke will put a person in the hospital, but imagine how you would feel if you were responsible for such a mishap—just because you wanted a little fun. Practical jokes are popular with many young people, who for the most part see no harm in them and consider them a lot of fun. But is this really so?
“Like a Lunatic”
The Bible book of Proverbs was written “to give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 1:1-4) Its wise sayings include this passage dealing with practical jokes: “Just like someone mad that is shooting fiery missiles, arrows and death, so is the man that has tricked his fellowman and has said: ‘Was I not having fun?’” (Proverbs 26:18, 19) The word “mad” has reference to someone who is insane. “Like a lunatic” is how A New Translation of the Bible by James Moffatt reads.
Imagine the damage to life and property inflicted by a mentally deranged person shooting arrows—even some with fiery tips! “A lunatic” may not fully comprehend the seriousness of his actions. He is devoid of reason. Similarly, those who ‘trick’ others may not really intend to cause harm. This, however, is small consolation to those injured either physically or emotionally by such pranks. Why, then, do some play such jokes on others?
The proverb gave the excuse as, “Was I not having fun?” So usually it is done for fun, to dispel boredom, or to get attention from others. Also, according to the book Childstress! by Mary Susan Miller, practical jokes are listed as one of the “Neurotic Defenses” employed by some children and adults in response to stress. Still others play jokes in retaliation for being a victim of someone else’s pranks. Of course, by continuing the cycle of foolishness, a youth simply brings himself down to the level of the instigator. The smart move is to refuse to play practical jokes.
How to Stop
Ask yourself: “Would I want someone to do the same thing to me?” Jesus said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) The Bible encourages fellow feeling and tender compassion, and it discourages paying back injury for injury. (1 Peter 3:8, 9) Developing such kindly qualities will not only prevent you from pulling practical jokes on others but also endear you to others. The jokester may get the laughs, but you will gain the friends.
Also, you have to watch the kind of persons with whom you associate. “I have not sat down in the intimate group of those playing jokes,” said the prophet Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 15:17) It is easy to be influenced by our companions. Avoid those who have a reputation for being jokesters.
“I wanted to be accepted very much by the kids I hung around with at school, so I could have someone to have fun with,” admitted Debbie as she reflected on her trouble-filled life as a teenager. She explained why she did some very foolish things: “Because it was funny. Everything had to be funny. I didn’t think about how this would affect the future or that I would one day look back and think of the scars.” Such constant clowning did not make her really happy. It was as Proverbs 14:13 said: “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain.” Finally she saw the foolishness of her course of life and made a decision to live by the principles of the Bible. The genuine happiness she has now is far superior to the fleeting laughs from her practical jokes.
So are practical jokes harmless fun? The Bible, as well as countless sad experiences, answers no. Don’t let such a quest for “fun” sidetrack you from accomplishing fine goals in life. “Foolishness is fun to a stupid person, but an intelligent person forges straight ahead.”—Proverbs 15:21, The Holy Bible in the Language of Today, by W. F. Beck.
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The jokester may get the laughs, but who will gain the friends?