Don’t take yourself too seriously

Taking ourselves too seriously makes us self-absorbed and even pompous in the eyes of others, whilst giving us nothing in return except self-inflicted suffering.

One of my favourite books is “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr. It is the tale of a monastery in a post-apocalyptic world covering a span of six hundred years. In the first volume “Fiat homo”, a sincere and earnest noviate monk by the name of Francis, is so self-absorbed that he loses perspective. He takes himself far too seriously. In one scene Francis is in confession with his abbot. In his confession he admits to fantasies of eating a lizard during his Lenten fasting. He is distraught to have sinned in thought and describes his sin as unforgivable. The abbot points out just how prideful and absurd this is: that Francis could believe that his sin is so great that even God could not forgive him. Have we not all of us made that same mistake as Francis?

I read that book at age fourteen and that example has stuck with me till the present day as a reminder as to just how prideful and absurd we become when we take ourselves too seriously.

We all make mistakes; we are all imperfect and we would have done things differently if we had had the wisdom that we have today, but the simple fact is we didn’t. So what can we do with that information?

In the words of Victor Frankl:

“between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

A sense of humour is vital in choosing the right response.

An aspect of wisdom is to understand the difference between important and serious. Far too often we conflate the two. There are times in life where we will face important and difficult situations over which we have little or no control. At these times a sense of humour, our ability to laugh at ourselves might be the only tool we have to ameliorate our suffering.

You should take your responsibilities seriously but not yourself.

The ability to laugh at ourselves acts as a balm on emotional wounds. It gives us a more flexible perception; it gives us a healthy perspective in this divine comedy that is life.

Laugh at yourself more; it eases the inevitable pain of being human.

I leave you with a quote from the comedian Clive James:

“Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.”



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