There are aspects of my personality that I have tried in the past to ignore, tamp down, or extinguish. They are natural tendencies that, for one reason or another, I determined were unfeminine, unworthy, unlovable, or unnecessary. They were the first things I questioned when Doug and I first started discussing what “New Keely” looks like.
It was hard. It was really hard to constantly question every single motive and thought I had. I drove myself crazy wondering if I needed to squash certain aspects of me that felt as natural to me as breathing.
One of those specific areas is my sense of humor. I inherited my mother’s quick wit, sarcasm, and ability to keep people laughing in most circumstances. That’s not a bad thing at all. Of course, sarcasm can do more harm than good at times, and I’m learning the hard way that an 8-year-old with two sarcastic parents picks it up pretty quickly. Where I went wrong was in assuming that being humorous, encouraging, and trying to make people happy was somehow disingenuous or false. Because life isn’t easy or happy-go-lucky all the time, I told myself that my humor wasn’t an appropriate part of me. I told myself that I needed to hold my tongue more often and to appear somber and straight-faced to be more acceptable.
Well-timed humor is a gift. The ability to make people laugh is a gift. A sharp mind is a gift. All those “spiritual gifts” tests I took in junior high and high school were spot-on: I’m an encourager. And that’s a God-given gift that I need to praise Him for, fully embrace, and use wisely to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
When my mom died, so many people remembered her for her intelligence, her strength, and her humor. For some reason, I didn’t hear those as compliments. I heard them as admonishments. I took them to heart and didn’t want to be remembered for the same things at my own funeral someday. I wanted to be remembered for being soft-spoken and gentle. I wanted to be remembered as always saying the right thing at the right time. I wanted to be remembered for my kindness and humility. Those things became idols for me. While it isn’t wrong to pray for a gentle spirit (in fact, it’s biblical), it’s wrong to think that a gentle spirit makes Jesus love me more, and humor makes Jesus love me less, or even that a sense of humor means I’m not gentle. While kindness and humility are fantastic attributes that I do pray God grows in me with each passing day, so too are encouragement and warmth.
When my friend Bethany compared me to Ellen DeGeneres “in only the good ways,” over the weekend, my first reaction was one of embarrassment and dislike, but I quickly heard her heart and appreciated her compliment. She said I make people happy. I spread joy. Spreading joy isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t mind if that’s what you remember most about me.