Thursday, March 22, 2007


Laughter is one of life's soothing balms. Have you ever been in a sore mood or even on the threshold of a great sorrow, and you found release in something that made you smile?

Laughter is also one of life's great bonding agents. Don't you feel closer to people with whom you've shared some fun times?

Happy families enjoy times of merriment together. One of my favorite sounds is a house full of the innocent laughter of children.

However, as with most things, there is a wise and an unwise use of laughter. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time to laugh and a time to weep. So, laughter must be appropriate to the occasion. Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we must let no word pass from our mouth that isn't useful for building others up. So, laughter must not be used to tear someone else down.

Healthy laughter arises out of fun times together. As wives, one of the best things we can do for our husbands is to be joyful ourselves and to plan special times to enjoy with our husbands. That doesn't mean that we go around with faked smiles and pretend that all is well when it isn't. It means that we deal with problems in godly ways and that we develop a generally peaceful outlook towards life.

As parents, we and our husbands can help our children learn how to laugh appropriately. Both of our children have wonderful senses of humor. They are more gifted than I am at knowing just the right thing to say at the right time to lighten another person's heavy mood. However, when they were little, one of our children did not know how to keep laughter within appropriate bounds. He would either keep going when the moment had passed, and it ceased to be fun. Or, he would cross the line into making fun of someone else. We found that all it took to help him was a little gentle guidance.

Healthy laughter can also arise when we laugh at ourselves. When my dear hubby and I were in Utah, we drove along a high mountain road. Being a Southern woman and a non-skier, I don't have a lot of experience with deep snow. So, when I saw a lovely stretch of pure, white snow, I wanted to step out into it. Before my dh knew what I was up to, I jumped over a ridge of snow that had been left by a snowplow. I expected my feet to land squarely in the snow beyond. But, in fact, I fell into slick, knee-deep snow and floundered to get up. I started laughing and my husband did, too.

Some people consider it fun to tease others. Here's where I think we need to be ultra-cautious. What seems like gentle teasing to one person can be devastating to another's esteem.

Sometimes, people resort to joking as a way of hiding their feelings. When someone gets too close in conversation, they may use a seemingly harmless joke to draw attention away from themselves. Or, they may use a wall of sarcastic comments to keep anyone from attempting to draw near.

In such cases, laughter becomes a means of dividing people, rather than of drawing them together. Many times we are uncomfortable around such people because we do not know if they are joking with us or if they are serious.

As Proverbs 26:18-19 says, "Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, 'I was only joking'." In the same way, Proverbs 22:10 says, "Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended."

We can have some compassion for a person who uses joking as a barrier because we know that this type of humor covers up pain. We all know the cliche about the clown who makes others laugh, but who cries inside. In fact, circus clowns often paint their faces with sad expressions to underscore the pathos of being a jester.

If one of your children responds to every situation with an automatic joke, that may be a sign that the child is afraid of expressing true feelings. You may need to gently draw your child out so that the child can learn how to have "real" conversations. Once the child is able to express deep feelings properly, its likely that his or her sense of humor will fall into appropriate lines.

If you, yourself, respond to every situation by cracking a joke, it might be worth a few moments of contemplation to discern if your humor is real or if it is a defense mechanism. If it is a defense mechanism, you will find that you feel freer if you express the deep thoughts of your heart to God and to a trusted, godly friend.

It's easy in our culture to fall into a habit of inappropriate humor. For one thing, TV sitcoms depend on sarcastic comments and unwholesome innuendos to garner laughs, and if we watch too much TV, we, too, can begin to talk that way. Also, many homes, workplaces, and schools are filled with a worldly humor based on sarcastic complaints and shady comments.

We are to be the light of the world. Therefore, we have to teach our children how to "Do all things without complaining and disputing that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil. 2:12 We have to teach our children how to go out into the world as lights without picking up the world's language.

If we look for ways to put wholesome fun and laughter into our lives, we and our children will not be as easily tempted by worldly or inappropriate laughter. In this way, we will be building happy memories into our children, memories that will help sustain them in life.



Anonymous said...

Great post Elizabeth.

It's funny (not ha ha :)) but my hubby and I watched a programme about stand-up comedians...which we had to switch off shortly after due to blasphemy on the programme...anyway some of the comedians interviewed seemed to be so full of anger and sadness, isn't it strange that their desire is to make others laugh.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah,

Yes, it is ironic, isn't it?