Laugh at Yourself

coffee18.jpgSunday morning, we recognized all of the babies who were born in 2007, along with their families.  (This is an annual event in our church.)  As I read the name of each baby, the family came to the front to receive flowers and a copy of our family covenant.  It went smoothly for the most part.  Well, almost.  I did refer to two different children by the wrong gender.  (I referred to a boy as a daughter and then I referred to a daughter as a son.)  Hmmmm.

After church, one woman, a friend of ours, told me how much she liked that — mistakes and all.  She wasn’t the only one who seemed to enjoy the mistakes.  I learned a long time ago that the best thing to do is to just laugh.  I have also learned that for some reason people often feel closer to me after some kind of mistake. I suspect it is because I seem even more human — like them.

Have you ever known someone who would not laugh at himself?  I know a man like this.  He is a good man.  However, he takes himself very seriously.  When he makes a mistake in front of me or someone else, he will not laugh at himself.  It becomes an awkward moment.  Consequently, many people just do not feel comfortable around the man.  It is unfortunate because he has a lot to offer.

I know another person who loves to laugh but he too will not laugh at himself.  On one occasion I saw a good friend of his tease him in a lighthearted way.  The man immediately attacked his friend with some sort of put-down.  Again, it was an awkward moment. 

I wonder about the professor, the minister, the mother or father who cannot laugh at themselves.  What if they were to simply laugh at their silly mistakes?  I suspect that others would feel even more endeared to them.  I suspect their friends and colleagues would enjoy knowing that their teacher/preacher/friend is "just like me."  

I do know a number of people who laugh at themselves.  People love to be in their presence.  Can you think of someone like this?

  • I think of my friend, a college professor and scholar, who is always saying, "Let’s keep it fun."  He not only can be very lighthearted but also very honest about some silly things he has done.
  • The other day, a friend of mine told me about hitting a median while driving his car one night.  He ruined all four wheels and all four tires.  (It was a very large median.)  He felt silly but did not hesitate to share that story.
  • My friend, who is a stockbroker, is a wonderful storyteller and regularly tells stories about something he did that was hilarious.
  • We were at dinner the other night with good friends.  He is a wonderful storyteller who enjoys laughing and who does not hesitate to laugh at himself. 

I have tried to pay attention to these examples.  Many years ago, I was with a couple one evening and witnessed a humiliating moment.  In an effort to be funny, this man made a very critical remark about his wife.  It was an embarrassing moment for her though she nervously laughed.  After witnessing this incident and a few others, I decided that I never wanted to tell a story or make a remark in front of people that could humiliate my wife or children.  Consequently, I am careful not to tell stories about silly things they have done.  I do tell stories about silly things I have done.  (There are plenty!)

Laughing at yourself can be a helpful discipline that can keep you from being overly serious about yourself.  It can also be a blessing in relationships.  You may find that people will often connect with you because you seem so real and human.

What do you think?  Can you recall a time when someone laughed at themselves and you realized just how much you enjoyed that person?  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Laugh at Yourself

  1. Yes.  But here’s one on me.  I was preforming a wedding with another minister (i would not recommend doing this) his name was Russ and the groom’s name was Kevin.  I didn’t know them very well and I kept calling the groom Russ and the other minister Kevin.  It was hilarious!  The couple says they can’t wait until their 10 year vow renewal. 
    We had a guy on his way up to the podium to make announcements (first time) and he trip on the steps.  Everybody held their breath until he said, "I meant to do that" and the house erupted with laughter.  He trip going up the next Sunday to make annoucements (second time), he didn’t say a word he just laughed for a full minute at himself and everybody joined in.  For about a year whenever someone made a mistake up front they would say, "I meant to do that".

  2. I love this post.
    "Big" Don Williams was a man that always laughed at himself and was strong influence in my life.  He looked at difficulties and trials with such joy as I have never seen in any individual before.  He taught me how to laugh in the darkest of times. 

  3. Jim, this is a great topic. I have a long track record of taking myself much too seriously. I am actively working on it, but I’m much more prone to be embarrassed and irritated by making mistakes in front of others. The thing that I’ve learned through some counselling is that this situation is exacerbated by my upbringing. Mistakes were not tolerated in my home as I grew up. Ridicule and punishment were much more likely than understanding or grace (or humor!). Instead of blaming my upbringing, I’m now trying to focus on not affecting my wife or my children or others around me in the same way.
    Some spiritual giftings are much more inclined to joke about themselves. Some are bent towards joking about others. Humor is a dangerous tool to use on others, but as you point out, a helpful tool to use on oneself.
    Blessings! Kim

  4. George,Thanks for two wonderful stories!  Both of them made me smile.  Your first story brings out one of my fears—that I will be caught in a loop of using the wrong names and not be able to get out!Thanks,  

  5. Kinney,Thanks.  I recall hearing him speak as a teenager but have not thought about him in a long time.  Thanks for triggering some good memories.  

  6. Kim,Good for you!  I commend you for your candor and your willingness to work on this in your own life.  How encouraging! 

  7. I definitely laugh at my mistakes.
    Since I’m moving to a new church … I wonder if you’d share your annual calendar… days like the blessing of the babies … what special days do you have each year?