Laughter is a dividend of forgiveness.
I confess I stole the title for this piece from a recent talk I attended by the author Steve Almond. It’s a subject I love, and the talk was fun.
He discussed how by being able to laugh at ourselves, in essence we’re forgiving ourselves for our flawed humanity. The comedic impulse is produced by confronting difficult feelings and laughter is a dividend of forgiveness.
I know that one of my biggest opportunities this lifetime is to practice laughing at myself. I’m pretty sure it’s an ego thing.
I can know on a conscious level that’s it’s so healthy to laugh at myself, and yet when I catch myself in overly earnest moments, sometimes instead of laughing, I cringe at myself.
For example, when I watched Waylon Lewis on Walk the Talk Show, I thought, “Oh God, he’s talking about me.”
I can laugh now as I’m telling the story, but the point at which I was watching it, I had the feeling in the pit of my stomach of wanting to curl up and die.
And the reality is that yes, like many elephant journal writers, my vulnerability is out there. I’m human too. And I screw up sometimes too.
I agree with the message though—when we make fun from a place of love, or tease a loved one, it’s very different than making fun from a mean place.
When I tease a loved one, it’s to point out what may be unconscious to them, and bring it into their awareness. I love them anyway, and if they can see this unconscious thing about themselves, they may be more forgiving of themselves too.
And I adore when my loved ones tease me in a gentle, loving way. It makes me feel loved. This is part of what connection is about. This is what we do with people we love.
This has been pretty hard for me to learn. And it’s only through seeing my humanity from my divinity—that exists in each of us—that I’ve had the space to be able to laugh at my own human foibles.
In general I think our culture has such a strong message that we’re supposed to be perfect, and it’s taken me many, many years to get to a place where I can be vulnerable, and expose my own imperfections.
And there’s a freedom in doing this. It takes the pressure off.
My fangs and crooked teeth, my bow legs, my fine, limp hair are all part of this human body that my soul dwells in, and I’m practicing loving my imperfections.
My earnest intensity, my wanting to save the world, my putting my writing out there with the intention of it being a guide that may serve another’s journey—these are noble intentions, but I get stuck when I can’t laugh at myself and my own intentions. I think I get stuck in my ego.
Humor allows us a willingness to dwell in the awkward and shameful places. In a ruthless pursuit of the truth, we need humor to confront a moment that’s otherwise too painful to confront.
There’s truth in the old adage—if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. It’s in the laughing that we can hang out with and even play with the pain.
We can hang out with the pain of self-recognition, in egotism and even narcissism. Okay, I have egotistical and narcissistic moments. I’m human. Now, how can I have fun with this? Let me know when you find out.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kimby Maxson/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum