- Friday, October 10, 2003
"If you can find humor in anything," according to Bill Cosby, "you can survive it." Researchers agree. Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor are less likely to experience depression and other forms of mood disturbance than those without it.
Humor helps us cope-not just with the trivial, but with the tragic. Martin Grotjuan, author of Beyond Laughter, notes that "to have a sense of humor is to have an understanding of human suffering." Charlie Chaplin could have said the same thing. Chaplin grew up in the poorest section of London. His mother suffered from serious mental illness and his father died of alcoholism when Charlie was just five. Laughter was Chaplin's tool for coping with life's losses.
Relationships benefit greatly from humor. Laughter has important psychological effects on partners. The French Philosopher Voltaire wrote, "The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." Modern research indicates that people who have a sense of humor have fewer symptoms of physical illness than those who are less humorous.
This idea, however, is not new. Since King Solomon's time, people have known about and applied the healing benefits of humor. Proverbs 17:22 tells us "A cheerful heart is good medicine."
Putting these findings into action in the context of dating and maintaining a long-term relationship, it is important to schedule regular time with your partner to laugh, to lift each other's spirits, and to love. These "date nights" have the power to stimulate minds, rekindle romance, and put you at ease with your partner during the remainder of he week. In order to evaluate the role humor plays in your relationships, it may be advantageous to ask yourself the following questions:
1) Jesus was accused by some of enjoying life too much. In your opinion, how does his life model humor and fun?
2) What things make you laugh?
3) Think of an example of a time when your partner's sense of humor lifted you out of a dark mood or a worried frame of mind.
4) What can you do this week to lighten up?
In fact, the Bible as a whole reminds us again and again of the "sounds of joy and gladness" (Jer. 7:34). The book of Proverbs says that "the cheerful heart has a continuous feast (15:15). The psalmist sings, "Our mouths were filled with laughter" (126:2). Isaiah exults, "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth" (49:13). Jesus told his disciples that, after he left them, "your grief will turn to joy ...and no one will take away your joy" (John 16:20, 22). The apostle Peter confirms that the Christians to whom he is writing "are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8).
So it is not surprising that humor is good for your relationships. To paraphrase the 19th-century minister Henry Ward Beecher, a marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs, jolted by every bump in the road. Do yourself a favor. Smooth out the bumpy times with a little laughter.
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