Friends & Family Friday: Sarcasm and the marriage challenge

“I can be quite sarcastic when I’m in the mood.”

J.D. Salinger wrote in The Catcher in the Rye.  (Chapter 3, Holden “said” to the reader while talking to Ackley, the guy who lived in the room next to him.)

So can I, Holden, so can I.  Therefore, when I read my Marriage Challenge for today, “13.  Do not use sarcasm with your husband today.”  I knew I might be in trouble.   So far I’m doing pretty good, but all I said was, “Have a good day, I love you” when I sat up in bed to kiss him goodbye – and I really meant it, no sarcasm there.  But he should be home around 4 and I’ll definitely need to make sure the filter on my mouth is turned on.

Right now, I’m on Day 13 of a “30 Day Marriage Challenge” that I got from iMom.  Click here for a link to the Challenge.  Click here for a link to my post about starting the challenge.  For the record, I did wake up to kiss my husband the first time I saw him in the morning on day 4.  I’ve asked “What can I help you with today?”  I’ve put a date night on the calendar.  I’ve prayed for wisdom in being a wife.

I’ve even gone a whole day without correcting my husband.  But… on that day, I said to him, “I’m not allowed to correct you today, so don’t say or do anything wrong, OK?”  Probably not the intention the creator of the challenge had in mind.  I may not have corrected him, but I definitely hit him with a sarcastic dig.  I truly had no vicious intent with it, just trying to be funny.  But it’s possible that he might have heard me saying, “I’m going to try to not correct you today, but you usually say or do wrong things, so help me out by not saying or doing anything wrong so I don’t have to correct you.”

I even then went further by repeating, in front of him, to others what I said.  Again, purely because I think I’m so darn funny that everyone should get to hear what I have to say… but not thinking about how disrespectful I was really being.  I think my husband is one of the smartest, most insightful people I know.  But my sarcasm definitely said otherwise.

I looked up sarcasm and here’s what I found on the online Etymology Dictionary:  1570s, from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos “a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery,” from sarkazein “to speak bitterly, sneer,” lit. “to strip off the flesh,” from sarx (gen. sarkos) “flesh,” prop. “piece of meat,” from PIE root *twerk- “to cut” (cf. Avestan thwares “to cut”).

Reading the definition was a little difficult for me, especially since I’ve often prided myself on my clever sarcasm.  “To strip off the flesh” – umm, that can’t be good.  I usually only use sarcasm to be funny and not mean, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s possible…

Sure some sarcasm seems innocent and doesn’t really hurt anyone.  Last night as I was reading The Hunger Games for the second time, I came across some sarcasm as Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch were talking:

“What about you? I’ve seen you in the market. You can lift hundred-pound bags of flour,”  I (Katniss) snap at him (Peeta).  “Tell him that. That’s not nothing.”

“Yes and I’m sure the arena will be full of bags of flour for me to chuck at people.”

Peeta wasn’t trying to say that Katniss was stupid for saying that, he was more trying to deflect her compliment.  I think we do that a lot when we don’t feel confident about who we are.  But perhaps Katniss, or anyone in this position, would really hear, “You’re an idiot for even saying that.”  But even if she hears it with the intent it was spoken and doesn’t read into it, Peeta is still taking a dig at himself, saying that it doesn’t matter that he’s strong.  So can sarcasm that puts ourselves down really be innocent?

I don’t know… I’m just trying to work through my thoughts on sarcasm as someone who is the queen of sarcasm… so I think I should see what the Bible has to say about it.  I just put in a search for “What does the Bible say about sarcasm?”  I found a site called Open Bible (I don’t know anything about the site) but there was a list of Bible Verses About Sarcasm.  I’ll admit, many of them don’t seem to really apply or were kind of a stretch, but 2 of them really hit me hard:

Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”  (Proverbs 26:18-19, NIV) The New Living Translation says, “Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon, is someone who lies to a friend and then says, ‘I was only joking.'”

Oh my… how often have I said, “Just kidding” or “I was being sarcastic” or exactly as the Bible said, “I was only joking.”  Am I really as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon?  I’m sure after events like Columbine, we can all picture in our heads a “madman shooting a deadly weapon”.  There’s no way I’m as damaging as that… or am I?????

And… in Ephesians, Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)  The New Living Translation says it this way, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

Are my words an encouragement to those who hear them?  Am I building up others according to their needs?  Am I benefiting those who listen?  Probably not when I’m being sarcastic.

So why is it so hard for me to want to let it go?  I like being funny, I like saying things that make others laugh, even when it’s at the expense of others.  The laughter feels like approval, and I love the approval of those around me.  I guess it’s a pride issue…

Oh God, forgive me, I know I need a major overhaul here.  Help me to stop delighting in sarcastic humor, but to delight in building up those around me, especially my husband.

I’ll admit, that it’s taking all of my restraint to not end this post with some witty, sarcastic comment… so I’ll simply end!

Joining you on the journey as we press on to be more and more like Christ…




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