Funny Vs. Mean: A Rule to Live By


Hey, I’ve been thinking…

…My life is kind of funny in a lot of ways, and I am sort of funny from an observational standpoint (“Oh look, John tripped on his way into the job interview, hit a coffee pot, and gave his interviewer a concussion. Bwahahaha!).

But anyway… there are times when, say, I will walk into a room, and a near and dear friend of mine will open with a joke at my expense. Everybody laughs because it’s funny, and we move on.

But then, at a later point in time, I shall repeat that joke about myself. Immediately, silence falls across the room, and everyone looks horrified. Finally, somebody says, “John… why… why would you say such a thing about yourself?”

My initial reaction is to think “That’s not fair! It’s funny when other people say it about me, so why isn’t it funny when I say it about me?”

Well, that’s the thing. The original joke probably isn’t really funny, we just tend to confuse funny and mean pretty often. And this isn’t a “Poor me!” thing. Eh, I enjoy life. When I get set on fire at a wedding or accidentally set off airport metal detectors, it’s funny! But a lot of things are in how you say it, and how you treat others – how you talk to them, how you talk about them behind their backs – makes a huge difference in that person’s future and well-being. Sarcasm has a great role to try to soften a blow and teach or instruct or cotrrect somebody, sure, but is that really the reason, or are we just getting a witty zinger in because we saw an easy target?

So, here’s a maxim that I am going to try (and probably fail a lot) to follow:

“Do not say things to other people that you would not want to hear them say about themselves.”

Happy Yom Kippur, everyone!

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