At age 8, Helen was stubborn. Any criticism was met with a defensive retort and she needed the last word in every argument. Her mother Gena was not looking forward to adolescence. To her surprise, things got easier rather than harder as Helen entered her teen years. The big difference? Helen developed a wry sense of humor and learned to turn it on herself.
What is humor?
Humor is the ability to laugh at ourselves and our world– to brighten any situation or conversation by finding the light, quirky dimensions. Humor helps us to forgive or to admit our own errors. It diffuses conflict. It makes hard times less heavy. When we cultivate humor, we are letting go of other emotions: bitterness, resentment, or anger.
Like nothing else can, humor allows us see things in a new light: the foolishness of our preoccupations, our hypocrisies and inconsistencies, our tendency to see ourselves as the center of the universe. Used wrongly humor can be cruel or distancing. But in the service of other virtues, humor brings us together and helps us grow.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.
There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.
Bringing it home to your kids
1. Teach your child early to laugh at minor fiascos. Not all of them will be funny, but some will. Turn an exasperating situation into a game or contest: Who can find the silliest thing about this situation?
2. Talk about “being ready” to laugh. Often we have to get past our initial flash flood of irritation before we can laugh at ourselves or the world around us. Help your child learn to read the cues.
3. Laugh at yourself.
4. Time your teasing. Teasing can be mean, but it can also nudge us to look at ourselves. When it works, teasing feels like it connects rather than distances the people involved.
5. Cultivate humor at the dinner table. File away quirky anecdotes in your memory during the day so that you can tell the stories later.
Photo by c.a. muller