My personality has always been peppered with wit and sarcasm. I think it’s something in my genetic code. Growing up it was normal within my family, and as a kid I can’t recall it ever becoming an issue with any of my friends. Humor, wit, and sarcasm is definitely a coping strategy of mine. It helps me navigate awkward situations or diffuse tension. Nothing like a well timed punch line to change scowling faces into tear streamed laughter. It wouldn’t be a surprise that I would marry a man who embraced humor and sarcasm in the same way.
The first time I became cognizant of my words being harmful, was when my first was school aged. My husband and I would joke and chide each other with sarcastic statements often. If I wanted sushi, but my husband wanted to out to the same old burger place… I might comment: My next husband will be an adventurous eater. He might rebut with a jab of his won, such as: Well my next wife will be a grillmaster and I can eat the best burgers at home.
Neither one of us were seriously considering the attributes of our future spouses. It was just a thing we said, and we meant nothing by it. Then one evening we were bickering over something, and I’m not sure which one of us ribbed first… but what matters is that our daughter heard us, and she was old enough at that point to know what divorce was. The next day I over heard her confiding in a friend that her parents were fighting and might get a divorce.
I had always been taught as a child that words can hurt, hurt deeply. I knew better than to be careless with my words, whether they were hurtfully on honest or intentionally hurtful. However, growing up in a family that took sarcasm at the value of a grain of salt, I saw a difference between hurtful words and funny words. What I didn’t take into consideration is that the rest of the world may not be able to see that distinction. That includes my own children, who had been raised in a loving home and due to their age were not involved in the banter between my husband and myself.
My husband and I first had to clear things up with our daughter, reassuring her that we were just joking with each other. We affirmed we were committed to each other in our marriage, but we also apologized for not being careful with our words to each other and in front of her. After that, we made a commitment to her and each other… that type of humor and sarcasm wasn’t appropriate anymore.
While this was really obvious to us, in regards to our children, it was less obvious to us in regards to some of our friendships. There were people we THOUGHT we could joke with in such a way, when in fact we couldn’t. Being straight shooters, we could handle it when a person would say “that’s not really funny to me, knock it off”. No problem. The difficulty came in those who were unwilling to speak up, we were hurting them with our jokes and we didn’t even know it. Ultimately this damaged friendships that we treasured.
It was confusing for us, because if someone would have just spoken up… we would have stopped. At first it was easy to point the finger at others for not speaking up, when in reality we needed to realize that we were responsible for opening our mouths in the first place. It was a hard lesson to swallow and came at great price.
Humor and even certain types of sarcasm have an appropriate place and time, but they are not tools to be unleashed without care and regard for others. Our words can over power our character. You can be a good person, a loving person, but your tongue can get away from you.
Proverbs 21:23 tells us to guard our mouth, to watch our words, and we will avoid trouble.
Psalm 141:3 is cry out to God to guard our mouths for us, to keep our lips shut.
Psalm 19:14 is our plea that the words of our mouths and meditations of soul be pleasing in God’s sight.
I can’t help but wonder, in every circumstance where humor or sarcasm slipped through my lips… were these words pleasing to God?
1 Thess 5:11 calls us as a body of believers to uplift one another, to encourage and build each other up.
Were my words uplifting? Was I building up my brothers in and sisters in Christ? Or, was I unkind and careless with my words?
Sometimes humor and sarcasm are meant only as a joke, but when it is a joke at another person’s expense… it’s not honoring God, it’s not respecting the friendship, and it’s really not funny. Other times, humor or sarcasm can reveal what we would never boldly say to another person. We slip it out there with an addendum of “just kidding”, as if that makes it better. That too, is not honor God, respecting the friendship, nor is it funny.
I would encourage those who use sarcasm to be aware of the scarring effects it can have on those around us, who may never speak that truth to us. I would also encourage those who find themselves the target of sarcasm from family or friends to be willing to speak up for themselves. Words can hurt, words will divide…. words can also heal.
Lord, forgive me for the occasions where I have been careless with my words. Speak to the hearts of those I may have hurt, that they know my apologies were sincere, and they can mend any broken veins that has left in their heart. Help me to guard my mouth, so that what flows from it are words that are uplifting, encouraging, and empowering. In Jesus name, Amen.