And yet, because so many things can be viewed as humorous to so many different people, I wonder if we take our humor seriously enough. I mean, we all enjoy a good laugh, right? But there is a form of joking that disguises itself as humor. This is called sarcasm and it can be painful. Sarcasm is like humor on crack. It is quite effective, but it does considerable damage to those using it and its victims.
An example of sarcasm is when a person says, “I can tell you’re lying because your lips are moving. I don’t mind you talking, as long as you don’t mind me not listening, or I used to think that you were a huge pain in the neck. Now I have a much lower opinion of you.” Funny? OK, — maybe. But, ouch!
Speaking on The Science of Sarcasm, www.smithsonianmag.com says, “Sarcasm so saturates 21st-century America that according to one study of a database of telephone conversations, 23 percent of the time that the phrase ‘yeah, right’ was used, it was uttered sarcastically. Entire phrases have almost lost their literal meanings because they are so frequently said with a sneer. ‘Big deal,’ for example. When’s the last time someone said that to you and meant it sincerely? ‘My heart bleeds for you’ almost always equals ‘Tell it to someone who cares,’ and ‘Aren’t you special?’ means you aren’t.”
The online article went on to say, “Sarcastic statements are sort of a true lie. You’re saying something you don’t literally mean, and the communication works as intended only if your listener gets that you’re insincere. Sarcasm has a two-faced quality: it’s both funny and mean. This dual nature has led to contradictory theories on why we use it.”
Although some view it as a polite version of criticism, the consensus is that sarcasm often causes unnecessary confusion, frustration, pain and is usually accompanied by negative attitudes, such as disapproval, contempt, scorn, and ridicule. The book, “Reading People,” by Dr. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella, said, “Cutting and harsh, or mild and funny, sarcasm says a tremendous amount about a person. It speaks of anger, hostility, bitterness, jealousy, frustration and dissatisfaction with life. Someone who resorts to sarcastic remarks, no matter how charmingly they are delivered, is saying, ‘Watch out, I bite.’ With few exceptions, sarcasm is a cruel and insensitive way to get a laugh or make a point at someone else’s expense. Always be alert to someone who favors this method of communication.”
The Bible acknowledges at Proverbs 12:18, “There is one whose foolish words cut like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — New Life Version. The New Living Translation says, “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.”
This is not to say that all sarcasm should rightly be labeled as sinister or with malice. Penny Pexman, a University of Calgary psychologist who has been studying sarcasm for more than 20 years, said when things go sour, a sarcastic comment is a way to simultaneously express our expectation as well as our disappointment. When a downpour spoils a picnic and you quip, ‘We picked a fine day for this,’ you’re saying both that you had hoped it would be sunny and you’re upset about the rain.”
There is one account in the Bible where the prophet Elijah appeared to use a form of sarcasm or mockery to convey his contempt for the false god Baal when Baal worshippers entered a contest with Elijah to see who was the true God at 1Kings 18:22-40. Verse 27 said, “At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. ‘Pray louder!’ he said. ‘Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.’” — Contemporary English Version.
Because of his zeal for true worship, Elijah was favored among God’s prophets and never criticized for mocking these worshippers of the false god Baal. I would imagine a lot of ancient servants of Almighty God Jehovah will remember that great day with awe and possibly, a sense of humor. Generally speaking, if you choose to use sarcasm in business or in personal relationships, you will be running a risk. If you use it at all, consider using it sparingly.
More importantly, keep in mind the words of Philippians 4:8, “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” — Common English Bible.
Perhaps Jesus gave the best reason to watch what we say at Matthew 12:36-37, “I can guarantee that on judgement day people will have to give an account of every careless word they say. By your words you will be declared innocent, or by your words you will be declared guilty.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.