Thoughts on Humor in the Home

I recently overheard our four-year-old son having one of his Lego men say to another bad-guy-Lego, "I'm gonna punch you in the nose, hopscotch!" (Line courtesy of Mickey Rooney on "Night at the Museum"... thanks mom and dad!) Doug and I couldn't help but crack up at his little squishy voice delivering such a line!

Having kids to laugh with, who laugh together, and bring humor to even the most dreary situations... well, it is SUCH a sweet blessing. I love laughing with my kiddos... and-- I'll admit it-- AT my kiddos. They are just such spunky little quirky individuals. Each one has had funny things they've said or done that make life at 2, 3, and 4 so much fun.

Watching kids' "logic" develop can be hilarious... seeing them get into precarious situations (like when they start crawling) brings a sympathetic chuckle... and who could KEEP from laughing at the funny things they SAY!? And seeing them learn to laugh together as siblings, and enjoy God's world gives me such joy.

I've always thought God has a rich sense of humor-- in His Word, He uses wry wit and obvious sarcasm to bring salient points to light (like His questions to Job) ... and He DID create us with a sense of humor-- some people (Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, and John Cleese & the Python boys among them) have obvious innate giftings in the God-given "medicine" of laughter. Plus, while on earth, Jesus hung out at parties... apparently a LOT of them, with the way He was scolded for it. I'm betting there was no small portion of laughter and enjoyment in His presence.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven:
...a time to weep, and a time to laugh..." - Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4

Personally, though, I sometimes have difficulty discerning what is OK to laugh at. Some things strike me as hilarious, ironic, sarcastic, or just absurd, but I also recognize that some of my "taste" in humor was acquired when I absolutely was not making choices in light of God's Word... so I sometimes need to reevaluate the things I laugh at.

Tell me-- what are your thoughts on humor? How do you and your family enjoy humor in your home? Do you struggle, as I do, with knowing what IS and ISN'T OK to laugh at? How do you and your family determine that?

If you've learned something or grown in this area of humor and what is and isn't OK to laugh at, OR in some way that God's Word has spoken to you on this issue, feel free to share it with the rest of us!


Catherine said...

We laugh a lot in our house, too! Your comment about laughing at kids' predicaments when crawling made me remember something. When my daughter was first crawling, she went backward. It was soooo funny to watch her try to chase the cat, but end up going backwards. Now that the kids are older, we tend to laugh about movies, books, and funny things we say to each other. For example, we love the Jungle Jam CDs and often quote them to each other, which gets rather hilarious.

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

Hello Jess,

I have a friend who believes that Jesus never laughed, not once. She says he was "a man of sorrows". I think this is rather extreme, don't you? Of course, there are no scriptures saying that He laughed, but we can imagine that living alongside 12 men day in, day out for 3 yrs, there would be natural and wholesome opportunity for light-heartedness.

Sarah Fiodorova

Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

As Pollyanna said in the movie there are over 700 "Glad Texts" in the Bible, so God must want us to be glad!
I agree with her....laughter is good medicine, and it can show to a watching world the outward expression of our inward joy and peace.

My kids favorite one from Night at the Museum is, "Wanna dance hot dog?" Good to know my kids aren't the only ones quoting the movie!

Julie said...

Oh, I am with you Jess--God has given us humor and I love the intimacy that a shared laugh can bring. Whether I'm laughing with a new acquaintance--or sharing a laugh with God, who has to be amused at my clumsiness...

My "problem" in the humor department is sarcasm. I love a sarcastic comment--but they are so often at others' expense. So I have to be careful with that. Also--I often want to interrupt others with a funny comment, just to get folks to laugh. This is sometimes a good thing, I suppose--when a conversation is heading in the wrong direction, or when things are getting too negative. But it's still rude to interrupt, so I have to sit on many of my good jokes! :)

Rebecca said...

I've had some of the same struggles with humor. I was raised in a family that acknowledged Christ but seemed to deny the reality of His word. We as a family are looking at humor and as we see it we hold it up in the light of the Scripture. If it condradicts it, is hurtful to others or in any way we are conviced by the Holy Spirit about it then that's a no go for us. Our aim is not to pick apart everything, but to become more Godly in our lives.

Jacqueline said...

I know what you mean when it comes to what is okay to laugh at or not.

I was playing with my two year old and her baby(gaagaa). I was telling her that her baby was hungry, she need to be burped. Then being silly I put the baby's feet her her mouth pretending she was sucking on her feet and out of the blue she put you toes in you mouth tupid(translation stupid!!)

I told her not to say that word that it wasn't nice, but inside I was shaking with laughter. Sorry!

Then I began to wonder where did she pick up that word?? Hmmm..I think I remember daddy saying that to the dog when it got into the garbage?? We are not perfect.

I do love the humor in our family! Which is not usually distasteful but there are moments with little ones when they come out with things so unexpected.

I take things like this lightly but do let them know if it is not appropriate.I have done this with my three older 16,9 and 7 and they do not talk in rude ways.

Laura said...

You know how sometimes you just can't hold in the laughter, even when you know you should be serious? My sis-in-law was watching TV with her daughter, who really wanted to watch a kids' show and kept insisting that the TV was HERS and mommy had to watch what SHE wanted. No, my sis-in-law said, it's Mommy's relaxing time, and it's Mommy's television, and you can read books instead. Well, my niece's face crumpled and she looked up at my sis-in-law and said tremulously, "Mommy... you don't WUV me?"

I am absolutely all for humor and laughter in families -- it's healthy. It knits hearts together. It's good medicine. But I think you're right that using unkind, crass, vulgar, profane, or otherwise rude humor teaches kids that God gave us wit in order to cut down, not build up.

Sarah F -- there are no Scriptures that say that Jesus used the loo either, but we can be pretty confident that he did! ;) I think we have every reason to believe that Jesus laughed. He's fully human, after all, as well as being fully God! And he was incredibly clever -- his sermons and conversations are full of puns and mnemonic devices and word pictures -- even sarcasm!

Oh! Jess! You've heard Driscoll's sermon on humor, haven't you, from the "Religion Saves" series? Highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

It's so important to build a good foundation for family humor, isn't it? What a riot our kids can be at times, that's for sure!! We like to play with words, outdo each other in the "pun" department, & go for the weird & goofy. And I think it's not a bad idea to foster a little self-depracating humor as well. Some of the funniest stories can begin with, "You'll never guess what I did!...." and be the first person to laugh at one's own foibles. :o)

Ken Davis has a couple of very fine dvd's that absolutely kill us each time we watch them. Great, clever humor, with none of the easy laughs (translation: smut & toilet jokes), & perfectly designed for families to have a good time with each other.

Now...all together...let's sing that line from the original Willie Wonka movie: "A little nonsense now & then is relished by the wisest men."

good post, Jess-

Polly said...

Humor is key in our household! Many a potential argument has been avoided by a little tongue in cheek joking--my husband and I are masterful at this! My husband is a great wit and we love witty films, etc. I grew up being taught that crudeness and coarseness were not funny {very proper upbringing} so I tend to think good *wit* is funny but I don't find many mainstream comedic movies very funny, as I think they are too focused on finding humor in what is crass. "Train up a child in the way he should go" seems to even apply to humor for me--I have a strong sense of what is distasteful and a strong reaction to it. However, strangely enough, some British humor that involves some coarseness I can tolerate, so I can't explain that! (The British can be more subtle, perhaps that's it.)

However, wit often walks hand in hand with sarcasm. That's a tough one. I love sarcasm, but have to be careful to use it sparingly and not at another's expense. (And to be mindful about what is funny to me coming from other people as well!)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll confess, I love me a little Adam Sandler now and then. The humor is base at times, but he still can crack me up 90% of the time.

Maybe some think the 3 stooges are inappropriate. For others, Will Farrell may be over-the-top. I think sense of humor is one of those things that is so individual that there's someone or something out there for everyone.

I'm a huge Monty Python fan. I love Keeping Up Appearances, and Fawlty Towers. I have a very sarcastic sense of humor and am very good at delivering my jokes dead-pan.

I've come to the conclusion that if it offends, it isn't funny. We should never hurt someone's feelings on purpose. That said, a joke which might seem tasteless to one person, may be hilarious to another. It's about knowing your audience.


Anonymous said...

I think this is such a personal thing too. My mother had very strong views about appropriate humor - not laughing when someone got hurt, not using something that could be belittling as a pet name . . .

We both married men from large, boisterous families who to some degree do all of the things my mother was appalled at.

My mother still struggles with what our husbands laugh at, and that her daughters and grandchildren laugh at those things too.

We have had to adjust our view of "sinful" humor and realize that a lot of humor is heart intention.

kristi_temple said...

I have so many good ones about my kids but here is one that I love:


Tiffanie said...

Humour is necessary in life or we would all take ourselves too seriously, don't you think? As to what to laugh at, I find that some of the things I used to find funny, I don't now that I'm saved. Sanctifications works through everything, I guess.

Jessica said...

Good post.
We love humor. And our kids are a huge source of laughter around our house.
Today my 2.5 yr. old son started crying right after we put him down for his nap. Here's the dialogue:
Daddy: Why are you crying?
Son: Because my nose hurts.
Daddy: Why does your nose hurt?
Son: Because I put my finger in it.
How can you not laugh at that?

I don't think it is appropriate to laugh at a lot of things. I agree with a lot of the commenters on how sarcasm may be funny, but it usually at the expense of another. I also don't like jokes that are disrespectful in attitude towards marriage and children. I recently was in a training seminar with 200 other believers and there was a joke about using nyquil to keep kids from bothering you. I don't think we should laugh at things like that.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Amy. I grew up in a laughterless household and had to learn how to play and laugh later when I was an adult.

Thank goodness for the easy techniques of Improv acting:
1. Respond with "yes, and.." (affirming another's action feels so good to both!)
2. Elevate and Explore

If you hit a nerve, it becomes a great way to open discussion on values, a deeper understanding of your friends or relatives and so on.

Glad to hear you have a family that laughs!

Serena said...

I love humor. I would much rather watch a comedy than any other type of movie any day!

In church a few months ago, our pastor was making a point of something by saying, "You don't say that Elvis played the tuba and ate salad, or Johnny Cash wore white,"--everyone was chuckling lightly--"or John Wayne was effeminate," and when he said that, I busted up...but no one else did. I may have a slightly strange sense of humor. But, c'mon, John Wayne effeminate?

Anyway, I think there's great liberty in what can be called humor with a few exceptions. I think that anything sacred shouldn't be joked about in a derisive way: God, marriage, children, and sexuality/sexual morality. Sarcasm walks a fine line, too.

I love a good Marx brothers movie. Now that's comedy! And, I think I could quote "VeggieTales", "Elf", and "Get Smart" every day. I love "Keeping Up Appearances". Surprisingly, my husband likes it, too (I wouldn't have thought he would, what with Hyacinth being an overbearing, irritating wife). I definitely enjoy British humor.

This joke gets me every time:
Why do women wear make-up and perfume?
Because they're ugly and they stink.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I won't. Though, I have to say, Jessica's story about her 2 1/2 year old son, above, is hilarious!

Laura said...

Hey Jess and all y'all ladies! I teach at a Christian classical school, and my 8th graders have been studying the creeds -- why they were written, what heresies they were combating, etc. -- and I came across a GREAT quote that I thought was salient to the humor thang...

Gregory, an early Christian thinker and pastor, said, "What he (Jesus) did not take up, he did not save." In other words, if Jesus hadn't taken on our full humanity, he couldn't have redeemed it. And every part of our human nature is redeemed in Christ -- even our wit!

I know that was a really nerdy tangent, but what can I say? I teach Latin, too. ;)

Bobbie said...

My husband and two daughters are huge movie quoters. It cracks me up. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, word for word. And recently with my oldest daughter and her first boyfriend, I asked her "where's Mr. pottery class??? from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, she almost rolled in the floor. I don't usually quote movies, so they all had a blast.

Betty Beguiles said...

I just discovered your site through a link one of my readers left. I am so glad I did. I LOVE it! Thank you! :)

Mrs. Anna T said...

Jess, I believe that laughter, like prayer (though in a very different way of course) is balsam for our souls.

Alison said...

Hi Jess. I have been reading your blog for a little while now and just wanted to say how much I enjoy it. I have come to realise that our views and opinions on many things (well, almost everything!) are fundamentally different; but I find your writings structured, articulate, researched, intelligent and well-presented; and regardless of the fact that I do often hold incredibly strong opposing beliefs, I read every post - and each post is always worth reading. I enjoy that your writing forces further examination and research into both your views and my own - so I will continue to visit every day, as the most important thing is that we all continue to speak out intelligently and respectfully about the issues we feel passionate about. Kindest wishes to you and your family, A.

Kris said...

Humor--being able to laugh--has always been a very good barometer of someone's mood and the overall tone of things in our family. We always know when someone's not "well", because they lose the ability to laugh. During what was one of the worst phases of our marriage, regaining the ability to laugh together was paramount to us being able to learn to trust again.

I personally believe that the ability to laugh is a gift of the personality of God--remember, He did create the platypus...a most laughable creature! However, it is also a very easy tool for Satan to use against us, because just about everyone loves to laugh. It's far too simple to put things in front of us that we should not be laughing at--the vulgar, the inappropriate, and things that bring down others.

It's also a sign of maturity when you can discern what is something GOD would find amusing and avoid absurdities.

Jess said...

Thanks, Alison. Your comments mean a lot.

Blessings to you too.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Fiodorova, tell your friend that Jesus was a Jew, and I doubt there has ever been a Jew on earth with no sense of humor!

Jess, you may have noticed living abroad that people in other cultures often laugh at different things than Americans do. I went to a fascinating lecture once on the differences between Russian and American humor. Russians make a lot of very "dark" jokes and laugh at things that seem morbid to us. It seems to have developed as a kind of national coping mechanism during so many hard times.

Laurie B

Jess said...

Yup. Laughter definitely provides balm amidst hard times.

When we were getting ready to move overseas for the first time, we had some very wise friends who had lived overseas before for many, many years. They gave us a good piece of advice:

"With the stresses you'll face living overseas, you'll either be doing a lot of laughing or a lot of crying. You might as well choose to laugh."

We did a LOT of laughing when we lived in China... and I've done too much crying here. I think I need to choose to laugh through those hard times again. Thanks for reminding me of the advice of my friends!


E.G. said...

I think this quote (sorry it's a little lengthy!) by Tim Challies addresses issue well:

"I believe there is a time and a place for humor. I believe humor can be effective in teaching and in communicating even something as serious as theology and spiritual matters. Of course there are times when humor is inappropriate (as comedian Brian Regan has aptly pointed out, greeting card stores have no “humorous sympathy” section). I’m sure Jesus had a terrific sense of humor and I don’t know that He would have been truly human if He hadn’t shared some good belly laughs with His disciples on those long, hot and dusty walks. Yet our society, I think, has been prone to elevating humor and levity. After a while, it seems, we are no longer capable of taking seriously much of anything. So while there is a time for humor, and while laughter is a gift from God, there is also a time for soberness and a time to be serious. There ought to be a kind of gravity surrounding Christians, I think, that proves that they take life seriously and that they are aware of their own sin and aware of the state of the world around them.

Even while we do laugh and have fun, our humor must be sanctified. We can use humor to point to what is ridiculous and can use it just for the sheer enjoyment of laughing, but we must be careful that we do not make light of sin. This is, I think, where many Christians abuse humor. When we laugh at what God has forbidden, we make light of sin. So let’s laugh and let’s have fun and let’s be something other than somber and pious when necessary, but let’s be careful all the while that we take seriously what is important to God."