Respect for What’s Important

bq. If you can’t laugh about your religion or personal beliefs on occasion then you need to take a serious look at what it means to you. You can find humor in any situation.

I ran across this quote earlier today, and it gave me pause. A lot of non-religious folk quip and make jokes (or simply snide remarks or witticisms) about various religions, laughing to each other over the punch line and nudging each other in the side as they watch the people about whom the joke was made vent and fume and react with offense. Then, they can’t understand why these people get so upset over what was so obviously a joke, telling them that they really need to learn how to have a sense of humor. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this recently. Person A cracks joke about Person B. Person B gets offended and responds with words to that effect. Person A puts up his hands and says, Now hold on, pardner, itwasjustajoke. Person B is not placated because he cannot see any way in which the joke was funny. Person A chalks Person B off as being an extremist or having an underdeveloped sense of humor (or both).

What we actually have here is a failure for both parties to understand each other.

For Person A, who made the offensive joke, he fails to understand that Person B’s religious beliefs are _very_ important to him. They are, in fact, an integral part of Person B’s way of life. When Person B hears Person A making the joke about his own beliefs, what he hears is someone ridiculing and mocking his beliefs. What Person A is saying, by implication, is that Person B’s beliefs are stupid and childish. Even if Person B doesn’t know Person A from a stranger on the street, Person B is still hurt on a personal and emotional level because no one likes to be told that their beliefs are stupid, particularly when such a message is communicated via mockery. That mockery stings and hurts, and most people placed in such a situation are going to react defensively in some manner or another. What Person A fails to understand is just how important Person B’s beliefs are to him. Yet, when the roles are reversed, Person A reacts with offense whenever Person B (or Persons C, D, E…) make jokes about a belief that Person A holds particularly dear. Person A cannot find anything funny about Person B’s joke, just as Person B could not find anything funny about Person A’s joke. In both instances, the belief joked about was held dear by the joke’s ‘victim’, making it no laughing matter for that person. Unfortunately, Person A gripes about how unfair Person B’s joke was, often forgetting about how unfair his own joke about Person B was. Person B, on the other hand, fails to grasp how unimportant his own beliefs are to Person A and forgets that he should not take Person A’s joke personally. So Person B ends up reacting in a way that does little to make the situation better.

Sure, it hurts to have others make fun of you for your beliefs. But unfortunately, it is also a part of life. Lashing out because you feel hurt is not usually a good way to handle the situation and, in fact, typically only serves to justify the point of the joke. If you are going to address the joke at all, ignore the joke itself and discuss the _point_ of the joke. Make a good discussion about it, and don’t let yourself get all up in arms about it.

Water off a duck’s back, as they say.

One thought on “Respect for What’s Important”

  1. The people who spend the most time laughing at everyone else often have a very bleak, nihilistic worldview themselves. They hold nothing sacred. So while they’re laughing a lot, they’re not particularly happy.

    I also think the ‘whoa, pardner, itwasjustajoke’ defense is a cop-out, a failure of that person’s wit. If they can’t tell a joke that doesn’t involve a put-down, it means they’re not trying hard enough, and if they have to resort to that defense, it often means that they’re not very funny to begin with.

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