“A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
I remember being uncomfortable with speakers who asked me to laugh. It felt fake and inauthentic to laugh when I didn’t feel like it. Judging by the awkward and hesitant laughter I felt from others in the room at the time, I was not alone in my discomfort. Over time, I’ve changed my view on the subject. Here’s why:
Laughter is one of the main expressions of a merry, cheerful heart. I love finding ways to consistently activate the discipline of laughter because:
Laughter helps us to “let go” of negative mindsets – Whether it is frustration, pessimism, unworthiness, discouragement, or something else, laughter can be a powerful tool to help us let go of these unhelpful emotions. Why? Because you cannot hold on to them and laugh at the same time.
Laughter disempowers lies – “He who sits in the heavens laughs” (Psalms 2:4). The context of this verse indicates God is laughing at what His enemies are saying and planning. When we can join God and laugh at the lies restricting us, we take a major step toward loosening their grip on us.
Laughter is key to healthy families, organizations, and relationships in general – “Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above all His companions” (Hebrews 1:9). Jesus brought gladness into His relationships while on earth. Those who laugh together tend to stay together.
By now you may be thinking “Okay, Steve, we see that laughter is important, but how about authenticity? Isn’t it inauthentic to laugh when we don’t feel like it?”
Please consider this question with me: if you go to the gym to work out when you don’t feel like working out, is it a fake workout? Are the physical benefits you see from weightlifting canceled out because your emotions weren’t on board?
If you read your Bible when you don’t feel like it, is it fake Bible reading? If you go to church when you don’t feel like it, is it fake church attendance? If you still act lovingly toward your family when you don’t feel loving, is it fake love?
Obviously the answer is no. These are all habits we intentionally develop and maintain for successful living. Part of maturing is learning to do what’s right and good for us even—and especially—when we don’t feel like doing it. Just as our feelings are not our primary barometer of truth, authenticity is more about our behavior lining up with our values, not with how we may feel.
I believe valuing and practicing regular laughter is a vital habit to be developed and maintained for a healthy life and healthy relationships. As we implement it and work out our laughter muscles, we will find it getting easier, and our feelings naturally starting to become more positive about the practice. Just as positive fitness results can motivate and spur us on to higher levels of physical challenge and enjoyment, once we begin to see the positive effects of laughter on our lives, we will start to get excited about the results we see in our mindsets, relationships, and general outlook. What might happen if you took the leap? What begins feeling fake for you might just change your life for the better. It has for me.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.