Humor as a Kindness
When I write about humor I often write about how good it is for someone as an individual and or some organization. I focus a lot on what philosophers call instrumental goals. Those are the benefits that humor has for us. Things like an increase in stress tolerance, or improved health, or a better outlook all have a certain quantifiable outcomes. These are great, make no mistake. But one of the things that often gets lost in this sort of cost benefit analysis is something we all know, but often overlook. When we share humor with one another it's a kindness. And kindness, though we know it's important is something that we need more of. So that's the focus for today's blog: Humor as a kindness.
When I think of some of the best times I have had with my colleagues, I tend to reflect on times when we shared a laugh. Whether it was my coworkers gently teasing me about race (I'm a white guy at an historically black college), or the time I told my wife that since our anniversary year was porcelain and maybe she'd like a toilet, or when my son beat me to a clever line, humor seems to be involved in some important way. I want to make them smile and get that feeling of mirth and share it with them. I want to help them have a moment or two where levity and playfulness reign. There's far too little of that in our daily lives--or at least it feels that way given how beset we are with deadlines, emergencies, and the rest.
But the kindness isn't just about getting them to feel a certain way. When I share a joke or something I find funny I am inviting them to see the world as I do, to share with me something I find funny. If sharing is caring, and caring is a kindness, then so to is sharing humor. I am not necessarily interested in solving a huge problem, or making all the ills of life go away. I am interested in having some basic fun, of enjoying the world with you at that moment. I'm inviting you to enjoy the world as I do and that's a deeply personal thing to do. It's different than going to an amusement park (pun not intended). Roller coasters and fun houses are great, but sharing what I find as funny let's you see more about me than a simple enjoyment of loop in a coaster. It's a sharing an outlook from which I derive joy. And a shared experience, whether it's a roller coaster or a laugh at something, is so much better.
So as you walk out into the world today, think about sharing some humor. Think about how doing so in an act of kindness. I guarantee that if you practice these acts of kindness the rewards will be double. Not only are you laughing, you're sharing your experiences with others and that's a powerful thing.