Do you remember the Readers Digest humor pages? There was one called Laughter is the Best Medicine. It is often true. Sometimes it may be the best alternative to crying – some situations are like that. Like the days that you wish you could go back to bed and start the day all over again. For sports fans, there are some games where your team is getting beat so badly that you have to laugh at it – just so ludicrous.

I remember growing up when my sisters and I were in stitches and couldn’t stop laughing. Most of those times we didn’t even remember what started it, we just knew we laughed until our sides hurt. I also remember a time visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen for quite a while and we laughed over memories -everything is funny at 3 am, which we were up to that night.

You may wonder why this topic comes up when I am discussing important traits? Well, it is because I consider a good sense of humor to be very valuable. We can only be serious for so long. Soon depression or fatigue will take over if we don’t take a humor break. We have to be able to laugh at life to survive. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves as well.

I distrust people who don’t have a sense of humor – and feel very uncomfortable interacting with them. I think the lack of humor comes from a couple of sources. One would be a very low sense of self – always feeling like they don’t measure up and don’t feel like they can let themselves relax. And then, on the other hand, it may be that they consider themselves perfect and so everything must be serious. No room for humor either way and that is a terrible thing. None of us is perfect – and it is okay to acknowledge that and let it show to others. Embrace imperfection.

There is a kind of humor, however, that is dangerous and hurtful. That is making fun of others. It usually is focused on something they can’t change – or that they struggle with. It is a form of attack and verbal assaults can be just as damaging as physical. Often someone will make fun of someone and then when the person objects they will say “I was only joking” as if that excused their behavior. Some things and sometimes are not funny or appropriate to laugh at and we should all be aware of that.

And even times when we are laughing at ourselves we need to be aware that that can go too far. They say that often clowns can be some of the most unhappy people – hiding behind facepaint and goofy clothes. Robin Williams was one of the funniest actors I have watched and he brought a lot of laughter to loads of people. But behind the smiles and jokes, he was deeply hurting and we didn’t realize how much until too late.

So amid laughter be aware and ready to reach out to help if you sense that someone’s laughter is hiding pain. Hiding in the shadows I call it.

And if you are wary of humor – thinking it means you must be a joke teller – don’t worry. Humor can arise from many places in life and most of them aren’t scripted. Ask me about my experience with cars or cooking and I can share oodles of humorous stories. Don’t forget, laughter is the best medicine