Sentence Sermons (Christian Inspiration) #58 --- Sense of Humor

Quotations on Sense of Humor

While there is much terror and sordid ugliness in the world, there is also a stream of health, cascading like a clear mountain stream through human experience. This stream is the flow of wholesome, spontaneous laughter–one of the most delightful sounds of earth–God's gift for refreshing and renewing our souls.

A life lived with little or no laughter is like a land devoid of springs, streams, lakes or ground water; there are some things such a life cannot grow. Good companionship can hardly thrive there, for what is friendship without sharing an occasional comic moment? Objective self-analysis cannot prosper there, for we cannot take ourselves too seriously if we cannot occasionally take ourselves lightly, laughing at our less serious mistakes and blunders.

A penetrating philosophy of life can hardly flourish there, because a wise understanding of this world must take into account the ridiculous, laughable incongruities between our silly pretensions and our real achievements, our attempts to play God and our human blunders. While the painful, tragic contrasts that exist between health and sickness, righteousness and sin, life and death, good and evil, may bring us to tears, the comic contrasts life as we wish it and life as it is found all around us lead us to laughter, if we are wise.

Even God laughs. When the psalmist said, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laught: the Lord shall have them in derision," the writer had in mind God's humor upon beholding our comic feelings of self-importance, when everything we are and have comes from beyond yourselves. If you seek further evidence of God's sense of humor, remember He made the camel, giraffe and pelican--which look as if they were formed by a subcommittee of some church board; look at some of those politicians divine providence allows to run for office; see the odd sizes and shapes of humans on any beach and if that is not enough, remember He made you and me.

Like any good thing on earth from eating to love to religion, laughter can be twisted into an ugly perversion. Nevertheless, its capacity for perversion may be evidence of the goodness of laughter, if only the good can be twisted.

Laughter is more than emotional rest. It is a key to one's character. Healthy laughter is a sign of spiritual vitality. It bubbles up from the glad recognition of the goodness of God and His creation. It is gladness converted into music. It is joy made vocal when dawn colors the east with glory and awakens the mind to great expectations and an eagerness to get busy rejoicing when a wild flower is found, when a bird sings, when a spotted fawn leaps from its bed at one's casual approach along a woodland trail and when a mother mallard appears swimming long the lakeshore with her downy ducklings awkwardly pedaling in her wake.

Laughter is the spirit's spontaneous response to the wide-eyed innocence of a newborn baby; the spirit's intoxication with a child's wonder and surprise when opening a birthday present. Laughter is the gay, uninhibited, appreciative reply we make to a friend's sharp witticism or to a spouse's thoughtful surprise gift that comes on no special occasion. It is the sheer joy of being alive on a crisp fall morning.

You might say that laughter is the rainbow that show's God's sunshine is mixed with our tears and the joy of our security in God's love pervades our troubles. Thus laughter is an affirmation of God's final triumph over the worst that can befall us. Try a little laughter, friends. It is God's medicine for our souls.

—Edward Boyd, The Daily Iberian, New Iberia, La., Nov. 7, 1992.

Foolish jesting and levity, trivial silliness and excessive laughter are justly condemned in the Bible, for of course life is essentially a serious matter requiring our most earnest and devoted endeavor.

But without humor we are in danger of becoming fanatics, not distinguishing between the large and the small, the important and the petty.

Without humor and a grain of wit we are inclined toward taking ourselves too seriously and becoming morbid and introspective.

This is far from saying that all troubles may be laughed away entirely, but most of us know from experience that laugher is a tonic to the despairing soul, to the will, to courage and to fellowship.

A sense of humor will go far toward compensating one for the hurts, the disappointments, the deficiencies, the frustrations, "the slings and arrows of courageous fortunes," all the ills that "flesh is heir to."

I have found that by laughing at myself I have anticipated my critics, seen things a little bit from their viewpoint, entered more fully into sympathy with the other fellow and cured incipient schizophrenia and self-pity.

Thus have I been enabled to go back to my work with a tranquilizing and energizing practicality that made me more useful to my Creator, my fellow human beings and myself.

Religion and humor? Certainly! Christianity and humor? Without a doubt!

"All the days of the afflicted (sorrowful) are evil; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." (Proverbs 15:15.)

—William F. Deatherage, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Sept. 18, 1954.

It is an immense relief to be able to laugh at oneself, as well as the situation one is in. Egotists who spend their time admiring themselves, and neurotics who spend their time pitying themselves--are never humorous. And so they cannot take annoyances lightly and inevitably find life hard going.

It is a pity to take oneself too seriously. I wonder if there are not some of us who would be all the better for it if there were someone who could and would make fun of us. After all, we are rather funny creatures, and if we can see it that way it will help to keep us human and good-natured, and prevent us falling into unhumorous, dissensions and arguments. Why do we engage in unprofitable polemics about comparatively minor matters? To ask ourselves questions like these will reveal to us the absurdity of storming over trifles, and save us from the dreariness of a self-centered life.

You may say that life is no laughing matter. But anything that saves us from egotism and pessimism, anything that keeps us going, that throws a glow of warmth over adverse circumstances, takes the edge off our worries, and helps us to bear up against the stress and strain of life, must have something divine in it.

The sense of humor comes from above. It is unimaginable to me that a God who has endowed mankind with such a lovely and wholesome gift is without it himself. I believe that He has an infinite sense of humor, though no theologian has ever hinted at it. I think He smiled when He made the monkeys and the kittens, and I am sure He must relish the amusing side of us humans.

We speak of Jesus as the Man of Sorrows, but that He possessed a sense of humor is evident enough when you hear Him gently rallying His disciples on their absurdities, quoting homely and humorous proverbs, likening the Pharisees to children playing at weddings and funerals, and in the sermon on the mount picturing a man with a log in his own eye trying to see the splinter in his neighbor's eyes, and the ridiculousness of grapes growing on a thorn bush, or fig on a thistle. ...

Let us thank God for this invaluable quality, for it is His gift to us, and a possession almost unknown before the Christian era. ...

Let us seek this wonderful saving sense of humor if we have it not, for there was never more need of it than there is today. Perhaps you say, "One has to be born with it. If he has it he has it, and if he doesn't have it he is out of luck. And that is all there is to it." No, there is something more. We can be changed in this as in other things. ...

Ask God to make you humble and human and enable you to see the happy and cheerful side of life.

—Henry Alford Porter, Christian Index, Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 4, 1915.

Although it seems to hurt some people to laugh, I think it hurts more when they don't laugh.

For one thing, it helps us to laugh at ourselves. Too many of us have a tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe. We don't belong there. Humor enables us to conquer our pretences.

Laughter belongs in the outer courts of religion and it echoes in the "inner courts" where it is swallowed up in joy and faith. Therefore, let us at least bring humor into the vestibule of our Christianity.

As we laugh away our pretences, our humor will turn to humility and we can in contrition turn to God. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22.)

—Jim Griffith, Christian Index, Atlanta, Ga., April 12, 1962.

In every situation it pays to try good humor first, and anger as a last resort.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., May 3, 1932.

Anyone can be a fighter, but it takes self-control to be good humored.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Oct. 11, 1932.

What cannot be done with good humor becomes a double burden.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., June 9, 1933.

If I lose my sense of humor, the road of life becomes intolerably tough.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., April 26, 1934.

Only when wit is married to kindliness is there real humor.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Aug. 4, 1934.

Good humor is the first sign of good spiritual health.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., July 7, 1936.

Good humor is an outward sign of an inward peace.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., July 7, 1936.

Good humor is the reflection of God shining upon our world.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., July 7, 1936.

Good humor is the world's best moral antiseptic.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Sept. 22, 1936.

It is poor wit that defiles something holy in order to be funny.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Nov. 14, 1936.

Having a sense of humor does not mean that a person goes around cackling all the time. It doesn't mean he must burst into noisy guffaws at the very suggestion of humor, funny or otherwise. It doesn't mean he must be the life of the party. It doesn't mean he must be silly.

Having a sense of humor means that a person is able to recognize a humorous situation and appreciate it whether or not it meets with his approval or taste. For instance, there are many comedians who have a type of humor not to the taste of certain persons–nevertheless, these persons, if they have a sense of humor, appreciate his humor.

There is another aspect of humor. There are so many times when one needs the perception to see humor in the tragedies and disappointments of life.

Everybody has troubles. If we train ourselves to see only the dark side to the various clouds which come our way, soon we will never have occasion to smile. We will have a perpetual tale of woe. There are some people who for 50 years have been telling others how bad they feel when asked the trite question, "How are you today?"

People need to learn to laugh at themselves, to look for the comedy in their own misfortunes.

—H.M. Baggarly, Tulia Herald, Tulia, Texas, Jan. 19, 1956.

Carry the oil of humor and [do] not allow old friendships to wear out for lack of lubrication. ... Go forward with a smile, believing in a happy and triumphant future.

—Hugh B. Brown, Millennial Star, London, England, Dec. 30, 1937.

Humor–the great balanced and adjustor is indispensable. It works beautifully–you know you can't be perfect even though you long for perfection. So you go on imperfectly seeking perfection. You know your friends can't be perfect–so you assume they are–nearly. Humor is tolerance, understanding, a light heart, a ready laugh, a quick joke, resiliency–faith everlasting.

—Emily H. Bennett, Improvement Era, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 1944.

You can do little for humanity without the saving salt of humor.

—Henry F. Cope, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., June 9, 1907.

Men with a sense of humor have the fountain of youth.

—Roy E. Gibson, Nephi Times-News, Nephi, Utah, March 20, 1975.

Wit is the discovery of such an unexpected relation between ideas as will excite surprise.

Wit renders its most helpful service when it is combined with intelligence and information, when it is softened by benevolence and restrained with strong principle; when it is in the heads of a man who can be witty and something much better than witty, who loves honor, justice, decency, good nature, morality and religion ten thousand times better than wit. Wit then becomes a delightful part of our natures. Man could direct his ways by plain reason and support his life by tasteless food but God has given us wit and favor and brightness and laughter and perfume to enliven our days and to make more enjoyable our passage through this earthly pilgrimage.

Humor is like wit. Its object is to excite laughter and it appeals accordingly to our sense of the ridiculous. There are three elements in humor. First, incongruity–the laughter produced by humor comes from seeing things which are incongruous. Second, surprise the unexpected. Third, contempt–he must have to some degree a feeling of contempt for the person laughed at. We would not laugh at a man whose face was drawn by great suffering, but we would laugh at a man whose face was purposely contorted. Another important thing to be observed about humor is that the incongruity which excites our mirth is something characteristic of the person in whom such incongruity exists. It is something that would be absurd for us to do, but it is in perfect keeping with the other fellow.

Thackery has defined humor to be a compound of wit and love. “The best humor,” he says, “is that which contains most humanity and is flavored with tenderness and kindness.”

—H.B. Jordan, Religious Herald, Richmond, Va., Sept. 21, 1944.

Increase your sense of humor by developing such a deep love of God and your fellowmen that you will yearn to do all in your power to make life on earth a happy foretaste of the endless joys of heaven.

—James G. Keller, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Jan. 19, 1961.

Sense of humor is the antidote for taking yourself too seriously. If you have a good sense of humor you will not become overconscientious or fanatical–nor are you as likely to become a snob.

—William S. Sadler, This Week, New York, N.Y., Nov. 5, 1950.

Good humor is sunshine warming him who radiates it and him upon whom it is shed.

—B.C. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, New York, N.Y., Jan. 6, 1923.

A sense of humor is essential to the human race. It is the way we digest petty annoyances.

—William Norman Guthrie, New York Times, New York, N.Y., June 3, 1929.

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