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What’s so Funny? Having a Sense of Humor

Ever wonder why something is funny or what a sense of humor is? Humor may feel mysterious, but I think it’s fairly easy to understand why some people find something funny and others don’t. It’s also easy to understand how come the wiser among us can laugh more readily at themselves while those who are defensive have a harder time. This partly relates to our sense of judgment in a way, which I talked about in Being Right with Wrong and that ability to separate personal truth from universal truth. So what’ so funny?

What’s in a Laugh?

Humor is having a sense of the ridiculous. We laugh when we are able to see how ridiculous something is. When someone puts together puns, they play of words sounds ridiculous. When people slip on banana peels or start smacking each other, we laugh because the situations seem so ridiculous. When we describe situations and then deliver a punch line that gets people laughing, it’s because we’ve played on expectations of what should make sense and then delivered the senseless conclusion that seems ridiculous. It’s all about how we understand what should be happening.

Laughing At or Laughing With

I choose the word ridiculous specifically because it’s close to the word ridicule. Humor can often be insulting, like ridicule. If you think about political humor, it should be easy to understand that the ones being made fun of would be sore about it. Also, religious jokes can often rub people the wrong way, often because they take their beliefs so seriously that joking around feels insulting. That’s why we say things like, “don’t laugh at them, laugh with them.” While laughing can bring personal amusement, it can also irritate or antagonize others.

Laugh at Your Foolishness

If a person can laugh at himself or herself, then that person is able to transcend their ego and achieve personal wisdom. As much as we think we should be strong, smart, beautiful or otherwise a wonder to behold, it is quite often that we are weak, idiotic, disgusting or otherwise bumbling about without any direction. And so what? If we knew exactly what we were supposed to be doing, we’d all be doing it. But that’s not the case. So just laugh at what you do.

Find the humor in yourself and use that to hold compassion for others. When you need something to laugh about, find something about yourself that is ridiculous. It’s ok. When you understand that we all have our ridiculous moments, it’s a lot easier to offer an amusing anecdote about yourself. You may notice that the more you laugh about yourself, the less you may judge other. The more you laugh at yourself, the more often you can reach out to others who are having a harder time and help show them it’s ok.