Having Fun is a Virtue

Ok, so the title is probably an overstatement. Having fun isn’t necessarily a virtue. But St. Thomas talks about a virtue that consists precisely in playfulness and fun. It’s called eutrapelia, which isn’t the best article title. Summer is a great time to put this virtue in practice, so let’s see what St. Thomas has to say about it.

But before delving in, we should keep in mind that the fact that he affirms that eutrapelia is a true virtue is quite risky, because other saints seemed to have held the exact opposite. Ambrose said that all games, and not just excessive games, should be avoided. St. John Chrysostom called the devil the author of fun! Plus, having fun seems kind of selfish, and Christians should only worry about serving God and neighbor, right?

St. Thomas uses an analogy to explain what he means. No one would deny that our body needs rest. What happens when we try to survive without sleep? Lose one night of sleep, and you’ll be drowsy and irritable. Lose two nights, and you’ll experience extreme fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and speech impairments. Just one more night, and you may even start to hallucinate! The same thing will happen to your soul if you never have fun. Just like our body needs physical rest, our soul needs spiritual rest. And the best way for a soul to rest is by having fun, whether in words (joking and being funny) or in deeds (playing and having fun). This is especially important for those who dedicate themselves to intellectual work, like students.

There are three rules to follow if you want to have fun well, that is, if you want to truly rest spiritually. First, your deeds and words cannot be harmful to anyone. Second, your fun should not be irrational and crazed. Third, make sure to take into account what is appropriate in your concrete circumstances (the people you’re with, the place you’re in, etc.)

As for Ambrose and Chrysostom, St. Thomas explains that St. Ambrose was talking about being funny while explaining sacred doctrine, which would seem not to be the best circumstance to use humor. Chrysostom was talking about fun that is sought as an end in itself, and in that case it truly would come from the devil.

So make sure to have fun this summer. But keep in mind that although having fun can be virtuous, that does not mean the only goal for my summer should be to have fun. The goal of my summer should be in accord with the goal of my life: letting myself be transformed by grace so as to reach eternal life. So make sure to take advantage of your free time this summer to have a more intense prayer life and to do some service, as well as having fun. Don’t forget to check out our HM activities here: https://www.homeofthemother.org/en/activities/camps/9784-usa-summer-encounter or https://hmy.homeofthemother.org/index.php/about-hmy/6878-activities