The Blessing of Laughter

San Diego poppiesBy Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at

My daughter graduated from college last month. She is home for a few weeks before she moves across the country for her new job (!). My son and I were sitting in her room with her while last night as she went through her stuff, deciding what to keep, to give away, and to take with her. While going through the different items she came upon her old diaries. The three of us were in stitches listening to her middle school angst, her passionate monologues on crushes, and her vitriolic picture of a teacher.

The next morning we talked about how delicious it is to be able to laugh at one’s self, to look back and realize how ridiculous and melodramatic we can be at times. We don’t have to just take the long view of years past. I can look back at 10 minutes ago and laugh at how childish I was.

Somehow, laughing at myself allows me to remember the humanness, the beautiful imperfection that dwells in all of us. For me it is so much easier to break that pattern, to shift my behavior if I’m not on my high horse, but down in the mud with the evidence of my folly all over.

Also, laughter is so healing. There is actually medical humor or laugh therapy. says, “Studies have revealed that episodes of laughter helped to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system in participants.”

Laughter, another gift we are blessedly born with, and one that should be used often. May you laugh long and often!

June 06, 2014 by Shalem Institute 3 Comments
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9 years ago

So true! Lovely reminder–timely, too!

Anita Davidson
9 years ago

I provide myself with so many reasons to laugh – missteps, misspeaks, memory lapses etc. that I’m my best entertainment most days! Humor and quick-wittedness is a gift passed along to me by my dad and, while sometimes it’s a crutch or a defense, most of the time it’s a genuine blessing and a prayer as well. And like Ed Wynn in Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Ha ha ha ha! Loud and long and clear!

Ned Leonard
Ned Leonard
9 years ago

A friend of mine in a 12 Step program recently shared with us her experience visiting another group in another city. Our home group tends to be self-deprecating and we laugh when people recognize in themselves some example of stinkin’ thinkin’, or instance of blindness or denial as they recount to us a now-self-recognized facet of their addiction. When my friend heard a speaker in another city say something in a seemingly wry tone that would have caused our group to chortle (at least) or (perhaps) caused gales of laughter as we recognized ourselves in the story, she snorted and chuckled. The rest of the room was stonily silent; the speaker shot her dagger eyes. My point: If you find yourself among people incapable of laughter, the group is toxic. Run away! The folks at are right; laughter can and does heal…and laugter is a sure sign of healing.


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