Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Importance of Humor: Part II
Hunt for humor
It's everywhere. Whether it's irony or absurdity or silliness, there's something to laugh at in virtually all circumstances. Even at funerals, loved ones sometimes drift between laughter and tears as lighthearted stories and joyful memories are shared. At our worst times, humor gives us a release and a respite, if only fleeting, from our sufferings. I know of a cancer victim who underwent breast reconstruction following a mastectomy using tissue grafted from her abdomen. As she lay in the hospital recovering from surgery, she quipped, "The tummy tuck was free."
Discipline yourself to look for the positve in all situations. Feeling down or gloomy? Stop and inventory what you have to be thankful for. Focus on the good in your life... down to the basics that we tend to take for granted. We watched a History Channel special on the Mayflower the other night. Talk about challenge and hardship! Think about people all over the globe in 2006 living in hopeless conditions and squalor. People being perecuted for the liberties we take for granted. Considering the alternatives is a powerful "wake up" call that can restore light into complacent and ungrateful hearts. (Right about now you're thinking this article about humor sure did get kind of dark. Sometimes we do benefit from a greater awareness of the contrasts in life--e.g., I felt bad because I didn't have shoes until I met a man who had no feet--as we strive to remain grateful, optimistic and light-hearted.)
Amid the sometimes grim reality of the nightly news, there's plenty of humor and irony in the arts, entertainment and current events. Find stories that strike you as funny and share them with one or two people. Have a little "stash" of headline news material ready to roll as you encounter people in your daily activities. The internet news services, such as MSNBC.com, are a great resource for quick headlines that can get your creative thought process going. I keep a little spiral notebook handy. It's mostly filled with lyrics to new songs I want to "google." But I also use it to capture observations. Consider keeping your own little journal for documenting interesting or comical encounters with life.
You are your own best material!
I remember asking a hair stylist a couple years ago to "lightly trim the ends." Three-and-a-half-inches later I looked like a sad little monk. I wanted to just cry! I ran into a friend the next day and she said, "Your hair is so short!" I replied, "Yes! I'm auditioning for the lead in the sequel to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory!" We had a good laugh. The rest of the week, as I ran into people, I just pointed to my head and said "Johnny Depp." They knew exactly what I was talking about and it became a great joke. It took forever to grow that haircut out. But it was very good for laughs while it lasted. Looking for a perfect subject to laugh about? It's you!
But, do be discerning...
One of Todd's relatives was telling a funny story once. After he was done, we all laughed. There was a small pause. Then I said, "Well, that was a real knee slapper!" I was genuinely amused by the story!. But the words somehow spilled out of my mouth with a hint of sarcasm, suggesting that I didn't think it was funny at all. The person kind of looked at me disapprovingly and must have thought I was rude. In fact, I was rude. It was entirely unintentional. But rude nonethless. I could have gotten by with that, perhaps, with a close friend. But I sure didn't build any bridges with that relationship. I believe the Holy Spirit helps restrain us from using humor unwisely. Sometimes before I say something, I'll get a little "vibe" that, perhaps, it's best not to joke about something. The times I've ignored this impression are the times I've typically erred.
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Eph 5:4
Humor that belittles others or is vulgar is never appropriate. I remember a dinner party once in which someone told a crass joke about extra-marital affairs. It just so happened, the jokester was sitting across the table from a woman who was freshly divorced from an unfaithful husband. The joke fell flat and the evening was just about ruined.
So be discerning and always keep it clean!
Go for it!
A famous pastor once remarked that he felt mildly sick to his stomach with fear every time he faced an audience. Some very popular actors and actresses suffer stage fright. We all, on some level, are reluctant to expose ourselves verbally for fear of failure. Unfortunately, this restraint keeps a lot of good stories inside our heads that never get shared! Have some courage and show your humorous side to others! With a little bit of practice, it will get easier! And you will rejoice in the smiles of those around you.
Be a good audience.
I love talking to Erica and Vickie at the Colleyville Public Library. They have such great laughs and are always so gracious. Sometimes I say things that are hardly funny, but they both repond positively to even my most feeble attempts at humor. If you can see that someone is trying to be funny and, perhaps, not quite cutting it, bail them out! Smile and laugh! Be a kind audience and people will want to be around you. This applies to group settings, too. When a speaker is addressing a group, don't think he or she doesn't see you just because there's a room full of other people there. Speakers are reading faces and body languages and looking for people who are smiling and tuned in. This helps keep them animated and fired up! Pastors are encouraged by your smiles and laughter, too. Be the first person to laugh at a joke! Chances are, there are people around you who think it's funny, too. They're just waiting for someone to respond first.
Your style of humor is unique to you. It may be in your words or writing. It may be in your body language or the tone of voice. It may be in your facial expressions or your ability to draw out the humor in others. Not everyone can be a Billy Crystal. Then again, Billy Crystal can't be you! So feel good about how God made you and make someone laugh today!
(Photo by Tylerknott. See flickr.com for restrictions.)