The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Talking and listening

with one comment

I’m talking to a friend. She tells me something painful about herself. I know something about that situation. I tell her what I know.

In Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Science of Everyday Life, Steven Johnson writes of Mouth of Bachchatting up the therapist who was giving him a biofeedback session. Johnson makes a witty comment, and the electronics spike. Later on, another joke, another spike. So it goes.

Turns out the machine measures certain chemicals present in the body. Whether the chemicals surge when he readies himself to spring the joke, or just after, in the satisfaction of having been amusing, he can’t tell. But he knows he is a person who all-too-readily cracks jokes in uncomfortable – even risky – social situations. Could it be that the reason for the humor is to receive a chemical rush of comfort? Not to entertain others, but to self-medicate?

Johnson’s story reminded me of my conversation with my friend. I wish I had asked her more about what she was feeling. I’d like to know more about how what’s going on in her life is affecting her. I could, at least, communicate that someone wanted to see, to hear.

Instead, I talked about myself. Why?

Maybe I deal with awkwardness by reassuring myself that I know things. Maybe my worth in my own mind hinges upon having some expertise to contribute. Maybe I turn conversations to deftly edge them away from others’ pains and toward my own comfort. Likely, the process squirts some chemical around in my brain that says, “Ah, relax. You’re not an idiot. You know something. They’ll be impressed. Doesn’t that feel good?

And it does. Trouble is, it isn’t love. Maybe it’s a habit left over from a default self-image that Jesus Christ is gradually healing. At any rate, it seems like an unnecessary self-indulgence that uses my friends – rather than serving them – all the while masquerading as compassion.

Ick.

I wonder if Jesus was funny. I am pretty sure he saw value in play, and that he enjoyed people a great deal. But as I read of him, I am often astonished at his emotional wholeness.  He wouldn’t need to crack jokes to calm his own heart. His humor – and his conversation generally – would serve another purpose. He would be free – free to love, having found his own needs met in quietness before his Father.

What does that look like? As my own wholeness grows, what will I look like?

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Written by Monte

July 18, 2006 at 10:21 am

Posted in Jesus, Loving

One Response

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  1. Monty, (Why do I always want to end your name with a Y?)

    Love the idea that humor provides a comfort rush. I self-medicate with humor all the time! I think I may be using humor more as I get older. Maybe I am freer to be silly and not always be so uptight about everything? Maybe I’m more insecure than ever?!

    I also enjoy using humor in my writing. Maybe humor also ‘medicates’ the one receiving the joke, allowing him or her to open up just a little more than usual. Like, it’s easier to receive a hard word when you’re high, or something like that.

    Surely Jesus wasn’t serious all the time, like a spacey guru or stuffy religious person. And surely he didn’t use humor at others’ expense. Humble humor–now that’s a concept.

    Dang, wish I could have some face time with him. Hey! I can! I’m going to ask him about this right now. :)

    Adela/Amy

    July 25, 2006 at 6:04 am


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