Exchanging Crudeness for Honor
By LESLIE LUDY
I recently heard about a kid-friendly app that helps children and parents keep track of their household chores. The concept was great, the usability simple, and the graphics engaging. At first I thought that it might provide a sleek replacement for the hand-written chore chart hanging on the wall in our kitchen; something that could add a little more fun and “pizazz” to my kids’ weekly chore routine. But just as I was getting ready to download the app, something about the lingo of the kid-friendly “chore characters” on the app caught my eye . . . potty humor. (Okay, don’t laugh. I know this is a rather awkward topic. But motherhood necessitates awkward topics every now and then! So I hope you will read on!)
Instead of just congratulating the kids for a job well done or reminding them about an un-done chore, the zany characters on the app peppered their comments with jokes that usually had something to do with bodily noises or bathroom habits. Sure, the jokes were written in a kid-oriented way, without graphic descriptions or profane language. But it was obvious that the writers of the app believed that one of the best ways to make their product enjoyable for kids and parents alike was by defaulting to the crude, caveman humor so popular today.
Crude humor has become a norm in our culture, especially among kids. But it’s not merely apps, cartoons, and video games that are to blame for this trend. Often, children first learn the concept of “bathroom humor” not through cultural influences, but from their parents and other family members. Even in many Christian homes, purposefully making loud bodily noises for the purpose of being funny is not just accepted, but applauded and guffawed at. Countless Christ-professing families find great hilarity in telling bathroom jokes and watching movies that use crudeness as comedy.
I’ve often noticed that it’s easy for Christian parents to take crudeness lightly, since it doesn’t seem as harmful as perversion, violence, or profanity. But when our kids grow up finding pleasure in baseness, what is the end result? It leads to what we see all around us today: a generation completely lacking honor.
Honor means living with heavenly nobility; it means speaking and acting in a way that reflects the pure behavior of our God rather than the coarseness of this world. (See 1 Timothy 4:4-7.) Does that mean a somber, serious life devoid of laughter and humor? Quite the contrary! God is the One who invented humor in the first place, and He loves to see His children laugh. But He longs to see His children laughing at the right things, not the wrong ones.
The Bible is very clear about what kinds of things our thoughts and conversations should revolve around. Not baseness, crudeness, or lewdness but rather, things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy” (Phi. 4:8). (From my perspective, it seems pretty obvious that bathroom humor isn’t on that list!)
Our children cannot develop the “mind of Christ” when their minds are filled with the carnal pleasures of this world. Working closely with teens for so many years has taught me that the seeds of honor must be sown at an early age; otherwise kids are being set up for failure in so many key areas of life, such as sexual purity, decision making, and friendships. Allowing our kids to enjoy crudeness while they are young often leads to major voids in their spiritual lives down the road. Why? Because we are teaching them to delight in the things of this world rather than the things of Heaven. We are teaching them to love what the world loves, rather than love what God loves. 1 Corinthians 13:6 reminds us, “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth.” And Psalm 12:8 warns, “The wicked prowl on every side when vileness is exalted among the sons of men.”
In order to build a Christ-centered home, we must cultivate a holy sense of humor in our families, rather than a worldly one. It is good for us to laugh with our kids and to have a sense of humor as we go about our daily lives. Having a sense of humor helps us appreciate all the ways that God has blessed us and it keeps us from getting bogged down by our daily cares and concerns. But in today’s crass and crude world, is it even possible to cultivate a holy sense of humor in our homes? From children’s clothing to apps to toys to popular music and movies, crudeness is literally everywhere. How can we teach our kids to turn away from the crassness that surrounds them and instead delight in things that are good, pure, lovely and right?
I won’t pretend this is an easy task, but as I said in Set Apart Motherhood, we must remember that what God calls us to, He equips us for. I’d like to share some practical ways that Eric and I have sought to cultivate a godly sense of humor in our home.
In Ephesians 5:4, Paul warns against allowing crude and course joking into our lives: “…there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” And Jesus tell us that on judgment day, we will give account for every idle word that comes out of our mouths. (See Matthew 12:36.) Many Christians are tempted to “let down their guard” when they are at home with their families, allowing crudeness or coarseness to slip into their conversations and jokes just to get a few good laughs from their kids or other family members. After all, they aren’t at work or church and they don’t need to impress anyone. Home is the one pace where we can all “just be real” — right? This mindset is deadly to the cultivation of godly honor in our homes. As any parent knows, children watch and listen to everything we do and say. They learn right and wrong behavior primarily from their parents. If we do not set an example of honorable speech in our homes, we’ll soon find that our children will begin to mimic our crude words and attitudes, laughing at things “not proper to mention” as it says in 1 Timothy 5:13. Home is not a place to be careless with our words. Rather, it is the place to be the most guarded and purposeful with what we say and how we say it.
That said, our homes can and should be filled with lots and lots of laughter. Here are some of the things that we regularly laugh at in the Ludy home:
- Animals and the funny things they do, especially the family dog. (Seriously, how can you NOT chuckle often if you have a dog? And I don’t even like dogs!)
- Daddy’s silly songs and funny dance routines around the kitchen. (These are reserved for the Ludy kids only, so don’t get any ideas about seeing them yourself someday!)
- The hilarious statements that our soon-to-be adopted toddlers make. (Their faithful caregivers regularly email us with updates on what they are saying and doing, and each update always brings many chuckles and giggles!)
- Frogs. In all shapes and sizes, they are just plain funny.
- An action packed game of Uno Attack (a game where you push a button and cards come shooting out at you), or a lively game of Old Maid. The excitement of getting the “Old Maid” or being the recipient of cards shooting out of the machine always produces bursts of laughter in our home!
- Watching old black-and-white re-runs of Dennis the Menace and laughing at the larger-than-life sagas that Mr. Wilson gets himself into with the help of a precocious little rascal named Dennis.
- Mommy and Daddy regularly laugh at the funny things the Ludy kids say and do on a daily basis (usually we do this privately so we don’t embarrass anyone!), like five-year-old Kipling saying things like, “In Australia they have kangaroos and wannabies. The wannabies are like little kanagroos. Probably they want to be big ones so they are called wannabies.” (Who needs Hollywood comedies when you have kids?)
If crude humor has been a pattern in your home, ask God to re-train you to laugh honorably instead. Instead of telling bathroom jokes, find things to laugh at that are appropriate, pure, and God-honoring. Ask God to open your eyes to the built-in “laughter therapy” that He’s put into your life, often right in your own family! Ask Him to re-train your sense of humor so that you no longer “rejoice in unrighteousness” but that you “rejoice at the truth,” and to pass this newfound “holy sense of humor” on to your children.
Cultivate Honorable Habits
In Set Apart Motherhood, I describe some specific honorable habits that Eric and I have chosen to cultivate in our home:
“Eric and I have made it a high priority to set the example for our children by building honor into our marriage and home life. How do we do that? We try to speak only words that edify each other. We don’t put each other down or joke about each other’s faults. We seek to be quick to ask forgiveness for wrongs. We treat each other with respect by listening when the other person is talking, showing interest in what each other is saying, and looking for ways to encourage each other. We don’t “let it all hang out” and allow crudeness into our behavior patterns, even when it’s just the two of us alone together. We protect each other’s privacy. We take time to look nice for each other. These are all simple habits that, by the grace of God, we’ve been able to cultivate and model to our children.
“Because of the example in our home, our children are jarred whenever they encounter people who are obnoxious, rude, and crude. It’s a startling contrast to what they are used to. It feels very wrong to them. And that’s how we want it to be.
“Of course, we are not perfect in all of these areas all of the time, but we take seriously our responsibility to be role models of honor to our children. As we yield ourselves to the Spirit of God, He enables us to live out His pattern for honor—something we could never accomplish in our own strength.”
Ask God to show you some “honor habits” like these that you can begin to cultivate in your own home on a daily basis. Sit down and talk them through with your husband, and appeal to him to make honor-cultivation a team effort. If he’s not on board, then ask God to show you some practical things you can do personally to help cultivate at atmosphere of honor in your home. Remember, even if your husband doesn’t have a vision for godly honor, the example of an honorable, Christ-centered wife can become a powerful tool that God uses to change his heart. (See 1 Peter 3:1.)
A bonus tidbit . . .
Keep in mind that there is no reason that you should feel obligated to laugh at crude or inappropriate jokes — whether they are coming from your spouse, family members, friends, or the culture. When crudeness isn’t given a stage, often it will melt away on its own. Yes, you can still respect your husband without having to laugh at his crude jokes or encourage his inappropriate behavior. The key is in your attitude. When he behaves improperly and you refuse to laugh, are you being graciously silent or “sulkingly” silent? Are you trusting the Spirit of God to convict his heart, or do you feel it is your job to “lecture” him? Remember, you can usually make a much more effective statement to your husband, friend, or family member by remaining graciously silent when they say or do something crude, rather than going off on a diatribe about how disgusting their behavior is. The best thing you can do in the face of crude behavior is to pray diligently for that person and to be consistently Christ-like toward him or her.
With God’s help, our homes can become reflections of His holy laughter — His pure-hearted sense of humor. When we walk in the joy of the Lord, we will no longer be drawn to counterfeit forms of laughter. The holy delight of our God should be more than enough to keep a smile on our face, without turning to the base and crude distractions of our culture. By His grace, may we raise up a new generation for His glory — a generation marked by godly honor; a generation that does not delight in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. Such a generation could change this world for eternity. What an exciting opportunity — let’s not miss it!