Put Humor Into Your Life
It was a cold winter day, and the steps were covered with ice. The first one who attempted the descent nearly fell. The next one in line announced: “Now this is the way to do it!” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than down he went—flat on his back. An instant of alarmed silence, then bursts of laughter from bystanders after seeing that he was unhurt.
THERE is “a time to laugh.” So observed the wise man Solomon almost three thousand years ago. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) It is no less true today. The ability to laugh is a God-given trait, a gift from the One described in the Bible as “the happy God.”—1 Timothy 1:11.
Not surprisingly, then, creation is full of humorous things—kittens and puppies with absurd antics, a lion cub chewing on its mother’s tail until it gets swatted, baby monkeys chasing and tumbling over one another through the branches. There is humor all around us, waiting to be observed and appreciated.
This is not to say that all people laugh at the same things. On the contrary, what is funny often depends on one’s culture, personality, background, and mood, as well as other factors. Virtually everyone, though, will respond with laughter to something—a funny story, a pleasant surprise, a joke, a clever play on words.
What purpose does humor serve? At the very least, it is a means of better relating to others. One comment called laughter “the shortest distance between two people.” Indeed, some believe that humor can be used as a barometer of marital compatibility. A study on humor found that couples who agree on what’s funny are more prone to like, love, and want to marry each other than those whose humor preferences are less alike. Why? Because humor is indicative of many things: values, interests, preoccupations, intelligence, imagination, and needs. A 1985 survey of a thousand U.S. corporations revealed that “people with a sense of humor tend to be more creative, less rigid and more willing to consider and embrace new ideas and methods.”
To Laugh or Not to Laugh
No one really knows exactly what makes something funny. Some believe that at the heart of humor is incongruity—the bringing of two seemingly incompatible elements together. A grown man dressed as a circus clown may throw a small child into a fit of laughter. However, an adult with his greater life experience and superior cognitive skills may no longer find the clownish antics funny. He may find pleasure in more mental forms of humor—puns, plays on words, or jokes—that exploit incongruity on a verbal, rather than a physical, level.
Some researchers believe that humor may result from the release of pent-up emotional energy. Humor may serve to mask tension and pain. Says the Bible: “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain; and grief is what rejoicing ends up in.”—Proverbs 14:13.
Many forms of humor involve what is called slapstick. A man trips or gets doused with water. Funny, isn’t it? Perhaps, if nobody really gets hurt.
A Christian takes pains not to cultivate an appetite for sick or sadistic humor. After all, love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) A Christian also avoids tasteless jokes that put down any nationality or race. He tempers his sense of humor with “fellow feeling.” (1 Peter 3:8) For example, it may be delightfully amusing to watch a toddler take a few tentative steps and then collapse in a heap. But if an elderly or disabled person falls, the appropriate response is to rush to his assistance, not to laugh.
Humor and Your Health
Properly used, humor has much value. In fact, evidence is slowly accumulating that laughter may even serve as a therapeutic tool. It is known that the act of laughing gives a healthy massage to one’s internal organs. Furthermore, according to American Health magazine, some “researchers think laughter may empower the immune system.” The magazine then quotes immunologist Lee S. Berk as saying: “Negative emotions can manipulate the immune system, and it now seems positive ones can do something similar.” This underscores the wisdom of the Bible’s words: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer.”—Proverbs 17:22.
In hopes of utilizing the healing power of humor, some hospitals have set up so-called laughter rooms in which patients can play games, watch funny movies, listen to jokes, or simply visit with relatives in a more cheerful atmosphere. Can you put humor to work yourself? Say you have a sick friend or relative in the hospital. Why not brighten that ailing one’s outlook by giving him or her a humorous book or funny card where that would be appropriate?
Laughter can also mitigate anger. Dr. R. B. Williams, Jr., says: “Being angry is bad for your health.” Similarly, the Bible says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) Dr. Williams notes: “It’s hard to stay angry when you’re laughing.” Yes, seeing the humor in a situation is one of the most constructive ways of handling anger.
Within the Family Circle
Humor can be put to work within the home. One husband says: “It’s as useful to me as a multipurpose tool is to an auto mechanic because it does so many things. It protects, encourages, opens up fruitful conversations, breaks down preconceived ideas, and turns troublesome words into those that are reasonable and considerate.”
A sense of humor is especially helpful when irritating habits threaten to strain relations. Your son forgets to put his toys away despite repeated admonition to do so. Your husband leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Your wife burns supper. Finding fault, shaming, blaming, yelling, or screaming only worsens matters. One health researcher, quoted in Redbook magazine, noted: “If you confront a person or ridicule him, he’ll become defensive. Humor invites people to look at their behavior from a distance—and change it.”
This does not mean making fun of the person guilty of the indiscretion. That usually brings pain, not laughter. Try directing your humor toward the situation itself. Having a good laugh may do much to ease the tension. Says one wife: “There are times when my husband sees I’m about to get angry, and he softens it with some humorous remark or action. Before I know it, I’m laughing. Then I realize it wasn’t that serious after all.”
A few words of caution, though. Avoid trying to be funny when a situation calls for seriousness or compassion. Note Proverbs 25:20: “He that is removing a garment on a cold day is as vinegar upon alkali and as a singer with songs upon a gloomy heart.” Humor should be used only with due discretion, so as not to harm emotionally or physically. Never allow humor to be meanspirited or disrespectful. This would rule out allowing older children to make their younger siblings the constant butt of jokes. Gentle teasing is one thing, caustic comments quite another. Marriage mates must also strive to keep humor within bounds, not using it as a weapon of criticism or a means of belittling.
Poet Langston Hughes once wrote: “Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.” Truly, humor can play an important part in our lives. It can keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. It can help us stay cheerful and relaxed. It can smooth out relations with others. It can help us cope with adversity. It can even improve our health.
So put humor into your life. Discover it. Nurture it. Cultivate it. It’s bound to do wonders for you and those around you!
[Picture on page 26]
Humor can help smooth out domestic mishaps