The Double Edge of Humor

Published 10:04 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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I have always enjoyed a good laugh from pulling pranks on others. I recall one from years ago when I worked for the City of Lakeland, Florida. Me and several other guys worked the evening shift together and it was one of those jobs where we had some free time on our hands so long as everything in the plant was running smoothly. One evening during our shift, one of the fellows came in and stated that he had hit something in the road and knocked a hole in his car’s gas tank. His solution to his dilemma was to force a pencil into the hole to seal off the gas leak. He parked his vehicle on a dry place in the parking lot so he could return later to make sure his “fix” was holding. After an elapse of some time, I vanished out the back door without him knowing it, and then I took a five gallon bucket of water and poured out under his car. When he finally went out to check on his gas leak he was greeted with the sight of a huge pool of liquid—which he immediately assumed was leaked fuel—underneath his vehicle. I do not remember his exact words when he first responded to the sight, but I am pretty sure that even if I remembered what he said it would not be appropriate for me to print in this column! (Having worked with me for awhile, he immediately named me as the culprit!) Thankfully, he knew it was done in good spirit and we remained on friendly terms.

My little joke was done in fun and it did no harm, but it also reminds me that it can be too easy to use pranks or humorous remarks as a subtle way of hurting another person. Well known preacher and writer, Dr. David Jeremiah, makes this personal admission in one of his books: “I catch myself slipping into a sarcastic mode as I talk to staffers at our church. Someone kids me, I zing him back, and pretty soon it escalates into sarcasm that leaves a bruise somewhere behind the smile.” Perhaps you and I can relate. Likewise, we likely can identify with the bruises we have had inflicted on us by another’s sarcastic words hiding under the guise of humor. Just because a person is laughing on the outside does not mean that they are not hurting on the inside because of the words that are being expressed to or about them.

Dr. Jeremiah also remarks, and correctly so, that “Humor has a double edge. It can be used to strengthen a bond or to strike a blow.” It boils down to the motive of the heart. We have to guard our hearts closely and with God’s guidance to ensure that our motives remain pure. The apostle Paul reminds us of this truth in 1 Corinthians 4:4: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord Who judges me” (New International Version). Furthermore, we are reminded in Hebrews 4:13 that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” He knows our thoughts and intentions even better than we know them ourselves; we must rely on Him to guide us in our actions and words toward others—even what we do and say to them through humor.

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Our goal should always be to build others up and not tear them down. We must continually check our hearts and our motives to be sure that we are not using humor as a means to subtly demean or get even with another. Instead, we should always follow the guidance of 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”