You could say that a large part of current culture is built around poking fun at others. Sure, social commentary and lighthearted joking have their place. A comedian impersonates the mannerisms of a famous politician or celebrity; a father teases a son or daughter about his or her golf score. Laughter ensues. Some of this is meant in good fun.
There is, however, a darker kind of humor that often plays off of the insecurities of others – think YouTube videos of “epic fails,” videos mocking those who are attempting to display a talent. And then there are those nasty online comments. While it can sometimes seem that acerbic wit and biting remarks have become the norm, most of us remain uncomfortable with deriving pleasure from the misfortunes and embarrassment of others. That’s a good thing, because mockery or ridicule, even if it is meant in fun, can be very hurtful.
So how can we cultivate a spiritual awareness that does not glorify mockery but helps counteract it? I’ve often turned to this line in the Bible when I’m feeling discouraged about this issue, either in what I’m seeing around me, or when I feel I could do better myself: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7).
Mockery may seem like a harmless ridicule of what deserves ridicule, but underneath the surface, mockery can actually be seen as an impersonal way of challenging the true sense of God, good, and how He created all of us. Mockery cannot succeed in destroying good, though, because good is of God and is eternal. It’s vital to be alert to whether we’re going along with it in our own thought and just as important to know that God is unchanging and unharmed by ridicule.
I’ve found it so useful to follow Christ Jesus as the ultimate example when I’m looking to see how to model my own thoughts and behavior. Jesus’ words were never designed to injure or condemn. Jesus was bold at times and didn’t mince words, but he saw people for who they were, as spiritual, whole, the reflection of divine Love, and this brought transformation to countless lives.
Jesus showed us that, as God’s reflection, we are each empowered by God’s own goodness and it’s natural to express this good. We can contribute to a healthy atmosphere of thought by praying to be more Christlike – to see others and ourselves in the right light, as God truly made all of us. This has a purifying influence on our own lives, and on society, and goes beyond just putting up with others, or staying out of the way of people who behave in an annoying way. It is an active love based on spiritualization of thought and a desire to love and heal people in the way that the master Christian did.
It’s so important to cultivate spirituality and to reject anything that would attempt to tear into the spiritual innocence which we need to shelter and cherish in our own thoughts. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Monitor, had this to say, and it shows us how we can defend and support good: “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 4).
Anything that clouds our perceptions of others and prevents us from discerning and celebrating the beauty, artistry, creativity, intelligence, and joy that are God-given should not be given a mental home.
Now, does all this mean we need to be bland, humorless, and apt to enjoy only a cornier brand of humor? Or that we become stoic and unable to understand nuance in comedy? I don’t think so.
But it does mean that we can go forward with a greater alertness in recognizing that mockery does not need to hold a cherished place in our society. Examples of rejecting the “mean” in favor of the good are cropping up. Let’s water those seedlings and let them grow.