We love to laugh. We laugh at anything and everything. Someone makes a mistake, we laugh; someone gets hurt, we laugh; someone looks ridiculous, we laugh; even when we are angry we laugh. When something happens in DC that makes our blood boil, SNL writes a skit about it. We laugh at people who get in trouble for laughing at others. There are already memes making fun of Kathy Griffin for making fun of President Trump. Laughter, for better or for worse, is what we love to do.
I don’t mean to take it too seriously or be overly spiritual about it, but I believe humor is a gift from God. It has been given to us for our joy and our good. That’s why it has to be protected.
In his book Made for His Pleasure, Alistair Begg writes, “In the early 1970s Monty Python’s Flying Circus was responsible for pushing the parameters of humor well beyond the boundaries of what was then acceptable. However, it quickly became cynical and destructive as it embraced the obscene, the absurd, and the irrational. When we learn to laugh at everything, nothing is worth the bother of a laugh. Some who have spent their lives making others laugh have proved to be figures of despair.”
In light of recent events with Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher, it’s clear that we’ve lost the joy in our humor. We’ve become far more cynical than comical. So it’s back to the basics. Let’s talk about how we should and shouldn’t use humor.
4 good ways to use humor.
- Humor that unites divided people.
We all have opinions, often strong opinions. And we can easily demonize one tribe because they have different beliefs than our tribe. But it’s important to remember that we’re all humans—real people who are trying to navigate life the best we can. We may have different world views that lead to different conclusions (sometimes opposing conclusions) but often we have the same goals. And few things bring us together like laughing at ourselves, at each other, and at our unrealistic ideals.
- Humor that confronts oppressive people.
Elijah did this when he made fun of the prophets of the false god, Baal, who were leading the people of Israel away from God. They were asking Baal for help, but no one answered. “Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened’” (1 Kings 18:27). Sometimes making fun of people who oppress or deceive others helps break the spell the people around them are under. They are finally able to see these people for who they are and escape their influence.
- Humor that humbles honest people.
When you can be honest with yourself about your short comings, you won’t be offended when others point them out. This is a great way to stay humble. It’s healthy to be able to laugh at yourself and those closest to you.
- Humor that disarms skeptical people.
Few things earn someone’s trust and cause them to let down their guard like humor. When a new leader steps into a position, a sure way for people to listen to what he or she has to say is if he or she is funny.
4 bad ways to use humor.
Humor can do a lot of good, and it can do it in a way that other things can’t. But it can also be used to hurt or defame others. Here are 4 ways we shouldn’t use humor.
- Passive Aggressive Humor
There’s a difference between teasing with your friends and venting your anger with sarcastic jabs. Some things shouldn’t be laughed at; they should be talked about. We revert to venting our feelings with sarcasm because we’re too cowardly to actually confront someone. Sarcasm is much easier and makes us think we’re getting the point across. We’re usually not.
- Irreverent Humor
We should not always have something witty to say. Some things should make us silent. When the sacred—God, worship, the Bible—becomes a joke, we become desensitized to its grandeur.
- Rude Humor
In light of recent events, you might think of Kathy Griffin who mocked President Trump in a grotesque way. Equally as unloving is Tucker Carlson, a Fox News anchor, who reacted to Griffin’s bad joke. He didn’t simply talk about Griffin, he used the opportunity to take a jab at all liberals: “She holds a press conference to announce, she’s the one who’s been wronged… Liberals are always the victims. Being the victim is virtually what it means to be a member of progressive America,” he said. That is so rude. You’re telling me there isn’t a single person on the planet who happens to have different ideas than you that is an honest, hard-working person?
- Anti-Life Humor
What I disliked about Griffin’s photo wasn’t that it made fun of the President. That happens to every president. And I don’t even think it’s always a bad thing (see number 2 in the top section). But what did cross the line is that she took lightly the life of another human being. Call it a joke, art, hyperbole, or free speech, but making light of the life of another person is nothing to joke about. If our humor is nothing else, let it be “pro-life”.
Keeping Humor Sacred.
I love humor. I love it so much that I want to continue to enjoy this precious gift. The only way we can do that is by setting boundaries for our laughter, and guarding it against cynicism. So I have two challenges for you. First, learn to laugh at yourself and your short comings more than you laugh at anything else. And second, find at least three topics that you refuse to joke about. The only way for our joy to be protected is for the sacred to be preserved. Here are the three things I am choosing to preserve as sacred.
First, I am choosing to preserve the Holy Bible as sacred. You probably just took a trip back to the 90’s when I used the term “Holy Bible.” We do not even call it that anymore. I want the Word of God to be a sacred, rather than a flippant, subject in my heart.
Second, I am choosing to preserve life as sacred. I want to really feel something when I hear of someone’s death, no matter who it is. I don’t want to just move on with my day like nothing happened, or just keep scrolling through Facebook, and I certainly don’t want to joke about it. Life matters, and it should be revered and honored, not made light of.
Third, I am choosing to preserve my marriage as sacred. Don’t get me wrong—my wife and I poke fun at each other all the time. But there are things we refuse to joke about. The word “divorce” is not in our vocabulary, and insults and sarcastic jabs are out of the question. I want my wife to know that I respect her more than any other person I know, and that I cherish her heart and her feelings.
What are three things you will strive to keep sacred and not joke about?
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