A friend recently introduced me as her “sarcastic friend.” She said it was my sarcasm that convinced her we'd hit it off. Isn't that how Jesus said we would be known? You know, by our sarcasm?
Over the course of a few email exchanges we pegged each other's sense of humor. By the first time we met face to face, she felt like a sister. She says sarcasm is her “sixth love language.” For years it's been mine too. From my Texas heart to her Northern one, our two different breeds of sarcasm complemented one another. In silliness, smirks, and jesting, we fluently communicated our love for the gospel, our families, and a plethora of other randomness.
Sarcasm has always come naturally to me. It is often the way I communicate love to those I feel the most comfortable around. The better I know you, the more I enjoy joking around. Innocent quips are my kind of hug.
If my sarcasm always felt like a loving and innocent hug, there'd be no reason to question my heart's motives. But when my humor feels more like a slap in the face, when people don't “get” my sarcasm, and my jokes leave behind a wake of wounded brothers and sisters, I'm forced to dig a little deeper and face the facts.
Sarcasm Isn't Innocent
It's insincere. When a friend says something hurtful to me, I might say, “Man! What a jerk!” The semi-joking tone suggests I'm only kidding. Really, I mean it with all my heart. By making jokes I pretend I'm not hurt. I jab back and hope my sharp humor sends the message loud and clear: “I'm hurt. Back off.” When in pain, I slip on sarcasm as a mask.
It's lazy. It's certainly easier and less socially awkward to hide behind humor when I feel threatened or embarrassed. But dealing in sarcasm is at best a temporary fix and at worst a catalyst for deeper and more substantial relational strain. Primarily or, worse, exclusively confronting troubles in sarcasm is a passive-aggressive way to address my own sins and the sins of others.
It's dangerous. Regularly wielding sarcasm as a shield or a weapon—whether intentionally or unintentionally—can be problematic and dangerous. When I'm well-versed in witty banter yet lacking in words of edification and love, my sarcastic personality is no longer humorous; it's just hurtful.
Let's call a spade a spade: sarcasm often gives us license to be lightheartedly hateful. Only I can look inside my heart and determine when I'm honoring God with my sense of humor and when I'm grieving his name. When my sarcasm condemns, judges, shames, or isolates God's image-bearers, I sin against God's cherished craftsmanship.
I want desperately to grow in holiness and be known by my love instead of my sarcasm. Humor is a part of who God made me, and it's my job to learn to submit my snark at the foot of the cross and wield my powers for good, not evil.
Over the past few months the Holy Spirit has helped me identify the crouching sins associated with my sarcasm. Asking the following questions has helped in my battle against sinful sarcasm:
1. Is there even an ounce of truth behind my sarcasm?
“Good morning, honey! I see you've decided to leave all the drawers open this morning. What an interesting choice!” A chuckle and seemingly innocent “just kidding” doesn't hide the fact I'm actually quite irritated with my husband for failing to remember open drawers are a major pet peeve. If there's truth behind the barb, ditch the sarcasm. It's nothing but fancy-schmancy passive-aggressiveness, and it leads to bitterness, anger, and unresolved conflict. Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). In some cases, love may require me to flee the temptation to be sarcastic (1 Tim. 6:11) and wait for the Spirit to change the meditations of my heart (Ps. 19:14)
2. Would God be more glorified by my silence than my humor?
We've all heard this adage: “If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.” When in doubt, I should pray the words of Psalm 141:3, that the Lord would set a guard over my mouth and keep watch over the door of my lips. My words are powerful. Submitting my sense of humor to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit honors God and protects those around me.
3. Will words of edification bring more joy to the hearer than words of sarcasm?
My jokes have the potential to get a few chuckles, but my edification can extend God's grace (Heb. 12:15), admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak (1 Thess. 5:14). In light of eternity, choosing to encourage and lift a soul is infinitely more valuable than a few seconds of belly laughs.
Grace for the Sarcastic
By the grace of God, my sinful sarcastic tendencies have been confronted many times over. If yours have, too, don't despair. There's grace for the sarcastic. Christ died while we were yet joking, jabbing, and laughing at others. He came to pardon our prideful, mocking, and rebellious hearts. He made a way for us to be restored to fellowship with the Father when we deserved punishment and hell.
God's unmerited grace through Christ leads me to repentance when my sarcasm goes too far. It compels me to apologize when my words cut deep.
Brothers and sisters, let's not sarcastically banter our way out of relationships with one another. Let's keep humor funny and sin mournful. May we steward our humor by the grace of God and keep our sarcasm from masking unholy heart attitudes.