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Saturday, June 8, 2024
Chapter 7

The tenth step of humility is that we are not given to ready laughter, for it is written:"Only fools raise their voices in laughter (Sir 21:23)."

Humor and laughter are not necessarily the same thing. Humor permits us to see into life from a fresh and gracious perspective. We learn to take ourselves more lightly in the presence of good humor. Humor gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the sight to see the human under the pompous. Laughter, on the other hand, is an expression of emotion commonly inveighed against in the best finishing schools and the upper classes of society for centuries. Laughter was considered vulgar, crude, cheap, a loud demonstration of a lack of self-control.

In the tenth degree of humility, Benedict does not forbid humor. On the contrary, Benedict is insisting that we take our humor very seriously. Everything we laugh at is not funny. Some things we laugh at are, in fact, tragic and need to be confronted. Ethnic jokes are not funny. Sexist jokes are not funny. The handicaps of suffering people are not funny. Pornography and pomposity and shrieking, mindless noise is not funny. Derision is not funny, sneers and sarcasm and snide remarks, no matter how witty, how pointed, how clever, how cutting, are not funny. They are cruel. The humble person never uses speech to grind another person to dust. The humble person cultivates a soul in which everyone is safe. A humble person handles the presence of the other with soft hands, a velvet heart and an unveiled mind.