That’s so Funny it Hurts!?

Article by: Bridgehaven Team


Thomas Carlyle despised it: “Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”.[12] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was “usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”

Oftentimes how two people interact and converse with each other can impede conflict resolution strategies.  Sarcasm and mockery for example can quickly become a point of contention and hurt feelings all in the name of “I was just kidding.”  Both are poking fun at each other until one says something that strikes a cord and the other doesn’t think it’s so funny and the atmosphere quickly changes from seemingly innocent humor to disrespect.  Proverbs 27:18-19 says “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says “I was only joking!”

Under the guise of humor we justify verbal violence.  And then we blame the person who catches on to us of being too sensitive or taking things too seriously.  Instead of admitting our wrong we deflect, play the victim, and now have the ammunition to justify our next overtly harmful words making us doubly wrong.

If our personality and communication lends itself to sarcasm or sass, as Christians we have a responsibility to sanctify our hearts and our language so that it edifies and encourages. Sarcasm, biting remarks, pointing out the faults of others in a passive aggressive manner is unbecoming of Christian character and can lead to other more devious and overt forms of manipulation.  Our speech is to be gracious and seasoned with the salt of God’s word that preserves our relationships (Colossians 4:6).  Ephesians 5:4 says “let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

What are some of the reasons we resort to sarcasm? Sarcasm may be a tactic employed to avoid real conversation about hard things.  Some people joke about everything and taking nothing seriously because it makes them feel way too uncomfortable to have those conversations.  It produces too much tension and anxiety.  Joking becomes a way to mitigate those feelings.

Perhaps we’ve been hurt or offended and because we don’t have the courage to lovingly confront we resort to backhanded comments to get our point across.  Sometimes it’s also a way of taking a cheap shot at someone without getting caught. We want to be mean without being thought of as mean. We want to know how we can hurt someone without coming off as intentionally malicious. Sarcasm is violence through humor.

It can also serve as a form of dishonesty.  We like to hide our shame and true motives.  Genuineness means being vulnerable.  Some people don’t know how to say nice things or give a sincere complement because they think it is a sign of weakness. It is an insecurity that doesn’t allow me to speak well of someone without it also tearing me down and giving the other person power over me. Sarcasm is self-protection for those who fear being honest and fear being vulnerable.

As you may have noticed sarcasm can be a response to suffering heart as well as a sinful one.  If you struggle with this here are a few things that may help:

  1. Ask God to help you to be honest and gracious in your speech; to say what you mean and to mean what you say.  Where are you covering up, hiding, and/or lying about your true feelings and motives because you fear others response?
  2. Identify and write down the reasons you lean toward sarcasm.  Is it because of insecurity, fear of man, anger, fear of being known, self-protection etc.
  3. Have your spouse or a friend hold you accountable when you make sarcastic remarks and to probe what is really on your heart.