Condescension looks down at others while laughing at them; compassion lifts others up while laughing with them

Suppose someone walking on a road slips and falls into a manhole. If onlookers laugh without helping, that would be terrible. 

To laugh at others is condescending; it involves looking down our noses at them, thinking how stupid they are and joking hurtfully about it. 

Better to laugh with others: to share something cheerful with them in a world that is often too cheerless. However, merely sharing a laugh may not help much. Suppose one person is drunk and another person also gets drunk so that they both can laugh together. Their drunken actions together may well make things worse.

Best to lift others up while laughing with them. This holds true not just practically, but also spiritually. Gita wisdom explains that we all are souls who can find lasting love and joy at the spiritual level of reality. Unfortunately, our consciousness is presently caught at the material level of reality, where our attachment to temporary things makes us suffer. Not wanting anyone to suffer, compassionate spiritualists endeavor to lift others from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness. 

While lifting others, such spiritualists respect others’ humanity and spirituality. Seeing everyone as sentient beings, they understand that everyone shares the same essential joys and sorrows (Bhagavad-gita 06.32). No one likes to be laughed at; everyone enjoys a good laugh. Therefore, compassionate spiritualists connect warmly with others and make the process of rising to higher consciousness as pleasant as possible. 

When we start practicing spirituality, we may derive some pleasure in mocking others’ short-sighted materialistic ways of living. If we laugh at others, our actions reflect our condescension, not our compassion. 

By connecting with others at a human level, we can laugh with others. By helping them rise to spiritual consciousness, we can make such laughter enduring. 

Think it over:

  • When can laughing with others be unhelpful?
  • How may our spirituality make us condescending toward others?
  • How do compassionate spiritualists laugh with others?


06.32 He is a perfect yogī who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna!

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