By Chris Stefanick
Chris Stefanick is a speaker, author, and television host. His life’s mission, and that of his nonprofit organization, Real Life Catholic, is to help people find and live the lives they were made for in Jesus Christ and his Church. He is the author of Living Joy: 9 Rules to Help You Rediscover and Live Joy Every Day.
Let’s start by saying an uncomfortable truth: You used to be more fun than you are. Very few people keep the childlike gleam in their eyes. They let life make them very, very serious. They let their adult responsibilities rob them of their childlikeness.
I know a few men who have resisted this soul-killing trend. My brother-in-law is one. He served in the US Special Forces. (I could tell you more, but if I did, I’d have to kill you.) Much of his professional life between missions was spent in very, very remote places with nothing to do. Or at least, what most adults would consider “nothing to do.” Andy invented board games, became a pipe maker, got into photography, and can play about five different instruments and counting. Andy can’t even relate when people tell him they are bored.
My friend Fr. Peter Mussett is another. It’s always a party inside his head, and even though I can’t get in there, it’s fun to at least be near it. Everyone loves being around Fr. Peter. He laughs. He jokes. He’s taken up jeeping, metalsmithing, and kite flying and is always down for a deep conversation about life and how to live it to the fullest, not because he feels like he “should” as a priest but because it’s fun for him. He marvels at kites and theology in the same way—with the same perpetually “stoked” spirit.
And then there’s my son Joseph. The coronavirus quarantine gave me moments of craziness where I felt like a caged animal. Joseph just saw it as free time to do a million fun things. We all envied Joey’s mindset during COVID-19 lockdown!
Are you bored? Well then, when did you get so boring? Who told you that your hobbies weren’t worth your time? (They don’t make you money, so I guess they’re not “adult” enough?) Who told you to stop being goofy? When did you train your mind to “stop wasting time”?
Do you know what happens when you give up every legitimate source of fun in your life? You drink too much. You have to have fun, after all. You just forgot how to in healthier ways. It’s not that I have a problem with a sensible pour of bourbon. I don’t. It’s just that I have a problem with it if it’s your go-to to be fun again.
And why are goofiness, hobbies, wasting time, and having fun so important? Because it keeps you rooted in a very serious reality, and it’s this: the weighty aspects of life are important, but they’re not all important.
If you’re dying, it’s actually a spiritually powerful thing to joke about it. Forgive me if that sounds callous, because death and dying are horrible, painful, and sad, but they don’t get the final word. We win. You can remind death (and yourself) of that fact by laughing in its face as my father did after his heart attack, and as my friend Ryan’s wife did before she died when she got him a plaque that says, “Till death do us part is for sissies.”
If your work is overwhelming and the bills are piling up, it’s a spiritually powerful thing to refuse to stress out and to play with your kids for an hour here and there. It tells them, “God is in charge of our life. Not the bills.” If you’re struggling in your marriage, one of the mightiest things you can do is have fun together. If you’ve been married long enough, you’ve realized it’s not all a bed of roses. That’s why marriage requires a vow from which you can’t back out when (not if) you want to. And in my marriage, we’ve faced some painful issues. I wouldn’t trade those crosses for anything. They’ve made my beloved and me who we are together. But one of the things that’s gotten us through our hard times is a commitment to fun.
We do something we call “bracketing” our problems. Bracket it. Put it aside. Deal with it later. Your problem-solving brain doesn’t want to let you do that. Your brain’s job is to figure everything out. Your brain tends to charge into everything. It’s your job to put your brain, and your problems, in their place. Sometimes what you need is to stop, be still, forget your problems, grab some sushi, and have a laugh. Your problems will be there when you’re ready to get back to them.
Taking a break from your problems proclaims to your spouse, “You’re more important than our issues.” Taking a break from your work stress to be silly with your kids tells them, “You’re more important than my job and our income.” “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:23), after all.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t deal with your issues, but don’t take yourself so seriously all the time. You’ll find tremendous power to take on your issues in that mindset.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to diffuse a tense car ride with my family of all alpha dogs is to put silly children’s songs on the radio! Works every time. It’s hard to fight while listening to David Casey and Raffi because it’s hard to take yourself too seriously while singing, “someone stole my socks”—and half of your fights come from taking yourself too seriously.
G.K. Chesterton said that “angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Do you want to soar? Have fun. Be fun.
It doesn’t matter what stupid joke you tell, what “useless” book you read, or what hobby you pick up that you find fun for you. Just pick something and do it, crush it, and get stoked about little, seemingly “unimportant” stuff again.
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Living Joy: 9 Rules to Help You Rediscover and Live Joy Every Day equips you with the wisdom you need to experience joy to the fullest. With evidence, experience, and common sense, Chris Stefanick presents nine rules that will empower you to overcome the obstacles that are keeping you from unspeakable joy.