Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thoughts on Sarcasm

Sarcasm was the topic of discussion recently in an online forum I'm part of, so I started giving the topic some thought...
It's actually something that's bothered me for a while, but it's difficult to make sure I don't misuse sarcasm. I try not to use it too often, but sometimes I definitely make the mistake of using it inappropriately, still. ;-)

If I allow sarcastic speech to become a comfortable habit, I know that I’ll end up hurting peoples' feelings--it's happened in the past when unwise sarcastic comments have slipped out of my mouth. I can think of situations when I just went too far and the sarcasm became hurtful. Sarcasm can even be an easy way for me to insult someone in a way that appears to be merely silliness or good-natured fun. It can be tempting to use it that way, since it’s easier than being obviously unkind and simply saying, “I don’t like this about you,” or, “You really bother me.” ;-) If my heart isn’t right and if I haven’t given any negative thoughts over to God, saying something negative about someone in a sarcastic way is just going to be a manifestation of my wrong heart attitude.

Perhaps it can be beneficial if used in an uplifting, fun way. Merry hearts and laugher are like medicine! Yet I probably have seen more hurtful sarcasm than beneficial sarcasm. I’ve even observed from a distance a couple of marriages in which the couples call each other names and mock each others’ faults through sarcasm. How opposite that is from acting in a way that will show others we’re Christians by our love.

When I'm not sure if sarcasm is something my speech should
not be, Scripture tells me what my speech should be!

Ecc. 10:12 “Words from a wise man's mouth are
gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”

Prov. 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Matthew 12: 34b-37 “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken…"

My words should be gracious. They should bring healing rather than pain. They should consist of good words, coming from the overflow of my heart. I’ve seen some silly sarcasm among friends that wasn’t out of line with those things, but I’ve also seen sarcasm that seemed to be just the opposite of what our words should be.

I know that we’re supposed to love with our actions, not just with words. But since words can show our heart, it does seem important to let our words and hearts reflect the love that we should already be showing in our actions!
As I was thinking about this and looking up some Scriptures, I came across Job 12:11, which says this: “Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?” When David talks about the words of God in Psalm 119:103, he says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Wow, that’s the way I want my words to be! So often I fall short of speaking in a Christ-like way. If someone tested my words just like they taste food, they wouldn’t always see that my words are gracious, healing, and from a loving heart. But I really do want others to “see that the Lord is good” when they taste my words! I need to make more careful choices about when I’m going to use sarcasm and when I’m going to refrain from it. Too often I let words leave my mouth without reigning them in first, saying what I don't want to say, and not saying what I do want to say! God, guard my mouth!

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