Why is it that shows like The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly are so funny to us? I think it is because Chuck Lorre has found the humor in things that are “normal” and we all understand. We all know a Sheldon or a Leonard. We can empathize with a Mike and Molly and the challenges they face. Sure, the situations are often in the extreme, but we can laugh at them because in reality we are also laughing at ourselves. And of course it is easier to laugh when you are grateful that you are at least not like them to the ultimate degree or you are not living the exact scenarios they are living. Shows like this explore the part of us that we don’t look at too closely, and when we do, laughing and humor make it easier to admit.
So why is it that we can’t find the humor in the mistakes we make? Not the serious, dangerous mistakes, but the day to day mistakes, or misunderstandings, or missteps—why is it that we see those things as such high stake events? Humor can help us through the toughest of times. The old saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone” is truthful. Finding humor is a skill and one we often find too risky, too cumbersome, and too overwhelming. I’ve asked young people this question before, “What does it mean if you get an ‘F’ on a test?” Without exception they have told me it means they are a failure and probably stupid and that they will never be successful, and the spiral down goes on. When I stop them and say, “No, it doesn’t mean any of that. It means you got an ‘F’ on a test. So what can you do about it to see to it that next time the results are different?” Not that you want youth to take failing a test lightly, but it also isn’t the end of the world and there is an opportunity to make changes. There is another saying that proclaims “Inch by inch is a cinch.” When we find humor along the way, we can see the wisdom in this.
Certainly humor can result from irony. Other humor can be self-deprecating. But the best humor is when we don’t take ourselves so seriously that we cannot allow ourselves to learn and in the learning, make mistakes. So let’s lighten up and laugh at ourselves when that’s what we need to do, and in the process, give youth the permission to lighten up on themselves as well.