I spent a lot of years trying to change my personality in order to please others. I thought they couldn’t possibly want such a wacky, off-beat, scatter-brained, sometimes shallow and sometimes irreverent woman like me sharing their planet.
So, how I acted depended on what kind of people I was with. With quiet and introspective people, I would smile a lot and nod my head at the intellectual conversation. I would try to say some profound thought of my own lying dormant in my brain. Then I would open my mouth, demonstrate what a fool I was, and prove that I couldn’t please people.
When I was in a group of younger women, I tried to act wise beyond my years. My advice sounded hollow even to me, and I was again met with disappointment from the people around me. With older women, I would act grateful for their recipes and housecleaning tips. Then I would go home and try to do as they had instructed, make a mess, and prove once again I could please no one.
I was a failure at pleasing people, and I was miserable, too. I didn’t understand any of it.
Then one day I found myself in a crowded hospital elevator. My grandmother was critically ill following cancer surgery, and even in my sadness, I was suddenly overtaken by a moment of outrageous joy that made me longing for a good laugh. Before I could help myself, I said, “Excuse me. It’s so crowded in here I can’t move my hands. Would someone with a free hand kindly scratch my nose? … Silence. Oh, dear. I had really done it. I had pleased absolutely no one in that elevator.
But then, the elderly gentleman next to me reached over with his arthritic finger and scratched the end of my nose. We all began laughing and scratching our noses. That was when the elevator doors opened and we faced a group of people waiting to get on. What we must have looked like, I can only imagine. As we piled off, still laughing and scratching, a woman stopped me. She thanked me for making her laugh. She said that laughter was a gift from God and we needed to use it a lot more often.
What? God can use humor? Some people say no, that God is serious, that sending His Son to be born in a manger is serious business, and no laughing matter. How can religious humor be nothing but sacrilegious in light of the sacrifice Jesus made for us?
The truth is, laughter is a good and perfect gift from God. It reduces blood pressure, relieves pain, dissolves anger, and is a universal language. I don’t have to understand why God made me this way, I just have to trust Him to use me, even if it’s through laughter. Even if it’s not pleasing to some people.
So, when the tsk-tskers come my way, not pleased with my humor, I react differently. I smile and say, as sweetly as possible, “Go click your tongue somewhere else.”
Verna Davis, speaker and writer, maybe reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.