The statement was insulting, even cruel. Then the person who said it smiled and added, “Just kidding.”
Do you know people who do that? We all do—in fact, I have several of them I regularly encounter in business, socially and even in church.
And I don’t think they’re kidding.
For whatever reason, they feel compelled to say something they know they shouldn’t and then try to excuse it by claiming that it’s humor. But they’re the only one laughing.
We all occasionally say things that are unintentionally mean or offensive. Even the most deliberate thinkers among us will have a lapse in our brain-to-tongue filters once in a while and say something that requires an apology or at least an explanation.
But when “just kidding” or even “can’t you take a joke?” is a regular part of your vocabulary, it’s possible that you aren’t really kidding or joking.
If you can’t resist criticizing, offending or hurting someone, take ownership of your words. Don’t hide behind an excuse or pretend you’re not doing what you’re doing.
If you make an honest assessment and realize you spend a lot of time “just kidding” in this way, you may need to think about what’s driving your need to express insults, cruelty or hostility.
Then take that self-examination a little deeper and figure out what’s prompting those thoughts, whether or not you ever say them out loud. Your life will be more joyful if you can understand and eliminate that negativity.
In Finding Joy in the Morning, I talk about humor as a way to bring joy into your life. One of the things you can do daily to create joy is to tell a joke (one that’s appropriate for the audience and isn’t funny at someone else’s expense). Another is to poke fun at yourself:
A humorous, self-depreciating story tells people you don’t take yourself in particular or life in general too seriously. It gives them an opening to share something similar. And it makes everyone laugh, one of the easiest ways to add joy to our day.
If you think it’s necessary to explain that you were just kidding, maybe you should stop talking before you start “kidding.”
She is the author of Words to Work By: 31 devotions for the workplace based on the Book of Proverbs and Finding Joy in the Morning: You can make it through the night. She is also the co-creator of several coloring books for adults.