The Fruit of a Healthy Relationship
- Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Fruit #4: Humor
Humor is always risky. What is appealing to some is appalling to others. In a survey of over 14,000 Psychology Today readers who rated 30 jokes, the findings were unequivocal. "Every single joke," it was reported, "had a substantial number of fans who rated it 'very funny,' while another group dismissed it as 'not at all funny.'"
Apparently, our funny bones are located in different places. Some laugh uproariously at the slapstick of Larry, Moe, and Curly, while others enjoy the more cerebral humor of Woody Allen.
Despite its risk, healthy people are willing to take it. Humor is like a litmus test for mutual understanding between two people. Sometimes it fails miserably, but it can also reveal the possibility of a deeper connection. Perhaps more importantly, laughter is the fuel that keeps healthy relationships going once they are born. It’s what enables friends to help each other cope in the midst of crisis. After all, where would we be without someone who could make us laugh?
Viktor Frankl is a profound example of how humor can empower a person to contend with horrendous circumstances. In his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl speaks of using humor to survive imprisonment during World War II. Frankl and another inmate would invent at least one amusing story daily to help them cope with their horrors.
"If you can find humor in anything," according to comedian Bill Cosby, "you can survive it." Researchers agree. Studies reveal that individuals who have a strong sense of humor – who can laugh easily with at least one other person – are less likely to experience depression and other forms of mood disturbance. Scientists hypothesize that humor helps us cope because it offers a fresh perspective.
When the naturalist William Beebe used to visit his friend President Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill, both would take an evening stroll after dinner. Then one of the other would go through a customary ritual. He would look up at the stars and say, "That is the spiral galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is 750,000 light-years away. It consists of 100 billion suns, each larger than our sun." Then silence would follow. Finally, one of them would say, "Now I think our problems seem small enough."
Every healthy relationship knows that humor lends a fresh eye to our troubles and gives us a new perspective.
So long as we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson
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