success stories

Posted July 16, 2004

The Necessity of Humor in our Lives

Reminders of the Value of the “Virtue” of Humor

Taken from the book The Promise of Virtue, Ave Maria Press

Humor helps us to let go of self-centered compulsions that grip us with thoughts like, "Without me, life can't go on," "I am the only one who can do this,: and "What will happen if I am not there?"

One philosopher aptly describes humor as, "The divine antidote for exaltation of ego."

When we can chuckle at ourselves, we remind ourselves that we are human, that we need to let go every so often, and most of all, that we should stop playing God.

These admissions help us to calm anxieties that arise from a false sense of importance in which we feel everything begins and ends with us. Humor breaks us out of a self-centered world in which we tend to live.

G.K. Chesterton, who knew human nature well, once said that when we get totally caught up in our own little worlds, we become like the moon, which is a circle without outlets. Once so inscribed, we are left only with ourselves, and too much of that turns us into lunatics.

Taken from As One Who Serves, United States Catholic Conference of Bishops

As the priest evaluates his ministry, the following might be among the questions to be considered as a barometer of effectiveness. Do I experience personal meaning and satisfaction in my life despite limitations and frustrations? Can I respond to others in a trustworthy way? Do I value authenticity over achievement? To what extent do I accept responsibility for my decisions? My actions? My moods? The direction of my life? Am I alive in the present, while knowing the past and looking forward to the future? How well do I accept my limitations? Do I have a zest for life, work, and relaxation? Do I take seriously the responsibility of maintaining good physical health? Can I relate with other men and women as persons of equal worth? Do I have a confidential relationship with someone else? Do I have a sense of the ridiculous, a sense of humor?

Laughter is necessity for healthy Christian, says Jesuit magazine

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- While faith is not a laughing matter, a healthy Christian is able to laugh, according to an article in the influential Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica.

"If a Christian lacks a sense of humor, it is a sign, among other things, of a religious education too focused on conformity," said the article by Jesuit Father Luciano Larivera.

The mid-July article, "The Nature and Necessity of Humor," offered a dry survey of modern neurological, psychological and philosophical studies on humor, laughter and smiles, as well as a brief discussion of humor and spirituality.

The studies show "adults laugh on average 18 times a day, while children laugh 10 times as much," Father Larivera wrote. "Behavioral biologists maintain that hilarity contributes to the survival of our species; otherwise we would have stopped laughing millennia ago."

The priest also referred to recent laughter-is-the-best-medicine studies showing that when someone laughs "there is an increase of endorphins and a reduction of substances which weaken the immune system."

On the spiritual side, he said a healthy and mature sense of humor consists in a person's ability to see the absurdity present in his or her own life and to be somewhat detached from it.

The ability to laugh at oneself, he said, coincides with the Christian virtue of humility and with an awareness that, while the religious life involves striving to do God's will, God surpasses all human understanding.

With humility as the basis of one's sense of humor, he said, one can avoid the pitfall of being trivial, silly or ignorant of the real pain existing in the world and the real sacrifice made by Christ to bring salvation.

Father Larivera cited a study by a Belgian psychologist demonstrating that people who have a tendency toward religious fundamentalism "tend to avoid humor" because it "undermines their sense of security" and their impression that being always faithful means being always serious.

On the other hand, he said, St. Thomas Aquinas made it clear that, while it was not appropriate for Christians to act like buffoons, "virtue consists in knowing how to distance oneself, how to play and to laugh."