No, thanks

Forgotten Truths

donate Books CDs HOME updates search contact

We Should Show Restraint in Our Laughter & Smiles

Today when foolish laughter has become so common as to be considered normal, especially on so many social media platforms, it is good to remember that it was not always so.

The first instructor on Catholic pedagogy, St. Clement of Alexandria (150-216) wisely counsels that excessive and ludicrous words and laughter should always be avoided. Laughter as well as smiles should be moderate and governed by reason so as not to degrade man or degenerate into obscenity. He goes so far as to say that buffoons should be driven from our company.

His Pædagogus or Instructor is a guide for the formation and development of Catholic character and for living a Catholic life. Our non-serious 21st century would do well to hear the wise words of St. Clement.

St. Clement of Alexandria:

People who are imitators of foolish sensations, or rather those who deserve derision, are to be driven from our polity. For since all forms of speech flow from the mind and manners, foolish or buffoonish words could not be uttered unless they proceeded from foolish or buffoonish practices. ... For speech is the fruit of the mind. ...

Pleasantry is allowable, not foolishness. For even laughter must be kept in check. When given vent to in the right manner it indicates orderliness, but when it issues differently it shows a want of restraint.

For, in a word, whatever things are natural to men we must not eradicate, but rather impose on them limits and suitable times. For man is not to laugh on all occasions because he is an animal capable of laughing, any more than the horse neighs on all occasions because he is a neighing animal. But as rational beings, we are to regulate ourselves suitably, harmoniously relaxing the austerity and over-tension of our serious pursuits, not inharmoniously breaking them up altogether.

For the seemly relaxation of the countenance in a harmonious manner – as of a musical instrument – is called a smile. So also is laughter on the face of well-regulated men termed. But the discordant relaxation of countenance in the case of women is called a cackle or titter, and is gaudy and showy laughter; in the case of men, it is a guffaw, and is savage and insulting laughter.

A fool raises his voice in laughter, says the Scripture; but a clever man smiles almost imperceptibly. (Eccus 21:20) The clever man in this case he calls wise, inasmuch as he reacts differently from the fool. But, on the other hand, one needs not be gloomy, only grave. For I certainly prefer a man who has a stern countenance to smile than the reverse; for so his laughter will be less apt to become the object of ridicule.

Even smiling must be made the subject of discipline. If it is to smile at what is disgraceful, we ought to blush rather than smile, lest we seem to take pleasure in it by sympathy. If one smiles at what is painful, it is fitting to look sad rather than to seem pleased. For to do the former is a sign of rational human thought; the other infers suspicion of cruelty.

We are not to laugh perpetually, for that is going beyond bounds, nor in the presence of elderly persons or others worthy of respect unless they indulge in pleasantry for our amusement. Nor are we to laugh before all and sundry, nor in every place, nor to everyone, nor about everything. For children and women especially, laughter is the cause of slipping into scandal.

Even to appear stern serves to keep those about us at their distance. For gravity can ward off the approaches of licentiousness by a mere look.

For senseless people, wine "commands them both to laugh overmuch and to dance," changing effeminate manners to softness. We must consider, too how consequently freedom of speech leads to impropriety or to filthy speaking.


Blason de Charlemagne
Follow us

Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, book II, chap. 5, On Laughter
Posted on March 12, 2022

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes

Militant Christ emblem

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes

Related Topics of Interest

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes  The Face Reveals the Heart of the Man

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes   The Eyes Are the Mirror of the Soul

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes  Four Ways to Discern a Man's Soul by His Appearance

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes   The Smile – The Laugh – The Grimace

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes   Order & the Spirit of Order

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes   Czech Monsignor Preparing for Christmas

burbtn.gif - 43 Bytes

Related Works of Interest

A_mw.gif - 33004 Bytes

A_Offend1.gif - 23346 Bytes

A_ad1.gif - 32802 Bytes

C_Stop_B.gif - 6194 Bytes

C_RCR_R.gif - 5423 Bytes

C_RCRTen_B.gif - 6810 Bytes

A_ad2.gif - 31352 Bytes

A_ff.gif - 33047 Bytes

A_ecclesia.gif - 33192 Bytes

Forgotten Truths  |  Religious  |  Home  |  Books  |  CDs  |  Search  |  Contact Us  |  Donate

Tradition in Action
© 2002-   Tradition in Action, Inc.    All Rights Reserved