The Joking Propensity
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The perpetual joker is never a good companion, nor is he habitually polite. He must have his joke and that cannot be had, in countless cases, without offering an affront and leaving a sense of sorrow behind. It is positively dangerous to have a Joker among a party of friends. He is sure to give you cause for wishing that you had never seen him before he has left your house. How impulsive and rude he is ! He rides rough shod " over the most sensitive feelings of the heart and thinks it perfectly appropriate if he succeeds in raising the customary laugh. He cares not how the sensitive heart may wince under his boisterous treatment. If he can experience a momentary sparkle of mirth and laughter over his discomfitted victim he disdains the hours of anguish that follow. To be an habitual joker is to be essentially a rude, uncivil man.
The joking propensity seems to thrive upon American soil. The son of Columbia jokes in season and out of season, and is forever trying the sword edge of his wit upon things social, political and religious. The father jokes him in childhood, the teacher jokes him in youth. He learns the lesson of his preceptors and goes into life to joke at friend or foe, regardless of the consequences to himself or the victims of his heartless mirth. He loses prestige with sensible people, and is doomed at last to take a third-rate position in society when his talents might have raised him to a high place, if he had been content to be a gentleman among gentlemen, and to sacrifice his fatal passion for a joke to a sober sense and judgment. There are things in life that will not stand a joke. To indulge in raillery in some junctures of experience is to trifle with sacred things. Yes, it is to sacrifice the higher and nobler qualities of manhood to a foolish propensity to indulge in heartless humor. It is about time for the average American to learn that true gentleness is better than the contempt of eternal jesting, that a laugh may be as much out of place as a hair comb in the toilet box of a frog. It is indeed not safe to jest at the " funeral of your grandmother."
Real mirth and downright jollity have their place in life. It is right to be cheerful and gay and good hearted ; but it is not right to be frivolous, rude and-reckless in our associations with others. It is right to laugh long and loud and heartily at the proper time; but it is not right to be on a perpetual grin. The man who is always ready with his joke and seems unable to treat life seriously is an object of contempt. He will not long enjoy the endurance, to say nothing of the respect of those he meets. They will soon cast him off for some one else who can treat the world with some degree of candor, kindness and sincerity. The joking propensity is a dangerous and easily besetting sin, that should be laid aside early in the race of life, before it becomes a hinderance and a snare.
One of the natural outgrowths of this spirit of jesting is the habit of teasing, so common among us. There is, of course, a teasing that is legitimate and only the bubbling up of innocent raillery and fun ; but there is also a teasing that makes the eyes snap and fills the heart with hate. Such a spirit of heartless jesting at the expense of others is the very essence of diabolism. It is like a thorn lacerating the soul. When once it has stolen into a family, brothers and sisters become hopelessly estranged; and often the first steps in a wicked life are taken under the sting of perpetual teasing. Brothers tease the sisters and the sisters the brothers, until both are driven to the verge of madness. The color of the coat or dress, the sharpness or angularity of the features, the eyes, hair, manner, everything passes under the guns of teasing brothers and sisters. Shot after shot is aimed at the vulnerable point until the unfortunate victim can no longer endure the perpetual bombardment and is obliged to surrender in anger, tears and heart-ache. This is devilish, and ought not to be allowed in any household. It does more than all else to destroy the sanctity of home-life and home influence. The loves of brother and sister are too sacred to be thus trifled with. Better dismember the body with knives and lancets, than sever the affections and estrange the heart. Better do anything soever than to vex and harass and tease with everlasting guffaws and jest.