If I Did Not Laugh I Should Die!

TheDiscipleMD

Sometimes it is troubling to see the extreme positions that seem to be forming regarding many issues. I was amazed to hear a ship captain the other night being interviewed who said that those that work with him in saving the whales needed to be able to give up their lives to be a part of the movement. This same individual has a history of putting human life in jeopardy to further his cause. This man, who began with a worthy goal of protecting the whales, has become so extreme and rigid in his views, that he has elevated the life of an animal over that of the sons and daughters of God. He is not alone in such thinking, nor is his movement alone in promoting such radical thought. The extremism of different movements is so blinding that many are past the point of reason or feeling. Even within the church there are those that take on a “pet” commandment or hold concepts which create an “imbalance” in their lives leaving them intolerant to the thoughts and actions of others. I recall a wonderful talk given by James E. Faust years ago regarding rigidity entitled, “The Need for Balance in Our Lives.” Quoting part of his remarks:

“An important part of the gospel message is that we not be too rigid: that we open our minds, develop some tolerance, and not be quick to render judgment. I learned when I was making my living in the legal arena that we do not always have all the facts. There always seemed to be at least two sides to a question. Everything is not just black and white. The counsel of the Savior as He instructed His twelve was, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). It is not always easy to achieve appropriate balance.”

Extremity and rigidity in or out of the gospel is unhealthy. Sometimes it seems we just take things too seriously. Perhaps in so doing we inflate the importance of our lives. President Faust gave some instruction in the self-same talk that I have found to be so true. He said:

“…A thoughtful man said, “There is certainly no defense against adverse fortune which is, on the whole, so effectual as an habitual sense of humor.” For many years as I have blessed newborn children, including my own, I have blessed them with a sense of humor. I do this with the hope that it will help guard them against being too rigid, that they will have balance in their lives, and that situations and problems and difficulties will not be overdrawn…Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) stated: “True humor springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt, its essence is love; it issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper.”

I share the feelings of Abraham Lincoln, as shared by President Faust, when he said:

“With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

This statement attributed to Lincoln, is even more profound to me, seeing as Lincoln is consistently painted in history books as “stoic”. I think all of us need to be able to laugh at ourselves and “lighten” the mood of our lives. In so doing it will develop in us the ability to even out the natural extremities in our lives. We want to be “exact” in keeping the commandments. We need to be faithful in following the counsel of the brethren. But we also need to be balanced!

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