…[L]aughter should not . . . be indulged in at the expense of the feelings of others. What one says or does in a humorous vein should not give rise to prejudice of any kind. You may recall ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s caution ‘Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person . . . (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, v1, p.45, quoted on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in a memorandum “The Humorist” 12 July 1997)
When I was a teenager, I remember reading a book by Robert Heinlein, in which he made the point that all laughter is put-downs at someone else’s expense and I decided in that moment, that I would never tell a joke or put down anyone, ever. I also stopped laughing and started taking life very seriously. It was one of those defining moments in my life.
When I came into the Faith, one of the first books I read was “God Loves Laughter” by William Sears, and found many stories of how much ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved laughter and when he was in prison, asked everyone to think of the funniest thing that happened during the day, and He’d laugh until the tears rolled down His face. I often wonder about the content of those jokes. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall, to see what some of the jokes were. But maybe I don’t need to worry so much about being perfect. Maybe I can just ask God to help me take life less seriously and lighten up, trusting that my sensitive heart would still recoil at offending or saddening anyone.
Knowing that I have permission to find the humor in things, and laugh about them, I am grateful!
What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation? I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!
If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others
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A friend of mine sent me an email this morning, one of those chain things, that you are expected to send on to others. It was meant to be funny, and as I deleted it, I thought about the differences in our sense of humor. And I wondered what ‘Abdul-Bahá would have made of it and how it would apply to Bahá’í-inspired life coaching.
And then I remembered the following story:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá loved laughter and His laughter was often a source of solace . . . When they were in prison, He said, and under the utmost deprivation and difficulties, each of them at the close of the day would relate the most ludicrous event which had happened. Sometimes it was difficult to find one but always they would laugh until the tears would run down their cheeks. Happiness, He said, is never dependent upon material surroundings, otherwise, how sad those years would have been. As it was they were always in the utmost state of joy and happiness . . .
(Annamarie Honnold, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
And I thought of the following quote from the Bahá’í Writings:
. . . while laughter should not be suppressed or frowned upon,
it should not be indulged in at the expense of the feelings of others. What one says or does in a humorous vein should not give rise to prejudice of any kind. You may recall ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s caution “Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person…”
(From a letter of The Universal House of Justice, 12 Jan, 1997.
Recognizing that this story met both criteria (not offensive, difficult to relate to the humour), I opened my delete file, read it again, and gave myself a good belly laugh. And you know what? I felt better! It was a real reminder not to take myself too seriously!
What is your experience with humour and how it helped? What’s your favorite funniest story of all times? Post your thoughts here!