“Only hire funny people…You have to have the ability to laugh, or you’ll never last.” I was interviewing a young director of a nonprofit when she told me this was the advice a seasoned leader gave her for persevering in her work. Normally such two-cent wisdom tends to show up in cliché Hallmark cards or tipsy wedding toasts: “Remember to laugh.” Oh dear.

But the severity of her work -- she helps women escape sex-trafficking -- and the many set-backs it entails speak to a deeper connection between perseverance and humor. Her ability to persevere shows that another mark of resilient people -- a virtue difficult to spot on the surface -- is humor, at least the self-deprecating kind.

It seems the Medieval monks knew this intuitively. Thanks to the savvy folks at Brain Pickings, we have an historical record of some light-hearted gripes the monastic scribes left in the margins of their manuscripts. If monks are a benchmark for holiness, then I suppose it's saintly to complain, because I can’t imagine a more tedious, painstaking job than that of the Medieval scribe: 


To the chagrin of the old five-point Calvinists, the “perseverance of the saints” takes on a new meaning -- a lame joke they wouldn’t find funny.