I've always thought of myself as a positive person. I'm like, nope, I almost never say anything bad about anybody. I'm not that complainy or whiny. Not at all.
Yeah...no. In the past couple months especially, I've been realizing how blind I am. I really haven't been as positive as I could've been, and sometimes I was even unintentionally making fun of someone without realizing it until later. I've been mentally shooting people down, and my actions have been reflecting that in small ways - but that doesn't justify it one bit. On Mother’s Day, our church had a guest speaker, Shaunti Feldhahn. She's the author of the Kindness Challenge, a book in which she shares about the seven patterns of negativity. One of the patterns, sarcasm, really stuck out at me, as I’d started to be a lot more sarcastic then usual. Honestly, sarcasm and sassiness really tires me out. It kind of…well, in a way, it caused me to stop seeing the good in people right away and instead seeing something that could be used as a funny joke or something. I didn't mean it in a mean way, but sometimes it came across as that. Ephesians 5:4 says, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking."
There’s another thing that I feel can sometimes be negative: laughter. Laughter is such an amazing thing – it brings people together, it lightens the mood and makes people smile. Joy and laughter go hand in hand, but it can also be used in a negative, non-uplifting way.
Early this year, I went to a youth retreat that was hosted by our old church. I was placed in a small group with a handful of high school girls and a leader that was probably in her late twenties. I was pretty quiet, not saying much. I was letting fear control me, and therefore did not really share my thoughts of the sermon (which was amazing, btw!). We were talking about trials and how we need to go through trials in order to grow. We also talked about how hard they could be. A verse popped into my head, but I was unsure whether or not my brain was mixing two different verses together. I timidly said, “Wait, isn’t there a verse that talks about how He will not let you go through trials that you are not capable of bearing…?”
When I finished talking, the leader started laughing. Laughing. She chuckled, “Well, if that were true, we wouldn’t really learn anything.” She laughed again, and one of the girls joined in.
Let me tell you, that stung. I can memorize pretty quickly, but I never really could get it to stay inside my brain more than a month, and it often jumbled up. I knew it was something I needed to work harder on, but it still hurt. And to be honest, tears were shed because of what happened.
But the leader wasn't the only person who’d ever done something like that. On my sister’s birthday, my younger brother came running, with his wrapped gift, into the room where we all were. He had a huge smile on his face as he yelled, “Here’s your volleyball book!” I am sorry to say that I burst out laughing. It was so cute, and he was so young…but no, as soon as I started to laugh, his face dropped instantly and he started crying. Sometimes I forget that little kids and adults have feelings.
Another time, I was talking with a guy and he quietly mumbled something I didn't quite understand/hear. Unsure of what to say, I chuckled awkwardly...ten seconds later I realized he had said, "We have to eat all the food...we can't waste anything." I felt sooo, so bad and it took me a while to get over that. If I could go back to that moment, man, would I do something way different than what I did. Make sure you're not laughing about things you don't understand or just because everyone else is laughing. And don't laugh at sin.
Oftentimes, laughter stings more than words. It digs deep, and it’s hard to forget. And, like words, it can’t be easily retracted. Be careful what you laugh about, friends. Yes, comedies are funny - but make sure what you're laughing at isn't something sinful, or of the devil. Satan can twist things that are good and use them to draw people away from the Lord, and we need to be aware of that. Proverbs 14:9 says that, "Fools laugh at sin, but the favor of God is among the faithful." A fool laughs at sin. A fool.
Now, that doesn't mean in any way that God loves you less because of it! No, sir! But we need to stop sugar coating sin. We need to address it as what it is. And laughing at sin, or anything negative, is sin. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you." We must think and act on positive, godly things.
Would Jesus laugh at sin? Would Jesus laugh at your friend who just made an error? Would Jesus laugh at someone who's struggling to make ends meet? Would He laugh in a way that would bring someone down? Sarcasm is funny, yes, but sarcasm doesn't work without some truth mixed in. And that little 5% of truth stings-believe me, I know. The person receiving the sarcastic remark probably is too scared to bring it up or is so used to negativity it doesn't affect them anymore. All people have hearts - don't forget that. They're made in the image of God, just like you, and to make fun of them is to make fun of God's handiwork.
This week, I challenge you to think about what you're laughing about. Think about what you're being sarcastic about, and think of the effects. Think of what kind of influence you have on others. But don't stop laughing altogether: just be sure you're laughing at the right things, in a way that's not tearing someone down. Laughter was created as a good thing. In Job 8:21, it says, "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting." Don't let Satan use your laughter against you.
And I'll leave you with just one question:
Would you rather make people laugh, or make people love?
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart;
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"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all of my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."