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The Virtue of Humor



Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”


Humor has several definitions and contexts. I want to discuss humor today, as its most common definition: the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech. I also want to speak of humor in terms of finding, expressing, or appreciating the amusing, ludicrous, or absurdly incongruous aspects of life.


It plays a crucial role in human communication and well-being. People of all ages and cultures respond to humor. Most people can experience humor – they can be amused, smile or laugh at something funny (such as a pun or joke), and we say that they have a sense of humor. How much humor someone finds in an event depends upon many variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence and context. As an example, young children, including myself, enjoy physical humor. It may be the easiest form of humor to grasp. On the other hand, satire requires an understanding of its social meaning and context and tends to appeal to a more mature audience.


Humor is subjective; what I find humorous, you may find boring or serious. I remember watching black and white television of Tarzan movies as a kid. In one episode Tarzan was swinging through the jungle on a vine; the vine broke, and Tarzan fell. Mom laughed for several minutes. I felt bad for the guy.

Humor plays a significant role in our lives. First, it enhances relationships by helping to build stronger bonds with other people. Humor improves our health by reducing stress and anxiety. It triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, promoting an overall sense of well-being and even temporary pain relief.


Having a sense of humor improves our mood by bringing joy and happiness into our lives, which is why I read jokes on Sundays. Laughter can lift our spirits when we’re feeling down. Humor helps us to see the brighter side of difficult situations.


Seeing humor in life promotes creativity.  Humor often involves seeing things from a different perspective, which can stimulate our creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. It also facilitates learning. Humor can make learning more fun and engaging, which can enhance our understanding and retention of information. Humor contributes positively to our mental and social well-being. It is one of the spices of life that brings joy to our journey.


Humor is not just a spice of life, however; it is a valuable virtue that contributes positively to personal character and social interactions. A sense of humor involves recognizing what others find amusing, which requires understanding their perspectives. This can foster virtues like empathy and understanding.


Developing a sense of humor facilitates personal growth. The ability to laugh at oneself can be a sign of humility and self-awareness, important virtues for personal growth and improvement. Proverbs 15:13 tells – “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.” So, humor promotes mental health, providing stress relief, improving mood, and contributing to overall mental health and well-being.


The Bibles guides us on humor in Ephesians 5:4. “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” As in any virtue, humor should be used appropriately and in balance. It’s important to respect others’ feelings and cultural differences, ensuring that humor brings joy and does not cause harm or discomfort.


Humor should never be used to mock or belittle spiritual beliefs, practices, or individuals. It should be inclusive, respectful, and kind-hearted. It should foster a sense of love, respect, and unity. This is why I try to avoid sarcasm, teasing, and insult humor. I was never a fan of humor that is funny at the expense of someone else. On the other hand, unless we can laugh at ourselves and some of the absurdities that we human beings create, we can get stuck emotionally. Humor must be accompanied by wisdom, empathy, and compassion.


I had a minister who taught, “Keep a giggle in it.” It is a phrase that guides us towards maintaining a sense of humor or light-heartedness in a situation. It means to stay positive, find amusement in an event, and not take things too seriously. 


Many years ago, I learned a secret to living a balanced life. The secret is realizing that it’s not what happens to us that makes a difference in how our life turns out; it's what we do about what happens to us that makes all the difference.  Because pretty much don't we all experience just about the same things?  Of course there's a great deal of degrees.  But a lot of us get divorced. We lose loved ones. We lose our jobs. Things don’t work out the way we wanted. So, what is the difference between the person who ends up on the street and the person who goes out and starts their own company and becomes a billionaire?  It's not what happens to us.  It's the choices we make, and the attitudes we take after these things happen to us. That makes all the difference.


Keeping a ‘giggle in it’ helps us find balance. Balancing humor and reverence in our spiritual lives can be a delicate task. Both play important roles and can complement each other when used appropriately.


And yes, like all virtues, we can develop a sense of humor. Look for humor not drama. Humor can be found in a variety of places, from everyday situations to the unexpected. Being open to finding humor can help us develop our sense of humor.


We can observe and study funny people. Watch comedies, read funny books, or listen to comedians. Pay attention to the timing and delivery of jokes. This can help you understand different types of humor and what makes them effective.


Like all virtues, we must be willing to get a bit uncomfortable and practice something new.  Try making light-hearted comments or telling jokes among friends and family. It’s okay if not every joke lands; the key is to practice and learn from the experience. Being able to laugh at ourselves is a sign of a good sense of humor. By letting go of the ego and not taking ourselves too seriously, we can find humor in our own mistakes or embarrassing moments.


Let’s surround ourselves with funny people. If we spend time with people who have a good sense of humor, we are likely to start picking up on their funny observations and humorous perspectives. A positive attitude can make it easier to find humor in different situations. Even when things don’t go as planned, try to find the funny side of the situation.


Balancing humor and reverence involves knowing when to be light-hearted and when to be solemn. It’s about understanding the context, meaning, and importance of a situation and acting appropriately. For instance, sharing a light-hearted moment in a community gathering can be wonderful, but making jokes during a solemn ritual might be inappropriate.


It is my prayer that we can find the balance between humor and reverence, and make our spiritual journey more enriching, enjoyable, and meaningful. I pray that through our virtue of humor, we can experience the joy and lightness of our spiritual nature while also appreciating the depth and diversity of our physical journey.


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