“Ask a Priest: What If My Friends Tell Dirty Jokes?”

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Q: I have some very close friends who occasionally tell dirty jokes that get extreme. It makes me uncomfortable, but I find myself joining in sometimes in the moment without thinking about it. There will even sometimes be jokes cracked against the Church. My questions are: How should I approach the situation? They don’t always break out into dirty jokes, but it does happen. Also, do you think I should go to confession over making too many dirty jokes while I’m with them? I have struggled with scrupulosity in the past, and I really don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking I have to go to confession for every little sin, even if it’s not mortal. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and would love some insight. – J.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note. This doesn’t sound like a case of scrupulosity.

This sounds like a case of your doing something that you know is wrong. I’d be curious to learn what you think the phrase “too many dirty jokes” means. Do you think such jokes are OK up to a certain point?

It might be good to step back and rethink where this group is leading you. Or perhaps, where you could lead them.

That is, you might see whether you be an apostle among your friends. You could, for instance, stop them when they start going down a crude path, explaining that those things are unworthy and make you uncomfortable. Or you could just walk away whenever they do the things you describe.

This could be a witness to dignity and purity that might spark some questions among your friends and lead to good outcomes.

If you can’t lift the tone of conversations, then the alternative might be that your pals will drag you down. In that case, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

If they get you joking about sex and the Church today, who knows what lies ahead.

You mention the “trap” of thinking you have to go to confession for “every little sin.”

True, but your focus seems to be too much on mortal sin, as though you are doing OK if you don’t cross that line.

It is good to remember that we aren’t in this world just to avoid mortal sin. We are here to become saints.

In practice, anyone who gets comfortable with venial sin is a lot closer to mortal sin than he thinks.

But maybe that sounds a little too abstract. Let’s try another question.

What if one of your pals asked you how far he could go in joking about your mom? Would you commend him for not being overly scrupulous? My guess is that your reaction would be very different.

Or what if your pals started to tell dirty jokes about your sister? Would you assure yourself that listening in was just one of those “little sins”?

Again, you might want to rethink this crowd you hang out with. Remember that nugget of ancient wisdom: Show me a man’s friends, and I’ll show you his character.

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  1. Good advice again, Father McIlmail. It’s not known how old the person asking about ‘dirty jokes’ is . . . the way the words are written, speaking of ‘scrupulosity’ in the past, it doesn’t sound like this is a teenager in high school. This sounds like a beginning adult person out in the work a day world. Joking at the office lunch table or Friday Happy Hours. Or maybe not an office worker, but someone working a vocation as auto mechanic, construction, etc. NOT THAT such laborers speak ‘dirty,’ BUT sometimes ‘guys’ like to show other guys their ‘macho’ ‘with it’ stuff using what they call humor. Not in the confines of a ‘business office,’ there are some who think ‘no one is listening’ so ‘let’s have some fun’ . . . at lunch breaks, coffee breaks, or ‘happy hours.’

    Crude jokes is simply the ‘fruit’ of an ANYTHING GOES society: in the books, magazines, TV sitcoms, billboards even, and of course Hollywood movies. It’s difficult to ‘walk away’ from lunch breaks and coffee break ‘chatter’ with those one is depending on to assist when back on a job. Isolating one’s self from the ‘team’ of co-workers will find oneself ‘a target’ FOR THEIR NEXT ROUND OF JOKES. If going with them to a Friday ‘Happy Hour’ … this can be avoided by stating a simple no, I have work to do around the house (easily said when happily married and if single…just decline)

    For socializing ‘with a co worker’ organize a bowling team or baseball or basketball or as you said Father, decline the Happy Hour invite and suggest an alternative way to unwind on Friday. “No thanks, I do my unwinding at a bowling alley … or a round of golf on public course. HEY, maybe next Friday you’d like to come with me.” There’s no room for ‘JOKES’ when the mind is busy ‘improving one’s self.’

    Father is right, ‘slowly’ ease out of such group of ‘friends’ (maybe those one had since high school) by NOT LAUGHING at the ‘jokes.’ Just stare back. Do it a few times and the ‘gang’ will take notice and ask “hey what’s wrong with you?’ Oh nothing… I guess I just don’t ‘get the humor’ of our younger days. . . . or just slowly ‘ease away’ from such friends by declining invites to meet in local watering hole … No, can’t make it … I have something else to do, No, I am too tired. No, I’m busy with a new class I’m taking after the work hours. (that’s to LEAD without accusing others of their ways being wrong) MAKE THEM THINK. Or, just don’t call them to meet. If they call, it may be a real friendship… if they don’t… come to realize ‘they only wanted another around who ‘laughed at their humor.’ TEST THE SPIRITS of others (subtly) BIBLE VERSE:

    1ST John Chapter 1 verse 4:
    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    There are friends, and their are ‘friendly ACQUAINTANCES’ who sometimes are only looking for someone to ‘hang with.’ It’s the beginning of wisdom to know the difference.

  2. There are friends, and their are ‘friendly ACQUAINTANCES’ who sometimes are only looking for someone to ‘hang with.’

    NO ONE has 500 close friends. Friendly acquaintances perhaps . . . but the truth is: If one has ONE OR TWO
    ‘close friends’ … one is blessed. Especially if two of those friends are one’s good parents who raised in ‘the way to go.’ (Mass on Sunday, offering up for those ‘in the world’ with ‘worldly ideas.’ )

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