July 13, 2015

Taking a Joke

Laugh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Godless Mom writes an ongoing series of "Atheist Life Hacks" posts about a variety of topics. What I like about them is that, despite the title, they have much broader applicability than just atheists. In fact, many don't have much to do with atheism at all.

Using this as an inspiration, I thought I'd provide a "life hack" of sorts here by pointing out that it has been my experience that happy people almost always seem to be those who are capable of taking a joke. By this, I mean that the ability to laugh at oneself seems to be associated with one's level of happiness. I wonder if it might even be an ingredient of happiness.

Having a sense of humor does not necessarily involve the ability to take a joke or a willingness to laugh at oneself. I've known plenty of people who have a great sense of humor and love to laugh as long as they are laughing at someone else. When the joke is at the expense of someone else, all is good. The moment the joke is on or about them, everything changes. It is no longer funny. And not only is not funny, but it is often regarded as offensive in some way. I'm sure you have all encountered people like this. There are quite a few of them out there, content to laugh at others but unable or unwilling to laugh at themselves.

So who has difficulty laughing at themselves? I'm sure there are exceptions, but I find that this refusal to laugh at oneself is rather common among many social justice warriors and proponents of political correctness. As much as some delight in making jokes at others' expense, many are quick to claim offense and throw around hyperbolic labels (e.g., "harassment" or "abuse") when someone directs humor at them. It is almost as if those joking have revealed themselves to be evil and must be judged accordingly. To an outside observer, this smacks of the "its okay when we do it" form of hypocrisy because it seems like a different standard applies when they and their associates are directing the joke elsewhere than when it is directed at them.

I recognize that if I am going to joke about religious believers from time-to-time, it makes sense to expect that they will return the favor. If it is okay for me to joke about them, it has to be okay for them to joke about me. And when they do mock me, I am usually able to take it in stride without taking offense because I recognize that I've been giving it to them. Unfortunately, this rarely seems to be a two-way street. I know many Christians who love to joke with me about atheism but are quick to take offense when I joke with them about Christianity. It seems to be a fairly common double standard.

As tempting as it may be to get upset over double standards like this, I find it helpful to remind myself that my ability to take a joke - to laugh at myself - probably contributes to my own happiness even if others refuse to do so. Maintaining the ability to take a joke and laugh at myself is probably good for me. And the fact that some others are unwilling or unable to do this does not make it any less good for me.