The healing touch of humor
The flight attendant came on the loudspeaker. “There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only five ways to leave this plane,” she quipped. The passengers laughed at this reference to the exits in the words of an old American popular song. My thought woke up a bit. It got me thinking: What is it about laughter that can be so transformative and even healing?
Writer George R. R. Martin said, “Laughter is poison to fear.” While some situations make it difficult to laugh, such as threats to health and life, or loss of livelihood or home, laughter can break the spell of feeling all-consumed by our difficulties and problems. Fear can feel hypnotic—like being mired in worry or anger when facing challenging circumstances. Yet when a friend suddenly helps us laugh at ourselves, thought can awaken to fresh possibilities. Genuine, heartfelt laughter lights up our whole being. We’re reminded there is more than one way to view a situation.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, once said, according to her student Emma C. Shipman, “I like to have my students laugh. A good laugh often breaks mesmerism” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Volume I, p. 310). Mesmerism is defined as “hypnotic appeal” (merriam-webster.com). We can feel hypnotized by obsessing over a relationship or a disturbing news event or even our own day-to-day challenges. Moving out of stuck viewpoints occurs when we glimpse our true spiritual individuality, which is beyond ego. We can laugh more easily when we feel secure in ourselves because we are seeing more of our real selfhood, defined and maintained by God. God essentially means good. And the goodness of God doesn’t come and go, but is constant spiritual truth. Humor celebrates the goodness of God and our goodness as God’s image.
Years ago, I got hypnotically pulled into a negative pattern of reaction with a close family member. It felt like an ongoing clash of egos, making us rigid in our thinking. This relative used to visit regularly and loved to play with my son. But she also loved to give me unsolicited parenting advice.
When we react, the body tenses and we mentally “armor up,” feeling self-justification and defensiveness rather than love. In my case, this led to thoughts of, “Who is she to tell me how to parent, when she doesn’t have any kids herself?” I stopped looking forward to her visits.
Yet I felt unsettled about the tension and discomfort between us. I yearned to experience a closer, happier relationship. I began actively looking for evidence of the divine nature, the spirit of the Christ, in her, as Jesus illustrated. His example showed us how to live a life of Godlikeness, and the Christ is what makes God’s qualities, such as patience, sincerity, and love, known. They are seen in our humanity with one another. The Christ helps us let go of fear, anxiety, or any negative repetition, because it lifts thought off of ourselves.
The next time she came over, I focused on seeing true individuality, beyond personal ego, in her and in myself. When she started to give me advice, I paused to listen for that Christ influence in my consciousness. And an idea popped into thought, which I shared with her. I don’t remember my exact words, but whatever they were, they were funny. She started laughing, and I did, too. And I knew this was the touch of Christ bringing us together, because this family member and I didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor at this point in our lives!
Humor celebrates the goodness of God and our goodness as God’s image.
That was a turning point. She and I are close today, and she still gives me parenting advice. But I’m no longer tempted to react. Reaction and fear often stem from feeling unsettled about the good in our lives. Yet even when circumstances rise and fall, and it feels as if our state of being rises and falls with them, goodness from God is assured. It anchors our lives in a deep sense of conscious worth that enables us to find good humor even amidst difficulties. We stop feeling reactive. When the Christ changes our consciousness, our experience of outside circumstances changes.
A personal sense of ego draws us into heaviness and reaction. Understanding the one divine Ego, or God, we instead feel the presence of divine consciousness. It lifts thought from conflict to release us from feeling either insecure or that we are better than others. It gives us a true sense of worth, so we can be at ease with and even laugh at ourselves.
Laughter and good humor can awaken thought so we can feel the divine presence. This facilitates receptivity to healing through yielding to the one divine Ego. “The divine Ego, or individuality, is reflected in all spiritual individuality …” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 336). Knowing our spiritual individuality brings out in us innate qualities of good humor, wholeness, and joy.
Christ Jesus awakened individuals suffering at all levels of life to their true worthiness. Today, the Christ lifts us out of stuck places and even dire situations to see ourselves in fresh ways. It expands our thought and releases us from burden and self-absorption to feel relaxed and resilient.
We can even find touches of humor in what Jesus taught. One example might be when he advised, “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?… First get rid of the log in your own eye” (Luke 6:41, 42, New Living Translation). A funny image to illustrate the profound point he was making about the need for self-knowledge and humility!
The Bible has a number of passages supporting laughter and humor. Luke 6:21 says, “God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh” (NLT). Proverbs speaks of the virtuous woman, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (31:25, NLT). And in Job, “He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (8:21, NLT).
Good humor compels us to loosen a rigid view of ourselves and see our spiritual individuality in God’s image. This provides a basis for laughing self-absorption and fear right out the exit and experiencing healing.