I love the section in Reader's Digest every month called "Laughter, the Best Medicine" - and I love to laugh! It's usually the first section I turn to. But there's another side to laughter.
"Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains." (Proverbs 14:13 NLT)
There is a very real truth in the proverb above. Sometimes the laughter is in response to a good memory while you're in the middle of a difficult time. The days surrounding my dad's death were like that. Sometimes, when people hurt us, the smiles on our faces mask our pain so we can save face or protect ourselves from further ridicule. You smile just hoping they'll go away quickly.
You probably remember the class clown in high school. For many, this is the dark truth that shielded them from an inner pain. How many times did their laughter hide a hurt that was going on inside? "If you're laughing with me - you're not laughing at me" was their thinking. But when the laughter ended, and they were left alone, if they thought about it for just a moment, the grief remained.
Is this how we're supposed to deal with a heavy heart? For many of us, this is exactly how we deal with an inner grief, thinking that somehow just laughing it off will take away the pain!
It's time to get real.
I meet with a group of guys every Sunday morning. There are about 10 of us. We're not transparent with each other (yet), but we're working on it. We share about our week, talk about our struggles (a little) - it's a work in progress. As time goes on, I believe that we'll get beyond the superficial as we learn to trust and be more honest with each other.
Here are 5 thoughts that to help find peace even in the midst of hurt...
1. Admit. Be honest about what's going on inside. Whether the laughter is genuine, like at my dad's funeral when we remembered the good times, or if it's contrived to mask a hurt, recognized that it's a coping mechanism that doesn't actually fix anything. The pain of a death or the cuts of ridicule aren't lessened by a hearty chuckle. Sometimes we try to save face, look good, seem like we have it all together no matter what. Time to get real with yourself.
2. Pray. If you're a Christian, you can't afford to shut God out, especially when you're heart is heavy. There's a reason Jesus told you to cast all your burdens on him - He can handle it.
3. Share. Find a trusted friend with whom you can share your inner burdens. I'm amazed at just how hard this is to do. Regularly, especially with men, when the wall comes down just a little, they confess that they have no-one with whom they can share the hard things. But I really think this is important.
So it's important that you BE the kind of friend that someone can confide in. I'm blown away how many people unburden themselves to my wife, Teresa. They know she isn't a gossip - so it will go no further. They know she prays for people fervently - so it will go to God. They know she is a person of integrity - so it is in safe hands. That's the "someone" you need to find. (Please, don't call her today - she's swamped :) ).
4. Act. Properly. I'm amazed how many times I struggle with motivation to do things. When I just do it, the motivation comes naturally. It starts with the decision to act, and then as Nike reminds us - "Just do it!" By taking even little steps to address the inner grief, we begin to heal.
5. Persist. Don't quit. As with anything in life, we only see change over the long haul. Physical, emotional, spiritual fitness takes time. Decide to act positively every time. One time becomes two. Two becomes three. Three becomes a pattern. The pattern gives us strength and courage to continue. (You need to read this from Michael Hyatt's blog - it's one of my favorite poems).
There are a number of ways to look at this proverb. There is genuine grief that comes from life's hurts like the death of a parent. But there's also the inner despair of being ridiculed for something beyond your control. So many face the latter, and it paralyzes them from being who they really are and can be.
Are you masking an inner pain with laughter? Take a few minutes to realize that it hasn't dealt with the grief... it's just masked it for a few minutes. It's not an easy journey when we choose to deal with inner hurts, but the joy and peace on the other side make it so worthwhile. So, take the first step.