A woman who attended one of my workshops recently sent me e-mail. She was racked with guilt over losing her temper with her four-year old son. "He pushed me to my very limits. I'd just had it--and yelled at him. Do you think I've totally crushed his spirit?"
Yes, our words are important and we should use them with care but we all make mistakes. We are human and imperfect. Many of us worry incessantly about our parenting errors and choices--are we good enough? The truth is, when we lighten up and take ourselves a bit less seriously we create a healthier balance for our kids and ourselves.
I suggested this distraught mom might take the time to set appropriate limits so her son's whining doesn't drive her to the edge again. I recalled the times I'd given myself time outs to take some deep breaths and get it together before returning to squabbling children or an obstinate toddler.
Many of us associate spirituality with somber, serious, straight-faced piety. We have some of the same ideas about parenting. We have to be the "all knowing, perfect role model." Forgiving ourselves and laughing at our humanness is just as spiritual as the ecstasy that comes with deep insight. Let the endorphins loose and laugh out loud when you mess up. We have the opportunity each moment to begin again, as do our kids. How freeing it is for our sons and daughters to realize they don't need to be perfect, they can laugh at their mistakes and start over.
Victor Frankl, the German psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps, pointed out that humor forces us to recognize our predicament while allowing us to be detached from it.
Humor shifts our mood, changes our perspective in a stressful situation, and strengthens our relationships. Recent studies suggest a positive link between humor and well being. Likewise, much attention has been given to the positive benefits that one's spirituality may have on overall health. Add the two and you've got laughter as a balm for mind, body and spirit.
Henri Matisee said, "Ever since there have been men, man has given himself over to too little joy... I should believe only in a God who understands how to dance."
Next time your temper is about to flare, blast the music that stirs your spirit and dance yourself into a forgiving, joyful, silly state. Watch how your family shifts gears to join in your laughter.
Post the following words on your fridge to maintain a joyful perspective:
"There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension. So we must do what we can with the third."
--John F. Kennedy