Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poking the Pompous

There goes, but for the grace of God, God.
- Winston Churchill

Poking fun at the pompous and self-important has a long and auspicious history.  There’s just something that is so deliciously tempting about a preening, self-congratulatory blowhard that is almost impossible to resist.

Be honest: when you are in the presence of a guy who is behaving as if he were Atlas holding the weight of his family, business, spiritual community or nation on his shoulders, don’t you feel an overwhelming urge to point out his spindly legs? When you are speaking with a woman who’s every word and constant behavior screams, “I am better than you all,” with solemn demeanor and funeral-like voice, of course, how hard is it to not point out that she needs a few more stitches to hold up her wings?  

Why is it that we are attracted to people who easily laugh at themselves and who take no offense when people poke fun at their eccentricities and foibles, usually joining in with the laughter? Among other reasons, I think it is because we intuit that this man doesn’t see himself as God’s answer to every question or believes that she is superior to the hoi polloi. They know they are human, just like the rest of us and so never pretend to be other than human.

The reality is that the reason the pompous wrap themselves in robes of solemnity is to nip in the bud any notion of humor at their expense, because their fragile egos can’t handle hearing, “Look, the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” As they see it, they are above criticism, their arguments are unassailable, and their self-righteous passions are proof-positive of their altruistic motives. Really? All most of us see is an ego with a bulls-eye just screaming to be pierced with the arrow of some well-timed humor.

The ability to laugh at our selves is evidence of humility and mental health. The inability to do so is a sure sign of arrogance and a fragile ego: the remedy for this is to have a good laugh at yourself, at least once a day, or to have others sling arrows of ego-deflating humor at you. Your choice!

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2016  

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