What is humor?

Humor is defined as the capacity to express or perceive what is funny. This capacity begins to develop at an early age. Infants form a sense of humor by watching how others respond to their different behaviors. We are hardwired with the ability to notice funny things and to respond with laughter. As far back as ancient Greece, we can find examples of comedy. Aristotle was a proponent of the benefits of humor, and a brief survey of the history of comedy reveals that humor is a fundamental part of human nature.

There are many types of humor, and not all humor is beneficial. Some humor is even hurtful. If you’ve ever been the brunt of someone’s joke, you know what I am talking about. This hurtful humor is not something we want to encourage or allow in our homes. We want to protect against that because demeaning types of humor damage others. Instead, we want to encourage healthy humor in our homes and in our families.

Each family has a unique culture, and humor is one of the ways that sets each family apart. What is funny to your family members? Some families enjoy puns and plays on words. Others might find physical comedy hilarious. Whatever your unique type of humor, celebrate it and make time and space for it.

Humor is a great way to bond as a family. One of our favorite pastimes is to remember funny times. Reminiscing and laughing together helps to strengthen relationships. When we laugh together, we are finding humor in the same things, which boosts our feelings of connectedness. And relationships are the foundation on which healthy families grow.

Humor also helps break tension in a home. Family life can be stressful and hard. We can go through seasons that are painful. Humor is one of the ways God enables us to cope with hardship—we don’t deny what is hard. We acknowledge it and grieve as needed, but we can still find the funny.

What keeps us from finding the funny?

We tend to take life too seriously. I know I do. When I am particularly stressed and under a deadline my sense of humor fizzles quickly. I get so caught up in all the things I “must get done” that I lose perspective. I easily forget that it’s God’s strength alone that enables me to do all those things. Tackling my to-do list in my own strength is a surefire way to get overwhelmed and lose the ability to laugh. I lose sight of the blessing of my family when I focus on the drudgery of the day-to-day. When we don’t have a cheerful attitude, it becomes difficult for humor to flourish.

How do we encourage humor in our homes?

Every family’s sense of humor is unique. What makes your family break out into laughter? Is your family “punny” like mine—always finding some way to weave a pun into a story? Maybe your family enjoys watching comedies and then sprinkling those movie quotes into conversations to spark laughter. Maybe you have a practical jokester in the family, like my husband John, who is always ready to pull the next prank. Have a family discussion about humor. Explain why it’s so good for everyone to laugh and then make plans for more fun. Talk about what makes your family laugh, then decide to do more of that together. This takes intention and possibly a change in attitude.

inconvenient partenting book

Adapted from Inconvenient Parenting by Melissa Hannigan (© 2023). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

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