Humor and laughter are extremely important elements of a happy and healthy family life. In fact, we regard them as one of the five characteristic marks of any genuinely thriving family: conversation, laughter, time spent together, prayer, and regular family dinners . What’s more, we’d suggest that laughter is one of the easiest and most fun ways to help your family thrive.
The reason for this is simple. Humor creates an atmosphere of joy and delight in the home. We all know that, scripturally speaking, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It strengthens family relationships, forges natural bonds, creates shared memories and points of connection. It promotes affection and fosters closeness by enabling the members of the household to enjoy one another’s company. Since the best humor is based firmly in truth and flows out of keen observation of real life, laughter also encourages honesty and transparency. In the process, it chases away phoniness and tears down dividing walls. It creates freedom, eases tensions, and opens up a channel through which the healing balm of grace and forgiveness can flow from person to person.
In short, a healthy dose of humor makes your house a pleasant place to be. If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, we can tell you that something wonderful happens when moms, dads, and kids share in a good belly-laugh. As writer Agnes Repplier says, “We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.” We believe her statement expresses a profound and indispensable truth.
It’s worth adding that laughter promotes good physical health. Studies indicate that people who have a good sense of humor and spend a lot of time laughing have fewer symptoms of physical illness than those who don’t. In fact, every system in our bodies gets a good workout when we have a hearty laugh. Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, for example, benefit more from twenty seconds of robust laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. Through laughter, muscles release tension. Neurochemicals are released into the bloodstream, creating the same feelings that long-distance joggers experience as “runner’s high.” No wonder the Scripture tells us that “a merry heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
Families who laugh together are also less likely to experience burnout and depression. They have a much higher chance of enjoying life in general. They’re also in a far better position to understand what it means to experience the ups and downs of human existence as companions on a grand adventure. That’s because humor helps us cope, not just with trivial frustrations, but with genuine tragedy and permanent loss. It has been well said that “to have a sense of humor is to have an understanding of human suffering.” Laughter deflects negativity. It provides a positive distraction from hardship and helps us let off steam. In these ways, it plays an important role in guarding the wellsprings of the heart (Proverbs 4:23) and protecting the soul from bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).
How can you turn your house into a place where the walls ring with laughter and where family members actually get a kick out of being together? We have a few simple suggestions:
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. If you and the rest of your family are like most people, perspective is probably hard for you. You find it difficult to remember how small and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. You allow your petty trials and concerns to cast a pall of gloom over the entire universe. Our advice is to lighten up and relax. Take a step back and try to get a sense of where you fit in the “bigger picture.” And remind yourself that God alone sees your situation as it really is.
- Resolve to laugh even when you don’t feel like laughing. It’s precisely when you’ve had a tough day that your need for a good laugh is most urgent. At such times, a bit of humor will help wash away the stress. It will also keep your marriage and family together when you’re coming unglued.
- Look for the humor around you. This may require some extra work, but it’s worth the effort. Once you open your eyes, you’ll find that life is full of good comedic material. Art Linkletter had it right when he said that “people are funny.” So stay on the lookout for the comic element in everyday life. If you can’t find it, create it for yourself.
- Discover what makes your spouse and children laugh. When you hear guffaws coming from their direction, pay attention and investigate the cause. Study their individual humor styles. Learn to distinguish between sarcasm, slapstick, irony, clownishness, and absurdity. Exploit your findings at least once a day. Pay special attention to the ways in which these humor styles reflect the various temperaments and personalities of your children. Think in terms of birth order. Learn to recognize each individual’s unique role in the family system. An awareness of these issues will help you find the correct balance between humor and sensitivity.
- Learn how to poke fun at one another in a light-hearted, healthy, affirming, and non-derogatory way. A certain amount of good-natured “teasing” can actually increase feelings of intimacy among the members of your household. But be careful. Some skins are thinner than others. It’s all too easy for one person’s “joke” to become another person’s raw and bleeding wound. It may be acceptable for people to laugh at one another if they share a certain kind of relationship. But when that connection is lacking, it’s best to avoid the kind of “playfulness” that is all too easily interpreted as disrespect.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas and suggestions at greater length with a member of the Focus team, our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone. They can also provide you with a list of referrals to trained therapists practicing in your area. You can contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.
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Humor in Marriage