Anyone who knew me way back when knows that sarcasm is one of my gifts.  I have intentionally toned my sarcastic humor down a bit over the years, but  it still comes out from time to time (hey, sometimes you just ask for it!)

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with sarcasm.  The prophet Elijah used sarcasm masterfully in 1 Kings 18, when he suggested that Baal was ‘on the pot’ and therefore unable to answer the prayers of the people.  If you are a fan of sarcasm, it’s worth 5 minutes to read this story!

That said, I have recognized lately that sarcasm isn’t and end in itself.  Being sarcastic to build myself up, to get the laugh, while putting others down in a cowardly, passive aggressive manner, is not godly.  Sarcasm, thrown about without forethought is rarely edifying.   If my sarcasm, (or any other form of language) is used for a purpose, i.e. Elijah, it may be beneficial.  But when my language becomes primarily sarcastic, it is often and indication of a problem with my heart.

It wasn’t until I watched the reaction of my oldest daughter the other morning that I realized I am always either building up, or tearing down…there is not neutral ground.

It was an innocent enough comment, and after all, she started it (that argument always works, right?)  We were eating breakfast, and she wanted me to look, as she stuffed this huge bite into her mouth, at how big her mouth was.  (ah, the strange things that make kids proud).  She was being playful, and I put on my sarcastic hat to sling one back at her.  I didn’t think my comment was really that bad, but her reaction told me otherwise.

I simply said, ‘yeah, you do have a big mouth.’   In that instance, another clique was proven true: it’s not what you say, but how you say it.  Something about my tone caused her face to drop.  She did not respond, but  I could see that she was hurt.  My attempt to be funny, to score ‘cool points’ fell flat.  I wounded my child’s spirit.

Thankfully, I noticed right away.  When I asked, she confirmed that I had hurt her feelings.  I apologized and forgiveness was quickly granted (I love how quick kids are to forgive, but that’s another post for another day).  I did one other thing.  I gave her permission to tell me when I hurt her feelings.  Whenever it is in my power, I want to avoid saying or doing things to hurt my children.  Now, if they are in need of a good whooping, then suck it up kid.  But in daily interaction, I need to do all that I can to build them up and encourage them.

It is often these little things that build up into big things.  Small, innocuous tears can become big rifts between people.  Day after day, year after year, cutting words will eventually ruin the relationship.

How quickly I speak sometimes, without thinking.  Oh, the piles of idle words that are accumulating on my account.  Oh, for the ability to tame the tongue, to be thoughtful and intentional with what comes out of my mouth.  How true it is that what comes out of a man’s mouth defiles him, and  reveals the heart.  It can be almost too scary at times to evaluate my words, for they reflect the ugly depravity of my heart.

Oh, for the blood of Christ, that has covers these sins.

‘My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!’
Horatio Spafford