Sarcasm is a popular form of humor in today’s culture, but sometimes we take it too far. We fail to realize when our words become hurtful in conversations, particularly in arguments.
Lately I’ve noticed a trend on Christian radio stations. Artists like TobyMac are producing songs like “Speak Life” that encourage us to be mindful with our words. That song in particular carries the message that we should speak life into others and focus on building them up rather than tearing them down.
As followers of Christ, we should not speak to others out of malice, and we shouldn’t react instantly out of anger. We should learn to hold the sarcasm.
I recently learned where the word sarcasm came from and what it really means. The root word in Greek, sarx or sarks, means “flesh.” Sarcasm as a whole comes from the Greek word sarkazein, which means to “tear flesh.” Sarcasm hurts people by mocking their beliefs or feelings. And it’s more than just the words we speak. It’s also the tone we use to deliver them.
A friend explained that root of sarcasm to me last week, and it made me realize just how important it is to refrain from it. My boyfriend and I struggle with this when we disagree sometimes. We have a tendency to focus so much on being right that we’re prone to disregard each other’s feelings. We both have the gift of encouragement, but sarcasm shows up when we’re tired or when our spiritual lives need some attention. We’ve hurt each other with our sarcasm even when hurt wasn’t intended.
The tongue is one of the hardest things to tame, and that’s stated bluntly in Scripture. The book of James addresses the power of the tongue and how much damage it can cause if not harnessed. The tongue is likened to a small fire than can set even a great forest ablaze. It is a deadly poison (James 3:5-8).
All too often we speak too quickly out of impulse rather than stepping back to assess our words carefully. I’ve learned it’s better to stop talking sometimes and regain control of my emotions than to answer immediately out of spite. It keeps me from saying something hurtful. Knowing myself well enough to realize when my emotions are reaching an unhealthy place causes me to focus more on what I’m saying and how I’m saying it instead of only how I’m feeling.
A good example of how we can hold our sarcasm and instead speak love is found in Ephesians 4:29-32:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV).
I notice a difference in myself and my relationships when I make an effort to purposefully encourage. A good starting point for me, especially in conflict, has always been prayer and learning to release control of situations and emotions to God.
How do you go about speaking life to others, and how does your spiritual life affect your ability and desire to do so? If you know someone who does this well, what patterns do you notice in their spiritual lives?