Embrace Your Idiot
May 9, 2012
Embrace your idiot. No, not that one. I mean the one you talk to yourself about yourself when you yell, “You idiot!” And even add adjectives like “blithering.” Maybe you’ve lost your keys or dunked your phone. Maybe your mouth worked faster than your mind or you committed grand social fox paws that made you blush. Maybe you ate that thing anyway even after your brain and body warned you. Or maybe it’s a day when you just feel stupid.
Amidst the blushing and beating ourselves up, humor can help. It can rescue us from full-out self-battery and settle us more happily into being human, into being at home with both our powers and our limitations. We’re rarely as bad as we think we are or as good as we hope to be. As creatures made in the image of God, we live constantly in the tension between grandeur and klutziness.
Aware of our great powers, we dream boldly and stretch to our limits, often with amazing results – Hubble telescopes, symphonies, epic poems, 4.0 GPAs, breath-taking jazz riffs, baseball no-hitters, perfect apple pies. Admiring their own great work, some folks turn proud and pretentious, unwittingly making themselves prime targets for take-down humor. More of us, I suspect, are tempted by perfectionism. No matter how well we’ve done, we can never accomplish all we want or be as good as we hope. We reach for the stars and blame ourselves when we discover that, even with a ladder, we can’t capture the heavens. Some of us, when we see the nonsense in this, complicate it further by trying to overcome perfectionism flawlessly. We corner ourselves.
Gentle laughter can get us unstuck. It’s nice when a friend helps rescue us with warm smiles and a hug, teasing and cajoling us about our hopes gone wild. But even alone we can choose to stir up laughter by turning to our stash of things that always make us laugh – jokes, stories, funny songs, cartoons, comedies, whatever. Or, in a more focused way, we can laugh at ourselves for the silly ways we’ve backed ourselves into a tight spot. Just be nice. Hug, don’t hit, the idiot in you.
Laughing at ourselves, self-deprecatory humor, can also help when we’ve been idiots in public. Sometimes it’s good just to claim it, to say, “I’m an idiot,” and beat other folks to the punch. It might soften the blow or, with some strategic exaggeration, create a smoke screen that fuzzes the facts. Often you can laugh and get a laugh. Of course, don’t brag about being an idiot, making it a point of distinction. We all have our days. But claiming that with humor helps us not be dismayed or defeated.
A cautionary note: if your idiot hurt someone, don’t laugh it off. Apologize. Some folks use humor to avoid responsibility and to take lightly the harm they’ve caused. Rather than heal, that deepens the hurt. Laughter may come later, but the first motion here must be love.
When klutziness prevails, embrace your idiot. Not pummel, bash, or kill. Hug and laugh. Hug.