Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holy Sarcasm?

I have to confess that I struggle constantly with what constitutes appropriate sarcasm. I have always used sarcasm as a way to express humor, but also as a way to voice opinions and judgements in a way that is socially less offensive than the usual criticisms and personal digs that are clearly confrontational and hurtful. Several years ago it dawned on me that most sarcasm is just sugar coated negativity and semantically batter dipped barbs that, while witty and often cute, would never come from the lips of Jesus. Yes, I know that sarcasm has a place. It can emphasize a point, capture attentions, and cause a smile, but often it's a license to kill spirits, ridicule accomplishments, and vent poisonous gas from selfish gray matter. It is one of those things that you have to ask yourself why you are using it. Is it really the best way to show how quick and witty you are? Is it grabbing for attention at the cost of wounding others? Is it building up or tearing down?
Paul's words have haunted me for a lot of years now. Remember his challenge to "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph.4:29) Once you get past the occasional laugh that funny sarcasm my cause, at those rare times it isn't at the expense of hurting or humiliating someone else, it's hard to see when or how it helps, builds, or benefits anyone. Talk about a fascination with words, how does "wholesome" and "sarcasm" go together? It's not impossible, just not likely.
I shared a quote with our small group a while back that a friend shared with me. I really like it, especially as it is so appropriate to the times we live it. It's from Eric Hoffer, who said, "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." I thought of it the other day when a new potential presidential candidate was declaring how he wasn't afraid to be rude to get his message across. Well it makes me think! I wonder if sarcasm could be defined as a selfish person's impersonation of being kind? Does that sound sarcastic?

1 comment:

Glenave Curtis said...

Mike, this is a GREAT lesson! I agree that sarcasm MIGHT be excused if it is directed to a situation--well, SOME situations. I can't think that it is EVER excused if it involves (in any way) a person. At the least, it is insensitive. How can we say that we are concerned for all precious souls when we neglect to esteem any one of them better than ourselves? You said it best. Thank you.