The area of sin I have struggled with the most is a sharp tongue. I am an introvert, so my words are generally few when I’m in a group of people. However, if you catch me at the wrong time, I can unleash a verbal furry. I have gotten better over the years, but my sharp tongue rears its ugly head every now and then. I’m usually less disciplined controlling my tongue when I’m physically, emotionally or spiritually tired. It is also hard for me to be quiet when I feel wronged.
Before I turned my life over to Christ, I was infamous for my insulting quips. In college, my friends called me “The Baroness,” the character from G.I. Joe, because my verbal assaults were so lethal. When the Lord called me to preach at 22, I jokingly said Jesus wanted to use my potency for his purpose. My college friends couldn’t believe I was going to become a preacher. However, now I use my power for good and to persuade folks to turn their life over to Christ.
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” Proverbs 14:1 (NRSV).
As I matured in Christ, the Lord showed me how destructive words can be. There are so many scriptures that address communication (Proverbs 11:9; 12:18; 15:4; 18:21; Matthew 12:37; James 3:1–8, Proverbs 20:15; 25:11–14). An area of negative communication Jesus illuminated for me was sarcasm.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sarcasm as:
“The use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.”
I believe Jesus brought sarcasm to my attention because while growing up, my family’s conversations were saturated with sarcasm. So much so, years ago an eight year old boy I mentored said after spending a few hours with us, “You talk to each other like that?” It was an eye-opening moment for me. When I married, I shared with my husband that I never wanted us to be sarcastic with one another. I told him I wanted our children to talk to each other like they loved each other. He agreed about the damage sarcasm can do to a relationship.
This issue of sarcasm in my family reared its ugly head again this past weekend when I had a blow up with my youngest brother. I spent the day with him and my mother, and for the entire day, he made sarcastic comments. By ten o’clock that evening, I had enough. I had to remove myself from the situation because I couldn’t take it anymore. I was hurt by his comments directed towards me because I have always expressed my love for my brother. Some would say to the point of spoiling him. From the moment he was born, I treated him like my son (I’m 15 years older than him). So, when he kept making sarcastic comments to everything I said, it felt like a jab or slap in the face. When I expressed my disdain, he explained that he was joking. I told him I didn’t find any of his remarks funny. Instead, his comments felt like emotional body blows. By the end of the day, I could no longer stand. The incident was further reinforcement to me that we all need to be more intentional and careful in our conversation.
│We need to be more intentional and careful in our conversation.
I’ve come to realize that the ability to effectively communicate is not something we are born with. It takes years of patience and practice. It is also learned through exposure and experience because everyone communicates differently. My husband and I bumped heads many times in our marriage because of our inability to effectively communicate. After three years, I learned that timing and tone play a major role in effective communication. I think I will spend my lifetime learning how to communicate with timeliness, grace and wisdom. However, what I’ve come to learn is sarcasm has no place in the life of the believer.
Matthew 5:37 (NRSV) says, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” As the definition states, when one uses sarcasm, they are saying the opposite of what they mean. That’s why confusion is oftentimes the end result. The receiving person doesn’t know if the person means what they said or not. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says God is not the author of confusion. We should strive to speak plainly with seasoned words that edify not tear down. In most cases, sarcasm is used to soften the blow of an insult.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” Colossians 4:6 (NRSV).
I know my brother’s sarcasm comes from a place of hurt. He’s built a wall up around himself and is afraid to be vulnerable. He’s going through a season of disappointment about school and his finances, and I know the sarcasm is a defense mechanism.
I am still working on learning how to speak with grace and wisdom. I’m motivated by my children to master my tongue. I want them to know how to effectively communicate. I think the youth of today could avoid many of the issues they face if they learned how to communicate their expectations, wants and needs. It starts with us though. They need someone to model it for them.
What are your thoughts? Has sarcasm damaged a relationship in your life?