A funny story can be told in a sermon, class, elder’s meeting, or in a small gathering of friends. It is particularly enjoyable to laugh with friends. Laughter can often draw us together.
Laughter, used in the wrong way, can also be deadly. Someone’s laughter can be embarrassing or even humiliating. A public speaker or a person in a small gathering can actually use laughter as a weapon.
Beware when humor is used in the following ways.
1. Beware of humor that causes another to feel embarrassed, exposed, or shamed. This can happen when certain people share stories about another’s humiliating moment. Yes, everyone laughs. However, more than once I have suspected that the person about whom the story was being told was dying inside. Do I really need to tell these kinds of stories?
2. Beware of humor in which you find yourself telling or laughing about another’s misfortune. A joke about their son’s arrest? A joke about a wife’s unfaithfulness? A joke about someone’s bankruptcy?
3. Beware of humor in which you intentionally tell a story that exposes the private moments of your spouse or children. Your spouse and children ought to be able to relax and live in your home without fear that you are going to trot out their latest mistake in a sermon. Far better for one to tell about his own mistakes and his own blunders than those of family members.
Finally, one really ought to consider why he or she is telling a story in spite of the objections of trusted family members and friends. “My wife said I shouldn’t tell this story but I’m going to anyway.” Really?
When have you seen humor used well? When have you seen it used otherwise? What have you learned about the appropriateness of humor in public setting.